The Unesco Harare Cluster Office hosted in Harare two training workshops on the 2003 Convention on the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage and the 2005 Convention on the 2005 Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions for 30 participants from Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe was represented by arts organisations, researchers from universities, cultural activists as well as members of its national intangible heritage committee.
The Malawi and Botswana delegations also included two specialists in community-based inventorying of the intangible cultural heritage who were trained by Unesco in 2010.
The first workshop dealt with issues on how the four States Parties to the Convention could nominate intangible cultural heritage elements in their territories to the lists of the Convention which are: Intangible Cultural Heritage in Urgent Need of Safeguarding List and the Representative List.
The second training workshop on the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions was, in the main, an awareness raising exercise on the Convention and its International Fund for Cultural Diversity, particularly the Fund's call for applications for funding in 2012.
Besides being facilitating capacity building on the implementation of the two Unesco conventions in the field of culture, the training workshops also became a very viable consultative forum on co-operation and collaboration among the four countries in projects, programmes and activities about the implementation of the two conventions; sharing of expertise and best practices; submission to the two funds (the International Fund for Intangible Heritage and the International Fund for Cultural Diversity) joint funding requests in response to annual calls for application for funding.
The workshops also offered an opportunity to the four States Parties to consider submitting to the inter-governmental committees of the two Convention joint nominations of intangible cultural heritage found in their territories for listing as intangible cultural heritage in urgent need for safeguarding or for the Representative List.
Also considered by workshop participants was the need to consider possibilities of the four States Parties collaborating in activities to do with inventorying of intangible cultural heritage that are found in their countries or in two neighbouring areas of the countries.
It was also considered essential for the four States Parties to hold joint preparatory meetings before the meetings of the general assembly and intergovernmental committees of the two conventions.
During the workshop, participants were delighted to learn that Namibia was elected to the Inter-governmental Committee of the Convention on the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage at a meeting held in Paris, France, from June 4-8 2012 and that the principal director for Sport, Arts and Culture in the Ministry of Education Sport, Arts and Culture, Reverend Paul Damasane, was recently elected chairman of the Bureau of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.
It was, however, observed that the main challenge in this regard was how the member states of the Sadc will make use of these two representatives to get information on the decisions of these organs of the conventions and to ensure that issues to do with the two conventions raised by those concerned with the implementation of the conventions in the Sadc are channelled through these representatives to the concerned organs of the conventions.
Concerning the 2003 Convention on the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage and in particular nominating intangible heritage to the two lists of the Convention, the major challenge being faced by the four States Parties was the absence of databases of inventories of intangible cultural heritage undertaken at national or local levels.
It was evident that in some of the four countries the exercise of inventorying intangible cultural heritage has not begun and that in all the four countries, awareness raising about the Convention had not been effectively undertaken.
It was also noted that although the Unesco Harare Cluster Office, with funds-in-trust provided to Unesco by the Flanders government (Belgium) to host national workshops in the four countries on the implementation of the 2003 Convention, the promotion of the convention through a wide diversity of media had not begun.
As a result most communities, groups or individuals who are either custodians, creators or transmitters of intangible cultural heritage are not yet aware of the existence of the Convention and its International Fund that supports projects, programmes and activities in the implementation of the Convention
On the 2005 Convention participants were saddened by the information that in 2010 only Namibia and South Africa were successful in receiving support from the International Fund for Cultural Diversity.