UNESCO Chairs Meeting in Brussels: Higher Education Institutions as Hubs of ICH Safeguarding

2018 UNESCO Chair Meeting ⓒ Monalisa Maharjan2

Held in Brussels on 1 and 2 October 2018, the Meeting of UNESCO Chairs Linked to the 2003 UNESCO Convention on the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage was intended to discuss about the pressing challenges in the ICH field and how they can be addressed particularly from the vantage of higher education and research institutions. It was organized by UNESCO Chair on Critical Heritage Studies and the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage at Vrije Universiteit Brussel in collaboration with the Flemish Interface for Cultural Heritage (FARO). The meeting’s approach was to substantiate the points discussed during the previously held UNESCO Chairs Meeting in March 2018.

Among the attendees of the meeting were the following: Susanne Schnüttgen, Chief of Unit Capacity Building and Heritage Policy, Intangible Cultural Heritage Section, UNESCO Paris; UNESCO Chairs from Latvia, Turkey, Portugal, Estonia, Belgium, and Germany; other guests from academic and UNESCO-affiliated institutions based in Poland, Belgium, China, and Korea.

On the first day of the meeting, Prof. Marc Jacobs contextualized the purposes of the UNESCO Chairs, preceding Susanne Schnüttgen’s presentation on UNITWIN Cooperation Programmes in higher education institutions. Viewing the program as an effective platform for a heightened involvement in the field of ICH safeguarding, she underscored the need to promote international inter-university cooperation and networking to enhance institutional capacities through knowledge sharing and collaborative work. On the second day, PhD students and postdoctoral fellows presented their work related to the main concerns of each UNESCO Chair such as ICH policy and law, ICH in formal and informal education, ICH and traditional knowledge, applied studies of ICH, critical heritage studies, and trans-cultural music studies.

The two-day meeting was an opportunity to consolidate the network of UNESCO Chairs and build from that a linkage among students and practitioners in Europe and Asia, and possibly beyond. The UNESCO Chairs also benefited so much from it given that they were able to speak about their work to a rather attentive audience, stimulating necessary feedback and augmentation on ideas that may otherwise have been just obscured in isolation.