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Cablegate: Unesco: First Intangible Heritage General Assembly

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Lucia A Keegan 07/21/2006 03:16:29 PM From DB/Inbox: Lucia A Keegan

Cable
Text:


UNCLAS PARIS 04963

SIPDIS
cxparis:
ACTION: UNESCO
INFO: AMB AMBO AMBU DCM SCI POL ECON

DISSEMINATION: UNESCOX
CHARGE: PROG

APPROVED: AMB:LVOLIVER
DRAFTED: LA:TMPEAY
CLEARED: DCM:AKOSS

VZCZCFRI228
RR RUEHC
DE RUEHFR #4963 2020937
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 210937Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 9707

UNCLAS PARIS 004963

SIPDIS

FROM USMISSION UNESCO PARIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SCUL UNESCO
SUBJECT: UNESCO: FIRST INTANGIBLE HERITAGE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
PRODUCES INTERNAL EU FRICTIONS AND ELECTS FIRST MEMBERS TO
INTANGIBLE CULTURAL HERITAGE COMMITTEE


1. Summary. The United States participated as an Observer State at
the first General Assembly (GA) of States Parties to the Intangible
Cultural Heritage (ICH) Convention from June 27-29. The GA's most
important accomplishment was the election, on the final day, of the
meeting of 18 Convention States Parties to the Inter-Governmental
Committee (IGC) (see list of States elected at paragraph 4 below).
The actual voting process, however, was preceded by a protracted,
highly contentious debate over geographic representation on the
Committee. States Parties were divided over two irreconcilable
principles for determining Committee membership: proportionate
regional representation (i.e., regions with the largest number of
States Parties to the Convention would hold the most Committee
seats) versus equal regional representation on the Committee. Final
resolution of this issue has been put off until the next GA meeting,
set for late October in Algiers, when six additional committee
members will be elected, raising the Committee's size from 18 to a
maximum of 24.

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2. Summary continued. The alignment of regional groups within that
debate pitted Western and Eastern European States sharply and openly
against each other. No substantive matters were discussed, and none
will be taken up until the Committee's full complement has been
reached. The ICH Committee began on a highly politicized note that
is likely to continue shaping its outlook and work for the
foreseeable future. On balance, the U.S. gained useful, firsthand
insights by participating as an observer at this meeting and, for a
variety of reasons, should continue to track this process. End
Summary.

3. Fierce competition between regional groups for elected positions
on the Committee provoked deep divisions that infected the meeting's
atmospherics right up to adjournment. Representatives of EU States
-- both States Parties and non-States Parties (such as France and
Italy) -- worked in unusually close collaboration with the U.S.
throughout the meeting. This contrasted sharply with the United
States' experience at UNESCO last fall during the cultural diversity
convention negotiations. Eastern Europe States Parties, which
outnumber those from Western Europe, found common cause with
Asia-Pacific States Parties (led by India and China) seeking to
impose a system of "proportional representation" on the Committee.
The Latin American States aligned themselves with Western European
States to advocate a system of "equal regional representation" on
the Committee. The Africa Group and Middle Eastern States, though
less strident than Eastern Europe, nonetheless sided with
Asia-Pacific States.

4. The centerpiece of this meeting was the final day's critical
election of 18 States Parties to the Convention to fill seats on the
IGC. The breakdown of States elected by Regional Groupings was as
follows: Group I (Belgium and Turkey); Group II (Bulgaria, Estonia,
Hungary, Romania); Group III (Brazil, Mexico, Peru); Group IV
(China, India, Japan, Vietnam); Group V(a)(Gabon, Nigeria, Senegal);
Group V(b) (Algeria, UAE). Interestingly, Iran had put forward its
candidacy within Group IV, but did not get elected.

5. There were a few other noteworthy developments that occurred
during the three-day meeting. By design or chance, during the
morning of the first day of meeting, the French Senate approved both
the Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention and the Diversity of
Cultural Expressions Convention, moving both instruments one step
closer to formal ratification. This development was dramatically
announced to those assembled. Japan, China, and Algeria, in that
order, offered to host the next GA of States Parties, but Algeria
was ultimately selected because the chair of the meeting was
Algerian former Foreign Minister Mohammed Benjauoui.

6. The Inter-Governmental Committee once it begins to function
will, among other things, be responsible for drawing up criteria
(subject to the approval of the GA of States Parties) for
determining which "intangible cultural heritages," (as defined by
the Convention) will be included on two lists to be established and
maintained. One list will comprise a "Representative List of
Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity." The other will comprise
a "List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent
Safeguarding."

7. Begin Comment. In practice, the Committee's implementation of
this Convention is likely to encounter many of the substantive
challenges that have been faced by the World Heritage Committee
under the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural
and Natural Heritage. For this reason, it is possible the two
processes could begin to feed off of one another for better or
worse. The upcoming meeting in Algiers will likely be an important
barometer for the Committee. For a variety of reasons, the
Intangible Heritage Committee's evolution merits continued close
monitoring by the U.S. for the foreseeable future. End Comment.
Oliver

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