UNESCO, as the United Nations Organization in charge of culture, ensures the safeguarding and transmission of intangible cultural heritage, i.e. traditional knowledge, arts and skills.
In 2003, it created a dedicated instrument: the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, ratified by 180 States, which has already allowed for the inscription of more than 600 elements throughout the world.
The 17th session of the intergovernmental Committee for Safeguarding of this heritage, chaired by the Kingdom of Morocco, led to the inscription by States sitting on the Committee of 47 elements including: four on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, 39 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and four on the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices.
Congratulation to the States that have put forward these proposals, the members of the Committee for the quality of their debates, Morocco for hosting them and the 180 States that bring this UNESCO Convention to life. This living heritage plays an essential role in bringing people together and making peace grow in the minds of men.Audrey Azoulay
One third of the elements inscribed this year relate to nature and the important challenge of safeguarding biodiversity. The international community is thus demonstrating its determination to make environmental protection a priority in all circumstances.
One third of the new inscriptions concern practices related to environmental protection. They often concern ancestral agricultural techniques that are mindful of the sustainable use of resources, as well as rituals and festive events that celebrate nature. These elements are a reminder that ancestral knowledge can be crucial in meeting the new challenges of our age, such as climate change.
The full range of new inscriptions is included further down in the present communiqué.
Emergency assistance and one withdrawal from the list
The Committee also decided to grant $305,000 in financial assistance from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund to a safeguarding project submitted by Malawi.
In a unanimous decision, the Committee withdrew the Ducasse d’Ath from the Processional Giants and Dragons in Belgium and France, an element inscribed on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2008.
The members of the Committee took this decision due to the presence in the Ducasse d’Ath procession of a chained black character called “le Sauvage,” a racist and discriminatory representation that stands in contradiction to the founding principles of UNESCO, and to the requirement of mutual respect expressed in Article 2 of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention.
The List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding identifies elements of living heritage whose continuity is threatened. It allows for the mobilization of international cooperation and assistance to strengthen the transmission of these cultural practices in agreement with the communities concerned. It now includes 76 elements.
Xhubleta is a handcrafted garment worn by women and girls in Northern Albania. Once used in everyday life from the age of puberty, its use and production have declined over recent decades due to various socio-political and economic factors. Today, few women possess the knowledge of the entire process, and family-based transmission is rare. Nevertheless, the garment has maintained its social and spiritual significance and is still considered an integral part of highland identity.
The Committee also granted $91,000 in financial assistance from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund to ensure the safeguarding of this element.
Chile’s Quinchamalí and Santa Cruz de Cuca pottery includes functional and decorative objects characterized by the use of black with white accents, created using techniques dating back centuries. Women hold the knowledge and practice of pottery, which is a source of social and economic autonomy. However, the viability of the element is threatened by demographic and environmental factors and precarious social conditions. For instance, access to raw materials is becoming increasingly difficult due to a loss of biodiversity and soil degradation.
Türkiye – Traditional Ahlat stonework
Traditional Ahlat stonework refers to the knowledge, methods and skills surrounding the extraction, carving and use of volcanic Ahlat stones. In addition to architectural works such as houses and mosques, the stones are also used in tombstones, fountains and other artefacts. The viability of the practice is threatened by several factors, including demographic changes (difficulty finding apprentices due to the sharp decline in population and urban migration) and the widespread use of modern building techniques and materials in the region.
Viet Nam – Art of pottery-making of Chăm people
Chăm pottery products are mainly household utensils and religious and fine art objects made by women. The knowledge and skills they require are transmitted within families, and the practice is a source of income and a means of safeguarding the customs of Chăm people in Viet Nam. However, despite safeguarding efforts, the viability of the craft is at risk due to the impact of urbanization on access to raw materials, insufficient adaptation to the market economy and lack of interest among youth.
The Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity aims to give greater visibility to the traditions and skills practiced by communities. The List now includes 569 elements.
Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Islamic Republic of Iran, Türkiye, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan – Sericulture and traditional production of silk for weaving
In sericulture and the traditional production of silk for weaving, farmers care for silkworms through their entire lifecycle. Silk products are highly valued by all social and cultural classes, and people use them for special occasions such as weddings, funerals and family gatherings. The practice is viewed as an expression of cultural identity and social cohesion, as the silk trade contributed to the exchange of culture and science within and cross the countries concerned.
Algeria – Raï, popular folk song of Algeria
Raï is a popular folk song from Algeria. A means of conveying social reality without taboos or censorship, the music touches on topics such as love, freedom, despair and social pressures. It is viewed as a genre for young people, representing a channel for them to express their feelings in their quest to break free from social constraints. Musicians make and decorate their own instruments and transmission occurs informally through observation, for example, or formally through apprenticeship.
Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia – Lipizzan horse breeding traditions
Lipizzan horse breeding traditions are used to breed, care for and train Lipizzan horses. Initially intended for the Habsburg imperial court, today the Lipizzan horse plays a special role in the cultural and social events, celebrations and festivities that mark the life of rural communities. The tradition, which has united communities for over 450 years, is transmitted in schools and universities, as well as through hands-on experience, seminars, trainings and events.
Austria, Czechia, Germany, Latvia, Poland, Spain – Timber rafting
Timber rafting originated in the Middle Ages, when rafts were used to transport wood, goods and people. In the past, rafters spent weeks living and working together on their raft. As a result, a community sharing the knowledge, techniques and values of making and navigating timber rafts emerged. Collaboration, social cohesion and the protection of water and ecological systems are deeply rooted in the practice. It involves regular and lively experience-sharing, which enriches practitioners’ heritage and promotes common values and cultural exchange across borders.
Andorra, France – Bear festivities in the Pyrenees
The Bear festivities take place every winter in five villages in the Pyrenees mountain range located in Andorra and France. During the event, young men dress up as bears and run through the streets trying to catch participants. Although the style varies from one village to the next, the scenario remains the same and symbolizes the rebirth of spring and the relationship between humans and nature. Uniting thousands of people from the region, the centuries-old event constitutes an opportunity for local populations to celebrate their shared heritage.
Pehlevanliq culture in Azerbaijan includes games and sports, such as wrestling, and individual performances, with the use of specific tools that resemble medieval weapons. As an integral part of popular culture, folk events and outdoor celebrations it provides communities with a strong sense of identity. For many years, pehlevans have been a symbol of determination, promoting social cohesion and providing a sense of pride and shared identity to local communities.
Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Türkiye, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan – Telling tradition of Nasreddin Hodja/ Molla Nesreddin/ Molla Ependi/ Apendi/ Afendi Kozhanasyr Anecdotes
The Telling Tradition of Nasreddin Anecdotes refers to social practices in several Eurasian countries around the telling of anecdotes attributed to the philosopher and sage Nasreddin. Characterized by their wisdom and witty repartees, the anecdotes often break with accepted norms and their narrator finds unexpected ways out of complicated situations always coming out as the winner through word power. Both instructive and entertaining, the anecdotes are transmitted both orally and in writing.
Azerbaijan, Türkiye – Culture of Çay (tea), a symbol of identity, hospitality and social interaction
Tea culture is an important social practice in Azerbaijan and Türkiye that shows hospitality, builds and maintains social ties, and is used to celebrate important moments in the lives of communities. Although there are several types of tea and brewing techniques, communities in both countries primarily harvest and consume black tea. The drink is served freshly-brewed and hot, in pear-shaped cups made from glass, porcelain, faience or silver. The culture is an essential part of daily life in all layers of society.
The practice of straw weaving in Belarus emphasizes the spiritual value and symbolism of both material and product. Straw is woven to produce a variety of objects such as boxes and baskets, headgear, toys and accessories. Straw weaving is based on folk traditions. and is continuously enriched by the creative achievements of individual experts who transmit their knowledge and skills online and through educational institutions, art studios, craft centres and festivals.
