HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 608: 21 March 2012

Safeguarding our traditional knowledge

Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) may appear to be an unfamiliar term, but in fact encompasses cultural traditions and practices familiar to all within the community. These include oral traditions such as songs, chants, poems and legends. Also included are traditional knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe – such as traditional medicine and traditional voyaging methods. ICH also encompasses all traditional performing arts, traditional craftsmanship and of course the indigenous Maori languages of the Cook Islands.
Over the next few days, the International Information and Networking Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region (ICHCAP) in association with UNESCO and the Ministry of Cultural Development (MOCD) are holding the 2012 Sub-Regional Information and Network Meeting for ICH Safeguarding in the Pacific. The meeting is being held at Club Raro.
This meeting is the third in a series of meetings held within the Pacific region over the last few years, and the overall intention of the sub-regional meetings is to strengthen the capacity and network of safeguarding ICH in the Pacific region. This particular meeting is focussed on information systems in ICH and developing sound information systems that can meet the diversity of ICH across the entire Asia-Pacific region. While it was acknowledged that within the Pacific there are commonalities of ICH, over the entire Asia-Pacific region ICH is diverse. Despite this it is hoped that one universal information system will be developed to keep inventory of ICH across the region.
The Minister of Cultural Development Hon. Teariki Heather made the opening address for the meeting and acknowledged participant and keynote speaker, Dr. Samuel Lee, the newly appointed director of ICHCAP (based in Korea), as well as Dr. Lee’s team. The Minister expressed in his speech that those elements defined as ICH are the very things that provide our identity, our sense of belonging and our sense of place as a nation. He said that the Cook Islands government are serious about signing to the UNESCO ICH Convention “very soon”.
Secretary of Cultural Development Sonny Williams, who chaired the first session on Wednesday, acknowledged the presence of the presidents of both the House of Ariki and the Koutu Nui, and made special mention of both the House of Ariki and Koutu Nui as being the main keepers of ICH and traditional knowledge in the Cook Islands.
Ms Akatsuki Takahashi, the Programme Specialist for Culture in the UNESCO Office for the Pacific States, made a greeting address. She commented that this meeting will be vital to those in government in understanding the actual impacts of ratifying the UNESCO ICH Convention and in ensuring an informed decision on joining the convention. Takahashi remarked that sound information systems will be a very important tool in the quest to safeguard ICH in the Pacific. Takahashi also touched on the concept of Intellectual Property, which under the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) mandate places more emphasis on “products and ownership”. This differs from ICH Safeguarding, which places more emphasis on “process and transmission”. However she added that the two concepts are “mutually reinforcing measures”.
Repeta Puna, Senior Policy Officer from the Office of the Prime Minister, made a presentation of the work that has been done by government in drafting the Traditional Knowledge bill, which has been done with the help of WIPO. Under the bill, Traditional Knowledge is defined as ‘knowledge of our ancestors’ practices passed on through generations as a resource for best practice and for survival, to show identity and to stake our claim using set ways of doing things’. Puna outlined in her presentation the guiding principles of the Traditional Knowledge Bill, which are respect for each others’ rights, equity – treating everyone equally, benefit sharing and the acknowledgement that local communities know best. The draft bill is currently being refined for enactment.
The final day of the meeting will continue on Thursday and will include presentations from representatives of Fiji, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Vanuatu.

Herald Issue 608 21 March
- Terms of one China Policy document should be reviewed
- Pacific Media Assistance Scheme Seeks Innovation
- Successful NZ visit by PM
- Rerekura Teaurere New Climate Change Coordinator
- News Briefs

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