Safeguarding intangible cultural heritage in emergencies: a priority for the Heritage Emergency Fund – UNESCO

Heritage Stewardship – Emergencies

Safeguarding intangible cultural heritage in emergencies: a priority for the Heritage Emergency Fund – UNESCO
13 December 2019
“Safeguarding intangible cultural heritage in emergencies is not a luxury: it helps address the human dimension of crises, enabling individuals and communities to maintain their sense of identity and dignity, and thus withstand and recover from crises,” said Ernesto Ottone R., UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture at a special event, “Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage in Crises,” which was held on 12 December in Bogotá (Colombia), during the 14th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.

This rationale also underpinned the creation of UNESCO’s Heritage Emergency Fund, which helps secure the safeguarding of living heritage – traditional practices, festivals, rituals and more. Living heritage is central to the life of communities and it comes under particularly serious threat in times of crises such as civil strife, war and disasters, both natural and human-induced.

The event showcased 15 emergency preparedness and response activities concerning living heritage that were conducted in 14 countries with the assistance of the Heritage Emergency Fund. These include the participatory identification of needs with community leaders, Post-Disaster Needs Assessments by cultural experts, emergency interventions and capacity-building for cultural institutions. Such measures help national authorities and local communities recover from emergencies by reviving vital elements of their cultural life.

These activities have also played a key role in the development of the “Operational principles and modalities for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage in emergencies”, which were endorsed by the Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage during its 14th session. The Operational Principles were designed to help guide States Parties to UNESCO’s 2003 Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention, and other national and international stakeholders in ensuring that intangible cultural heritage is effectively engaged, and safeguarded, in times of crises and recovery.

Since its establishment in 2016, the Heritage Emergency Fund has received the support of the Qatar Fund for Development, the Kingdom of Norway, the Government of Canada, the Principality of Monaco, the Republic of Estonia, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the Principality of Andorra, the Republic of Slovakia and the Republic of Serbia.