Peoples’ Heritage or States’ Heritage? Sovereignty in the UNESCO Mechanism for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage
33 Pages Posted: 28 May 2020
Date Written: April 21, 2020
The paper explores the relation between State sovereignty and the safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (hereafter ICH) pointing out the tension between a State-centered and a community-oriented approach within the existent protection mechanism. In the first part, the writer outlines the legal framework established by the 2003 UNESCO Convention, examining some of its “sovereignty guarantees”. In the second part, she touches upon the particular issue of dealing with “shared ICH” within the UNESCO framework, examining possible responses to the apparent deficiencies towards its more effective safeguarding. Questioning whether ICH is an appropriate field for States to “reaffirm” their sovereignty or it intrinsically challenges the traditional concept of the sovereign State, she discusses the recognition of ICH’s cross-border character and the common concern for its safeguarding, as well as the progressive establishment of a right to ICH and the demand for a more active role of its communities in the international safeguarding system, as crucial parameters. How could international law adapt to those challenges and with what cost for sovereignty? The paper was presented in the Agora “Culture As or Against Sovereignty” convened by the Interest Group on International Law of Culture as a contribution to the 2019 ESIL Conference.
Keywords: Intangible Cultural Heritage, UNESCO, Safeguarding, Sovereignty, International Law of Culture, Transboundary Cultural Heritage Manifestations, Cultural Human Rights
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