The UNESCO Questionnaire on the Application of the 1989
Recommendation on the Safeguarding of Traditional Culture and Folklore:
Preliminary Results

Richard Kurin
Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC


The Recommendation on the Safeguarding of Traditional Culture and Folklore was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO at its twenty-fifth session on November 15, 1989, in Paris. It is the only existing international standard instrument specifically directed to traditional and popular culture. The Recommendation grew out of a series of seminars and meetings following the request of the government of Bolivia in April 1973 that a protocol be added to the Universal Copyright Convention, one that would protect the popular arts and cultural patrimony of all nations. After sixteen years of analysis conducted through a series of expert meetings, the 1989 UNESCO General Conference finally adopted the Recommendation. Unlike a convention or declaration, a recommendation is a flexible instrument--a statement of principles--which may be applied by governments though legal and other measures.

The 1989 Recommendation defined “folklore, or traditional and popular culture” as “the totality of tradition-based creations of a cultural community, expressed by a group or individuals and recognized as reflecting the expectations of a community in so far as they reflect its cultural and social identity; its standards and values are transmitted orally, by imitation, or by other means. Its forms are, among others, language, literature, music, dance, games, mythology, rituals, customs, handicrafts, architecture, and other arts.” The Recommendation elaborated a number of goals for policies and practices concerned with the safeguarding of traditional culture and folklore. Following the adoption of a recommendation, UNESCO member states are supposed to submit a report to the Secretariat indicating the actions taken toward its realization. The UNESCO Director General issued a letter in 1990 requesting such a report. Only six nations responded. In 1994, UNESCO issued a “Questionnaire on the Application of the Recommendation”(see the Appendix to this article for the English version) to Member States in order to ascertain the impact of the Recommendation and gather information about the policies and practices in those nations. This report offers a summary of the responses to that questionnaire.

Responses to the questionnaires also formed, in part, the basis of UNESCO-sponsored regional seminars on the topic. Those discussions offered a rich, interpretive view of the circumstances and issues of policies and practices regarding traditional and popular culture. Results of those discussions are included in final reports approved by regional seminars and submitted to UNESCO. (See Section ?? in this volume)


The questionnaire was sent to National Commissions for UNESCO of Member States. Usable responses were received from 103 nations. Other nations participated in the various regional seminars and in some cases produced narrative reports that, while on the topic of the questionnaire, did not follow its structure and, thus, did not constitute a specific, technical response. Nations responding to the questionnaire with a formally filed response included:

Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bhutan, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Rep., Chile, China, Congo (Kinshasa), Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Korea (South), Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Latvia, Lesotho, Lithuania, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Nauru, Nepal, New Zealand, Niger, Nigeria, Niue, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Papau New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Samoa, Seychelles, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, Zambia, Zimbawe

Where it could be determined, almost two-thirds of respondents were members of National Commissions for UNESCO. Others were officials with government ministries of education or culture, or with folklore/cultural institutions.

By and large, respondents were knowledgeable and informed about the situation of folklore in their nations. But in several cases, respondents indicated that they were not so well-informed. In fact, some respondents reported inaccuracies that were obvious to the author. For example, one respondent reported there were no trained folklorists or archivists in a nation that had many such persons. Yet, to be consistent, the respondent’s answers were recorded as given. Other responses gave clear evidence of consultation with specialists or members of folklore organizations. Indeed, many of the questionnaires were filled out by specialists, then forwarded to a UNESCO National commission for submission to UNESCO headquarters in Paris. The degree of elaboration in filing the questionnaires varied greatly--some included long and detailed explanations, while others were more perfunctory. Ten nations submitted a first report and then a revised one, in four cases several years later. For another nation, two reports came in, one from the CIOFF representative, another from the UNESCO National Commission. While almost all the national submissions followed the questionnaire, two nations submitted responses only loosely related to it, presenting a challenge to analytic coding. Responses were received in several languages: English (72), Spanish (14), French (15), Russian (1 and updated in English), and Portuguese (1, and another in Portuguese with English translation).

