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South Asia Sub-Regional Meeting of NGOs on Safeguarding #IntangibleCulturalHeritage for #SustainableDevelopment

We collaborated with the International Informationand Networking Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia PacificRegion (ICHCAP) , UNESCO New Delhi, the Directorate of Art and Culture, Government of Goa to organize the 2016 South Asia Sub-Regional Meeting of NGOs on Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) for Sustainable development. Representatives from 30 non government organizations from India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka got together for the Sub Regional Meeting of NGOs. 

The meeting used the new UN Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the new chapter of Operational Directives on Sustainable Development of the UNESCO 2003 Convention for Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage as the backdrop to guide the discussions and deliberations.

Participants discussed modalities of future networking among the NGOs in South-Asia for exchange of experiences, collecting good practices of safeguarding ICH improving SDGs and documenting impact of ICH safeguarding on sustainable development. This was especially in view of a consorted effort of clarifying the exact nature of the link between ICH and SDGs and demonstrating the impact of ICH in sustainable development in a tangible manner was the principal topic of the deliberations. 

The meeting focused on two of the main dimensions : a)Fostering inclusive soxio-economic development and b)Building Peace. The discussions thus revolved around the role of intangible cultural heritage for inclusive economic development, developing cultural industries,fostering  peace & social inclusion & role of  global partnerships.

Deliberating on the means of ensuring inclusive development it was felt that traditional knowledge is the valued treasure of experience for the future generation where traditional cultures and knowledge systems can teach us a lot about cultural pluralism and sustainable lifestyles. ICH creates community spaces for people of diverse backgrounds to come together breaking the barriers of caste, religion, gender, rural-urban helping in social inclusion. Bringing the traditional practices of the marginalized and excluded in the mainstream also helps in this process and helps strengthen their identities and voices. Since most of it is oral tradition based it needs to be documented and made accessible and efforts are needed to transmit it to the next generation. 

Suggestions like including ICH in the curriculum in early stage learning for knowledge and skill development helping in increasing youth involvement in preservation and promotion of ICH came up. Discussions also revolved around aspects like Intellectual Property Rights, another important aspect of protection of livelihoods based on ICH. It was recognized that inclusive economic development leads to social recognition and decline in social challenges like alcoholism, caste barriers, migration. It also attracts youth participation and creates the next generation of artists and skills as well as creates opportunities for women to engage with the outside world. 
Participants appraised each other of the various good practices from their own work fields. They also discussed the need for an integrated approach to culture to forge effective partnerships and the importance of discussing ICH within the realms of basic issues like health, sanitation, education, social security, and environment. They emphasized on the need for developing partnerships to address these basic issues for the ICH practitioners. Cultural exchanges and collaborations were discussed as an instrument for bringing the marginalized into the mainstream.

An exhibition was put up as part of the event. The participating organizations showcased their innovations, documentations and journeys. They were treated with the rich ICH of India through the folk performances organized in the evenings and the field trips to witness Dhalo dance and Lavo weaving tradition of Goa.

2016 South Asia Sub-Regional Meeting of NGO on
Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage for Sustainable Development
Goa, India 25-27 August 2016

Outcome Document

1.       We, the civil society and grass-root organizations from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka,   gathered in Goa, India from 25 to 27 August 2016 to deliberate on the role of intangible cultural heritage in driving new UN Sustainable Development Goals in particular its Goals 1, 5, 8 and 16. 

2.       We recognize that intangible cultural heritage is the expression of communities’ wisdom and creativity contributing to their well-being; It strengthens their resilience to cope with economic, social and environmental challenges and constitutes a valuable resource for sustainable development.

3.       We believe that sustainable development can be achieved, only if safeguarding this living and dynamic heritage is integrated in development programmes and strategies. 

4.       We therefore welcome Chapter IV of the Operational Directives of the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage and pledge to contribute towards its implementation; 

5.       We recognize that safeguarding intangible cultural heritage also strengthens community identity, recognition and pride and encourage people, especially those marginalized groups, to take part in the development process;

6.       We acknowledge that safeguarding traditional knowledge and skills contributes to creating livelihood thereby alleviating poverty and facilitating inclusive economic development. 

7.       We further recognize that many of community practices such as rituals and festivals creates  bonds within and among communities and foster social cohesion; and the revitalization of such community practices should be actively promoted, including during the post-conflict / disaster recovery process;

8.       Webelieve that our experience on the ground has amply demonstrated how safeguarding intangible cultural heritage actually contribute to the critical needs of development;

9.       We are committed to respect the Ethical Principle for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage adopted by the Convention’s Intergovernmental Committee.  

10.   We are concerned that, despite the hands-on experience of grass-root civil society organizations, the national and international development policies and discourse including the new UN Sustainable Development Goals still largely overlook the role of culture as a strategic sector for development;

11.   We realize that there is a need for a collective platform for the grass-root civil society organizations  to share  our good practices and voice out our common pledge to integrate intangible cultural heritage into sustainable development ;  

12.   We request ICHCAP and UNESCO support to create such a platform where our knowledge and experience be systematically collected to gather convincing evidence on the role of intangible cultural heritage in sustainable development;

13.   We thank ICHCAP, UNESCO, Contact Base and the Government of Goa for  having initiated a valuable platform of dialogue among the civil society organizations  in South Asia; and request their support for furtheropportunities for exchange with a wider group of grass-root civil society organizations.


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