Having ratified the 2003 Convention in 2004, the current report is the second one submitted by Panama on its implementation at the national level. Since 2011, the implementing body for the 2003 Convention has been the Ministry of Commerce and Industries (MICI), operating through Investment Projects and the general fund of the Ministry. During 2015, the investment project was developed with the general fund of the MICI and a new one was proposed for the 2016-2019 cycle. Various directorates and offices of MICI have objectives and programmes oriented towards safeguarding and promoting intangible cultural heritage, such as the General Directorate of Industrial Property Registry (trademarks, collective rights and genetic resources), the General Directorate of Handicrafts and the National Institute of Culture. In cooperation with institutions and universities, there is a plan to create a council for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage. The Intangible Cultural Heritage Safeguard Project of Panama (DIGERPI- MICI) also includes technical staff in various disciplines relevant to intangible cultural heritage safeguarding and undertakes administrative coordination, content collection, organizing a database, research, design, photography and audiovisual production.
There is no specific institution for training in the management of intangible cultural heritage, although universities can play a significant role in this. Seminars for students and teachers (University of Panama) and other advanced courses, some of which are evaluated and approved at the Specialized University of the Americas (UDELAS), are provided. Training has been received from the UNESCO Office in Costa Rica for the National Institute of Culture, the Ministry of Education, the Radio and Television State System and universities and authorities of the seven ethnic groups, among others. During 2016, MICI provided training to indigenous communities through the Registry of Industrial Property Directorate (Collective Rights Office). The Ministry of Education (Center for Art and Culture) also participates in the training organized by the Safeguarding Project for Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Although there is no dedicated library nor any documentation centre for intangible cultural heritage, audiovisual records are currently being edited or published, and a database is under construction as part of the Safeguarding Project. These will be sent to the National Library and its library network throughout the country. Also, as part of the Investment Project, some spaces and areas will be built in different communities as intangible cultural heritage Centres that will hold documentation. The National Radio and Television System (SERTV) holds a video library, carries out programmes that include documentation and some of its staff have been trained by UNESCO. The University Experimental Film Group (GECU) of the University of Panama has also documented intangible cultural heritage.
From 2011 to 2016, an average of 4,000 persons were familiarized with photographing, recording and inventorying different domains of intangible cultural heritage, and there are 60 field registry staff in several regions and ethnic groups trained by Safeguarding Project Staff. More than a thousand entries were completed in 2016, for which thirty field researchers (temporary and part-time) were hired and trained after being proposed by the communities. Ten inventories have been developed by the Safeguarding Project according to regions, collective lands and provinces. Descriptive record files are classified by cultural expressions and domains that cover feasts and festivals as well as various knowledge areas. The inventory includes information related to the status of the element, in particular when it is in danger, as well as the resources available to assess its viability. Communities are generally keen to inventory an endangered element or to record the elders who bear the knowledge. The frequency for updating the inventories has not been yet established, but communities whose intangible cultural heritage has been inventoried are aware of this need. In 2016, the Project trained thirty secretaries and technicians in the Guna Yala Region to update their inventory which dated back 2011; another inventory made in 2013 will be updated in 2017. The communities are the cornerstone of the inventory process. In some cases, members of NGOs are included in research teams, such as: the INDICRI Foundation (and its ACAMPADOC), the Asociación Rescate de Danzas ‘Miguel Leguízamo’ and the Fundación Simón ‘Mon’ Mendieta. In addition, the General Directorate of Handicrafts maintains a registry of artisans in the country, also comprising information on the status of the handicraft practices by region.
A draft cultural law, promoted by the National Institute of Culture, is under preparation and consultations are being held concerning the regulation of Law 35, which ratifies the 2003 Convention. With regard to other safeguarding measures, a project for creating a research centre or institute for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage is being developed as an MICI Investment Project. In 2016, the Safeguarding Project team set up partnerships with members of the Anthropology and History Association of Panama for their third congress, as well as possible training recruitment in those areas of the country not yet covered. The Intangible Cultural Heritage Safeguarding Project sponsored and participated in the First National Congress of Congo Culture in the Colon Province (2016) and plans to organize an International Congress on intangible cultural heritage in October 2017. Regarding the dissemination of information, agreements have been proposed to the Ernesto J. Castillero National Library, the universities and State and private media to promote registered elements. Agreements concluded with Indigenous Congresses establish regulations for the utilization of the knowledge inventoried: in particular, sensitive ritual aspects are, in many cases, kept private and not subject to audiovisual recording; some are described, but not photographed or recorded.
Every year, the Ministry of Education (MEDUCA), through its Center for Art and Culture, organizes a National Competition of traditional songs and, since 2016, it has awarded a prize for educators for the investigation and promotion of intangible cultural heritage. Other awareness-raising actions include several television programmes related to intangible cultural heritage. During 2015 and 2016, the progress of the Safeguarding Project was widely disseminated in the media. Educators, journalists and tourism promoters also request access to videos made by the Safeguarding Project on various aspects of intangible cultural heritage and its safeguarding. With regard to formal educational programmes, some courses on intangible cultural heritage already exist at graduate and postgraduate levels though from a folklore perspective, and there is an intention to revise them in line with the spirit of UNESCO’s 2003 and 2005 Conventions. In terms of non-formal education in communities, the Safeguarding Project also conducted three training workshops (with national and international facilitators) on the 2003 Convention, more particularly addressing nominations, intellectual property issues, the identification of intangible cultural heritage and the assessment of its viability. Three hundred direct and indirect beneficiaries from different regions, eight indigenous congresses and seven provinces participated. In 2016, representatives from different national and international ethnic groups and high- and medium-level authorities in the education and cultural area were trained on the importance of intangible cultural heritage and the necessity of integrating it into educational plans and programmes. Four community-based inventory workshops for researchers of different regions were provided within their communities, as well as in Panama City.
In terms of bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation, agreements were concluded between the Specialized University of Las Americas and the University of Panama to include exchange programmes, internships in intangible cultural heritage-related topics, as well as the establishment of postgraduate studies and participation of students in inventory field trips as part of their social service programmes.
Currently, Panama has no elements inscribed on the Representative List.