The 10th session of the UNESCO 2003 Convention’s General Assembly was held on 11 and 12 June 2024 at the Organization’s headquarters in Paris. For two days, the States Parties and other stakeholders gathered to discuss important issues for safeguarding the world’s living heritage and for the future of the Convention.

Rich in significant developments and events, this session of the GA also saw the arrival of three new States Parties that have ratified the 2003 Convention: Libya, San Marino and United Kingdom, bringing the number to183 States Parties in total, and 73 non-governmental organisations to be accredited to provide advisory services related to the Convention (now 268 accredited NGOs in total). Overall, we thus see the work of the Convention further spreading in countries, communities and civil society across all regions of the world.

The GA was also marked by the completion of work on amendments to the operational guidelines related to Article 18 on the selection of programmes, projects and activities that reflect the principles and objectives of the Convention, and further discussions on its broader implementation.

Amendments to Article 18 adopted

The work begun in 2022 and continued in 2023 through a meeting of experts and a meeting of the Intergovernmental Working Group – generously supported by Sweden – on Article 18 of the Convention concerning the register of good practices, was carried on during  the General Assembly.

Following the discussion and decision at 18.COM in 2023, this process now led to the adoption by the General Assembly of the Resolution 10.GA.7 on proposed amendments to the Operational Directives. It was further requested to explore ways to fully encompass the outcomes of the global reflection on the listing mechanisms of the Convention (2018-2022) and of the ongoing reflection on a broader implementation of Article 18 of the Convention, with a view to ensure that the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices benefits from an increasing number and a diversity of safeguarding experiences, and to report about the outcome of this reflection in the next session of the General Assembly.

In July 2023, following the preceding expert meeting in Sweden, and at the instigation of Belgium and Switzerland, the intergovernmental working group in Paris drafted a proposal to simplify the criteria for inclusion on the Register and to set up an online platform dedicated to sharing good safeguarding practices. The aim is to highlight the full potential of Article 18 of the Convention, which has been largely underused until now. This should highlight inspiring safeguarding practices and make them easily accessible.

Looking back on the 20th anniversary of the Convention

The year 2023 was exceptional in that it marked the twentieth anniversary of the Convention. The 10.GA looked back on this major milestone as an opportunity to take stock of the Convention’s impact and achievements over the last 20 years and to reflect on the future directions it should take.

The twentieth anniversary campaign was launched by UNESCO in the spring of 2023 with the hashtag #LivingHeritage, which has been widely picked up around the world, highlighting experiences of safeguarding or elements of the intangible cultural heritage of each country. There were more than 697 posts and nearly 20.9 million people reached. In addition, 179 events were highlighted on the Organisation’s website, including some from countries that are members of the network.

Several events marked this anniversary year, notably the conference in Seoul (Republic of Korea), which examined the contributions of safeguarding living heritage to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and produced a summary document: the “Seoul Vision for the future of safeguarding living heritage for sustainable development and peace“.

Similarly, the Naples conference on cultural heritage in the 21st century was held in November 2023 with the aim of encouraging new forms of safeguarding that give priority to the community approach. This conference, which sought to highlight a holistic approach to heritage, taking into account the close relationship between nature and culture, the tangible and the intangible, was an opportunity to discuss the lessons learned from the reflections carried out on the occasion of the 50th and 20th anniversaries of the 1972 and 2003 Conventions respectively, and to adopt the “Spirit of Naples” call to action.

Leena Marsio (FP Finland) took the floor to present Finland's 20th anniversary activities at the General Assembly - 12.06.2024.

ENFP meeting

This session of the General assembly was also an opportunity for the ENFP network members to get together for a convivial moment over coffee, followed by presentations on the state of the network and sharing ICH-policies related updates and developments in European countries. The meeting in a hybrid format allowed colleagues to join online as well. Notable here were the multiple developments around synergy and integration of our work related to cultural policies and the different UNESCO Conventions.

A presentation by Italian Focal Point (FP) Elena Sinibaldi introduced the Naples conference (October 2023) and its Call to action. Leena Marsio (FP Finland) and Hildegunn Bjørgen (FP Norway) continued by sharing the reflection held within the ENFP working sessions on searching for synergies between the 2003 and 2005 Conventions, particularly in the context of the periodic reporting process for the 2005 Convention, followed by an exchange with UNESCO staff members on the subject. 

Members of the network were also able to share their updates and communications with the rest of the group in a light, festive atmosphere. Naira Kilichyan shared Armenia’s initiatives for the 20th Anniversary. Finally, Sophie Muyllaert (FP Flanders, Belgium) shared the prospect to develop a UNESCO Category 2 Centre in Europe (Electoral Group 1) to complement the work of the Sofia Centre and to further the growing networking and collaboration in this European region.

The ENFP meeting took place at UNESCO Headquarters during the General Assembly on 12 June 2024.