Kun Lbokator is a martial art dating back to the first century. It aims to develop the mental and physical strength and discipline of its practitioners through self-defence techniques and a philosophy of non-violence. Masters lecture their apprentices about their roles and responsibilities in society so that they can protect vulnerable communities and the natural environment and stand up for justice and peace. An embodiment of Cambodia’s social, cultural and religious values, Kun Lbokator is practiced by people of all ages, genders and backgrounds.
China’s traditional tea processing techniques and associated social practices encompass the knowledge, skills and practices of tea plantation management, tea-leaf picking, manual processing, drinking and sharing. Tea is ubiquitous in the daily life of Chinese people. It is served steeped or boiled in homes, workplaces, tea houses, restaurants and temples. Related knowledge, skills and traditions are passed on through families and apprenticeships.
Colombia – Ancestral system of knowledge of the four indigenous peoples, Arhuaco, Kankuamo, Kogui and Wiwa of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta
The Ancestral System of Knowledge of the Arhuaco, Kankuamo, Kogui and Wiwa peoples of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is composed of the sacred mandates that keep the existence of the four peoples in harmony with the physical and spiritual universe. Believed to play a fundamental role in protecting the region’s ecosystem and cultural identity, this ancestral wisdom is transmitted through cultural practice, community activities, the use of the indigenous language and the implementation of the sacred mandates.
Croatia – Festivity of Saint Tryphon and the Kolo (chain dance) of Saint Tryphon, traditions of Croats from Boka Kotorska (Bay of Kotor) who live in the Republic of Croatia
The Festivity of Saint Tryphon and the Kolo (chain dance) of Saint Tryphon are centred around two main annual events: the Feast Day of St Tryphon and the Boka Nights. The Kolo, performed by members of the Boka Navy dressed in traditional uniform, is the most visible cultural aspect of the festivity. Based on the cult of Saint Tryphon, the practice is transmitted informally within communities, as well as through exhibitions, public lectures, cultural evenings and events.
The Cuban light rum masters’ expertise is a set of traditional and scientific knowledge and techniques that ensures the safeguarding of the Cuban light rum manufacturing process. They follow an ethical code centred on respect for Cuban rum culture and history and for the environment. Their expertise ensures the safeguarding of the manufacturing process, and being a light rum expert entails a life-long learning process that is passed down from generation to generation.
The festivals related to the Journey of the Holy Family to Egypt commemorate the Holy Family’s voyage from Bethlehem to Egypt. Every year, the event is memorialized by two festivals in which Egyptians, including Muslims and Coptic Christians of all ages and genders, participate in large numbers. An embodiment of the social and cultural fabric shared by Coptic Christians and Muslims, knowledge and skills are transmitted through churches and monasteries, within families, and through active participation in the rituals
Appreciated for its crisp crust around a fluffy centre, the baguette, France’s most popular kind of bread, requires specific knowledge and techniques that are primarily transmitted through work-based training. Unlike other loaves, baguettes are made with only four ingredients (flour, water, salt and leaven and/or yeast). They are consumed in many contexts, including family meals and restaurants, and generate modes of consumption and social practices that differentiate them from other types of bread, such as daily visits to bakeries to purchase the loaves.
Germany – The practice of Modern Dance in Germany
Modern Dance is a form of expression distinct from classical ballet. Rather than reproducing predetermined dance positions, the dancers seek to reflect emotions and life experiences. It is accessible to people of all ages, genders and abilities and transmitted through programmes and workshops. Modern Dance is viewed as a source of self-empowerment and health, promoting, social cohesion and inclusion, especially of disadvantaged groups, such as people with disabilities and older adults.
