The possible removal of the Aalst Carnival from the list of UNESCO world heritage sites will be examined in December, following the controversy sparked by floats denounced as anti-Semitic, the UN body said on Friday. The Bureau of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage decided unanimously at a meeting on Thursday to propose to the Committee to discuss the possible removal of the Carnival at its next session.
The Committee, made up of representatives of States party to the International Convention on the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, meets from 9 to 14 December in Bogota, Colombia. The Bureau helps to prepare each of its meeting, which are held annually.
Thursday’s decision by the Bureau, which condemned “all forms of racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and xenophobia,” was taken in response to a proposal from the UNESCO Secretariat, according to the press release.
It called on “all States party to the Convention to ensure that elements inscribed on the lists of the Convention respect the ethical principles in safeguarding intangible cultural heritage.”
This year’s Aalst Carnival made international headlines earlier this month due to floats described as anti-Semitic by Jewish and other organisations, a criticism denied by the festival’s defenders. Some of its detractors subsequently called for its removal from the list of world heritage sites, on which it was included in 2010.
“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,” UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay was quoted as saying in the press release. “This is not the first time that these racist and anti-Semitic floats parade in this festival.”
The Aalst Carnival had already been condemned by UNESCO in 2013, but its removal from the list had not been studied by the Committee.