UNESCO established its Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage with the aim of ensuring better protection of important intangible cultural heritages worldwide and the awareness of their significance. This list is published by the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, the members of which are elected by State Parties meeting in a General Assembly. Through a compendium of the different oral and intangible treasures of humankind worldwide, the programme aims to draw attention to the importance of safeguarding intangible heritage, which UNESCO has identified as an essential component and as a repository of cultural diversity and of creative expression.
The list was established in 2008 when the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage took effect.
As of 2010[update], the programme compiles three lists. The longer Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity comprises cultural "practices and expressions [that] help demonstrate the diversity of this heritage and raise awareness about its importance." The shorter List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding is composed of those cultural elements that concerned communities and countries consider to require urgent measures to keep them alive. The third list is the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices.
In 2013, four elements were inscribed on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, which helps States Parties mobilize international cooperation and assistance to ensure the transmission of this heritage with the participation of the concerned communities. The Urgent Safeguarding List now numbers 35 elements. The Intergovernmental Committee also inscribed 25 elements on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, which serves to raise awareness of intangible heritage and provide recognition to communities' traditions and know-how that reflect their cultural diversity. The list does not attribute or recognize any standard of excellence or exclusivity. All lists combined totalled 676 elements, corresponding to 140 countries as of April 2023[update].
Elements inscribed in the lists are deemed significant manifestations of humanity's intangible heritage, the highest honour for intangible heritage on a global level.
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