Periodic Reporting as a Strategic Tool for safeguarding Living Heritage in South-East Europe

The 15th Annual Meeting of the South-East European Experts Network on Intangible Cultural Heritage, convened virtually on 6-7 July 2021, was organized by UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, together with the UNESCO Living Heritage Entity, in cooperation with the Regional Centre for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in South-East Europe. The meeting provided an opportunity to share experience and discuss developments, achievements and main challenges encountered by State Parties in the region – whilst preparing the periodic reporting on the implementation of the 2003 Convention, under the reformed mechanism.

In 2007, UNESCO through its Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe established the South-East European Experts Network on Intangible Cultural Heritage to promote the implementation of the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in the region. Previous annual meetings of the network have been held in Arbanasi, Bulgaria (2007); Safranbolu, Turkey (2008); Zagreb, Croatia (2009); Râmnicu-Vâlcea, Romania (2010); Belgrade, Serbia (2011); Athens, Greece (2012); Sofia, Bulgaria (2013); Limassol, Cyprus (2014); Venice, Italy (2015); Supetar, Croatia (2016); Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (2017); Ljubljana, Slovenia (2018); Cremona, Italy (2019); and, online (2020).

Since 2013, the network meetings have been organised by the UNESCO Regional Bureau or Science and Culture in Europe in cooperation with the Regional Centre for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in South-Eastern Europe in Sofia, Bulgaria and operating as a Category II Centre under the auspices of UNESCO.

This year, the 15th Annual Meeting of the Network was convened online on 6-7 July, in the midst of the first regional periodic reporting cycle in the Europe region under the 2003 Convention, and in the context of UNESCO’s regional training for Country Focal Points on periodic reporting. The regional training, coordinated by the UNESCO Living Heritage Entity, was delivered from March through April 2021 to strengthen the State Parties’ knowledge and skills to design and implement results-based participatory reporting under the Convention, and followed by a webinar on 2 July.

© UNESCO/ICH South-East European Experts Network Webinar, July 2021

Within this framework, the 15th Annual Meeting of the network focused on the achievements, challenges and benefits of the ongoing periodic reporting process, encouraging knowledge and experience sharing through thematic panels on participatory and intersectoral strategies.

The meeting was aimed at Country Focal Points from the Convention State Parties that fall under the geographical purview of the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, namely: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Malta, Montenegro, Republic of North Macedonia, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, and Turkey. As per established practice, Austria and Italy were invited to the meeting as observers.

Additional country experts indicated by the relevant national authorities were also invited to participate, as well as UNESCO-trained ICH facilitators from the countries concerned. A total of 53 experts participated in the 2-day meeting, including UNESCO staff and the representatives of the Regional Centre on the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in South-Eastern Europe.

© UNESCO -Historical Museum of the town of Chiprovtsi, 2010

On the first day, the results of a pre-meeting survey were presented and analysed, highlighting the main challenges encountered at country level such as data collection, lack of coordination mechanism between governments and communities, as well as obstacles posed by the ongoing pandemic. In the following session, participants shared information on progress and challenges they had faced during the periodic reporting process, with issues related to qualitative data collection, methodologies, human capital, application of the Overall Results Framework, and the complexity of ensuring inclusive consultation processes that reach out to communities and other local actors. The second day combined presentations and group work discussions focused on the participatory data collection approach as well as Indicator 21 and 22 of the report questionnaire.

Besides the subregional value of the meeting, the outcomes confirmed that the periodic reporting is an exceptional occasion for self-assessment, awareness raising and networking at country level, laying the groundwork for enhanced coordination among governments, communities, academia, individual specialists and other relevant stakeholders.

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