Living Human Treasure UNESCO Programme

Living Human Treasures are persons who possess to a high degree the knowledge and skills required
for performing or re-creating specific elements of the intangible cultural heritage.

In 1950, the Government of Japan  began to designate certain individuals or groups who embodied intangible national cultural values as living human treasures, just as places or things of great cultural value are designated as national treasures,
thus becoming eligible for special protection and support.Several countries have followed suit with their own official programmes of recognition for intangible cultural values and the people who embody them, including South Korea (1964),Thailand (1985), Philippines (1988), France (1994).

Proposed by the Executive Board of UNESCO in 1993 as a means of implementing the 1989 Recommendation, the UNESCO “Living Human Treasures” programme enter in action in Sept.1998.
One of the biggest threats to the viability of ICH is posed by declining numbers of practitioners of traditional craftsmanship, music, dance or theatre, and of those who are in position to learn from them.
An effective way to safeguard ICH sustainably is to ensure that the bearers of that heritage continue to transmit their knowledge and skills to younger generations.
Thansmission is one the safeguarding measures aiming at ensuring the viability of the ICH. (Article 2.3, Convention 2003).

The Living Human Treasures programme aims at encouraging Member States to grant official recognition to talented tradition bearers and practitioners, thus contributing to the transmission of their knowledge and skills to the younger generations.
States select such persons on the basis of their accomplishments and of their willingness to convey their knowledge and skills to others. The selection is also based on the value of the traditions and expressions concerned as a testimony of the human creative genius, their roots in cultural and social traditions, their representative character for a given community, as well as their risk of disappearance.

The establishment of a national Living Human Treasures system may also involve: adopting legal or regulatory provisions; identifying and including in one or more inventories the selected ICH elements as well as the names of their bearers; creating a commission of experts responsible for selecting candidates,etc.
Several countries have developed National policy on Human Living Treasure and among them:Czech Republic, Turkey, Bulgaria, Mongolia, Nigeria, Senegal, etc..
UNESCO assist Member States technically and/or financially through its regular budget and offers to State member, guidelines to implement this programme.

More information: UNESCO