ICHCAP, South Korea

International Information and Networking Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region under the auspices of UNESCO (ICHCAP)

Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) is human signature that has been transmitted from generation to generation and provides an identity as well as consistency to each community member, becoming a source of cultural diversity and human creativity. However, due to globalization, urbanization and modernization, a large amount of cultural heritage elements are at risk of extinction, especially throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Although the Asia-Pacific region is well known for its abundant intangible cultural heritage, the region has also endured a lack of political support and pragmatic difficulties towards its safeguarding.

Among UNESCO’s safeguarding ICH activities, the ‘2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of ICH’ is the most comprehensive international measure, with 134 nations taking part in it as of June 2011. Among the States Parties to the Convention, the Republic of Korea has practiced methodologies for safeguarding ICH through policy making efforts, such as the establishment of the Cultural Properties Protection Law at the national level, and the dissemination of the Living Human Treasure System at an international level. As these efforts came to fruition, UNESCO unanimously approved the establishment of the ‘International Information and Networking Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region under the auspices of UNESCO’ (hereinafter ICHCAP) at its 35th General Conference in 2009.

Since then, the Agreement between the government of the Republic of Korea and UNESCO was signed in 2010, and finally a revision of the relevant law by the parliament of Korea toward the official establishment has also been concluded in 2011. Now we start our journey as a UNESCO Category 2 Centre working toward the safeguarding of ICH in the Asia-Pacific region.

ICHCAP’s main role is to strengthen ‘Information and Networking’ in the framework of the 2003 UNESCO Convention. In light of this, we support activities directed toward the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage among the 48 Member States of the Asia-Pacific region with a primary function of disseminating information and building networks in the ICH field. We intend to help enhance cultural diversity in the Asia-Pacific region and promote sustainable development throughout the region through various and effective safeguarding activities.

The Centre specializes in information and networking, and its objectives are to
Promote the UNESCO 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage and contribute to implementing it in the Asia-Pacific region;
Increase the participation of communities, groups, and individuals in ICH safeguarding and raise regional awareness about ICH;
Enhance regional capacity for ICH safeguarding by coordinating and disseminating information; and
Foster regional and international cooperation for ICH safeguarding

To achieve its objectives, the Centre undertakes projects within its overall functions, which are to
Establish mechanisms to ensure effective sharing of information related to ICH safeguarding;
Promote ICH information by producing and publicizing on/offline ICH content to raise awareness about ICH safeguarding initiatives in the Asia-Pacific region;
Build, strengthen and maintain networks among concerned communities, groups and individual bearers of ICH, as well as relevant non-governmental organizations and civil society associations; and organize public events as appropriate; and
Build, strengthen and maintain networks to exchange information and knowledge concerning the safeguarding of ICH, among relevant actors and institutions, (such as academic institutions, community museums and cultural centres, archives, art institutions, UNESCO category 2 centres, individual experts, etc) and organize public events as appropriate.