Cooperation with International Organizations (UNESCO,UNU)

December 25, 2023

1. Official Name

Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage

2. History of Establishment, Ratification and States Parties

October 17, 2003
Adopted at the 32nd UNESCO General Conference (in Paris)
April 20, 2006
Convention becomes effective
182 States Parties as of December 2023 (Ratification by Japan in 2004)

3. Objective

To establish a framework of international cooperation and support for the protection of traditional dance, music, theatre, craftsmanship, ritual and festive events, and other forms of intangible cultural heritage from the threat of extinction in order to pass this heritage along to future generations.

4. Principal Provisions

(1) Domestic Safeguarding

In order to safeguard Intangible Cultural Heritage, each State Party shall identify and define their Intangible Cultural Heritage as well as make an inventory of those. In addition, they shall endeavor to take the necessary steps for the promotion of the safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage through designating competent bodies responsible for such work, fostering research and studies, training, awareness raising and so forth.

(2) International Safeguarding

In order to safeguard Intangible Cultural Heritage at the international level, there shall be an intergovernmental Committee formed from representatives of the States Parties, and it shall establish a Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and a List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding. In order to grant international assistance, such as the provision of specialists, training of necessary human resource, and providing of equipment and know-how, a Fund shall be established for the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage from the regular contributions of the States Parties as well as voluntary contributions.

5. The Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

(1) Inscription of the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Based upon Operational Directives approved in 2008, the inscription of the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity started at the 4th session of the Intergovernmental Committee held in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) in September 2009 according to the procedures as follows:

  • (a) Each State Party shall draw up one or more inventories of the intangible cultural heritage present in its territory.
  • (b) The State Party shall propose elements from such inventories, in submitting nomination files which demonstrate that the element satisfies the criteria for inscription.
  • (c) The proposals of each State Party shall be examined by the Subsidiary Body of the Committee (Subsidiary Body was renamed as Evaluation Body in 2014).
  • (d) The Committee will decide whether or not to inscribe the element on the list after the evaluations of the results of the examination described in (c) above.

(2) UNESCO's "Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity"

As a precursor to the Convention, from 2001 until 2005 UNESCO carried out the "Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity" project and proclaimed 90 Intangible Cultural Heritage as Masterpieces, including Japan's Nogaku Theatre, Ningyo Johruri Bunraku Puppet Theatre, and Kabuki Theatre. These 90 are incorporated to the Representative List in accordance to the regulations of the Convention.

6. Japan's Contributions

  • (1) Japan established the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties in 1950, placing it far ahead of other countries regarding efforts to preserve Intangible Cultural Heritage. By using the abundant knowledge that it has gained through that experience, Japan spearheaded the discussions and steps for the creation of this Convention. After the Convention went into effect, Japan was selected as a member of the Intergovernmental Committee for the first official period (2006-2010). In 2007 the 2nd session of the Intergovernmental Committee was held in Tokyo and chaired by Japan. The discussion covered the key rules for the implementation of the Convention. Japan was a member state of the Intergovernmental Committee during 2018-2022.
  • (2) In 1993, Japan established the UNESCO Japanese Funds-in-Trust for the Preservation and Promotion of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, (later, which was renamed Japanese Funds-in-Trust for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.) and has since supported the preservation and promotion of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the world (the total contribution as of 2017 was 16.69 million USD).
  • (3)Since 2018, Japan has been implementing projects for safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage by “Japan’s Contributions to UNESCO”.

7. Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage

(1) Summary

The Committee is an intergovernmental body that has been established based upon Article 5 of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. It meets once a year in the fall.

(2) Offices

Section of Intangible Cultural Heritage, Culture Sector, UNESCO (Paris)

(3) Main Topics of the Intergovernmental Committee

  • (1) Examination of proposals for inscription on either the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity or the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding
  • (2) Examination of requests for international assistance for the protection of properties on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding
  • (3) Management of the Fund for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage
  • (4) Publicity and educational activities

(4) Members of the Intergovernmental Committee

After the election of the 8th ordinary session of the General Assembly of the Convention, held in September of 2020, the twenty-four States below are the Members of the Intergovernmental Committee (the term of office being four years, with half of the Members being renewed every two years).

Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Uzbekistan, Brazil, Panama, Peru, Paraguay, Republic of Korea, Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Viet Nam, Botswana, Côte d'Ivoire, Rwanda, Angola, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania

(5) Previous Related Sessions

Meeting Date Place Special Note
18th Session of the Intergovernmental Committee December 5th – 8th, 2023 Kasane (Botswana)  
17th Session of the Intergovernmental Committee November 28th - December 3rd, 2022 Rabat (Morocco) Inscription of Furyu-odori: Ritual Dances Imbued with People‘s Hopes and Prayers.
9th Session of the General Assembly July 5th - July 7th, 2022 UNESCO headquarters, Paris (France)  
16th Session of the Intergovernmental Committee December 13th - December 18th, 2021 Online  
15th Session of the Intergovernmental Committee December 14th - December 19th, 2020 Online Inscription of Traditional skills, techniques and knowledge for the conservation and transmission of wooden architecture in Japan.
8th Session of the General Assembly September 9th - September 10th, 2020 UNESCO headquarters, Paris (France)  
14th session of the Intergovernmental Committee December 9th-15th, 2019 Bogota (Colombia)  
13th session of the Intergovernmental Committee November 26th-December 1st, 2018 Port Luis (Mauritius) Inscription of “Raiho-shin: ritual visits of deities in marks and costumes”.
7th Session of the General Assembly June 2018 UNESCO headquarters, Paris (France) Japan was selected as a Member of the Intergovernmental Committee.
12th Session of the Intergovernmental Committee December 4th-December 9th, 2017 Jeju Island (South Korea)  
11th Session of the Intergovernmental Committee November-December, 2016 Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) Inscription of “Yama, Hoko, Yatai float festivals in Japan” on the Representative list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
6th Session of the General Assembly May-June, 2016 UNESCO headquarters, Paris (France)  
10th Session of the Intergovernmental Committee November-December, 2015 Windfoek (Namibia)  
9th Session of the Intergovernmental Committee November, 2014 UNESCO headquarters, Paris (France) Inscription of “Washi, craftsmanship of traditional Japanese hand-made paper” on the Representative list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. A Japanese expert was elected as a member of the Evaluation Body, which examines the representative list.
5th Session of the General Assembly June 2014 UNESCO headquarters, Paris (France)  
8th Session of the Intergovernmental Committee December, 2013 Baku (Azerbaijan) Inscription of “Washoku, traditional dietary cultures of the Japanese, notably for the celebration of New Year” on the Representative list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
7th Session of the Intergovernmental Committee December, 2012 UNESCO headquarters, Paris (France) Inscription of “Nachi no Dengaku” on the Representative list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Japan was elected as a member of the Subsidiary Body, which examines the representative list.
4th Session of the General Assembly June, 2012 UNESCO headquarters, Paris (France)  
6th Session of the Intergovernmental Committee November, 2011 Bari (Italy) Inscription of “Mibu no Hana Taue” ”Sada Shin Noh” on the Representative list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
5th Session of the Intergovernmental Committee November, 2010 Nairobi (Kenya) Inscription of “Kumiodori” “Yuki-tumugi” on the Representative list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
3rd Session of the General Assembly June, 2010 UNESCO headquarters, Paris (France) Japan was elected as a member of the Intergovernmental Committee.
4th Session of the Intergovernmental Committee September, 2009 Abu Dhabi (UAE) Publishing of the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
3rd Session of the Intergovernmental Committee November, 2008 Istanbul (Turkey) Discussion of the particulars remaining among the Operational Directives.
2nd Session of the General Assembly June, 2008 UNESCO headquarters, Paris (France) Collection and investigation of the Operational Directives adopted by the Intergovernmental Committee.
2nd Extraordinary Session of the Intergovernmental Committee February, 2008 Sofia (Bulgaria) Drafting of the particular Operational Directives adopted in Tokyo.
2nd Session of the Intergovernmental Committee September, 2007 Tokyo (Japan) Adoption by the Intergovernmental Committee of the Operational Directives for the implementation of the Convention
1st Extraordinary Session of the Intergovernmental Committee May, 2007 Chengdu (China) In anticipation of the 2nd Intergovernmental Committee meeting, preparatory discussion was carried out regarding the Operational Directives to be developed by the Committee.
1st Session of the Intergovernmental Committee November, 2006 Algiers (Algeria) Decision made to have Japan host the 2nd Intergovernmental Committee meeting.
1st Session of the General Assembly June, 2006 UNESCO Headquarters in Paris (France) Japan was selected as a Member of the Intergovernmental Committee.
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