Greece – August 15th (Dekapentavgoustos) festivities in two Highland Communities of Northern Greece: Tranos Choros (Grand Dance) in Vlasti and Syrrako Festival
The Tranos Choros (Grand Dance) and Syrrako festival are celebrated nationwide in Greece to commemorate the Dormition of the Virgin Mary. The Orthodox festivities, which originated in Vlasti and Syrrako, feature ritualistic dances and mark the annual reunion of the communities with inhabitants who have migrated to cities. Starting at an early age, youth learn the practice by watching the participants and their preparations. The festivities are viewed as a celebration of villages’ identity, providing an opportunity for younger generations to connect to their cultural heritage.
Guatemala – Holy Week in Guatemala
Holy Week in Guatemala is one of the country’s most notable events, entailing processions, vigils, funeral marches, seasonal gastronomy and the creation of altars as well as carpets of flowers and fruits. The practices and traditions associated with Holy Week have been transmitted to younger generations for centuries through active participation in the event and its preparation. A representation of Guatemala’s cultural diversity and a symbol of hope and union, the event promotes tolerance, inclusion and respect thanks to the participation of people from different social groups.
Hungary – Hungarian string band tradition
The Hungarian string band tradition is one of the country’s defining ensembles and one of the most common representatives of folk music culture. The basic fiddle-viola-bass line-up varies across regions and plays a crucial role in stage performances, local festivities and dance parties. A group’s repertoire can include thousands of melodies, played entirely from memory, and the playing style and repertoire are jointly shaped by the musicians, dancers and their audience. In addition to memory-based transmission, melodies are now also acquired in formal educational settings.
Furyu-odori refers to various ritual folk dances that have been performed in Japan for centuries, primarily in rural areas. Each element, including costumes and music, is believed to dispel evil spirits and strengthen good forces, such as local deities. The dances are transmitted formally and informally, in schools and within families and communities. They are an occasion for community members who have moved to urban areas to return home or get together in urban areas to celebrate their common heritage.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – Pyongyang Raengmyon custom
Pyongyang Raengmyon (cold noodles) is a customary dish in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that is served in a brass bowl and topped with meat, Kimchi, vegetables, fruits and garnish. Cool stock is then poured over the noodles to finish the preparation. Deeply rooted in the lives of Pyongyangites, the dish is associated with long life and hospitality, and is believed to foster respect and unity. It is transmitted from mothers and grandmothers to daughters and granddaughters, work-study programmes and training in restaurants, among others.
Republic of Korea – Talchum, mask dance drama in the Republic of Korea
Talchum is a performing art consisting of dance, music and theatre. An ensemble of six to ten musicians accompanies masked performers who humorously explore social issues through dramatic combinations of song, dance, movement and dialogue. The audience plays an essential role, contributing to the production with their cheers and jeers as the drama unfolds. In addition to serving as a tool for social commentary, Talchum can also promote and reinforce local cultural identities through local dialects and folksongs.
Islamic Republic of Iran, Afghanistan – Yaldā/Chella
Yaldā/Chella refers to a traditional celebration of the sun and the warmth of life. Practiced in Iran and Afghanistan, the event takes place on the last night of autumn, when families gather around a table adorned with a series of symbolic objects and foods, such as a lamp to symbolize light and red fruits to symbolize warmth. Activities range from reciting poetry and storytelling to playing games and music. The event, which is transmitted informally within families, celebrates cultural identity,
Islamic Republic of Iran, Syrian Arab Republic – Crafting and playing the Oud
The oud is a traditional, lute-type instrument played in Iran and Syria. It consists of a pear-shaped sound box made of walnut, rose, poplar, ebony or apricot wood and decorated with wooden carvings and mosaic patterns. The oud is played solo or in ensembles and accompanied by traditional songs and dance in a wide range of events. Its practice and craft are primarily transmitted through apprenticeship.
Al-Mansaf is a festive dish made with large chunks of sheep or goat meat boiled in a yogurt sauce and served on a large platter over rice and bread. The preparation itself is a social event, with cooks singing and telling stories. Guests share the platters and consume the dish using their right hand. Passed down from mother to daughter, the recipe and related practices are a central part of Jordan’s socio-cultural events, and the dish evokes a deep sense of identity and social cohesion.
