The 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage

Cultural heritage includes oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts. It is an important factor in maintaining cultural diversity in the face of growing globalization and encourages mutual respect for other ways of life.

The main goal of the 2003 Convention is to safeguard the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge and skills that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. The definition (in Article 2) also includes the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated with intangible cultural heritage. The Convention provides an internationally recognised framework for the protection of intangible heritage.

Arabic coffee at Souq Waqif in Doha, Qatar.

Arabic coffee, a symbol of generosity, was inscribed in the UNESCO
Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

© Photo by Stella D, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

However, during armed conflict and natural disasters, intangible heritage is particularly at risk. For example, in 2014, Mali launched an inventory of the country’s intangible cultural heritage. By 2017, 211 elements had been inventoried for urgent safeguarding. (Learn more about Mali’s intangible cultural heritage inventory on UNESCOs website).

The emblem of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage is

UNESCO symbol of a temple next to the symbol of UNESCOs Intangible Cultural Heritage symbol (a triangle whose end flows into a circle around it)

Emblem of the 2003 Convention selected by the General Assembly in its second session. It has been designed by Dragutin Dado Kovačević, Croatia.
© UNESCO 2008

This emblem is always associated with the emblem of UNESCO and cannot be used separately: Operational Directives govern its use.

You can download the emblem and learn more about it from UNESCOs website.

Read more about the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage on UNESCOs intangible cultural heritage website (or see the list of signatories)

Read the Operational Directives that govern the use of the emblem on UNESCOs website

Return to the Blue Shield Overview of Treaty Law

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