The Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity "INTANGIBLE HERITAGE LIST"

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On October 17, 2003, after the Executive Committee had launched the program in 1999 "Masterpieces of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity" (Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity) the General Conference of UNESCO, in the course of its 2003nd session in 32, approved the "Convention for the Protection of the Intangible Cultural Heritage". In the convention, in article 2, the definition of intangible cultural heritage:

"Intangible cultural heritage" means practices, representations, expressions, knowledge and knowledge - as well as the tools, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated with them - that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize them as part of their cultural heritage. T.ale intangible cultural heritage, passed down from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by the communities and groups concerned in accordance with their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity "


The definition of this intangible cultural heritage is manifested through five areas human activity (always defined by article 2 of the convention):

  1. oral traditions and expressions, including language, intended as a vehicle for intangible cultural heritage;

  2. performing arts;

  3. social practices, rituals and parties;

  4. knowledge and practices relating to nature and the universe;

  5. traditional craftsmanship.

For each of the various areas of oral and intangible traditions, Unesco proposes specific programs for safeguarding, encourages Member States to take appropriate legal, technical, administrative and financial measures to set up departments to document their intangible cultural heritage and to make it more accessible.  UNESCO also encourages the participation of traditional artists and local creators to identify and revitalize intangible heritage, while also encouraging public bodies, non-governmental associations and local communities to identify, safeguard and promote such heritage.

Therefore, the constant involvement of people and scholars who know the traditions worthy of safeguarding is decisive in these programs, who must be helped, even financially, through extraordinary budgets made available by UNESCO member countries, aimed at passing on their arts and their professions to the future. The Convention entered into force on April 20, 2006, which led, starting from 2008, to the establishment of the “Intangible Heritage List”; all the elements previously included in the list have been automatically incorporated into this list of the Masterpieces of the intangible heritage of humanity established in 1999, among the elements included, two high expressions of the Italian popular cultural tradition, the Opera dei Pupi Siciliani and the Canto a Tenores of the shepherds of central Sardinia.

Italy concluded on 13 September 2007 the parliamentary process of the ratification law of the Convention for the protection of the intangible cultural heritage, the ratification act was deposited with Unesco on 30/10/2007. The ratification of the Convention will allow our country to play the role that traditions and oral and linguistic expressions, arts related to entertainment, social customs, rituals and festive situations, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe, traditional techniques of the arttiGianato attribute to it on the world stage.
To see the status of adhesions by partner states, go to the following Unesco area: Acceding states

Pursuant to the Paris Convention of 2003, two lists have been established:  

  1. Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage (Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

  2. List of Intangible Heritage of Humanity in need of urgent protection (List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding).

The procedures for enrollment in the Lists, the rules for the selection of cultural elements and the identification of the criteria to which they must meet are indicated in the Operational Directives  adopted in 2008 (access the official UNESCO site in English).

The procedures provide for the submission of applications by individual member states to UNESCO.


In relation to the first list (Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage) we have:







The candidate element constitutes an intangible cultural heritage, as indicated in art. 2 of the Convention;

The element constitutes intangible cultural heritage as defined in Article 2 of the Convention


The inscription of the element will contribute to guaranteeing visibility and awareness of the meaning of intangible cultural heritage and to favor comparison, thus reflecting the cultural diversity and creativity of humanity;

Inscription of the element will contribute to ensuring visibility and awareness of the significance of the intangible cultural heritage and to encouraging dialogue, thus reflecting cultural diversity worldwide and testifying to human creativity.


Safeguards are designed in a way that can protect and promote the element;

Safeguarding measures are elaborated that may protect and promote the element.



The element was nominated on the basis of the broadest feedback of participation by communities, groups or, possibly, individuals involved with their free, prior and informed consent;

The element has been nominated following the widest possible participation of the community, group or, if applicable, individuals concerned and with their free, prior and informed consent.



The element is included in an archive on the intangible cultural heritage present in the territory of the Member States, as indicated in art. 11 and 12 of the Convention.


The element is included in an inventory of the intangible cultural heritage present in the territory (ies) of the submitting State (s) Party (ies), as defined inArticle 11 and Article 12 of the Convention.


Unlike the provisions of the World Heritage List, the 5 criteria indicated above must all be met in order for a Member State to propose the candidacy of a cultural element. As of 2011, 232 members worldwide were registered on the List (90 in 2008, 76 in 2009, 47 in 2010 and 19 in 2011). Among these, the Italian ones are Il Canto a Tenore sardo (2008), the Sicilian Puppet Opera (2008) and The Mediterranean Diet (candidacy proposed jointly by Italy, Spain, Greece and Morocco in 2010).


In relation to the second list (List of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity in need of urgent protection) please refer to the Unesco site for the identification of the criteria for inclusion in the list (English page: criteria )

In 2011, 27 members worldwide were registered on the List of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity which needs urgent protection (12 in 2009, 4 in 2010 and 11 in 2011).

A further milestone towards the protection of Cultural Heritage understood in its broader term which considers cultural diversity has been achieved On October 20, 2005, when the General Conference of Unesco, which met in Paris for the 33rd session, approved with 148 votes in favor, 2 against and 4 abstentions, the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of Cultural Diversity

In the vote, 148 countries voted in favor, two - the United States and Israel - voted against, and four abstained.


Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage Site


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