Paris, 22 March—UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay has welcomed Member States’ decision—taken during the meeting on Thursday of the Bureau of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage—regarding the Aalst Carnival (Belgium) and the racist and anti-Semitic nature of some of its floats this year. The Carnival, was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity at Belgium’s request in 2010.
On a proposal from UNESCO’s Secretariat, the decision calls on all States Parties to this Convention to “ensure that elements inscribed on the lists of the Convention respect the ethical principles in safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage.” The Bureau decision condemns “all forms of racism, antisemitism, islamophobia and xenophobia.”
Finally, the text adopted on Thursday lays the ground for the Committee to examine at its next meeting the “possibility of removing” the Carnival from the lists of the Convention on the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
“UNESCO had to be vigilant and uncompromising regarding such occurrences at a festival listed as intangible cultural heritage of humanity while flouting its core values. This is not the first time that these racist and anti-Semitic floats parade in this festival,” said Audrey Azoulay.
The Aalst Carnival was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010. The Intangible Cultural Heritage Committee inscribes elements on the List on the proposal of States Parties to the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. Members are elected to the Intangible Cultural Heritage Committee to this end. Inscription does not entail financial support.
Already on 6 March, UNESCO condemned the racist and anti-Semitic occurrences at the Aalst Carnival. “The satirical spirit of the Aalst Carnival and freedom of expression cannot serve as a screen for such manifestations of hatred,” said Ernesto Ottone R., Assistant Director-General for Culture at UNESCO. “These indecent caricatures go against the values of respect and dignity embodied by UNESCO and are counter to the principles that underpin the intangible heritage of humanity,” he added.