49th Human Rights Council Reports

Report on Cultural Rights


Interactive Dialogue on the Promotion and Protection of all Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, including the Right to Development.

All sources used to draft the reports on the 8th meeting can be found here ,here and here Reports drafted by Amine Meharzi on March 9th, 2022.

Composition of the HRC

Mr. Andranik Hovhannisyan, Vice President of the Human Rights Council, opened the meeting for the Interactive Dialogue (ID) on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development on the 8th of March, 15:00.

Special Rapporteur (SC) in the field of cultural rights (Ms. Alexandra Xanthaki): First, the Special Rapporteur focuses on the war in Ukraine. She reminds the states present of the right of self-determination and cultural rights that can be chosen by each country. In addition to that, she reminds that conflicting parties must take account of the cultural and religious heritage that is present on a territory. She is concerned by Ukraine's seven UNESCO world heritage sites. She welcomes the efforts of the neighboring states to welcome refugees and hopes that no discrimination will take place against the future established diaspora.

She stated that her mandate gives importance to cultures in order to realize all human rights. In addition to that, her mandate gives substantive equality in the enjoyment of cultural rights. She drew special attention to the rights of LGBTQI+ artists and the cultural rights of marginalized communities. Moreover, she wants to address cross sections of cultural rights with other rights. She stresses the importance of the relationship between sustainable development and cultural rights. The respect of the latter can bring a positive impact to the future.

In order to achieve her goals, she will rely on the civil society and international communities and share her expertise with them. She is saddened that cultural rights have been neglected by states. However, her team will provide the necessary technical support to implement and improve her ideas. Finally, her mandate consists of visiting countries to monitor the situation.

Statements by States and International Organizations

The European Union (EU) states its will to promote cultural rights by ensuring inclusive participation in decision-making such as in the environmental sector. The EU shares its European Bauhaus initiative that aims to create green living places in line with the European Green Deal. The EU asked how the in-house synergy can be used to promote cultural rights and if there is the possibility to implement cultural rights in the digital era.

Norway, on behalf of the Nordic-Baltic Countries, gives great importance to the promotion of all human rights as well the right of participation. The group agrees that artists should have freedom of expression. The group believes that cultural rights are essential regardless of sexuality, religion, skin color, age, disability or gender. Finally, the group asked how cultural rights can be ensured for marginalized groups.

Egypt sees culture as the most important component of soft power. Egypt states that its country has seen an intellectual and artistic movement that aims to give the focus to culture in the last years. During the pandemic, Egyptian artists launched cultural initiatives through the internet which sensibilized viewers on Egyptian culture. Finally, the country affirms the importance of protection of the cultural right and art without discrimination.

Cuba appreciates the report of the Special Rapporteur and invites her to cooperate with other relevant special procedures and international bodies. Cuba is concerned about cultural heritage and hopes that the Special Rapporteur will promote exchange in that regard. The country affirms that it will defend counter-hegemonic cultural projects in order to fight the colonizing neoliberal paradigm. According to Cuba, it is necessary to protect culture and art in these times. Cuba informs that cultural rights are prioritized and embedded in its constitution. Therefore, Cuba will present a draft resolution on cultural rights.

Nepal informs that the country is multiethnic and multicultural and guarantees the culture and heritage of each of its community groups. Nepal thanks the international community for repatriating lost and stolen statues. Finally, Nepal informs that it facilitated the observance of cultural rituals and practices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Israel recognizes the cultural diversity within its country and gives importance to nurture the cultural heritage of its various communities. Israel respects equally the rights of its Arab, people of Ethiopian descent, ultra-orthodox jews, Caucasian and LGBTQI+ community. Israel informs that it recently recognized the cultural expression of the jews coming from Muslim-majority countries which used to be sidelined in the past. Israel asks the SR to name concrete steps that can be undertaken in the regard for cultural rights.

Fiji sees its cultural diversity as the biggest strength of the country. The country stresses the importance that the management of coastal resources respect indigenous culture and traditions as it aligns with sustainable development. Fiji is concerned about the climate change that undermines heritage and identity. The country will continue to urge states to strengthen their commitments in fighting climate change.

Venezuela agrees with the Special Rapporteur that cultural rights have to be ensured. The country blames the countries engaging in unilateral coercive measures on Venezuela depriving the population from their access to cultural and educational dynamics. These measures have violated the cultural rights and right to education of peoples of the Global South. The country informs that it seeks to implement the necessary measures to ensure the access of the population to culture. Finally, the country reiterated its commitment to implement, promote and realize the cultural rights in its country and respect cultural heritage.

France commits to the preservation of cultural rights throughout the world. France has multiple initiatives in order to preserve cultural heritage and cultural life. For instance, through its support for the ALIPH foundation. In addition to that, France invests 1 billion

Euros yearly to further education worldwide. Finally, the country asks the Special Rapporteur about its intended framework for the academic freedom.

Kenya supports the work of the Special Rapporteur. The country informs of its cultural diversity and the Kenyan Constitution gives these communities the right to promote their cultural heritage. The Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Cultural Expressions Act of 2016 helps protect Kenyan cultural expressions. Finally, Kenya informs of difficulties such as the lack of secured cultural expressions and the lack of knowledge on intellectual property rights.

Malaysia stresses the importance of harmony and peaceful coexistence between different communities, as the country is multi-ethnic and multi-religious. Malaysia informs on the National Culture Policy of 2021 which is used as a reference to prioritize cultural elements for the nation's development. Malaysia asks the Special Rapporteur on the practical steps to promote positive interaction among peoples of different cultures and values.

