What is ICH

Intangible Cultural Heritage

"What is Intangible Cultural Heritage?"
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There are things that we regard as important to preserve for future generations. They may be significant due to their present or possible economic value, but also because they create a certain emotion within us, or because they make us feel as though we belong to something such as a country, a tradition, a way of life. They might be objects that can be held and buildings that can be explored, or songs that can be sung and stories that can be told. Whatever shape they take, these things form part of a heritage, and this heritage requires active effort on our part in order to safeguard it.

The term 'cultural heritage' has changed content considerably in recent decades, partially owing to the instruments developed by UNESCO. 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 traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.


UNESCO, which is the only specialized agency within the United Nations system with a specific mandate in culture, assists its Member States in the elaboration and implementation of measures for an effective safeguarding of their cultural heritage. Among those measures, the adoption of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was a major step for developing new policies in the field of cultural heritage.

  • Photo credits
    • Background : The Carnival of Barranquilla, Colombia © Maria F. Paez
    • Albanian Folk Isopolyphony © Vasil S. TOLE
    • The Carnival of Binche, Belgium © M. Revelard
    • The Duduk and its Music, Armenia © Samvel Amirkhanyan
    • Oral and graphic expressions of the Wajapi, Brazil © Conselho Das Aldeias Waiapi