The project team together with the coordinators of the on-site working groups planned, organized and conducted a 3-day on-site capacity building workshops for concerned community members – sacred site guardians, practitioners, pilgrims and other interested stakeholders from 6 June to 6 October, 2019.

In each province, the regional coordinators were in charge of setting the workshop dates, selecting a place and venue, identifying participants from the concerned community and choosing sacred sites for group pilgrimages.

There were from 11 to 14 participants who took part in these workshops. Initially, the project team planned on inviting 11 participants in each province, however, community-based inventorying and public awareness raising carried out by the regional working groups have significantly increased communities’ and stakeholders’ interest in the project. Thus, the news on the capacity building workshops attracted more people eager to participate; thus, in total, there were 89 participants in 7 regions.

The project team identified and invited 3 national experts on ICH to be involved in on-site capacity workshops as facilitators. These experts have been working with Aigine CRC for over 10 years on number of projects and have been representing Kyrgyzstan in various ICH related conferences and workshops. Their work have encompassed different aspects of ICH, from historical, philosophical and community perspectives. Therefore, their knowledge and expertise were invaluable in delivering the workshops and working with the communities and stakeholders.

1) Abdalieva Gulzada, Cand. Sc. History, Associate Professor at the I.Arabaev State University, national ICH expert;

2) Kojobekova Aijarkyn, PhD in Philosophy, Associate Professor at the American Univerisity in Central Asia, national ICH expert and facilitator;

3) Samakov Aibek, MA in Natural Resources Management, an expert on natural heritage sites of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention .

Ms. Abdalieva and Ms. Kojobekova travelled with the project team to Chui and Osh provinces, while Mr. Samakov and Ms. Kojobekova travelled to Jalal-Abad, Batken, Talas, Naryn and Yssyk-Kul provinces.  The agenda of the workshop was designed in the same way for each province. The 1st day  of the workshop was devoted to introduction and overview of the2003 Convention.

The following main concepts – ICH, communities and their role, safeguarding principles and ensuring ICH viability – were discussed and analysed. The full text of the Convention in Kyrgyz language provided by the National Commission of the Kyrgyz Republic for UNESCO was distributed among all the participants. It was quite surprising to learn that 99,9% of all the workshop participants didn’t have prior knowledge of the Convention and the information provided by the ICH experts and the project team was greatly appreciated and much needed. There is a big information and knowledge gap among communities and stakeholders as participants mentioned it being one of the main challenges. Therefore, there is a strong need to provide capacity building workshops encompassing wider range and greater number of communities and stakeholders.

The 2nd day was on detailed discussion of the current state of sacred sites and pilgrimage practices in the regions – challenges, issues, risks and threats were identified and presented by the participants. To address these challenges, the participants worked on and identified safeguarding measures on sacred sites and pilgrimage practices on individual, community, regional and national levels. Participants also discussed and answered the following questions – what are the pilgrimage practices; who are the communty/ies & stakeholders and what are their commonalities and differences.  Thus, the communities and stakeholders together with the ICH experts and the project team prepared and developed the main concept for the National Manual. Community members and stakeholders identified and listed the following as some major risks among many – lack of information, devoted Muslims, absence of law on sacred sites and pilgrimage practices and lack of visibility, ownership and recognition from the local, regional, national authorities and certain segments of society. The project team believes that the inscription of the inventory of sacred sites and pilgrimage practices into the state inventory will address the communities’ concerns and needs in terms of empowerment, ensuring recognition and increasing visibility. The first draft of the manual was prepared upon completion of all the regional workshops.

The 3rd day of the workshop was a working meeting with the regional coordinator, working groups and participants on crosschecking, data verification and selection of sacred sites and ritual practices from each province to be included in the Inventory. There were some sites and rituals that no longer exist/practiced, they have been removed from the list, while some new sites and rituals have been added. The first draft of the inventory has been prepared upon completion of all the workshops.