About this Website

The Belize Living Heritage website was developed by the Institute for Social and Cultural Research (ISCR) of the National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) in partnership with local communities, living heritage practitioners, cultural organizations and other stakeholders. The website is part of the wider plan for implementing the UNESCO 2003 Convention for Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage, and is a platform designed to

  • Increase visibility and awareness for Belize’s living heritage, as well as highlight initiatives which contribute to its safeguarding;
  • Promote the transmission of knowledge and practices associated with Belize’s living heritage;
  • Share good practices and models for safeguarding living heritage in Belize; and
  • Support wider participation of cultural organizations, communities and practitioners to identify and define their own living heritage through contribution to the Inventory. (For instructions on how to contribute to the inventory of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Belize, please visit here.)


The National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) is Belize’s premiere cultural institution. Its various departments include the Institute of Archaeology (IoA), Institute of Creative Arts (ICA), Institute for Social and Cultural Research (ISCR) and Museum of Belize & Houses of Culture (MOB – HOC). These departments maintain an open and collaborative approach to cultural heritage promotion, management and safeguarding with its various stakeholders for the cultural and creative industries.

NICH, through ISCR, is the Government agency with responsibility for implementing UNESCO’s 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. ISCR conducts cultural research; provides technical assistance and capacity building opportunities to communities in developing safeguarding plans for their living heritage; engages in public outreach and advocacy, and implements living heritage safeguarding projects. The Museum of Belize & Houses of Culture also provide spaces for the enactment of living heritage and coordinates programs which contribute to safeguarding. Some examples of these are featured below:

Past Activities

Living Heritage & The 2003 Convention

What is Intangible Cultural Heritage?  

Intangible cultural heritage (ICH) or “living heritage” include cultural forms, traditions and beliefs which form part of a community’s or individual’s heritage. It includes oral traditions and expressions, performing arts and social practices, rituals and festive events, music and dance, traditional medicinal and health practices, and traditional craftsmanship, among others.  It is transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated in response to the environment, and provides a sense of identity and continuity to its practitioners.

Belize has a wealth of cultural practices and beliefs which continue to be relevant and provide meaning in the everyday lives of communities, groups and individuals. While some forms and practices may be under threat, they are important to maintaining our rich cultural diversity. It is an incredibly rich resource, which is why promoting the transmission of living heritage knowledge is important.

The UNESCO Convention

The UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO in 2003. The main objectives of the Convention are to promote the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage; ensure respect for the intangible cultural heritage of communities, groups, and individuals; and raise awareness of its importance . The Convention emphasizes the transmission of traditions, the importance of cultural diversity and people’s participation in the management of cultural heritage.

For more information about this and the Convention, visit the UNESCO Website.

Safeguarding Living Heritage

Safeguarding ensures that the knowledge associated with living heritage is transmitted and maintained for future generations. Safeguarding is defined in Article 2 of the 2003 Convention as “Measures aimed at ensuring the viability of the intangible cultural heritage, including the identification, documentation, research, preservation, protection, promotion, enhancement, transmission, particularly through formal and non-formal education, as well as the revitalization of the various aspects of such heritage.”

Knowledge bearers and community practitioners are crucial to the process of safeguarding. They are engaged through both formal and informal systems of learning and transmission to ensure that the knowledge that they hold is passed on for future generations. The wider society, including educational and cultural institutions, researchers, NGOs and community organizations also have a role to play in safeguarding. Their interventions are both dynamic and diverse.

Safeguarding in Belize takes many forms. Communities and cultural organizations have implemented a myriad of strategies to ensure continued viability of their cultural practices and traditions. Many are involved with documenting their living heritage; hosting festivals where living heritage is enacted; organizing competitions that feature these practices; and developing workshops and targeted transmission activities to complement the informal transmission and education practices in their communities.

Continue reading to learn more about these initiatives.

Inventorying Living Heritage

One of the measures for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage under the Convention is inventorying and documenting the living heritage at the community level. Inventorying is seen as a tool for identifying, describing and transmitting information on living heritage. NICH and community partners have actively been carrying out the process of inventorying Belize’s living heritage.

For information about what cultural practices and traditions have been inventoried so far, visit Our Inventory.

Implementing the UNESCO 2003 Convention in Belize


UNESCO Declaration

UNESCO declares The Garifuna Language, Dance and Music as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”.

This was due, in large part, to the work of the National Garifuna Council and other key individuals and institutions. This program, designed to complement UNESCO’s World Heritage List, focused on the need to preserve traditional and popular culture.

The 2003 Convention

The 2003 UNESCO Convention for Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage is established by the UNESCO General Conference. Previously declared “Masterpieces” are incorporated into the new “Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.”

This became the new international standard, setting guiding principles for the promotion, preservation and safeguarding of intangible heritage.


Belize ratifies the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.

In accordance with the terms of its Article 34, the Convention entered into force on 4 March 2008.

First National Workshop

NICH becomes the national implementing agency of the 2003 Convention.

UNESCO, through the Japanese Funds-in-Trust, funds a capacity building workshop for cultural councils, stakeholders, and cultural practitioners.

Regional (District) Workshops hosted by NICH

ISCR conducts six countrywide workshops for sensitizing community stakeholders on the scope and significance of the 2003 Convention.

CBI Workshop

UNESCO funds a second capacity building workshop on community-based inventorying (CBI) of intangible cultural heritage at the national level.

The Banquitas Action Plan is developed and participants commit to carrying out a pilot project for inventorying Belize’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Pilot Project for Inventorying ICH in Belize

ICH collaborators conduct an inventory of Belize’s Cultural Celebrations. Seven (7) cultural celebrations and festivities are documented during this round of inventorying.


Cultural and Creative industry stakeholders from across Belize gather for the presentation of Belize’s National Cultural Policy. The Policy sets the framework for the promotion, preservation and safeguarding of Belizean culture, heritage and identity.

ISCR and the Belize ICH Network continue to inventory forms of Belize’s ICH including cultural celebrations and traditional craftsmanship skills. Educational materials are developed and distributed to individuals and communities who participate in the inventory, as well as schools and other community-based educational institutions.

Continued Inventorying

The development of a national inventory of Belize’s Intangible Cultural Heritage is ongoing. A multiyear inventorying plan is elaborated, with a focus on inventorying: Traditional Culinary Practices, Traditional Medicinal and Healing practices, Music & Dance and Best Practices for Safeguarding ICH.

ISCR and the Institute of Archaeology / NICH host Information Sessions with national and community-based media houses on how their platforms contribute to safeguarding tangible and intangible cultural heritage.

ICH Network Meeting & The Maya Center Declaration

While inventorying and other safeguarding projects continue to be developed, the ICH Network meets to conduct a stock-taking exercise towards an update of the Banquitas Action Plan.

In September, 2018, the group meets at the Nuuk Che’il Cottages in Maya Center Village, and the “Maya Center Declaration for Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage in Belize” is developed based on the discussions and insights provided at this meeting.

Capacity Building Workshop & Developing Safeguarding Plans

ISCR NICH hosts two (2) capacity building workshops in the area of Research Skills for Inventorying. The Belize ICH Network continues to grow and fine-tune the “Maya Center Declaration”, which is finalized in September, 2019.

ISCR and the Stann Creek House of Culture embark on a series of meetings with community stakeholders to discuss safeguarding the Grand Ball tradition in Southern Belize.

Safeguarding Projects and Plans

Here you will find examples of community safeguarding initiatives, as well as NICH programs, including activities hosted at the district-wide Houses of Culture.

Community Initiatives

NICH Initiatives