Transmitted knowledge and everyday practices are part of the cultural heritage of humanity.
Yesterday (10 April) Germany deposited its instrument of acceptance to the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage with UNESCO in Paris. Ambassador Michael Worbs personally handed the document over to UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova on 10 April 2013. The Convention will thus enter into force for Germany three months from now. Its aim is to safeguard cultural forms of expression which are inseparable from human knowledge and skills.
These include dance, theatre, music, storytelling, languages, traditional medicine and craftsmanship. Since 2003, UNESCO has given such intangible forms of cultural heritage a central place in its international cooperation. Its aim is to protect and promote knowledge and cultural practices transmitted from one generation to the next, wherever in the world they are, as part of the heritage of humanity.
By acceding to the UNESCO Convention, the German Government is underscoring its active appreciation of the diversity of intangible cultural forms and representations – including those found in other countries and regions. In Germany, too, there are many regional traditions.
“It is not only monuments and archaeological sites that testify to cultural diversity. Dance, theatre and languages play a far greater role in shaping cultural identity,”
as Minister of State Cornelia Pieper said in Berlin.
She noted that customs, knowledge and traditions have been passed down from generation to generation, and adapted to new circumstances, for thousands of years. The vitality of any form of cultural expression depends essentially on whether people in a given group agree to actively maintain it and keep it alive, Minister of State Pieper stressed. Civil society groups and associations will be important partners when it comes to implementing the Convention. “They should,” Minister of State Pieper said, “participate at national level in drawing up the necessary inventories and lists, and documenting our intangible cultural heritage. They should also contribute to revitalising any parts of our intangible cultural heritage which are in danger.”
150 states have now signed up to the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. More than 290 forms of cultural expression from around the world have been inscribed on the three lists of intangible cultural heritage maintained under the Convention. They include Chinese acupuncture, traditional Iranian carpet weaving, the Houtem Jaarmarkt in Belgium and the Argentine tango. The Convention was established at the initiative of Asian and African states. In these parts of the world special attention has always been paid to customs, storytelling and social practices as part of the people’s heritage.