The Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage (RS 0.440.6) was adopted by the UNESCO General Conference on 17 October 2003 and came into effect on 20 April 2006. It supplements not only the 1972 UNESCO Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (RS 0.451.41), which focuses specifically on tangible and immovable cultural assets, but also the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (RS 0.440.8) because intangible cultural heritage contain the building blocks of cultural diversity. The core value of regional and national identities was long under-estimated but the Convention remedied this situation by affording intangible cultural heritage the recognition it deserves. So far, 120 States have ratified the Convention (list of States Parties).
The principal features of the Convention are:
- the obligation on States Parties to create conditions that are conducive to the practice and development of traditional forms of cultural expression both at national level and in the context of international cooperation;
- the recognition of the role played by bearers of intangible culture heritage (communities, groups and individuals who produce, practice and pass on these traditions);
- the creation of a Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, a List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, and a Fund for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in order to provide States Parties with financial and technical assistance so that they can honour their obligations.