IOV is a worldwide organization of individuals and institutions organized for the purposes of documenting, preserving and promoting all forms of folk art, both tangible and intangible. The UNESCO Convention on the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, with an emphasis on inventory making, research and documentation, is the frame of reference for many IOV projects and programs.
IOV encourages and supports scholarly and scientific research, documentation and publication on topics related to all five domains of the ICH; supports national and international folk art festivals and events; and coordinates exchanges among practitioners of folk art, including performing folk arts troupes and handicraft artisans; Through its commissions, IOV coordinates the work of experts worldwide in performing arts, crafts, festivals and events, traditional food, oral traditions including folk tales myths and legends and folk costumes
The objectives of the IOV International Commission on Scientific Research, with regional and national commissions in many areas and countries, include bringing together leading experts in folk art to collaborate on projects, symposia and conferences and publish proceedings on conferences and symposia. Through its scholarly journal Folk Culture, published quarterly in Bahrain and distributed to universities, libraries and cultural centers worldwide, the Commission on Scientific Research provides a forum where experts may submit for publication important works on folk art, folk culture and other topics within the domains of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. Similar publications, as well as a newsletter either are, or will soon be, published in the languages of UNESCO. IOV believes that in order for the intangible cultural heritage to survive, it must evolve and meet the needs of people today. Consequently, IOV supports innovative ways to interest the youth in folk dance, music, song and costumes as a way of preserving and promoting folk art and ICH
IOV encourages democracy by requiring open elections of officers, executive board and presidential council members. Policy is made by the Presidential Council and ratified by the General Assembly. Officers and members of the Executive Board and Presidential Council are elected by the General Assembly. National sections hold democratic elections every two years.
IOV recognizes the importance of preserving folk culture and intangible cultural heritage by seeking to involve a broad coalition of individuals and organizations at all levels of society and from all strata of the population. To accomplish this objective, IOV has implemented a policy of nondiscrimination that welcomes all who wish to participate. Membership fees accommodations are given to those who are financially disadvantaged. IOV adheres to the WANGO Code of Ethics, adopted in 2008. A principle objective is to cooperate and coordinate our work with that of other NGOs in order to avoid duplication, as well as to conserve human and financial resources.
IOV encourages youth participation through its International Youth Commission, which currently includes over 120 members from 45 nations. World youth congresses are held biennually. The first was in 2008 and the second will take place in 2010 in Nanjing, China. IOV members commit to support the objectives of both UNESCO and IOV.
IOV has thirty years of experience cooperating with national UNESCO commissions other NGOs working in the Culture Sector. In particular, IOV has supported the work of academicians, scientists and professional folklorists from the time the first IOV Science and Research Commission was founded 20 years ago. In 2005, IOV had, as members of 17 commissions, 280 professional folklorists and academic experts specializing in traditional food, handicrafts, dance research, traditional music, puppetry, theater, myths and lengends, and other categories within ICH. (These commissions exist now on the national and regional level as a result of a decentralization in 2007). Many of these individuals had the backing of universities and institutions, which frequently are IOV's partners in organizing conferences and lectures. IOV has also worked with governmental bodies to sponsor folk dance and music festivals, as well as other folk art events.
IOV's mission, in part, is to help smaller or less well established NGOs working in the areas of folk art further their missions. IOV has also cooperated with large NGOs. IOV held joint meetings with CIOFF in 2005, organized by the Russian National House of Folk Art, which represents both organizations in Russia. On the national level, particularly in the area of festival organizing, IOV and CIOFF work together. ;
IOV works closely with national UNESCO Commissions in many countries where it is not uncommon to find the same individuals working in both organizations. For example, in the Philippines, IOV President Carmen Padilla is also the head of the Cultural Section of the Philippine National UNESCO Commission. In Bulgaria, Prof. Mila Santova has been head of the Bulgarian National UNESCO Commission and Chair of the IOV Science and Research Commission. Elvira Kunina is head of the Russian National UNESCO Commission and Vice-president of IOV. In 2005, she arranged a joint meeting of IOV and CIOFF in Novgorod.
In the USA, there is a close cooperative relationship between the National Folk Association and IOV. In 2008, the two organizations worked together to sponsor an international conference on Safeguarding the Intangible Cultural Heritage where 40 countries sent participants. In Bulgaria, Dr. Mila Santova, an IOV member and co-chair of the IOV Scientific Commission has led efforts to create the national inventory of ICH. In the Philippines, IOV recently co-sponsored a conference on folktales, myths and legends together with the Philippine National UNESCO Commission. IOV has had similar success working with national UNESCO commissions in Romania, India, South Korea, and other countries. In China, the China Federation of Literary and Arts Circles, CFLAC, and IOV have worked together to organize folkloric festivals in various parts of China, including Beijing, Xian, Hongzhou, Weifang, Boashan and Shanghai.
IOV National Sections should report to their National UNESCO Commissions at least annually. In 2009, IOV submitted its annual report to UNESCO Director General, ICH Section, Culture Sector, NGO Relations, US National UNESCO Commission, the Philippine National UNESCO Commission, and others. IOV works with many national and international NGOs, IGOs and private enterprise to support events and projects in a number of countries.
Through a Scholarship named to honor the founders of IOV, deserving young people who are economically disadvantaged are given assistance for travel to conferences that will further their careers in folk art.