The UAE and UNESCO signed an agreement to establish the International Centre for Safeguarding the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Arab Countries in Sharjah. Image Credit: WAM

Sharjah: The UAE and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) have signed an agreement to establish the International Centre for Safeguarding the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Arab Countries in the emirate of Sharjah.

The centre, aimed at strengthening the efforts of Sharjah and the UAE in protecting and promoting intangible cultural heritage, will be based at the Sharjah Institute for Heritage (SIH).

The ceremony took place at the House of Wisdom in Sharjah, where the agreement was signed by Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Youth and Chair to the National Commission for Education, Culture and Science, and Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of the UNESCO, in the presence of Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, President of the International Publishers Association (IPA) and Founder and CEO of the UAE-based Kalimat Group (KG), Dr Abdulaziz Al Musallam, Chairman of the Sharjah Institute for Heritage and Abdullah Al Owais, Chairman of Sharjah Department of Culture, and Salma Al Darmaki, Secretary-General of UAE National Commission for Education, Culture, and Science, Sheikh Salem Al Qassimi, UAE Permanent Delegate to UNESCO.

Global cooperation

Al Kaabi emphasised the leading role played by the UAE in preserving and protecting intangible cultural heritage, saying that the country’s work in this field benefits all humanity. She added that global cooperation and partnerships are required to preserve this legacy for future generations and to establish institutions capable of reaching this goal.

She pointed out that the establishment of the International Centre for Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Arab Countries in Sharjah confirms UNESCO’s confidence in the UAE and its ability to deliver the necessary capabilities, as well as Sharjah’s distinguished position in the field of culture and heritage.

Dr Al Musallam welcomed the announcement of the establishment of the ventre, which will undoubtedly boost Sharjah’s position, and that of the UAE, in the creative and cultural economy, establishing it as a pioneer in the preservation and promotion of the intangible cultural heritage at the regional and global levels, praising the directives and efforts of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, in supporting and preserving the intangible cultural heritage and the parties involved in its promotion and preservation.

‘Renaissance and progress of people and societies’

Al Musallam said: “Intangible cultural heritage is one of the key components of human civilisation and serves as an indication of the renaissance and progress of people and societies. Its preservation can help achieve reconciliation between cultures and nationalities, establishing among them the values of understanding, cooperation, and peace. The International Centre for Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Arab Countries will serve as a beacon for achieving these goals, towards which all nations strive.”

He stated that enhancing the capacity of those working in the field of intangible cultural heritage contributes to encouraging intercultural dialogue and fostering mutual respect among all. He added that protecting the identity and cultural diversity of a population is vital and that all elements related to heritage — from customs, traditions, rituals and practices to skills, arts and crafts — should be protected and preserved.

Raising awareness

Under the agreement, the centre will focus on strengthening the 2003 Convention for the Protection of Intangible Cultural Heritage, implementing it in Arab countries, extending institutional capacities to protect intangible cultural heritage in Arab countries, promoting the purposes and objectives of the Convention, raising the level of community, group and individual participation in the protection of intangible cultural heritage, raising awareness of intangible cultural heritage, and strengthening regional and international cooperation to protect intangible cultural heritage.

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Under the auspices of UNESCO, the centre will work to implement short and long-term capacity-building programmes and activities in the field of intangible cultural heritage, based on the programme developed by UNESCO for the effective implementation of the 2003 Convention, and to adapt capacity-building materials and data developed by UNESCO to fit the regional context and ensure its translation into Arabic.

The centre will also build communication networks between concerned communities, groups and individuals to support the transmission and dissemination of intangible cultural heritage, organise events and public meetings at the regional and international levels and exchange information and knowledge related to the protection of intangible cultural heritage.