Accepted Paper:

Implementing the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage: legal requirements for the exercise of cultural sovereignty by the state. The German example  


Sven Missling (University of Goettingen)

Paper short abstract:

The paper deals with the States’ obligations in implementing the ICH-Convention into domestic heritage laws, carving out that it enlarges the State’s sovereign rights on cultural practices. It also discusses the legal requirements for implementation of an ICH-regime in a federal State system.

Paper long abstract:

The paper analyses the States' obligations in implementing the ÌCH-Convention into domestic heritage legislation from an international law perspective. Surprisingly, this shows that although the ICH-Convention has to be estimated as a milestone in international cultural law, its provisions do not only leave a large field of discretion to the States in shaping their own domestic cultural policies and the related legal framework but also give them more influence on immaterial cultural practices than before.

The paper shows that despite the fact that any nomination of an ICH heritage implies the danger of freezing a cultural practice, another side-effect of the Convention is that States' sovereign rights are enlarged to a part of cultural life by international law that traditionally had not been under States' full sovereignty.

The paper will therefore plead for a specific attentiveness and restraint of the national legislators in implementing the Convention's provisions into their domestic cultural policies and cultural heritage legislations. It will show the importance of a legal framing of the UNESCO ICH regime by other legal provisions.

Second, the paper focusses on the implementation of the ICH-Convention in Germany:

After just having handed over the instrument of ratification to UNESCO in April 2013, Germany will start the implementation process. Cultural sovereignty in Germany is located on the "Länder"-level, which means that only the federal States are can meet the regulations for the safeguarding of ICH. The paper discusses specific problems of an adequate implementation under the German federal system.

Panel P47
Conceptual circulation of intangible cultural heritage in national policies and laws