Though not standardized by reporting year, the responses are roughly synchronic, filed over several years, from 1995 to 1999. This is fairly standard in large global efforts, especially in a survey that is the first of its kind.

The Questionnaire

The questionnaire is subdivided into sections including: a) Introduction, b) Application of the Recommendation As a Whole, and c) Application of the Principal Provisions of the Recommendation. The latter is further subdivided into subsections on Identification of Folklore, Conservation of Folklore, Preservation of Folklore, Dissemination of Folklore, Protection of Folklore, and International Cooperation. This is followed by a final section on the Eventual Improvement of the Recommendation. Introductions to each substantive section review the UNESCO Recommendation and provide a description of the subject activity, e.g., “preservation,” “conservation,” “dissemination.” Overall, the questionnaires provide a substantial wealth of information on how different nations deal with folklore and traditional culture at the level of institutional practice and policy formulation at the end of the twentieth century.

The questionnaire itself is complicated, with a combination of closed- and open-ended questions. In some cases, single questions actually embed more than one query, making answers ambiguous (e.g., “Does this policy reflect the ongoing transformations in your country and region, and if so, in what way?” If the transformations are underway regionally but not nationally, is the answer yes or no?). The questionnaire assumes, and indeed in prefatory sections promulgates, a commonality of terminology (e.g., “conservation,” “preservation,” “transmission”). This terminology is used in a technical way, but is also highly subject to individual interpretation given the varied, everyday uses of those terms. Even in a technical sense, some terms, e.g., “folklore” and “traditional popular culture,” taken to be synonymous by some, are thought to refer to quite different phenomena by others. For example, one African respondent noted that “oral tradition” is taken to be a broader, more appropriate term in his nation. A European respondent noted that “folklore” in his country was not “popular traditional culture,” while in Latin America, it was. With some terminology, there are repeated misunderstandings (e.g., “regional” sometimes refers to a subnational region, other times to a supranational region). These problems may be exacerbated by translation.

Various regional adaptations were made to the standard questionnaire. African respondents elaborated upon the section of the questionnaire dealing with conservation, adding several subquestions on various types of archives. Eastern European respondents added a question on the effect of current events on cultural rights.

Though the questionnaire itself imposed a standardized response, it allowed ample room for explanation and commentary. Responses differed considerably in the degree to which all closed-ended questions were completed. Some respondents left long sections of the questionnaire blank. Others wrote paragraph after paragraph of lengthy description and explanation. Instructions could have been clearer as to expectations. Objective definitions meant to guide respondents were somewhat ambiguous.

The questions and answers varied in their domain of reference. Questions tended to refer to the nation as a unitary whole, yet many answers seemed very particularistic--oriented to the specific organization or agency responding. Again, the questionnaire lacked clarity here.

Descriptive Statistical Analysis

Responses from the questionnaires were examined and coded. Several questions of a difficult, ambiguous nature and embedded questions are not included. The more discursive responses were coded in terms of specified content analyses.

 Responses from the questionnaires are renumbered below for clarity in discussion. The original number in the UNESCO questionnaire is given in brackets. The results are based upon 103 submitted responses to the questionnaire. The data includes non-responses. In most cases, a non-response to a question usually indicates a negative response more strongly than an affirmative one (unless the question is asked as a negative). The grouping of responses to questions displayed below tries to reflect this pattern to allow easy discernment of combined results.

Application of the Recommendation As a Whole

1.  [B.3.a.] Are the bodies, organizations, and institutions concerned in your country aware of the Recommendation

58% Yes (60)
33% No (34)
9% No response (9)

2.  [B.3.b.] Has the Recommendation been published in the official language of your country?

43% Yes (44)
50% No (52)
7% No response (7)

3.  [B.3.c.]   Has your country submitted a report to UNESCO?

13% Yes (13)
69% No (71)
18% No response (19)

Application of the Principal Provisions of the Recommendation

4.  [C.4.a.1] How are matters of traditional culture/folklore handled in your country?, e.g., as part of national cultural policy? as a subject of separate policy?

55% National only (57)
17% National and separate or institutional (18)
12% Separate or institutional only (12)
3% No policy (3)
13% No response (13)

5.  [C.4.a.2] In both cases, indicate priorities of this policy.

Percent of respondents naming each element (given multiple item responses)

49%  Safeguarding (50)
49%  Dissemination (50)
38%  Transmission (39)
34%  Revitalization (35)
32%  Protection (33)
26%  Research (27)
22%  Preservation (23)
17%  Normative Action (17)
8%  Conservation (8)
2%  International Cooperation (2)

6.  [C.4.b.1] Does this policy reflect the ongoing transformations in your country and region, and if so, in what way?

67% Yes (69)
16% No (16)
 2% Yes and No (2)
 6% No response (16)

7.  [C.4.b.2] What transformations are affecting policy?  

Percent of respondents naming each element (given multiple item responses) 

39% Taking new realities into account (40)
24% Elaboration of further legal measures (25)
17% Elaboration of a new policy (18)
11% Preparatory measures (11)
 8% Other (8)

8.  [C.4.c.] What measures, in your opinion, are needed to elaborate a new policy or prepare a   new one concerning traditional culture and folklore? [indicate level]

Percent of respondents naming each element (given multiple item responses)

77% National level (79)
66% UNESCO cooperation (68)
47% Regional level (49)
37% NGO cooperation (38)

Identification of Folklore

9.  [C.5.a.] Are there lists and inventories of folklore institutions in your country? 

68% Yes (70)
28% No (29)
 4% No response (4)

10. [C.5.a.2] Are they regionally standardized?  

12% Yes (12)
61% No (63)
27% No response (28)

11. [C.5.a.3] Are they computerized?

21% Yes (22)
58% No (60)
20% No response (21)

12. [C.5.b.]  Does your country have databanks of institutions dealing with the intangible cultural heritage?

30% Yes (31)
61% No (63)
 9% No response (9)

13. [C.5.c.]  Are classification systems used by your institutions coordinated (a) nationally and (b) regionally?

43% Yes (44--16 national, 1 both, 27 unspecified)
49% No (50)
 9% No response (9)

14. [C.5.d.]  Is your country encouraging the creation of a standard typology of folklore?

(a) nationally and (b) regionally?

58% Yes (60--33 national, 1 regional, 14 both, 12 unspecified)
35% No (36)
 1% Not desirable to do so (1)
 6% No response (6)

Conservation of Folklore

15. [C.6.a.] Please describe the existing infrastructure for the conservation of folklore. Does it meet your country’s needs? 

30% Yes (31)
53% No (55)
17% No response (17)

The pattern of responses for the description of infrastructure was so spotty and inconsistent as to preclude useful analysis.

16. [C.6.a.2] If not adequate, indicate the required measures (for improvement). 

Percent of respondents suggesting a category of measure (given multiple item responses)

22% Improvement of institutions (23)
18% Development of regional/local organizations (19)
11 % Coordination of activities (11)

17. [C.6.b.] Are these organizations coordinated by a central body? 

31% Yes (32)
44% No (45)
25% No response (26)

18. [C.6.c.] Are collecting and archiving methods harmonized in your country? 

22% Yes (23)
64% No (65)
15% No response (15)

19. [C.6.d.] What system of training professional collectors, archivists, documentalists, andother folklore conservation specialists exists in your country? 

48% Some system (49)

With components indicated as a percent of all respondents (given combination responses)

On the job/non-school training 31% (32)
Undergraduate courses 24% (25)
Graduate courses/degree 11% (11)
Outside the country training 8% (8)
No system 27% (28)
No response 25% (26)

  20. [C.6.d.2] Is [this system] adequate to your country’s needs? 

18% Yes (19)
46% No (47)
36% No response (37)

21. [C.6.d.3] If not [adequate], indicate the measures taken to improve it.

