Somalia raises awareness and capacities for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage

Somali participants in the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage workshop in Mogadishu, 27 September 2021 © SOMASA

Following the ratification of the UNESCO 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage by the Federal Government of Somalia in 2020, the UNESCO  Regional Office for Eastern Africa and the Somalia Academy of Science and Arts (SOMASA), with support from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Higher Education (MoECHE), organized a national awareness raising and capacity-building workshop for the safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) Somalia, which is being carried out from 27 to 29 September 2021 and from 11 to 13 October 2021. The hybrid workshop is taking place at SOMASA in Mogadishu with the participation of 30 key stakeholders—including Somali elders and heritage experts, representatives of cultural institutions and the media, as well as  11 youth and 6 female participants.

The workshop, which is based on the UNESCO Capacity Building Programme for Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage,  is being led by Ms. Emily Drani, a UNESCO Expert Facilitator for the 2003 Convention and co-founder of the Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda (CCFU). The six-day programme includes sessions on general awareness raising on intangible cultural heritage, the guidance of the 2003 Convention and its Operational Directives, exercises to increase capacities for identifying and safeguarding ICH, as well as recommendations for community awareness raising and intergenerational transmission. The workshop will also introduce participants to how to apply for grants for International Assistance from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund, which supports activities aimed at safeguarding intangible cultural heritage such as: safeguarding of elements on the Urgent Safeguarding List; preparation of inventories; support for programmes, projects and activities aimed at the safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage at the national, sub-regional and regional levels; as well as capacity building and preparatory assistance.

In her presentation on the origins of 2003 Convention and UNESCO support available to Somalia for safeguarding its intangible cultural heritage, Ms. Karalyn Monteil, Programme Specialist for Culture at the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa, suggested that assistance could be offered for: Inventories; adopting a general safeguarding policy; establishing competent safeguarding bodies; fostering studies and research methodologies; adopting legal, technical, administrative and financial measures; as well as for education, awareness-raising and promotion.

During the first day of her presentations, Ms. Drani, emphasized the important role of local communities in identifying and safeguarding intangible cultural heritage (see Information Sheet: Policy Encouraging Community Engagement). In response to a question about the diversity of ICH in different parts of the country, Ms. Drani stressed how culture cuts across various community and national boundaries.

This is about the intangible cultural heritage element and not about the borderlines of communities or even countries. In many cases, communities cut across geopolitical divides and so does their intangible cultural heritage, which may be considered shared heritage.
Ms. Emily Drani, UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Expert Facilitator
UNESCO is committed to assisting Somalia, the newest State Party to the Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention, in drawing up inventories of its intangible cultural heritage practices and developing safeguarding plans to ensure their transmission to future generations.
Prof. Hubert Gijzen, UNESCO Regional Director for Eastern Africa and Representative to Somalia

For more information about UNESCO 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, please visit: