International Council for Traditional Music

A Non-Governmental Organization in Formal Consultative Relations with UNESCO



Preparatory Meeting For The Establisment Of An International Coordination Committeee (Icc) For Haitian Culture

UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, France, 16 February 2010
The earthquake of 12 January has not only wrecked human lives and infrastructure in Haiti, but also the world’s cultural heritage. When cultural heritage is destroyed, people suffer a fundamental loss, one that is often not sufficiently recognized. In situations in which life is little more than survival, culture can be vital in giving people’s lives meaning. The safeguarding of cultural heritage in disaster areas is crucial for restoring human dignity. If cultural heritage disappears, the affected communities have no basis on which to reconstruct their lives.
Immediate action to safeguard Haiti’s unique and diverse heritage is urgent. UNESCO organized a preparatory meeting for the establishment of an international coordination committee (ICC) for Haitian Culture which took place in UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on Tuesday February 16, 2010.
Three objectives were proposed :
- To safeguard, restore and rehabilitate cultural heritage damaged by the earthquake
- To use cultural heritage as a positive force for preventing social breakdown and re-establishing stability and quality of life in the earthquake-stricken communities
- To contribute to bringing a sense of normalcy back to the situation and to contribute to the providing of consolation, hope and respect to all people involves, also children.
Dr. Tran Quang Hai represented the ICTM Executive Board at the meeting. The Smithsonian Institute (USA), Musée du Quai Branly (France), Tervuren Museum (Belgium), Laval University (Canada), Tropen Museum (the Netherlands), Museum of Ethnography of Geneva (Switzerland), Israel Museum (Israel) also sent their representatives.
The program started with the opening address by the Director General of the UNESCO, Ms Irina Bokova, followed by the address by the Haitian Minister of Culture and Comunications, Ms Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lassègue.

There were three sessions :
1. The Post Earthquake situation (from 10:00-12:30) with presentation by Haitian representatives, UNESCO partner institutions, and the report of the Unesco culture mission to Port au Prince (1 – 7 february 2010)
2. Towards an Integrated Cultural Cooperation Strategy for the Medium and Long Term (from 14:30 – 17:15) with two topics: first with priority action areas at short and mid term concerning built heritage and urban centres, museums and cultural institutions, intangible heritage, archives, libraries and manuscripts, creative industries; second with conclusions and recommendations.
3. Closing session (from 17:15 – 17:30) with remarks by the Haitian Minister of Culture and Communications and by the UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture.

Tran Quang Hai

2003 Convention For The Safeguarding Of The Intangible Cultural Heritage

From 28 September – 2 October 2009 the Intergovernmental Committee of the convention met in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. This meeting has been a crucial one. For the first time items were inscribed in the two lists (Representative List, RL, and the Urgent Safeguarding List, USL) and three ‘best practices’ were chosen by the Committee.

This meeting has resulted in making clear that the intangible is part of ‘cultural heritage’ and thus corrected the ethnocentric definition given in the 1972 World Heritage convention that left out oral traditions. A short description of each item on the combined RL + USL, some photographs and in most cases a short film, may be found on This site gives an important overview of items of living culture in the world. The films may also be found on YouTube which enhances the visibility of the convention.

The Subsidiary Body, responsible for pre-selecting 76 items out of 111 proposals to be inscribed on the RL, has carefully reported on the methodology used in its evaluation process (see documents ITH/09/4.COM/CONF.209/13 Rev.2 and ITH/09/4.COM/CONF.209/INF.6 on These reports have set a good standard for the methodology to be used in these selections. They have addressed the major issue of community involvement in the process of nominating and safeguarding, the imbalance of regional distribution of the items, and the imbalance between the RL (76 entries) and the USL (12 entries).

Based on its experiences of this first round, the Subsidiary Body recommended a few changes in the Operational Directives that were by and large accepted by the Committee. It also ‘encourages the Committee to consider how best to strengthen the capacities of States Parties, particularly those in developing countries, so that future nominations will present compelling cases for inscription. It suggests specifically the possibility of capacity-building workshops at the regional or sub-regional level that might bring together experts and nongovernmental organizations to inform and provide training to those within developing countries who are responsible for preparing nominations.’

Each of the 12 nominations for the USL had been examined by two experts that had been contracted individually or via an NGO. ICTM was only involved with one examiner (Gisa Jähnichen) for the Vietnamese Ca Trù nomination. For the 2010 round there were 5 nominations for the USL and 147 nominations for the RL (of which 98 came from Asian countries) received by the deadline of 1 September 2009. ICTM has not been selected as examiner for the 5 proposals for the USL in 2010.

It seems that the convention is slowly moving in the right direction. However, the role of large international NGOs like the ICTM will be fairly limited, at least for the coming years. This is also due to the fact that much intangible cultural heritage is not in the domain of music and dance.

Next meetings will be the Third session of the General Assembly of the States Parties in Paris, 22 to 24 June 2010 and the Fifth Session of the Intergovernmental Committee (5.COM) in Kenya, November 2010.

CD series

The contract between UNESCO and the Smithsonian Institution has not yet been signed, but legally there are no obstacles any more. It seems that we are approaching the end of this long road (almost 5 years now) of signing a contract and that it all depends on UNESCO making the copies of contracts, letters, etc. available to the Smithsonian Institution. After the contract has been signed priority will be given to publish the volumes that have been on the shelves for many years ready to be published.

Wim van Zanten