With components indicated as a percent of all respondents (given combination responses)

14% Improvement of institutions (14)
13% Improvement of training opportunities (13)

22. [C.6.e.] Does a system of training voluntary (non-professional) collectors and archivists exist in your country?

20% Yes (21)
71% No (73)
 9% No response (9)

23. [C.6.f.]   To what extent do the people concerned have access to the materials conserved?

61% Accessible (63--12 unqualified, 51 restriction/condition mentioned)
 4% No accessibility (4)
35% No response (36)

Preservation of Folklore

24. [C.7.a.] Does your country run courses on folklore in school or out-of-school curricula? Describe the courses. 

52% Yes (54)

With types indicated as a percent of all respondents (given combination responses)

Primary school 19% (20)
Secondary school  33% (34)
College 30% (31)
Extracurricular/specialized training 26% (27)
No response 48% (49)

25. [C.7.b.] Does the national legislation of your country ensure the right of access for the communities concerned with their own culture?

80% Yes (82)
11% No (11)
10% No response (10)

26. [C.7.c.] Is there a National Folklore Council or similar coordinating body for the preservation of folklore in your country?

40% Yes (41)
54% No (56)
 6% No response (6)

27. [C.7.d.] What kind of moral and economic support is provided in your country to the individuals and institutions promoting folklore?

With types indicated as a percent of all respondents (given combination responses)

78% State support - subventions (80)
51% Mass media (53)
43% Private funding (44)
37% Legislative measures (38)
17% Other means (18)

28.  [C.7.e.] Has research work contributed to the preservation of folklore in your country? If yes, indicate the type of improvement.

80% Yes (82)

With types indicated as a percent of all respondents (given combination responses)

Research documentation itself 46% (47)
Dissemination of information  39% (40)
Awareness generated 18% (19)
Integration into society 13% (13)
No 14% (14)
No response  7% (7)


Dissemination of Folklore

29.  [C.8.a.] Describe major folklore events held in your country after 1989 (fairs, festivals, films, exhibitions, seminars, training courses, etc.).

87% Some response (89)

With types indicated as a percent of all respondents  (given combination responses)

Festival or fair  80% (82)
Seminar, conference, workshop 44% (45)
 Exhibition 43% (44)
Other, e.g., film/television series 22% (23)
No response 13% (13)

30.  [C.8.b.] Is there any infrastructure to promote broader coverage of folklore material in mass media?

40% Yes (41)
52% No (54)
 8% No response (8)

31.  [C.8.c.] Is there an extended coordinated system for the dissemination of folklore in your country?

33% Yes (34)
59% No (61)
 8% No response (8)

32. [C.8.d.]  What are the education materials available in your country to disseminate traditional and popular culture?

68% Extant materials (70)

With types indicated as a percent of all respondents  (given combination responses)

Publications, textbooks, booklets 47% (48)
Videos, films  33% (34)
Cassettes, CDs, recordings 18% (19)
Other materials (incl. Web) 17% (18)
No response 32% (33)

33. [C.8.e.] What are the institutions which are able to disseminate information on folklore?

83% Institutions disseminating information (86)

With types indicated as a percent of all respondents (given combination responses)

Cultural, educational organizations 66% (68)
Governmental organizations 35% (36)
Media organizations 32% (33)
Associations, NGOs, others  30% (31)
No response 17% (17)

34.  [C.8.g.] Is there any body which is in a position to check whether a proper approach is

applied for the dissemination of traditional and popular cultural expression?

35% Yes (36)
38% No (39)
28% No response (29)

Protection of Folklore

35.  [C.9.a.] Does the national legislation of your country contain provisions on the “intellectual property aspects” of traditional culture and folklore?

50% Yes (52)
31% No (32)
18% No response (19)

36. [C.9.b.] What kind of support do folklore artists in your country enjoy (e.g., economic, social, and legal status)?

61% Support for artists (63)

With types indicated as a percent of all respondents (given combination responses)

State support (unspecified/fiscal/in-kind) 27% (28)
State honor or status 14% (14)
State job 5% (5)
No such support 10% (10)
No response 29% (30)

37. [C.9.e.] What measures, in your opinion, are needed to enhance the legal protection of traditional culture and folklore or to adapt to new circumstances?

