President Mulatu Teshome of Ethiopia opens 11th session of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Committee in Addis Ababa


The President of Ethiopia, Mulatu Teshome, on Sunday opened the 11th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage at an evening gala that featured examples of the wealth of Ethiopia’s intangible cultural heritage as performed by more than 300 artists and practitioners.

“Ethiopia is Africa’s oldest independent country,” said the President. “More than 80 nations with distinct cultural traditions and values live here and speak more than 80 different languages. Ethiopia has been a member of UNESCO since 1955 and has collaborated with it since then. We take heritage as our legacy from the past and we pass it on to the next generation. The Ethiopian government is committed to preserve it and safeguard it and UNESCO has been a longstanding partner in this endeavour.”

UNESCO’s Deputy Director-General, Getachew Engida, for his part, highlighted the “tremendous advances,” achieved since the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage entered into force. “The Convention continues to represent a force for peace, diversity and inclusion,” he said, explaining that “to support Member States, UNESCO places the emphasis on strengthening human and institutional capacities at the country level through the capacity-building strategy adopted by the Committee, which has been implemented in more than 70 countries. A greater focus will be placed on policy support, to ensure that sufficient attention is paid to intangible cultural heritage in national development plans.”

Ethiopia’s Culture and Tourism Minister, Hirut Weldemariam, described his country as “a land of biodiversity and a mosaic of multiple ethnolinguistic groups, which also accommodates several religions in peace. We are very much grateful for choosing Ethiopia, because this will enhance the visibility of the Convention at national level.”

The Chairperson of UNESCO’s Executive Board, Michael Worbs, for his part pointed out that the Committee was meeting in Africa for the fourth time since its creation in 2006, which demonstrates “the central importance that intangible cultural heritage has for Africa as a whole”, and the priority of Africa in UNESCO’s actions.

Chaired by Yonas Desta Tsegaye, Director General of Ethiopia’s Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage, the Committee brings together representatives of 24 States Parties to the Convention, who will remain in session through 2 December. The Committee will examine five nominations for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding and 37 requests for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The committee will also examine issues concerning intangible heritage in emergency situations caused by conflict or natural disaster. It will envisage safeguarding measures that can be applied in such cases and consider the role intangible heritage can play in restoring social cohesion and supporting reconciliation. Ten years after the Convention entered into force, the Committee will examine creation of a monitoring instrument to measure its impact and progress achieved. The List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding currently features 43 particularly vulnerable elements of the living heritage. It helps States Parties to the Convention rally international cooperation and assistance to ensure the transmission of these cultural practices with the agreement of the communities concerned. The following elements will be examined:

  • Botswana: The use of Moropa wa Bojale ba Bakgatla ba Kgafela and its associated practices
  • Cambodia: Chapei Dang Veng
  • Portugal: Bisalhães black pottery manufacturing process
  • Uganda: Ma’di bowl lyre music and dance
  • Ukraine: Cossack’s songs of Dnipropetrovsk Region

The Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity presently number 336 inscribed elements. It aims to enhance the visibility of communities’ traditions and knowledge without recognizing standards of excellence or exclusivity. The nominations for 2016 for the Representative List of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity are:

  • Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan: Nawrouz, Novruz, Nowrouz, Nowrouz, Nawrouz, Nauryz, Nooruz, Nowruz, Navruz, Nevruz, Nowruz, Navruz [traditional celebration of the New Year and the start of spring]
  • Azerbaijan, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey: Flatbread making and sharing culture: Lavash, Katryma, Jupka, Yufka
  • Bangladesh: Mangal Shobhajatra on Pahela Baishakh
  • Belarus: Celebration in honour of the Budslaŭ icon of Our Lady (Budslaŭ Fest)
  • Belgium: Beer culture in Belgium
  • China: The Twenty-Four Solar Terms, knowledge in China of time and practices developed through observation of the sun’s annual motion
  • Cuba: Rumba in Cuba, a festive combination of music and dances and all the practices associated
  • Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: Ssirum (wrestling) in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
  • Dominican Republic: Music and dance of the merengue in the Dominican Republic
  • Egypt: Tahteeb, stick game
  • Ethiopia: Gada system, an indigenous democratic socio-political system of the Oromo
  • France: Carnival of Granville
  • Georgia: Living culture of three writing systems of the Georgian alphabet
  • Germany: Idea and practice of organizing shared interests in cooperatives
  • Greece: Momoeria, New Year’s celebration in eight villages of Kozani area, West Macedonia, Greece
  • India: Yoga
  • Iraq: Khidr Elias feast and its vows
  • Japan: Yama, Hoko, Yatai, float festivals in Japan
  • Kazakhstan: Kuresi in Kazakhstan
  • Mauritius: Bhojpuri folk songs in Mauritius, Geet-Gawai
  • Mexico: Charrería, equestrian tradition in Mexico
  • Nigeria: Argungu international fishing and cultural festival
  • Republic of Korea: Culture of Jeju Haenyeo (women divers)
  • Romania, Republic of Moldova: Traditional wall-carpet craftsmanship in Romania and the Republic of Moldova
  • Romania: Whitsunday pilgrimage from Şumuleu Ciuc (Csíksomlyó)
  • Saudi Arabia: Almezmar, drumming and dancing with sticks
  • Slovakia, Czechia: Puppetry in Slovakia and Czechia
  • Slovenia: Škofja Loka Passion Play
  • Spain: Valencia Fallas festivity
  • Sri Lanka: Traditional art of string puppetry in Sri Lanka
  • Switzerland: Winegrowers’ Festival in Vevey
  • Tajikistan: Oshi Palav, a traditional meal and its social and cultural contexts in Tajikistan
  • Turkey: Traditional craftsmanship of Çini-making
  • United Arab Emirates, Austria, Belgium, Czechia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Mongolia, Morocco, Pakistan, Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Syrian Arab Republic: Falconry, a living human heritage
  • Uzbekistan: Palov culture and tradition
  • Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of): Carnival of El Callao, a festive representation of a memory and cultural identity
  • Viet Nam: Practices related to the Viet beliefs in the Mother Goddesses of Three Realms

The Committee will furthermore review seven programmes proposed for inclusion on the Register of Best Safeguarding Practices. Twelve elements are already featured on the Register, which seeks to promote programmes, projects and activities that reflect optimally the Convention’s principles and objectives. The proposed entries to the Register are:

  • Argentina: The Randas of time, a safeguarding model of textile art at El Cercado
  • Austria: Regional Centres for Craftsmanship: a strategy for safeguarding the cultural heritage of traditional handicraft
  • Bulgaria: Festival of folklore in Koprivshtitsa: a system of practices for heritage presentation and transmission
  • Croatia: Community project of safeguarding the living culture of Rovinj/Rovigno: the Batana Ecomuseum
  • Fiji: Cultural mapping, methodology for the safeguarding of iTaukei intangible cultural heritage
  • Hungary: Safeguarding of the folk music heritage by the Kodály concept
  • Norway: Oselvar boat – reframing a traditional learning process of building and use to a modern context

UNESCO’s 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage has been ratified by 171 States Parties to date. Its Intergovernmental Committee meets annually to implement the Convention and examine requests for inscription on its various lists.


The meeting is taking place at the Conference Centre of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa (Room I).

A media kit containing facts and figures, frequently asked questions and descriptions of the nominations as well as contacts for interviews is available.

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The meeting will be live webcast.

More about the meeting.

On 27 November, nongovernmental organizations working on intangible heritage will come together in a Forum, see:

Media Contact: Lucía Iglesias Kuntz, in Addis Ababa + 251 961259974; French mobile: +33 (0) 6 80 24 07 29

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