The First Intensive Researchers Meeting on Communities and the 2003 Convention

Over the years, many researchers (including anthropologists, musicologists and others) as well as broadcasting companies have been documenting intangible cultural heritage for various purposes. The UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage has now brought into the spotlight the crucial role of the communities concerned, the bearers and transmitters, in safeguarding their ICH through continued practice and transmission. The Convention emphasizes the importance of ensuring the active participation of the communities, groups and individuals concerned in all activities concerning their ICH (Article 15), including research and documentation as safeguarding activities (Article 2.3). The Convention encourages States Parties to foster the development of ‘research methodologies, with a view to effective safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage, in particular the intangible cultural heritage in danger’ (Article 13(c)).

There are not enough examples of documentation projects where the needs of the communities concerned have been taken into account in project design, in which the research has been done by or with the active involvement and consent of the communities concerned, and where community members have been able to access and use project data for safeguarding purposes. In line with the Convention, it is our urgent task to foster the development of research methodologies and guidelines to help ensure that research activities contribute to safeguarding, especially for ICH on the verge of extinction.  

Given this background, the International Research Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region (IRCI), the UNESCO Category II Centre established in Japan in 2011, decided to organize a meeting with researchers from around the world who are actively involved in community-based documentation with the aim of safeguarding. The meeting aimed at sharing good practices, and to facilitate discussion of documentation approaches that may be used by communities as a tool for the safeguarding of their ICH. The researchers developed a framework for “Guidelines for ICH documentation as a tool for community safeguarding” which might be a first step towards practical approaches in the Asia and the Pacific regions in the future.

Contact: Misako Ohnuki, Deputy Director of IRCI