UNESCO inscription process creates opportunities to ‘brand’ Vietnam

Published: 06/10/2009 05:00



The leader of Vietnam’s team at a recent UNESCO meeting on cultural heritages believes Vietnam ought to inventory and nominate many more traditions for recognition.

VietNamNet Bridge – The leader of Vietnam’s team at a recent UNESCO meeting on cultural heritages believes Vietnam ought to inventory and nominate many more traditions for recognition. It’s a way, he says, of protecting the nation’s ‘brand’ – its distinct cultural identity.

Early this month, two more Vietnamese musical traditions were recognized by UNESCO, the UN’s economic, social and cultural arm, as intangible cultural heritages of mankind. Pham Sanh Chau, Secretary General of the UNESCO Vietnam Committee, told a VietNamNet reporter about the long meeting in Dubai.

The agenda was endless; 111 submissions by 26 countries were considered. Seventy-six were approved as ‘Intangible Cultural Heritages of Humanity,’ among them the Quan ho singing tradition of Bac Ninh province. Another twelve nominations by eight countries were approved for inscription on a list of ‘Intangible Heritages in Need of Urgent Safeguarding,’ among them Vietnam’s Ca tru music.

A dossier must pass three reviews, Chau explained. In the first round, a nomination is vetted for timeliness and procedural correctness.

In round two, a council of experts drawn from six countries reviews each application. Nominations that gain at least five out of six votes are passed to the third round, a vote by the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage. For approval, a nomination must win support of sixteen of the twenty-four member countries of the Committee.

Though UNESCO has recognized nearly a thousand ‘world heritage sites,’ i.e., structures like the Hue city Citadel and landscapes like Ha Long Bay, the meeting in Dubai was the first session to consider recognition of cultural heritages.

VietNamNet: Mr. Chau, is the procedure for declaring an ‘intangible cultural heritage in need of urgent protection’ stricter because there is evaluation by an independent specialist and a non-governmental organization?

Phan Sanh Chau: Yes, and the identities of these are kept secret until the final session so countries don’t have opportunity to “lobby” them. Vietnam’s ca tru file was evaluated by the International Music Council (represented by Gisa Janichen) and independent expert Barley Norton from the UK. Both experts have visited Vietnam often to research ca tru. They recommended urgent steps to preserve and promote this tradition.

VietNamNet: The nominations were considered in alphabetical order. Did that disadvantage Vietnam?

Chau: At the session in Dubai, the nominations were considered one by one. All the experts read their comments. It was a lengthy process.

There was also debate about the procedures, and considerable sentiment for amending the regulations to limit the number of nominations by each country. At this session, China had proposed 25 heritages — 22 ‘regular’ and three in urgent need of protection. Japan had thirteen submissions and Croatia seven. Of course they did not agree to a ‘cap’ on submissions.

Vietnam is one of the 24 members of the inter-governmental committee. Supporting the Secretariat, we called for efficient discussion and approval of heritages. Tactically, that was important; Vietnam’s nominees were at the bottom of the list, so we feared our applications might not be considered at this session if the work went too slowly.

VietNamNet: What did UNESCO Vietnam Committee representatives learn from this session?

Quan ho singers.

Chau: Many African countries attended this session though they had not nominated cultural heritages. They considered the session as an opportunity to learn. Vietnam nominated only two heritages and we too learned some lessons.

First, there are many forms of intangible cultural heritages. Many countries nominated folk games and fabric weaving techniques, for example Indonesia’s batik cloth making tradition. The next session will be more “tense” because countries learned from this session and they will submit even more applications.

Second, many heritages were nominated by a group of countries. For example, Argentina and Uruguay jointly nominated the Tango dance form.

VietNamNet: So, should Vietnam inventory its heritage for future nominations?

Chau: We need to mobilize provinces and ethnic minority groups to propose intangible cultural heritages that can be nominated for UNESCO recognition. We ought to seize this opportunity to nominate heritages, thereby benefitting our economy and protecting our ‘brand’ – Vietnam’s distinctive identity.

We will also ask UNESCO’s help in drawing up an inventory and completing dossiers. Then, if our heritages are recognized, we can also ask for UNESCO help to preserve them.

Sessions like the Dubai meeting are also an opportunity for cultural cooperation. We can bring our art troupes there or organize Vietnamese cultural days. This year four foreign groups performed at the closing ceremony. If we had known in advance, we might have taken our quan ho or ca tru artists to the UAE.

Details on all the traditions chosen for inscription on the UNESCO list are on-line at http://portal.unesco.org/culture/en

Khanh Linh

Provide by Vietnam Travel

UNESCO inscription process creates opportunities to ‘brand’ Vietnam - Interviews - In depth |  vietnam travel company

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