Orteke is a Kazakh performing art with a traditional two-stringed instrument called a dombyra and a wooden mountain goat puppet. Attached to the surface of a drum, the puppet is connected to the fingers of a musician by one or several strings. As the musician plays the dombyra, the puppet comes to life, hopping in sync with the music while tapping a beat on the drum. Enjoyed by children and adults alike, Orteke is an important part of the region’s folk heritage and identity.
Al-Khanjar is part of a traditional costume worn by men in Oman during national and religious events and special occasions such as weddings. It is attached around the waist and includes a belt, handle, blade, scabbard and cover. An essential element of Omani culture, its manufacture requires significant knowledge and skills that are transmitted from one generation to the next. The khanjar is a part of the state emblem and plays a key role in many Omani customs and traditions.
Romania; Republic of Moldova – The art of the traditional blouse with embroidery on the shoulder (altiţă) – an element of cultural identity in Romania and the Republic of Moldova
The art of the traditional blouse with embroidery on the shoulder (called altiță) is an essential part of Romanian and Moldovan folk dress for men and women. The white blouse is handmade by women using natural fibres. It juxtaposes a simple cut with rich and colourful ornamentations that are stitched using complex sewing techniques. Interest in creating these blouses is steadily increasing and many value the practice as a means of relaxation and of affirming their identity and maintaining a visible connection to the past.
In Saudi Arabia, Khawlani tribes have been cultivating coffee beans for over 300 years, passing on the skills and techniques within families. Coffee is viewed as a symbol of generosity and people serve guests with coffee harvested in their own farm to show honour and respect. The planting and processing of Khawlani coffee beans encourages social cohesion and provides a sense of shared identity with farmers gathering to exchange knowledge and support each other.
Saudi Arabia, Oman, United Arab Emirates – Alheda’a, oral traditions of calling camel flocks
Alheda’a is an oral polyphonic expression accompanied by gestures or musical instruments played by herders to communicate with their camels. The rhythmic expression is inspired by poetry, and the herder uses a unique repository of sounds that the camels have become accustomed to. Alheda’a can also be used for swift assembly in case of immediate danger. The practice, which is transmitted within families, creates a strong bond between the camels and their herders, and among the herders themselves.
Serbia – Social practices and knowledge related to the preparation and use of the traditional plum spirit – šljivovica
The practices around šljivovica, a traditional plum spirit, include the complex knowledge and skills to prepare the drink in a home environment as well as its use in everyday and ritual practices. From harvesting, to aging and distilling, the preparation consists of multiple stages that involve families and communities. On festive occasions, šljivovica accompanies toasts expressing wishes for health and well-being. It is also used in rituals and traditional medicine. The related practices are generally transmitted within families and local communities.
Slovenia – Beekeeping in Slovenia, a way of life
In Slovenia, beekeeping is a way of life for many individuals, families and communities, who obtain bee products for food and traditional medicine and use their knowledge and skills to care for the honeybees and the environment. Communities express a loving and respectful attitude towards bees, and the knowledge, skills and practices relating to their keeping are shaped by centuries of tradition and transmitted from generation to generation. Beekeepers view their bees as teachers and friends. They expand their knowledge and skills through constant research.
Spain – Manual bell ringing
Over the centuries, bell ringing has served as a means of expression and communication in Spain, fulfilling a number of social functions, from information-sharing, to coordination, protection and cohesion. Coded messages conveyed through bell ringing are recognized by various communities and help to structure local life. The practice is transmitted from the bell ringers to younger generations notably through dedicated groups and organizations that, in addition to documenting and researching the practice, help disseminate their traditional art.
Harissa, a condiment made with chilli pepper paste, is an integral part of domestic provisions and of Tunisian society’s daily culinary and food tradition. It is usually prepared by women in convivial family or neighbourhood setting. The cultivation of chilli peppers follows an agrarian calendar that prohibits sowing during certain periods, which are considered unlucky. The knowledge and skills related to chilli pepper growing are passed on within communities of farmers and by agronomy schools and institutes.
