Supporting the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage in Dominica

On Wednesday, July 7, 2021, UNESCO representatives met with government officials and cultural experts from Dominica for the planning meeting of the project “Strengthening capacities at the national and local levels for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage in Dominica” generously supported by the State of Kuwait through the UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund.

The small Caribbean island of the Commonwealth of Dominica has ratified the UNESCO 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003 Convention) in the year 2005. As a response to Dominica’s request for support to achieve significant progress in the implementation of the Convention in the country, this project provides technical support to the Government of Dominica, national culture professionals and civil society and at community level in guiding them in the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage of the country.

At the opening, Saadia Sanchez-Vegas, Director and Representative of the UNESCO Cluster Office for the Caribbean highlighted that “the intangible and human dimension of heritage is crucial for the survival of cultural traditions and is an essential vector for the transmission of cultures, identities, collective memory and social values to future generations."

Cultural heritage does not only refer to stills monuments and collections of objects from the past. It also includes traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors, still being practiced in the present today. This can include oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe of the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.

Living Heritage strengthens the resilience of communities. Safeguarding of ICH is an important step in improving life for communities, to enjoy and pass on cultural traditions, values, beliefs and practices.
Saadia Sanchez-Vegas, Director and Representative, UNESCO Cluster Office for the Caribbean

The safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage contributes to peacebuilding and security, the fundamental prerequisites for sustainable development.

From September 2021 to early 2023, series of trainings are to be conducted on basic concepts and mechanism of the Convention, community-based inventorying and safeguarding with field exercises and on preparing of international assistance requests. A road map for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage of Dominica is to be initiated together with policy recommendations from stakeholder consultations, considering the local context of disaster risk reduction and based on a gender-responsive and inclusive multi-stakeholder approach and in collaboration with the indigenous communities in Dominica.

The UNESCO Cluster Office for the Caribbean in Kingston will implement this project in close collaboration with the Dominica National Commission for UNESCO, as well as relevant national partners and the support from the UNESCO Secretariat of the 2003 Convention. The training and advisory services will be delivered through UNESCO’s network of trained facilitators, who are familiar with the specific country context and trained to use and adapt the training materials.

Taking the extraordinary current situation of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic into account, Leandro Peredo, Regional Officer for the Latin American and Caribbean Region from UNESCO’s Living Heritage Entity, explained during the Opening Session, that UNESCO has designed an inclusive and accessible blended approach with online and synchronous training sessions.

Recent projects in the Caribbean sub-region for the safeguarding of ICH have been enrolled in Antigua and Barbuda and Grenada.

What is the 2003 Convention?

Adopted in 2003, UNESCO’s Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, ICH, is the first binding international multilateral instrument intended to raise importance on the protection and safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage present in countries today.

Once ratified, State Parties to the 2003 Convention must take necessary actions to safeguard the ICH present on their national territory which include to define and inventory the ICH with the participation of the communities concerned; adopt policies and establish institutions to monitor and promote it; encourage research; and take other appropriate safeguarding measures, always with the full consent and participation of the communities concerned.

Read the text of the Convention:

UNESCO, as the United Nations agency with a unique mandate in culture, works to safeguard cultural heritage and promote cultural diversity as a force for dialogue and development. It encourages international cooperation and knowledge-sharing and supports Member States in strengthening their human and institutional capacities.

Cover image: Traditional crafs from the Kalinago indigenous communities in Dominica. The skills and knowledge involved in this traditional craftsmanship are passed down through generations and help them sustain their livelihoods.