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Messages to the UNESCO 2003 Convention

Lucas Lixinski – Academic – Australia

By November 12, 2023December 3rd, 2023No Comments

The ICH Convention turns 20 – what a ride it has been! This treaty was my very first exposure to a cultural heritage instrument. It was early 2004, I was a fourth-year undergraduate student looking for a topic for my presentation at a student research conference. The topic of intangible cultural heritage brought together many of my interests then, and forever shaped the way I see the world. Since that student conference, I wrote a PhD on the topic, and spent many years thinking about ICH and the Convention that helps us safeguard it.

Not all has always been right from the beginning, but there has always been a tremendous amount of goodwill from most sides most of the time to make things better. We who are passionate about ICH have at times argued, fought, come together, cried, and laughed. The ICH Convention has been a wonderful home for us to think about why we care about heritage, and how to go about safeguarding it in novel ways.

And, since that first encounter, I see everything through the eyes of ICH and its safeguarding. All of heritage is, after all, intangible. And any heritage is only worth safeguarding because of and for the people who live in, with, or around it, who create it, nurture it, keep it alive, make it vibrant. Heritage cannot be safeguarded for its own sake. It is to be safeguarded for Communities, Groups, and Individuals. The ICH Convention taught me all of that, starting just about 20 years ago. My entire professional career grew alongside and heavily influenced by it.

20 years is a long time for any one individual. It is also a very short time for the intergenerational wonder that is intangible cultural heritage. And, in the grand scheme of Conventions, it is a “ respectable” amount of time. Respectable enough for this Convention to be accepted by nearly all countries in the world. Now it would be wonderful to spend the next 20 years inviting people invested in other “types” of heritage to think about, learn from, and even borrow the many things we have learned and created through ICH safeguarding initiatives. All of heritage is intangible. All of it is only worth safeguarding if it fosters human flourishing. I look forward to the second half of my career being dedicated to making ICH “go viral”, and to keep these conversations going, so that heritage can be more and more about the humanity we want to be.

Lucas Lixinski – Brazil / Australia
Professor, Faculty of Law & Justice, UNSW Sydney

Writes on ICH and the law, has collaborated for UNESCO as an expert evaluator of ICH Centres, and at expert meetings.