Living Human Treasures System: Instructions

The international community is aware of the importance of the intangible cultural heritage and of the need to preserve it. In line with the provisions of Article 2 of the Convention Concerning the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO at its 32nd session on 17 October 2003, intangible cultural heritage creates a sense of originality and continuity among communities, groups and individuals, and its protection guarantees the encouragement of human creativity and the enrichment of the cultural diversity of humanity. At the same time, much of the knowledge and skills related to cultural expression in the fields of music, dance, theatre and art face extinction due to the reduced number of people working in these fields. This results from insufficient funding and the detrimental effects of globalization. To ensure the protection of intangible cultural heritage, measures must be taken in advance to identify it by drawing up and regularly updating one or more national inventories (Article 12 of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage). The most effective ways to permanently safeguard intangible cultural heritage is to encourage the people who represent it to continue improving their knowledge and skills and to pass them on to future generations. The need therefore arises to define the bearers of this heritage and to recognize their role officially. Accordingly, UNESCO suggested that the State Parties establish national systems of “Living Human Treasures". At the 1993 UNESCO Executive Board meeting, the Republic of Korea suggested the establishment of a UNESCO programme entitled “Living Human treasures". The Executive Board adopted a decision urging the State Parties to establish such systems in their countries. Since then, a number of international meetings and conferences of working groups were held in order to define the scope of the concept and to encourage the establishment of national systems in this field.

The first “Living Human Treasures" system was created in 1950 in Japan. Korea set up its system in 1964. Six other countries (the Philippines, Thailand, Romania, France, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria) have also founded their national systems, which differ considerably from each other.

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