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Singapore hawker culture one step closer to UNESCO list with global panel recommendation

The Intergovernmental Committee will assess the recommendation of the Evaluation Body and make the final decision

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Singapore hawker culture is one step closer to being on the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list after a global panel made a positive recommendation for hawker culture to be inscribed on the list.

On Monday (16 Nov), a 12-member Evaluation Body appointed by the Intergovernmental Committee (IGC) recommended that Hawker Culture in Singapore be inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The Evaluation Body’s recommendation will guide the discussion of Singapore’s bid at the 15th session of the IGC to be held online from 14 to 19 December 2020. The IGC will assess the recommendation of the Evaluation Body and make the final decision as to whether Hawker Culture in Singapore will be inscribed to the Representative List.

Aside from recommending Hawker Culture in Singapore to be inscribed, the Evaluation Body also commended Singapore for devising creative ways to encourage the active participation of the communities concerned in the nomination process, from the very outset.

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It also commended Singapore for preparing a nomination file related to an intangible cultural heritage element that is thriving in a highly urbanised and culturally diverse environment, and for developing safeguarding measures that effectively foster dialogue, creativity and sustainability.

Singapore’s nomination was also cited by the Evaluation Body as a positive example for its celebration of intangible cultural heritage, diversity, dialogue and sustainability.

National Heritage Board (NHB) CEO Chang Hwee Nee called the recommendation an “affirmation by international experts of Singapore’s bid.” She added: “We have seen overwhelming support from Singaporeans since the announcement of Singapore’s nomination was made in August 2018.

“We hope the successful inscription of Hawker Culture would further raise awareness and appreciation among Singaporeans of the importance of intangible cultural heritage in our daily lives, and continue to promote dialogues among our communities. With the recommendation, we hope to hear good news during the IGC meeting in December.”

National Environment Agency (NEA) CEO Tan Meng Dui said that the effort to inscribe Hawker Culture in Singapore on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity shows Singapore’s “commitment as a nation to safeguard Hawker Culture for generations to come.”

Asserting that hawkers are central to Singapore’s Hawker Culture, Mr Tan promised that NEA “remains steadfast in our efforts to attract new entrants to the trade, and to partner hawkers and relevant stakeholders to sustain and strengthen hawker culture.” He added: “A successful inscription in December will be the finest form of recognition to all our hawkers, past and present.”

Yeo Hiang Meng, President of The Federation of Merchants’ Associations, Singapore (FMAS) made similar comments and called the recommendation by the global panel “heartening”.

He said: “FMAS has been actively engaging our hawkers through our Hawkers’ Associations or representatives throughout the nomination journey. Our hawker members are very proud of our nomination, and have stepped forward to show their support in various ways.

“We hope that the IGC’s decision in December will be a favourable one, which will bring about more awareness of our Hawker Culture internationally, and acknowledgement for our hawker members’ dedication towards their craft.”

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