63% Specific measures suggested (65)

With types indicated as a percent of all respondents (given combination responses)

National laws or legislation  35% (36)
Advice from UNESCO et al. 17% (18)
National plans or policies  14% (14)
Consciousness-raising 13% (13)
Enforcement of laws 10% (10)
International convention  3% (3)
No specific measures suggested 37% (38)

International Co-Operation

38.  [C.10.a.] Can you provide information on bi/multilateral projects and actions carried out in the field of traditional and popular culture by your country?

48% Yes (49)
14% No (14)
39% No response (40)

39.  [C.10.b.] What kind of activities in the field of folklore has your country implemented in cooperation with UNESCO and other international or regional organizations since 1989? 

65% Any activity (67)

With types indicated as a percent of all respondents (given combination responses)

Cooperation with UNESCO 25% (26)
Cooperation with CIOFF  9% (9)
No activity 10% (10)
No response 25% (26)

40. [C.10.c.] In what concrete fields and activities of traditional culture does your country cooperate with other countries of your region (e.g., research, festivals)?

65% Any cooperation (67)

With types indicated as a percent of all respondents (given combination responses)

Festivals, performances, craft programs 54% (56)
Research and publication 22% (23)
Seminars, experts, training  20% (21)
No response 35% (36)


Given the responses to questions about the application of the Recommendation as a whole, it would not appear that the Recommendation is high on the agenda of the international community. Only a small majority of responding nations were aware of the Recommendation. It might be assumed that many more unresponsive nations are unaware of the Recommendation. Even of those who were aware of it, only a minority of respondents had published the Recommendation in their own language. Only a handful submitted a report to UNESCO.

One of the reasons for a lack of awareness may be the lack of articulation between the Recommendation and other human rights and cultural accords. A quick perusal of other UNESCO documents and reports of various international conferences dedicated to cultural issues reveals few references to the Recommendation on the Safeguarding of Traditional Culture and Folklore. Better dissemination of the Recommendation, and coordination of its findings with other international instruments may rectify the problem.

In examining the application of the principal provisions of the Recommendation, correlations in the pattern of responses were investigated. Nations were grouped in continental clusters to determine whether there was a tendency for some nations to see cultural policy as a part of larger national policy or separate from it. There was no such pattern.

Other patterns in the responses to the questionnaire can be sought by using two competing hypotheses suggested by social science literature. The first of these, here called “the modernization hypothesis,” would predict that more modernized nations have less folklore and traditional culture. Folklore and traditional culture, associated with a pre-modern era, would exist on the margins of society, in unmodernized, isolated pockets of the society. This form of culture would be devalued and discarded. Its knowledge would be replaced by a formal education system, its means of social communication replaced by the mass media. In such societies, folklore and traditional culture would not be seen as valuable; there would be little in the way of societal protections and no or few policies for their enhancement. By way of contrast, folklore and traditional culture would be stronger in less modernized nations. This form of culture would be more central than marginal, a force in people’s lives, a fact of everyday existence. It would be recognized in custom and law, valued, and protected. Thus, according to this hypothesis, more modernized nations would indicate less elaboration in institutions, laws, training, programs, and public awareness of traditional culture and folklore in their questionnaire responses, while less modernized nations would be much more positive.

The competing hypothesis, called here “the post-modern,” would reverse this expectation. Less modernized nations would have a “take-it-for-granted” view of traditional culture and folklore, finding this form of culture an aspect of continuing and daily experience not requiring much elaboration, government attention, or activity. Folklore, as the culture of the people, would not be threatened nor would it require governments or scholars to somehow discover, interpret, or protect it. More modernized nations, on the other hand, would see the need to elaborate, invent, mythologize, and construct their folklore as part of a modern, nationalizing project. Traditional culture and folklore would be seen as an essentializing ideology for articulating a national identity and mobilizing a national (or sub- or supra-national) consciousness. Folklore would have to be recovered, studied, interpreted, institutionalized, and then disseminated back to the general population by government and educational organizations. In this view, more modernized nations would have more positive responses to questionnaire items indicating greater investment in and elaboration of formal institutions, training programs, legislative remedies, and the like.

