The IOV Youth Program was created in 2007 in response to a mandate from UNESCO that youth participation be increased throughout the NGO network. The following year, cough the First IOV World Youth Congress was held. The theme, remedy “Living Traditions – Safeguarding the Intangible Cultural Heritage, drew 80 young people ages 18 through 35 from 40 nations. The city of Bountiful, Utah, USA was the host of the congress. The residents of the city welcomed the participants into their homes for the five day congress.
IOV youth considered a range of topics relating to the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. Lecturers explained the process for making the national inventory, how to seek and qualify for UNESCO funding for “urgent needs” projects, and the process for nominating a tradition to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which is maintained by UNESCO.
Presentations encompassed many domains of the ICH, including performing arts, dance, music, cuisine, clothing, cooking, legends, festive events and rituals. Participants demonstrated examples of the ICH from their native countries. These were as varied as a fashion show of traditional Islamic couture from Azerbaijan, the preparation of traditional food, demonstrations of musical instruments from Uzbekistan, Native American dances and Appalachian Mountain Clogging.
The beginnings of a youth network took shape, and as the conference came to an end, the discussion turned to a possible location for the next youth congress. In the months that followed, plans were made to hold the Second IOV World Youth Congress in October, 2010 in Nanjing, China. The generosity of the city of Nanjing made it possible for nearly 200 young people from 80 countries to assemble for the opening ceremonies of the second youth congress. There were so many participants that two sessions of presentations ran concurrently. Scientific papers, hands-on workshops, panel discussions, and lectures by the participants and invited guests were presented on topics related to urbanism and preservation of cultural heritage.
The Nanjing Youth Commission was the official host of the second congress. A visit to the Nanjing Brocade Research Institute gave IOV youth the chance to see the brocade being made. With assistance from IOV, the process of making the brocade had been recently added by UNESCO to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
In 2012, IOV partnered with the National Association of Swedish Handicraft Societies (SHR) to produce the third youth congress. More than 250 youth submitted essays as part of the application process. From these, 100 youth representing 60 nations were selected.
Following the opening ceremonies in Stockholm, the group traveled by bus to the island of Tjorn, on Sweden’s west coast. There, on the campus of Billstromska Folk High School, the participants were immersed in four days of handicrafts workshops in which they developed individual creativity and teamwork.
The Sweden congress produced a stronger youth organization. In the areas of research, documentation, performance and practices, IOV youth are advancing the IOV mission in response to UNESCO’s call to action!