Intangible Cultural Heritage of Asia and the Pacific

A woman from a rural area in northern Jordan, grinding cereal using a traditional mill made of basalt stone. © Yousuf Al-Zu'bi, Yarmouk University, Irbid, Jordan

Awareness Campaign on the Importance of ICH in Jordan

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan acknowledges the importance of cultural issues at both the governmental as well as the non-governmental levels, as it promotes the significance of culture for sustainable development and cultural dialogue. Included in this concept is cultural heritage, which shapes the basic elements of identity and social cohesion among communities and minorities of the country. In our assessment report about ICH in Jordan, we were able to trace administrative strengths and weaknesses embraced in this field. For example, subjects included the government’s developed interest on ICH issues, the existence of certain Jordanian institutions, organizations that contributed in various and divergent ways to this field, and the potential and adaptability of the Jordanian laws and legislation to deal with culture related matters. Based on the information collected, it became evident that there were considerable weaknesses in integrating cultural heritage issues into the strategic planning of the nation. Additionally, disseminating the importance of ICH and its great value among Jordanians on governmental, institutional, and public levels was not carried out satisfactorily, resulting in a lack of awareness programs. If awareness efforts were carried out, this would have enabled the people to explore the value of their ICH and allowed them to become aware of its importance as reflected in the cultural diversity of the Jordanian society.

For the above justifications, the Jordanian National Commission in cooperation with the UNESCO Office in Amman and the present writer have launched a four-month awareness campaign by operating a lecture and workshop series that is being held in different venues throughout Jordan from February 2011. We believe that such an awareness campaign will contribute to strengthening the national capacity for implementing the 2003 Convention at the stakeholder level; engage a wide spectrum of the Jordanian community in preserving ICH; create a public discussion among Jordanians on ICH; stimulate a dialogue on social and educational aspects of preserving and promoting the importance of ICH for sustainable development, and create methods for applying information and networking toward developing strategies for ICH safeguarding.

This campaign was organized in line with Jordan’s commitment towards the 2003 UNESCO Convention. Respective ministries in the country, i.e. the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Culture, and Jordanian universities, are involved in this campaign as they deal with a large sector of the Jordanian population on different levels. As there are several different levels of understanding ICH in Jordan, different stakeholder groups have been provided with targeted information. The main groups are identified as follows:

NGOs and CBOs (with a focus on cultural activities)
We believe that collaboration with local communities, i.e. represented by NGOs & CBOs, must be at the center of any efforts to safeguard ICH and promote sustainable development. This category has been divided into two parts: the first is defined as NGOs & CBOs with some understanding of ICH and the UNESCO Conventions, or have carried out some projects in the field of intangible heritage. This stakeholder group is provided with a full day workshop as they require a great deal of capacity building and detailed understanding of how to apply for funding, what projects they can undertake, etc.; the second is defined as NGOs & CBOs with no understanding of ICH or the UNESCO Conventions. This stakeholder group is provided with an information session to give them a basic background to intangible heritage, its importance, and how projects can be conducted.
Media
It is only indirectly that the media in Jordan contributes to this field as the media concentrates more on illustrating and documenting ICH practices for the Jordanian society, rather than on raising awareness of ICH. This stakeholder group is provided with a three-hour information session to provide them with a basic understanding of the importance of intangible heritage, how it can be communicated, and what new media can do to enhance the role of intangible heritage in daily life.
Secondary school teachers, university faculties and educators
At the level of higher education, some Jordanian universities established a few academic programs related to cultural heritage; however, they did not devote any special attention to ICH. They have mostly focused on the management, conservation, and restoration of tangible cultural heritage. It is necessary to show which role, formal or non-formal, education can play in strengthening the capacity for raising awareness of ICH and its transmission, both within and beyond communities who practice it. These stakeholder groups are provided with three lectures (in the northern, central and southern areas of the country) to provide them with a basic understanding of the importance of intangible cultural heritage.
The public
This group is identified as any member of the public who may be interested to learn about their own intangible heritage, what is defined as intangible heritage, and how important it is to preserve it and transmit knowledge of it to younger generations. This group includes interested members of the public, including members of local communities who are already on the Representative List of ICH. This stakeholder group is provided with 11 lectures (in the northern, central, and southern parts of the country) and targeted with general information about what intangible heritage is, its value, its importance, and what activities are in place in Jordan to safeguard it.

It is hoped that after this program is established, systematic and serious measures toward realizing the goal of keeping the public informed about the national ICH of Jordan will be carried out.