“The Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage and the World Today” was the topic of a panel discussion hosted by Phoenix Satellite TV on 15 October 2013 at UNESCO. The Panel was followed by the inauguration of a photo exhibition and a performance by artists from China’s Weinan city of Shannxi province.
The panelists were the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms Irina Bokova, Nigerian Nobel Prize for Literature Laureate Wole Soyinka, Professor Homi Bhabha of Harvard University, former French Culture Minister, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabre, Professor Xu Jialu, Chairman of the Nishan Forum on World Civilizations, and Chairman of Phoenix Satellite TV, Liu Changle. The session was moderated by Phoenix TV Senior Anchor, Mr Jiang Shangyang.
The Director-General opened the debate by describing how the 2003 Convention, ratified by 155 countries, has extended the definition of cultural heritage. Intangible cultural heritage is about identity and community with a strong link to cultural diversity, and hence to sustainable development. "It is our response to globalization" she said.
“China’s development is closely related to its history and culture”, said Mr Xu Jialu who also underlined the importance of research and the need to create a framework that goes beyond the Convention helping Member States to protect their intangible heritage. “We have to work towards an understanding of new humanism, which is based on values inherent in the Intangible Cultural Heritage and which should form part of the curricula of educational institutions across the world. Intangible cultural heritage symbols bring new values into the humanities of today. Due to migration, intangible cultural heritage is no more a local issue,” said Homi Bhabha. Former minister of Culture and Communication, Mr Renaud Donnedieu de Vabre, stressed that when travelling, “I want to discover what people are proud of, we need to preserve and envisage creation. By protecting intangible heritage, we protect positive values of our culture, this helps to create new values…”.
Wole Soyinka said that intolerance is “the biggest challenge and threat to the values that the Convention defends. To protect diversity, we must broaden the world’s understanding that cultural diversity is our common heritage. Its protection is an ethical imperative, inseparable from respect for human dignity”. In addressing the power of contemporary media, Liu Changle emphasized their significant contribution to the promotion of cultural diversity in the world and explained the necessity of preserving this diversity for future generations”.
The Director-General concluded the lively debate by referring to the many partners and stakeholders who are now collaborating with UNESCO towards a New Humanism, based especially on human dignity. It should always be remembered that “no culture is superior to another” said Ms Bokova, adding that the ongoing efforts open up a whole new space of human identity.
The Phoenix TV debate was followed by the opening of a photo exhibition of Weinan traditional arts, as well as by a performance of 50 peasant artists from the Chinese Weinan city of Shannxi province.