In order to test correlations in national policies, circumstances, and strategies in terms of these competing hypotheses, nations were clustered according to a modernization index constructed by the researcher from data available in the United Nations World Statistics Pocketbook, published by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs in 1998, and based upon statistics available as of August 1997. The index was constructed from the following often-used variables:

Tourist arrivals as a percent of the population (r = .65)
Gross domestic product per capita (r = .81)
Motor vehicles per 1,000 inhabitants (r = .91)
Telephone lines per 100 inhabitants (r = .95)
Urban population percentage (r = .77)
Foreign-born percentage of the population (r = .52)
Tertiary-level female students per 100,000 inhabitants (r = .80)
Newspaper circulation per 1,000 inhabitants (r = .73)
Television receivers per 1,000 inhabitants (r = .87)
Energy consumption per capita in kilograms coal equivalent (r = .88)

Operationally, greater modernization was indicated by more tourist arrivals, larger per capita domestic product, more motor vehicles, more telephones, a higher percentage of urban population, more foreign-born inhabitants, more females in tertiary education, more newspapers and televisions, and a high percapita energy consumption. These attributes of the selected variables could indicate a more highly industrial and post-industrial society, composed of large percentages of city residents and large influxes of newer residents, educating its population in non-traditional ways, influenced by mass media, and communicating in ways not dependent upon oral, face-to-face transmission. That is, taken at face value, these attributes could indicate a conventional description of modernization. Lower measures would indicate the attributes of less modernization--more rural, more native born, fewer females in tertiary education, lower energy consumption, lower GDP, fewer telephones, motor vehicles, and newspapers.

The variables were statistically standardized and equally weighted, so as to allow the adding of scores to form an index. All the variables registered moderate to very strong correlations with the overall index as indicated by the coefficients given in the list above (r = .95 for telephones, the strongest correlate of a high modernization index, to r = .52 for the presence of foreign-born inhabitants). The scores of each of 102 nations were then computed (and adjusted in cases where a statistic was unavailable). The mean score was 20, the highest 127, the lowest 1. The 39 nations above the mean were assigned the category “more modernized,” the 63 nations scoring below the mean were categorized as “less modernized.”

Modernization scores were then correlated to answers on the questionnaire to ascertain patterns. Few emerged. There were only slight correlations between modernization and policy priorities. For example, there was a slight tendency (γ = +.36) for less modernized nations to name “protection” of traditional culture and folklore as a priority. There was very slight (g = +.10) tendency for the same nations to favor “revitalization.” These low correlations belie any real significance.

As might be expected, there was a tendency for the more modernized nations to computerize their folklore data banks, but not overwhelmingly so. Nations were asked to describe the adequacy of their existing infrastructure for conserving folklore. Overall, most nations reported that the infrastructure was inadequate. There was only a very slight (γ = +.20) correlation of more modernized nations with the reportage of adequacy in conserving folklore. The same weak pattern held for training. Overall, the great majority of nations thought training opportunities inadequate to the need. Modernization scores weakly correlated (γ = +.35) to perceived adequacy of training opportunities in-country, with more modern nations more likely to indicate adequacy than others. With regard to legislative protection for the intellectual property aspects of traditional culture, the correlation was also very weak, but ran the other way. There was a slightly greater chance (γ = +.17) that less modernized nations had placed protective provisions into law. Indeed, the same pattern existed with regard to the support of folk artists by the government, with a somewhat greater chance (γ = +.26) that folk artists received government support for their work in less modernized nations.

