About Us


UNESCO Chair in Living Heritage and Sustainable Livelihoods

The UNESCO Chair in Living Heritage and Sustainable Livelihoods promotes an integrated system of research, teaching and training, as well as community engagement and communication in the Living Heritage/Intangible Cultural Heritage [ICH] and ICH-sourced livelihoods.

We facilitate collaboration between organizations working in ICH and internationally recognized researchers and practitioners, including faculty at UNBC and other academic institutions in Canada and around the world.

Our Objectives

In the spirit of the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, our specific objectives are to:

  • Recognize, promote, and safeguard intangible cultural heritage [ICH], also known as living heritage

  • Strengthen avenues for language acquisition, retention, transmission, and revitalization

  • Provide the conditions for the transmission of ICH through knowledge-exchange, ICH-driven pedagogies, creation and dissemination of best-practices, innovative use of digital technologies, youth mobility, and capacity-building

  • Cooperate closely with UNESCO, other UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Networks on relevant programs, workshops, and activities

  • Collaborate with communities, organizations, NGOs, governments, Indigenous peoples, and the international community to support ICH-sourced livelihoods, including languages, through capacity building and self-determination over intangible cultural heritage elements

  • Bring intangible cultural heritage and sustainable economic pathways closer together, to find a balance between economic growth, socio-environmental well-being, and cultural resiliency

Since Canada has not ratified the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, very little research has emerged in Canada linking ICH and sustainable livelihoods.

There is general consensus on the lack of understanding of ICH in Canada, creating a need for ICH policy work, effective language transmission, and valuation of cultural expressions.

Our overarching goal is to catalyze the need for ICH recognition and actuate the recommendations made by our partner organizations, participants at the 2022 Conversations on ICH Conference, UNESCO, and Indigenous communities as well as respond to the recommendations outlined in the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) and the Truth and Reconcilication’s Calls to Action.

While the ‘spirit’ of our work is drawn from the past, our knowledge-creation is driven by contemporary realities to envision a sustainable, equitable, inclusive, and culturally and linguistically vibrant future.

Guiding Principles

ICH is living heritage

This means that it is both ‘traditional’ and ‘contemporary’; it is alive and evolving. ICH represents traditions inherited from the past but also contemporary rural and urban practices in which diverse cultural groups take part

Heritage Saskatchewan - Cooking bannock by Pat Jardine
Heritage Saskatchewan - Cooking bannock by Pat Jardine

ICH is community-based and identified

Intangible cultural heritage can only be heritage when it is recognized as such by the communities, groups or individuals that create, maintain and transmit it – nobody else can decide for them that a given expression or practice is their heritage.

(adapted from UNESCO ICH Convention)

ICH is inclusive

ICH is inclusive: we may share expressions of intangible cultural heritage similar to those practiced by others. Whether from the neighbouring village, a city on the opposite side of the world, or adapted by peoples who have migrated to a different region, they all are intangible cultural heritage, passed from one generation to the next, evolving in response to their environments, and contributing to a sense of identity and continuity. 

This is a living link from our past, through the present, and into our future. Intangible cultural heritage contributes to social cohesion, encouraging a sense of identity and responsibility which helps individuals to feel part of one or more communities and of society at large.

ICH is representative

Intangible cultural heritage is not merely valued as a cultural good, on a comparative basis, for its exclusivity or its exceptional value. It thrives from its roots in communities and depends on those whose knowledge of traditions, skills and, customs are passed on to the rest of the community, from generation to generation, or to other communities

Colonization and Intangible Cultural Heritage in Canada

According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, more than a century of assimilationist policies targeted intangible cultural heritage and languages of Indigenous peoples. Despite the damage caused by these forces, Indigenous peoples have been resilient and continue to maintain, transmit, and revitalize their living heritage in a contemporary world. Our work aims to support the rights of Indigenous peoples to practice and safeguard their own cultural traditions.

 According to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present, and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites, artefacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature.