Estonia comments Decision COM

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					[Comments solicited during the 2nd Intangible Heritage Committee : ESTONIA]
UNESCO EESTI RAHVUSLIK KOMISJON
E S T O N I A N N AT I O N A L C O M M I S S I O N F O R U N E S C O C O M M I S S I O N N AT I O N A L E E S T O N I E N N E P O U R L’ U N E S C O

Mr. Rieks Smeets UNESCO Intangible Heritage Section 1, Rue Miollis 75015 Paris, FRANCE

4 December 2007

Subject: Second ordinary session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage: decisions adopted and follow-up

Dear Mr. Smeets, Referring to letters CLT/CIH/ITH/OL-381 and CLT/CIH/ITH/07/373, I have the pleasure to forward Estonian comments on the Committee's decision 2.COM.4 extending an invitation to the State Parties to the Convention to submit names of local, national, regional and international NGOs, active in the fields covered by the Convention, that could participate as observers in the next session of the Committee and to the Committee's decision 2.COM.8 inviting States Parties to comment on the possible modalities for the participation of communities or their representatives, practitioners, experts, centers of expertise and research institutes in the implementation of the Convention. The comments have been prepared at a joint meeting that brought together representatives of state institutions in charge of developing national policies in the field of the ICH, researchers, representatives of communities and was chaired by Prof Dr Kristin Kuutma, Estonian representative in the ICH Committee. 1. Comments to Committee's decision 2.COM 4 Estonia does not propose any NGOs to participate in the next Committee meeting. We will keep contact and discuss things with relevant local, national and regional NGOs in our country before the next Committee meeting and take their considerations on board when formulating the position of Estonia, a member of the current ICH Committee.

PIKK TN 2 • 10123 TALLINN • ESTONIA PHONE: +372 6 441 431 • FAX: +372 6 313 757 E-MAIL:UNESCO@UNESCO.EE

[Comments solicited during the 2nd Intangible Heritage Committee : ESTONIA]

2. Comments to Committee's decision 2.COM 8 The Convention underscores the crucial role of the communities, groups and in some cases, individuals, who are the bearers and transmitters of the ICH to be safeguarded, ranking them above all other stakeholders in the process when claiming that this Convention is about their living and practiced heritage. Although communities as such are not defined in the Convention, the expert meeting in Tokyo (March 2006) suggested the following definition: communities are networks of people whose sense of identity or connectedness emerges from a shared historical relationship that is rooted in the practice and transmission of, or engagement with, their ICH. Estonia strongly believes that the active involvement of communities on every stage of the implementation of this Convention both at national and international level is a prerequisite to ensure its relevance and success. The key to the involvement of the communities and groups in defining and identifying the elements of their ICH, as well as in the preparation of the safeguarding measures concerning their own ICH, is to be found in the pocket of the State Party. The keywords illuminating the pending process should be reflexivity and inclusiveness. The role of a state is to take its obligation under the Convention seriously and first and foremost to function as a responsible partner in supporting communities and groups in order to enable them fully to exert their right to the creation and preservation of their culture. A State Party should work out an appropriate system and institutional arrangements for a broad based information dissemination, for involving representatives of communities in all bodies that would be in charge of drawing up inventories of ICH, in developing safeguarding policies, or in developing initiatives to raise awareness about the importance of ICH and to encourage public participation in inventorying and safeguarding ICH. Estonia believes that it would be impossible to find one global recipe that benefits one and all. Rather, each State Party needs to decide upon the design of such a system, more precise functions of and relations among involved stakeholders independently. However, in designing this process, the State should involve community members/representatives whom those decisions concern, as well as relevant research expertise. The creation of dialogue at every stage of development is of utmost importance. Scholarly expertise – reaching from all domains of ICH mentioned to the sensitive communication with, or the sustainable management of, human resources – requires a significant place in the implementation of this Convention. Yet also this position should not overrule but inherently depend on mutual communicative interaction with the communities, the vital kernel of ICH. Researchers and centers of expertise provide assistance in identifying problems, arranging training, or compiling data, while their work needs to be guided by reflexivity and inclusiveness.

[Comments solicited during the 2nd Intangible Heritage Committee : ESTONIA]
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Communities are nevertheless not homogeneous bodies, they comprise of both active and passive members. In creating dialogues and partnerships, those activists play a key role. On the other hand, communities that take pride in their local cultural identity, who search for channels to voice their concerns and to make them heard may have established a representative body with leaders emerging from within the community. It may not have statutes, stamp or bank account, but it would be relevant for the community concerned and reflect their real concerns. Such a representative body should provide a vital link and primary partner, serving as a channel for information exchange and executor of everyday work. The preservation of ICH cannot be confined singularly to the cultural domain where sustainable livelihood practices are concerned; therefore the community should be able to reach out for many partners at national level. There is a legitimate desire of communities to seek development. The state should be responsible for finding financial, if appropriate, or legal measures that could be implemented to sustain the lifestyles in question. Communities in Estonia have found it useful to organize meetings between themselves, to come together in order to exchange experience and discuss topics of mutual concern, and possibly find support in working out plans for improvement. They have also benefited from meetings and targeted visits to other countries, which provide opportunities to exchange ideas and experience with similar communities abroad. Thus the creation of dialogue and partnerships is as important across borders or continents as it is on domestic level, but those should be arranged under the principles of mutual respect and equal terms or opportunities, to secure inclusive participation. Recently, Estonia has positive experience of creating targeted development plans for particular, previously marginalized regions in Estonia, with an objective to support local cultural identity of the communities living there: Kihnu, Seto, South-Estonian language and culture, the islands. Financial support from the state budget goes through the Ministry of Culture – via a project-based system comonitored by community representatives – directly to the community level, so that the people could act locally and mobilize themselves.

Yours truly,

Margit Siim Deputy Secretary-General


				
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