The 1972 World Heritage Convention links together in a single document the concepts of nature conservation and the preservation of cultural properties and defines the kind of natural or cultural sites which can be considered for inscription on the World Heritage List.
The World Heritage List includes properties forming part of the cultural and natural heritage which the World Heritage Committee considers as having Outstanding Universal Value. These include cultural, natural and mixed properties. Kenya’s properties on the list include Lake Turkana National Park, Mount Kenya Reserve Forests, Lamu Old Town and the Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests.
As of November 2007, 185 States Parties had ratified the World Heritage Convention.
The Convention sets out the duties of States Parties in identifying potential sites and their role in protecting and preserving them. By signing the Convention, each country pledges to conserve the World Heritage sites situated on its territory and to protect its national heritage.
INTANGIBLE CULTURAL HERITAGE (I.C.H.)
Kenya deposited its instrument of ratification to the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage on 24th October 2007. The convention has been translated into Kiswahili by a panel of Kiswahili experts convened by the Ministry of State for national Heritage and Culture.
Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) refers to the practices, representations, expressions, as well as the knowledge and skills that communities, groups and in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage.
According to the 2003 Convention, the intangible cultural heritage (ICH) – or living heritage – is the mainspring of our cultural diversity and its maintenance a guarantee for continuing creativity.
The ICH is hence traditional and living at the same time. It is constantly recreated and mainly transmitted orally. The depository of this heritage is the human mind, the human body being the main instrument for its enactment. The knowledge and skills are often shared within a community, and manifestations of ICH are often performed collectively.
Since November 2008, Kenya has been a member of the Subsidiary Body established by the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage to examine nomination files submitted for the Representative List by States Parties to the Convention. Kenya will remain a member of the body until November 2010. At the initial Subsidiary Body meeting, Kenya, represented by Mr Silvers Anami, was nominated to serve as Rapporteur and actively participated in the examination of over 100 nomination files.
Kenya participated as a Committee member in the 4th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage from 28 September to 2 October 2009 in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates). During this session, Mr Anami, in his capacity as Rapporteur of the Subsidiary Body, presented the body's report. At the end of the Committee session, Kenya announced its proposal to host the next session of the Committee, which was positively endorsed by the Committee.
The 5th session of the Committee will therefore be held in Nairobi in November 2010. Dr Jacob Ole Miaron of Kenya was nominated to serve as Chairperson of the Committee. The first meeting of the Committee's Bureau took place on 27 November 2009 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.
Inscription on the Lists of the 2003 Convention
During the 4th session of the Committee in Abu Dhabi the expression entitled "Traditions and Practices Associated to the Kayas in the Sacred Forests of the Mijikenda" was inscribed on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.
The Mijikenda include nine Bantu-speaking ethnic groups in the Kaya forests of coastal Kenya. The identity of the Mijikenda is expressed through oral traditions and performing arts related to the sacred forests, which are also sources of valuable medicinal plants. These traditions and practices constitute their codes of ethics and governance systems, and include prayers, oath-taking, burial rites and charms, naming of the newly born, initiations, reconciliations, marriages and coronations. Kayas are fortified settlements whose cultural spaces are indispensable for the enactment of living traditions that underscore the identity, continuity and cohesion of the Mijikenda communities. The use of natural resources within the Kayas is regulated by traditional knowledge and practices that have contributed to the conservation of their biodiversity. The Kambi (Councils of Elders) acts as the custodians of these Kayas and the related cultural expressions. Today, Mijikenda communities are gradually abandoning the Kayas in favour of informal urban settlements. Due to pressure on land resources, urbanization and social transformations, the traditions and cultural practices associated to the Kaya settlements are fast diminishing, posing great danger to the social fabric and cohesiveness of the Mijikenda communities who venerate and celebrate them as their identity and symbol of continuity.
The Promotion of Cultural Diversity is central to UNESCO’s mandate. The Government of Kenya promotes cultural pluralism, Kenya being a country of people of diverse cultures, and recognizes that culture is the centerpiece and driving force behind human, social and economic development. The UNESCO universal declaration on cultural diversity, 2001, and the 2005 convention for the promotion and protection of the diversity of cultural expressions aim at promoting cultural diversity as a priceless asset.
The Convention for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, which seeks to strengthen the creation, Production, dissemination, access to and the enjoyment of Cultural expressions as conveyed by cultural activities, goods and services, was adopted by the 33rd UNESCO General conference in October 2005 and entered into force on 18th march 2007. Currently it has 96 States Parties. Kenya ratified the convention in October 2007 and is currently a member of the convention’s intergovernmental committee. The committee is composed of 24 elected members.