Participation in the Ninth Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage
The Ninth Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris November 24–28, 2014. The session was attended by 4 personnel from the Institute. These staff members gathered information on the state of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
During the session, 34 elements of intangible cultural heritage were inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (the Representative List). The inscribed elements included “Washi, craftsmanship of traditional Japanese hand-made paper.” “Sekishu-Banshi,” which was already inscribed on the Representative List, was joined by “Hon-minoshi” and “Hosokawa-shi.” This was the first time that a State Party had added elements to inscribed intangible cultural heritage. On the day the decision was made, there were numerous Japanese news media at the session. Like the nomination of “Washoku” last year, this year’s nomination also included the word “Wa (which means “Japanese”),” and this may explain the heightened in interest in the nomination.
That said, there were instances when State Parties that nominated elements for inscription on the Representative List or that reported on the status of elements inscribed on the Representative List were criticized by other State Parties for including elements of those parties. Indicative of the relations between states, such conflict is probably unavoidable. The inscription of an element on the Representative List does not imply exclusivity or ownership of that element by the nominating State Party, and an element need not exhibit originality or uniqueness with respect to similar elements. These facts must be publicized both at home and abroad.
As UNESCO’s Secretariat reported, most of the nomination files that State Parties submitted to propose elements for inscription on the Representative List had missing or incorrect information and had to be sent back to the nominating State Party. This was due to lack of experience with document preparation as well as an imperfect system for documenting intangible cultural heritage that should be protected. State Parties should avoid seeking merely to inscribe an element on the Representative List. Support is needed to create a framework for identification and protection of differing intangible cultural heritage. This is, after all, the initial goal of creating a nomination file. Japan can play a role in providing this support.