On 30 March, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, opened the Expert Meeting on a Model Code of Ethics of Intangible Cultural Heritage, held in Valencia, Spain. This opening session took place in the presence of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Kingdom of Spain, His Excellency Mr José Manuel García-Margallo y Marfil, the President of the Generalidad Valenciana, His Excellency Alberto Fabra, and the Mayor of the City of Valencia, Honorable María Rita Barberá Nolla.
Thanking the Government of Spain for hosting this meeting the Director-General said: “This will enable UNESCO to chart the path towards developing one or more codes of ethics that will serve to guide the international community in safeguarding humanity’s intangible cultural heritage.”
The aim of the meeting is to discuss the main lines that should figure into codes of ethics for intangible cultural heritage. This three-day meeting, held from 30 March to 1 April 2015 will bring together twelve experts from different UNESCO Member States, as well as four members of the Secretariat. The results of the meeting will be presented to the Director-General of UNESCO and subsequently examined by the Committee, when it meets for its tenth session in Namibia from 30 November to 4 December 2015.
“Over the last two decades, UNESCO has emerged as the leading global laboratory for critical thinking about key questions in ethics,” declared the Director-General.
“It is our role to raise awareness about ethics and core principles to uphold values of freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance and shared responsibility,” she continued, highlighting that the practices, representations and skills sustained by intangible heritage and traditions provide major contributions to education, to resource management, to social cohesion, to risk management, to democratic governance.
“Our heritage is a bridge from the past to a better future for all – it is essential to the quality of our lives today, vital to the sustainability of our development tomorrow.”
Intangible cultural heritage is a way to access this accumulated knowledge of peoples – it is a living resource, providing answers to the challenges of peace and sustainable development. Some of them are heavily threatened or endangered and it is the primary purpose of the 2003 Convention on intangible heritage to safeguard them.
“In working towards a code of ethics, the values that have already been included in the 2003 Convention must be the guiding light,” said Irina Bokova, highlighting the importance of building on the founding principles of the Convention and particularly on the primary role of communities, groups and individuals in safeguarding and managing their own intangible cultural heritage.
During her visit the Director-General attended, in the presence of the Mayor of Valencia, the performance of some of the leading intangible cultural heritage expressions of the city of Valencia inscribed on UNESCO's Representative List of the intangible cultural heritage – including The Mystery Play of Elche and the Irrigators' Tribunal of the Spanish Mediterranean coast (Tribunal de las Aguas).