20 June 2008
On 16 June 2008, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koichiro Matsuura, opened the Second Session of the General Assembly of States Parties to the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage at the Organization’s Paris Headquarters*. Mr Olabayi Babalola Joseph Yai, Chairperson of the UNESCO Executive Board, Mr Osman Faruk Logoglu, Chairperson of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage and Mr Mohammed Bedjaoui, Chairperson of the First session of the General Assembly of States Parties also spoke during the opening ceremony.In his opening remarks, Mr Matsuura expressed his profound appreciation to Mr Mohammed Bedjaoui both for his exceptional work prior to the adoption of the Convention and as Chairperson of the First Session of the General Assembly of States Parties. He also acknowledged the “heavy responsibility” that would fall to Mr Osman Faruk Logoglu, Chairperson of the Intergovernmental Committee, in presiding over its forthcoming meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, (4-8 November 2008) during which the Committee should incorporate all items formerly proclaimed Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, onto the Representative List. The Director-General said that the presence of the Chairman of the Executive Board on the podium was testimony not only to Mr Yai’s “personal attachment to the values of the 2003 Convention but also to the importance accorded to it by UNESCO’s Governing Bodies”.
“To date, 95 States Parties have ratified the Convention. Others have announced their intention to do so very soon….I am very pleased to note both the rapid pace of ratification and an improved geographical balance among States Parties. Such balance is essential for cooperation, in particular for ensuring effective exchanges of information and experience,” the Director-General affirmed.
Recalling “the fundamentally different purposes” for which the two lists established under the Convention were designed, Mr Matsuura said he hoped “that all States Parties will take advantage of both lists in proposing items for inscription, whether for raising awareness or for urgent safeguarding. As regards the calendar for inscribing elements on the two lists, the normal procedure for inscription on the Urgent Safeguarding List will take 18 months or, if preparatory assistance is requested, 24 months. The inscription procedure for the Representative List has been set at 13 months, with the first new entries foreseen for autumn 2009. While it may seem paradoxical that an element whose viability is threatened must go through a longer procedure than a healthy one, the Committee considered that establishing a substantial and effective set of safeguarding measures most likely to succeed in "healing" an ailing element would require additional time and attention. I agree.”
“Nevertheless, in this particular instance, to allow the Committee to proceed with the first inscriptions on both lists simultaneously, it has submitted to the General Assembly a transitional timetable that will allow a first set of elements to be inscribed on the Urgent Safeguarding List within a 13-month period. This will allow international cooperation in safeguarding to begin promptly for those elements that are seriously at risk”, he declared.
“The next four days constitute an important moment in the life of the Convention. The considerable work done by the Committee is now in your hands, and I very much hope that this session will be able to approve the operational directives before it, knowing that it is only through applied practice that they will be able to evolve to meet the practical needs of safeguarding,” he concluded.
During its Second Session, the General Assembly will elect twelve new members to the twenty-four member Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. It will also consider Draft Operational Directives prepared by the Committee that, if accepted, will enable the Convention to become fully operational, and decide the modalities for contributions to the Fund for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.