The 18th Annual Meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the ICH took place in Kasane, Botswana, and will be remembered as an exceptional event. With 2023 marking the 20th anniversary of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, this meeting was an opportunity to celebrate the many expressions of living heritage and the many achievements of the Convention. The nearly 900 participants were able to take part in activities organised by the host country, including dance performances and presentations of living heritage, all in a festive atmosphere.

The anniversary was also an opportunity to look back at the Convention’s achievements around the world and to look forward to its future accomplishments.

The We are #LivingHeritage hashtag, launched by UNESCO in the spring of 2023, has been a great success. The hashtag and the visual identity provided by UNESCO were widely used, especially on social networks, to promote the activities of the 20th anniversary.

Looking back on the events of this exceptional year of celebration, the ENFP members took the opportunity to report on the good results of the Wiki Loves Living Heritage 2023 campaign, which were warmly welcomed by the members of the meeting.

Jorijn Neyrinck and Leena Marsio at the Eighteenth session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in Botswana, presenting Wiki Loves Living Heritage / photo : Kia Tsakiridis

This anniversary was also an opportunity to reflect on the implementation of the Convention and how it can be taken forward. A meeting was held in Seoul in July, resulting in a document presenting a series of actions to strengthen the role of living heritage in the sustainable development of societies. The conference in Naples was also very well received.

The 18.COM work already started earlier in 2023 with the expert meeting and working sessions on Article 18 of the Convention concerning the Register of Good Practices. At the impulse of ENFP members, notably Belgium and Switzerland, a proposal was drafted to simplify the criteria for nomination to the list and the development of an online platform to promote the good practices listed. This proposal was fully approved by the committee at the 18.COM.

For the first time, all the elements and safeguarding practices discussed for possible inclusion into the Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage were favourably advised and decided. Another event that made this meeting memorable and added to the festive atmosphere.

As a result, 45 new elements were inscribed on the Representative List, bringing the total number to 730.  Of these, 10 elements were submitted by European States. Particularly noteworthy were transnational inscriptions: Transhumance, the seasonal droving of livestock; Traditional irrigation: knowledge, technique, and organization and Knowledge, craft and skills of handmade glass production. This clearly demonstrates the importance of cooperation between the different European countries in promoting and safeguarding their common heritage.

In the same vein, the Nyckelharpa network, an innovative dissemination of a music and instrument-building tradition with roots in Sweden, and the safeguarding foster care heritage in the merciful city of Geel: a community-based care model, proposed by Belgium, were included in the Register of Good Practices as “programmes, projects or activities that best reflect the principles and objectives of the Convention”.

The 19th session of the Intergovernmental Committee will take place in Paraguay in December 2024. Germany will represent Electoral Group I as Vice-Chairperson and Slovakia has been elected Rapporteur for this session.