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Kenya: Cultural Traditions for UN Protected List

Meeting Begins in Kenya to Select Cultural Traditions for UN Protected List

New York, Nov 15 2010 12:10PM Parties to the international convention on the preservation of the world’s intangible cultural heritage gathered in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, today for a United Nations-convened meeting to examine cultural elements that need to be inscribed on the list of protected cultural traditions.

The Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, which is administered by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), was adopted in 2003 and is ratified by 132 States.

It recommends the protection of elements such as oral traditions and expressions, performing arts, social practices, rituals and festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe and know-how related to traditional handicrafts.

Some 400 State delegates, representatives from civil society and observers are attending the 5th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which is being held for the first time in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“The Convention is one of the most innovative instruments that we have developed to address contemporary challenges,” said Irina Bokova, UNESCO’s Director General, in her opening address. “I see our commitment to intangible heritage as an act of solidarity, respect and understanding of others,” she said.

During the five-day meeting, the Committee will examine four elements presented for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, and 47 elements for the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

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The first contains cultural elements whose viability is at risk despite efforts of communities and groups that practice them. In order to be inscribed on this list, States must pledge to implement special protection plans. They may benefit from financial assistance from a fund managed by UNESCO.

“International conventions that guide preservation of heritage demand uniform application of adherence,” said Kenya’s Vice-President Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka. “Kenya is ready and willing to take on more projects that bring out and preserve our heritage. Such a pursuit would increase the visibility of our diverse cultural values and traditions and promote mutual respect and dialogue amongst Kenya’s various communities,” he added.

Ms. Bokova lamented the absence at this year's session of inscription candidates from Africa.

"We should feel an obligation towards the African continent and to all those who have an extremely rich intangible heritage and who are not fittingly represented in the Convention’s Lists,” she said.


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