Generally, there was no significant pattern of response that varied with the measure of modernization. And no responses had high correlations with any single measure of modernization--above the +.80 generally used as evidence of relationships among variables. Thus, there is no simple pattern of variability explaining the responses. This might be due to the difficulty of operationalizing a definition of high and low modernization. For example, it could be argued that the very same attributes indicative of modernization could also advance traditional culture. Tourists could be attracted by the continued existence of traditional cultures, communities, marketplaces, and performances. Television programs and newspapers could heighten public consciousness of folklore. Tertiary education could include emphasis on traditional and folk sciences. Telephones could enhance, not detract from, oral culture. Folk culture might thrive in city neighborhoods and the occupational traditions of an industrial work force.


There is no basis offered by the results of the UNESCO survey for accepting either the modern or post-modern hypothesis about the relationship between society and national policy with regard to traditional culture and folklore. In fact, simple statistical analysis of the responses indicates a vast under-institutionalization and under-elaboration of the field. That a correlational analysis reveals only weak associations suggests that the formation of national policy is quite open to broad and varied action, not determined by GDP or usual measures of socio-economic development. While better measures of national policy goals and activities can be designed for a future survey, and while more elaborate types of correlation analyses can be applied with newly collected UNESCO data, the result of this survey is cause for optimism. There is a perceived need for much to do in the traditional culture and folklore field. There is a basis for moving ahead with national and international policies. And, perhaps most importantly, there is a wide range of possibilities for effective action, so that the policy options available to some nations are available to most, if not all. National policies are not pre-determined, nor does “one size fit all.” Nations can decide on a particular constellation of policies--presumably within the ethical and conceptual framework of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, the 1989 Recommendation, and other international accords--that meet the needs of their citizens and fit the circumstances of their societies.


UNESCO Questionnaire on the Application of the Recommendation on the Safeguarding of Traditional Culture and Folklore


3. In the preamble to the Recommendation, the major guiding principles for its application are defined as follows:

“The General Conference recommends that Member States should apply the following provisions concerning the safeguarding of folklore by taking whatever legislative measures or other steps may be required in conformity with the constitutional practice of each State to give effect within their territories to the principles and measures defined in this Recommendation.

“The General Conference recommends that Member States bring this Recommendation to the attention of the authorities, departments or bodies responsible for matters relating to the safeguarding of folklore and to the attention of the various organizations or institutions concerned with folklore and encourage their contacts with appropriate international organizations dealing with the safeguarding of folklore.

“The General Conference recommends that Member States should, at such times and such manner as it shall determine, submit to the Organization reports on the action they have taken to give effect to this Recommendation.”

a. Are the bodies, organizations and institutions concerned in your country aware of the Recommendation?

[  ] Yes [  ] No

If yes, indicate their names and how and when they were informed:

b. Has the Recommendation been published in the official language of your country?

[  ] Yes [  ] No

Replying to the UNESCO Secretariat’s circular letter of 1990 on the application of the Recommendation, seven (7) Member States only sent in their respective reports. They contain information mainly on how the Recommendation has been made public and brought to the attention of the authorities and bodies directly concerned. Some reports stress that the national legislation applied in their country adequately reflects the provisions of the Recommendation and state that there is no need for additional modifications.

c. Has your country submitted a report to UNESCO?

[  ] Yes [  ] No

If no, give reasons:


4a. How are matters of traditional culture/folklore handled in your country?, e.g., as part of national cultural policy? as a subject of separate policy?

In both cases, indicate priorites of this policy.

b. Does this policy reflect the ongoing transformations in your country and region, and if so, in what way?

c. What measures, in your opinion, are needed to elaborate a new policy or prepare a new one concerning traditional culture and folklore?

at the national level
at the regional level
in cooperation with UNESCO
in cooperation with specialized NGOs


5 a.  Are there lists and inventories of folklore institutions in your country? If yes, are they regionally standardized?

Are they computerized?

b. Does your country have databanks of institutions dealing with the intangible cultural heritage? If yes, indicate lists of menus covered by databanks.

c. Are classification systems used by your Institutions co-ordinated (a) nationally and (b) regionally?  

d. Is your country encouraging the creation of a standard typology of folklore?

If yes, at what level?