Safeguarding our cultural heritage

Normal, Weekender


MODERN society is constantly beset with issues like rapid globalisation or poverty. For various reasons, transmission of the Asia-Pacific region’s rich and varied traditional performing arts and oral cultures, or “intangible cultural heritage (ICH), “is becoming increasingly difficult.
The Asia/Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO (ACCU) carries out programmes which promote UNESCO’s Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003). Emphasis is placed on programmes which encourage community participation in safeguarding activities, and production of materials which convey the spirit of UNESCO’s Convention.
Recently PNG participated in the “3rd Training Course for Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage”.
The programme was organised by the ACCU and Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan and was held in Kyoto, Osaka and Nara, Japan from Jul 15 – 22.
Being the first country in the Pacific to ratify the convention in June 2008, PNG was eligible to attend this training programme.
The PNG participant were nominated by the PNG National Commission for UNESCO (PNGNatCom) and recommended by the National Cultural Commission (NCC).
Twenty-eight participants mainly from the South East and Central Asia region presented their country’s case-study report outlining and explaining an ICH project in their countries. The project focused on a particular national/local project for safeguarding ICH by national/local government.
Each participants presented case-study reports from their countries which focused on a recent ICH project that they were involved in. With acquired skills and knowledge from this training, the participants are expected to assist their national/local government in making inventories of an ICH item that needs urgent safe-guarding.
The seven-day training programme was intensive which focused on the theme, “Inventory Making of ICH in Japan, from research to listing”.
The programme consisted of lectures, field-trips to ICH project sites and sharing of country reports by participants. The participants visited some of the World Cultural Heritage sites such as the Golden Pavilion, Rokuon-ji temple, Byodoin temple and Nijo Castle. 
The objective of the course was to learn about the Japanese systems for safeguarding of ICH, in terms of inventory making at the national and local authority levels; to learn about the activities which communities are working on for safeguarding the Gion Festival Yamahoko Events through observation of their activities in Kyoto; and to share information on safeguarding of ICH in each country of the International ICH Network as well as to collect useful information for their own countries.
The Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO in October 2003 which entered into force on Apr 20 2006.
Japan has become the third country in Asia and the Pacific to ratify the Convention. To most of the countries in the region, however, the Convention still remains distant, without wide dissemination of the concept of ICH or the implementation of programmes regarding ICH through a regional network in Asia and the Pacific.
In PNG, preliminary work is currently conducted by staff of the NCC in identifying a particular ICH project for possible inscription on the World Heritage List. The pilot project is situated in the Mailovera area of the Gulf province. Given the diversity of PNG’s intangible cultural heritage, it will be a great challenge for PNG to identify a particular ICH for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List.