Intangible Cultural Heritage

Cultural heritage does not end at monuments and collections of objects. It also includes traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as oral traditionsperforming artssocial practices, rituals, festive eventsknowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts. While fragile, intangible cultural heritage is an important factor in maintaining cultural diversity in the face of growing globalization.

The General Conference of UNESCO at its 32nd session in 2003 adopted the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (hereinafter referred to as "the Convention"). The main goal of this Convention is to safeguard the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge and skills that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. This definition of intangible cultural heritage provided in Article 2 of the Convention also includes the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated with intangible cultural heritage. Lithuania ratified the Convention in 2005.

An Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was  established within UNESCO. It is composed of representatives of 18 States Parties, elected by the States Parties of the Convention, meeting in General Assembly every two years. The Committee meets annually to evaluate nominations proposed by States Parties to the Convention and decide whether or not to inscribe those cultural practices of intangible heritage on the Convention’s Lists: the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding; the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity; and the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices.

Cross-crafting and its Symbolism in Lithuania (2008), Baltic Song and Dance Celebrations (Estonia, Latvia ant Lithuania, 2008) and Sutartinės, Lithuanian multipart songs (2010) were inscribed onto the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Lithuania cooperates with other countries in exchange of information about good practices in the field of the preservation of intangible cultural heritage.  The practice of Reviving Social Functions of Folk Dance (movement of traditional dancing and traditional dancing clubs) is presented on the website of the Nordic Safeguarding Practices.

According to the Convention, each State Party is required to take the necessary measures to ensure the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage present in its territory and to include communities, groups and relevant NGOs in the identification and definition of elements of that intangible cultural heritage. Identification is a process of describing one or more specific elements of intangible cultural heritage in their own context and distinguishing them from others. Identification or inventorying means establishing of one or more inventories of the intangible heritage present in the territory of the State Parties, and its regular updating. In 2017, Lithuania established the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage, which is updated annually.

Every 6 years the States Parties of the Convention shall submit to the Committee reports on the legislative, regulatory and other measures taken for the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage in their territories. Periodic reporting allows States Parties to assess their implementation of the Convention, evaluate their capacities for safeguarding, report on their inventories of intangible cultural heritage and update the status of elements inscribed on the Representative List. Lithuania submitted its periodic reports in 2011 and 2017. A dedicated webpage includes references to the reports and their summaries.