UNESCO’s Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage


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    Recently, India got elected to the Intergovernmental Committee of UNESCO’s 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.


    • India has been elected as a member for the 2022-2026 cycle. 
    • The elections for the Intergovernmental Committee took place during the 9th General Assembly of the 2003 Convention held at UNESCO headquarters, Paris, in July 2022.
    • Against the four seats falling vacant within the Asia-Pacific group, six countries, namely, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Thailand had presented their candidature. 

    UNESCO’s Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage

    • The Intergovernmental Committee of the 2003 Convention consists of 24 members.
    • It is elected in the General Assembly of the Convention according to the principles of equitable geographical representation and rotation
    • States Members to the Committee are elected for a term of four years.
    • Some of the core functions of the Intergovernmental Committee include:
      • Promoting the objectives of the Convention, 
      • Providing guidance on best practices, and 
      • Making recommendations on measures for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage. 
      • The Committee also examines requests submitted by States Parties for the inscription of intangible heritage on the Lists as well as proposals for programmes and projects.

    India’s Elections

    • In the past, India has served two terms as a member of the Intergovernmental Committee of this Convention. 
      • One from 2006 to 2010 and the other from 2014 to 2018. 
      • For its 2022-2026 term, India has formulated a clear vision for the protection and promotion of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity
    • Some of the priority areas that India will focus upon include:
      • Fostering community participation, 
      • Strengthening international cooperation through intangible heritage, 
      • Promoting academic research on intangible cultural heritage, 
      • Aligning the work of the Convention with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 
    • This vision was also shared with the other State Parties of the Convention prior to the elections.
    • India ratified the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in September 2005
      • As one of the earliest State Parties to ratify the Convention, India has shown great commitment towards matters related to intangible heritage and has actively encouraged other State Parties to ratify it. 
    • With 14 inscriptions on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, India also ranks high in the listing of intangible cultural heritage
      • After the inscription of Durga Puja in 2021, India submitted the nomination for Garba of Gujarat to be discussed in 2023.

    the Significance of India’s Election to the Convention

    • As a member of the intergovernmental committee, India will have the opportunity to closely monitor the implementation of the 2003 Convention
    • With the aim of strengthening the scope and impact of the Convention, India seeks to mobilise the capacity of different actors worldwide in order to effectively safeguard intangible heritage. 
    • Noting the imbalance in the inscriptions on the three lists of the Convention, India shall endeavour to encourage international dialogue within the State Parties to the Convention in order to better showcase the diversity and importance of living heritage.
      • The three lists are: 
        • Urgent Safeguarding List, 
        • Representative List and 
        • Register of Good Safeguarding Practices

    What is Intangible Cultural Heritage?

    • As per UNESCO, Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) includes traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.
    • UNESCO established its Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage with the aim of ensuring better protection of important intangible cultural heritages worldwide and the awareness of their significance.
    • The list was established in 2008 when the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage took effect.
    • India: 
      • In total, 14 Intangible Cultural Heritage elements from the country have now been inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List.
        • Earlier, UNESCO announced the Harappan city of Dholavira in Gujarat as India’s 40th world heritage site.
      • The Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity has 492 elements currently. 
      • Latest addition – Durga Puja: 
        • It is a five-day festival that begins on the fifth night of the nine-day Navratri festival and ends on the tenth day, which is Dashami. During this time, people collectively worship and invoke Goddess Durga, who is regarded as the feminine energy of the cosmos, also known as ‘Shakti’.
        • Though originating in West Bengal, which has the largest Bengali community in the country, the festival is celebrated in many other parts of India, and also the world.


    Image Courtesy: ToI




    • Countries should strive to bring more and more such cultural heritage into the list.
    • India could utilise its election to help the cultural sites be protected and be listed.

    Source: PIB