USAID Tourism Project Helps Form National Committee to Protect Timor-Leste Culture

Tais Weaver Panel Discussion
A panel of traditional Tais cloth weavers discusses their craft.
James Reindl

Traditional Tais First On List

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, April 23, 2019
James Reindl
670-330-0500 Ext. 2016

DILI, TIMOR-LESTE — A national committee to gain international recognition for Timor-Leste’s traditional Tais cloth and other cultural assets launched on April 23 at a workshop sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development’s Tourism For All Project, the Timor-Leste Secretariat of State for Art and Culture, and other partners.

The workshop, “Protecting, Preserving, and Promoting Tais: The Road Towards UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Recognition,” resulted in the formation of the National Committee for Intangible Cultural Heritage, which will seek recognition from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  The committee will serve as the permanent coordinating body for intangible cultural heritage in Timor-Leste, including Tais.  Other workshop organizers included the Ministry of Tourism, Commerce and Industry, Secretariat of State for Equality and Inclusion, Timor Aid, Alola Foundation, UN Women, UNESCO, and Timor-Leste National Commission for UNESCO.

The national committee will prepare a nomination file for inscribing Tais to UNESCO’s “List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.”  The nomination will be submitted by March 2020 and if successful will lead to Timor-Leste’s first government-led UNESCO designation.  If recognized, Tais would be added to a list that includes cultural assets such as traditional hand puppetry in Egypt, the Bisalhães black pottery manufacturing process in Portugal, and the Saman dance in Indonesia.

“The United States recognizes and values the rich culture and traditions of the people of Timor-Leste,” said U.S. Ambassador to Timor-Leste Kathleen M. Fitzpatrick.  “This committee will help government and civil society partners coordinate cultural heritage preservation and protection efforts in the country.”

“The Government of Timor-Leste through its Secretary of State for Art and Culture is committed to work with the development partners to preserve, safeguard and promote the cultural heritage of Timor-Leste,” said Secretary of State Teófilo Caldas.  “Without a strong and strategic partnership, we could never fulfill our mandate to its fullest and USAID is an important partner for us.  I would also like to appeal to all Timorese that culture is a symbol of our identity.  Thus, we all have an important role,” he added.

“Timor-Leste has a long history but a short past as a nation,” said USAID Mission Director Diana B. Putman. “We are preparing to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1999 referendum and it is praise-worthy that a young nation with so many development challenges is moving to embrace and protect a vital part of its longstanding cultural heritage.”

More than 100 people attended Tuesday’s event, which included a keynote presentation by UNESCO, a panel discussion featuring women weavers, and dialogue on the identification, protection, and promotion of Tais in Timor-Leste and around the world.

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USAID works in partnership with the government of Timor-Leste to support broad-based and effective development.  Since 2001, USAID has provided over $308 million in development assistance to Timor-Leste.  USAID supports Timor-Leste in its efforts to build a more prosperous, healthy, and democratic country through programs that foster inclusive and sustainable economic growth, especially in the agriculture and tourism sectors; improve the health of the Timorese people, particularly women and children; and strengthen the foundations of good governance—all areas which are highlighted in Timor-Leste’s Strategic Development Plan 2011-2030.  To learn more, visit: www.usaid.gov/timor-leste

Last updated: April 23, 2019

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