Turkmenistan, Islamic Republic of Iran – Turkmen-style needlework art
Turkmen-style needlework is a decorative art applied on the national dress of people of all genders and ages in Turkmenistan and Iran. Thin silk threads are used to design patterns that indicate the territorial identity of needlewomen and symbolize love, friendship, nature and strength. The needlework is used on wedding and other ceremonial clothes, as well as on decorative parts of ordinary clothing, such as scarves, coats and accessories. Young girls traditionally learn the craft from their mothers and grandmothers.
United Arab Emirates – Al Talli, traditional embroidery skills in the United Arab Emirates
Talli is a traditional handicraft practised in the United Arab Emirates. The demand for Talli is currently at its highest ahead of religious festivals (Eids) and the marriage season in the summer. A time-consuming craft, Talli has traditionally been transmitted from mothers to daughters. The gathering of women in houses and neighbourhoods to braid Talli has a social dimension, as it provides an opportunity for social interaction and for the exchange of Talli knowledge, as well as other folk tales and proverbs.
United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, Yemen – Date palm, knowledge, skills, traditions and practices
Typically found in deserts and dry, temperate climates, the date palm is an evergreen with deep roots. Associated with the Arab region for centuries, it has enabled a rich cultural heritage that has been passed on through generations. Related practices, knowledge and skills include caring for and cultivating the date palm tree and using its parts (leaves, fronds and fibres) for traditional crafts and rituals. It is also a key source of nutrition and is widely supported by local communities.
Zambia – Kalela dance
The Kalela dance is an important part of many events in Zambia, such as ceremonies, public and state functions, international and national celebrations, weddings and funerals. Dancers form two or three lines, moving forwards and backwards as they sing along to the beat of three drums. The practice is transmitted through observation and participation during public performances and through formal courses with expert drummers.
The Register of Good Safeguarding Practices promotes the sharing of successful safeguarding experiences and examples of good practice in transmitting living heritage to future generations. The Register now numbers 33 good practices.
Czechia – Strategy for safeguarding traditional crafts: The Bearers of Folk Craft Tradition programme
In 1997, the National Institute of Folk Culture (NIFC) began to implement the project ‘Folk Trades and Handicrafts’ in the Czech Republic. Fieldwork revealed that most workshops were struggling financially and had difficulty selling and creating their products. In response, the Ministry of Culture and the NIFC launched the Bearers of Folk Craft Tradition programme in 2000, which aims to support, protect and safeguard traditional crafts through public awards, grants, donations, and an exclusive trademark, among others.
Italy, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, France – Tocatì, a shared programme for the safeguarding of traditional games and sports
Launched by the Associazione Giochi Antichi, Tocatì (‘it’s your turn’) is a festival and platform uniting communities, groups and individuals that practise traditional games in Italy, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus and France. Tocatì’s safeguarding measures explicitly link traditional games and sports to the values of intangible cultural heritage, mobilizing thousands of players, volunteers, admirers and media actors and raising awareness of the existence of intangible cultural heritage and the related risks.
The Al Sadu Society developed the Educational Programme: Train the Trainers in the Art of Weaving in collaboration with the Arts Department of the Ministry of Education to raise awareness about traditional Al Sadu weaving among younger generations in Kuwait. A national curriculum was developed, along with training workshops to help teachers learn contemporary weaving techniques and how to transmit this traditional craft to students. The programme has generated much enthusiasm among students and teachers, and since its inception in 2018, 30,959 students have completed the course.
The Ponte…nas ondas! project aims to safeguard intangible cultural heritage on the Portuguese-Galician border by creating spaces in which heritage can be transmitted to younger generations. The project has allowed youth to get involved in the practice and transmission of their own traditions thanks to the dissemination of cultural heritage in schools, the training of teachers, the presence of bearers and practitioners in classrooms to share their knowledge and experience, and the use of information and communications technology as well as radio resources.
The next session of the Committee, in 2023, will be chaired by Botswana.