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COVER STORY

Youth in Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage


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Re-enactments of folk tales have become attractive to visitors and for the employment of young people in tourism

In recent decades, war, terrorism and intolerance continue to aggravate fault lines among cultures across the world with serious legacies for posterity. Ironically there is an increasing consciousness about the fragility of human culture in all its diversity and manifestations. This is evident in the implementation of international legal instruments of UNESCO, especially the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (2001) and the Convention on the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003). While the former aspires to promote a culture of peace through intercultural understanding, the latter is critical for safeguarding living heritage in the face of accelerated pace of globalisation. Both require an appropriate and inspiring engagement with youth in the 21st Century.

One of the challenges in safeguarding Intangible Heritage is the intergenerational transmission of values and elements from the carriers and transmitters to the future generations. But the disjunction or generational divide of worldviews is becoming more prominent with the sophistication of technological domains and movement of populations. Conservation is often understood ‘as if it were’ with an emphasis on the tangible heritage. Intangible heritage is living, changing and dynamic stretching the means of transmission in different cultural and linguistic contexts across the world. Safeguarding is a comprehensive and all inclusive conceptual framework that needs to be understood with ownership from the younger generations. Continuity, viability and sustainability are key indicators for the success of the transmission processes.

UNESCO has since its birth championed the promotion of cultural diversity and cross cultural engagement to promote peace. Cultural diversity as the common heritage of humanity has been the key message. This was clearly articulated in the tenuous post September 2001 environment through the adoption of the 2001 Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity. War and destruction continue across the world. What does safeguarding intangible heritage mean in societies that have gone through or going through traumatic changes? How do youth in displaced and diasporic communities relate to intangible heritage of their countries of origin?

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