International Researchers Forum “Perspectives of Research for Intangible Cultural Heritage: Toward a Sustainable Society”
The International Research Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region under the auspices of UNESCO (IRCI) co-organized the International Researchers Forum “Perspectives of Research for Intangible Cultural Heritage: Toward a Sustainable Society” with the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan, on December 17th and 18th, 2019 at this Institute. As a co-organizer, the Institute thoroughly cooperated in this forum, right from its planning to operation.
The forum’s aim was to discuss how Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) can contribute to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDGs are the international goals to shift the world onto a better, sustainable path by 2030, specified in “the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” adopted at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in September 2015, following the Millennium Development Goals developed in 2001. Under its 17 goals and 169 targets, the agenda pledges to leave no one behind. As universal goals, not only developing countries but also developed countries, including Japan, are expected to achieve the SDGs.
This forum addressed two goals related to ICH in particular: “Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” and “Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.” For the goals, three sessions were arranged—in Session 1 “Community Development: ICH and Regional Development,” we mainly discussed the promotion of local cultures, communities, and economy through ICH, and then the efforts to conserve urban landscapes and the natural environment through ICH in Session 2 “Community Development: Environment and ICH”; in Session 3 “Discussion from Education Perspective,” how ICH could contribute to education was discussed based on the discussions of the previous two sessions. The forum ended with a comprehensive discussion covering all three sessions.
At the forum, 10 experts each from home and the Asia-Pacific region delivered presentations. While many of them specialized in cultural heritage and education, it should be noted that some were actual successors to or practitioners of ICH. Professor Vince DIAZ from the University of Minnesota, who has his roots in Micronesia, Guam, and the Philippines, is working on the revival of canoe culture in the Pacific region. He said, “For the natives in the Pacific region, nature has always been one with people. Protecting nature means keeping us human. The canoe is one of the means which connects nature with people. The revival of canoe culture is a process of making us more human, in addition to protecting nature.” His impressive talk suggests that some clues to achieving SDGs might be found in our traditional knowledge or worldview.
It is true that many intangible cultural properties are now in danger due to globalization or modernization. On the other hand, they may become the sources from which to regain such lost properties. Thus, this forum, which spotlighted the active aspects of ICH through SDGs, is significant enough to be disseminated to the world.