Iraq notes the importance of cultural rights as a multicultural and multireligious country. The interaction between cultures is a strength of the country and prevents extremist movements from growing. Iraq condemns all acts of destruction of cultural heritage. Finally, the country calls the international community to fight and prevent all kinds of harm directed to cultural property.

India states that cultural diversity is embedded and protected by its constitution. The country informs how its government introduced various legislation in favor of promoting and keeping Indian culture. Its Prime Minister has appealed to students to learn 5 languages in order to reinforce the spirit of "Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat". India believes that countries should share their best practices to conserve culture. India assures that it will continue to be a bridge between differing ideologies, cultures and civilizations.

China gives importance to cultural rights and continues to improve public cultural service systems and services for the poor and marginalized. China is engaged in protecting the cultural heritage of ethnic minorities and strengthens the protection of cultural relics. The country informs of its National Human Rights Action Plan (2021-2025) that plans to protect the cultural rights of citizens. China blames the USA, Canada and Australia for forcing native population to assimilate and for upholding systematic racism. Finally, China urges these countries to protect the rights of the indigenous peoples.

Ethiopia states that it is a country of language and culture equality. The country promotes the cultural heritage of all minorities. Ethiopia works on the conservation of literature, art and cultural heritage. Ethiopia has been working on numerous bilateral agreements in order for certain countries to restore the looted and vandalized cultural heritage.

Viet Nam informs that it has continued to implement national policies in favor of cultural diversity and to ensure the cultural rights of its populations. It has paid attention to the protection and promotion of cultural rights of vulnerable groups such as migrants and minorities. The country informs that it possesses 22 UNESCO world cultural heritage sites. Finally, Vietnam shares that during the pandemic, the government made sure that its population could continue to participate in cultural activities.

Namibia is committed to respect its cultural diversity and to give its population to express and practice its respective culture. The country is willing to safeguard and promote linguistic heritage and cultural diversity. Namibia is interested to collaborate with WIPO to protect traditional knowledge of its population.

Marshall Islands informs that its cultural lifestyle is in favor of climate action and environmental resilience. The Islands believe that through safeguarding and implementing traditional knowledge, the international community can fight climate change and survive. The Marshall Islands are saddened by the displacement and cultural loss caused by rising sea level and climate change. The country believes that cultural rights and knowledge should be integrated into decision-making in order to reduce the risks of future climate disasters.

Armenia believes that the UN human rights machinery has to call for accountability to protect cultural rights of individuals and peoples. Armenia blames the destruction of cultural heritage in Nagorno Karabakh. The country informs that Azerbaijan will erase Armenian inscriptions from the churches and monasteries to show its violation of the order of the International Court of Justice.

Cameroon informs that the country gives importance in promoting its culture, especially recently during the Africa Cup of Nations 2021 that was held in the country. Cameroon informs that the Director-General of UNESCO applauded the country's efforts to uphold education during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pakistan is saddened that some countries exploit the cultural rights in certain developing countries. According to the country, traditional knowledge and cultural expressions carry a game-changing economic role for developing countries. Therefore, Pakistan blames the Misappropriation of culture and cultural heritage.

Indonesia gives great importance to cultural rights and informs that its constitution gives each person the right to benefit from science, knowledge, culture, and technology. Its Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Higher Education develops an inclusive record on culture. The country emphasizes protecting local wisdom, traditional cultural expressions and preserving cultural heritage.

Russia gives importance to cultural rights. The country notes the need of a collective approach to protect the spiritual and cultural values of the world's religions and fight discrimination against believers. According to Russia, it is the first obligation of the states to ensure human rights in their legislations. Russia recommends the Special Rapporteur to take note of the discrimination of Russian-speaking communities in the Baltic states.

Cambodia affirms that it prioritizes the promotion of cultural rights by ratifying numerous related conventions. The country adopted the Law on the Protection of Cultural Heritage and National Policy for Culture to protect and promote cultural values. Cambodia in 2022 is the 24th National Culture Day where rich national cultural values are preserved and upheld. Finally, the country asks for clarification in terms of best practices for cultural right implementation.

Benin takes note of the report and gives great attention to cultural rights. Benin sees cultural rights as fundamental and stresses the importance of intercultural dialogue in order to achieve

long-lasting peace and security. Finally, Benin notes the importance of returning stolen artifacts and cultural heritage back to Africa.

Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights (Ms. Alexandra Xanthaki) (Comments and Answers):

● How in-house synergies can promote cultural rights? The SR is collaborating with other UN special reporters and prioritizes a crosscutting approach. She engages in discussions on environment, migration, or climate change. She engages in the discussion with mandate holders in how to move things forward in terms of cultural right development.

● Update on the WIPO: Indeed, there is still a gap between cultural rights and the current understanding of cultural rights. The individual instruments of the WIPO help in the elaboration. The SC continues her collaboration with UNESCO and needs more resources for the future in order to have an effective dialogue.

● Practical steps to operationalize cultural rights: The SC informs that she uses international standards for cultural rights as basis. These standards tell that each person has the right to participate regardless of culture. Practical steps would include to create spaces and possibilities in order for projects of mutual understanding to develop and to increase the volume of marginalized voices. The choice of language is important in order not to undermine certain cultures, notably the non-dominant ones. Finally, the approach has to be inclusive in terms of cultural diversity.

● Restitution of cultural objects: She will take it into account.

● Digital era in cultural rights: The SC is still researching on how technologies can enhance participation for people and their cultures.

South Africa is interested in the role of historical narratives and memorialization since it is a country that has a experienced colonialism and apartheid. South Africa tries to ensure the religious, linguistic as well as cultural backgrounds of its citizens. South Africa notes the importance of fighting exploitative practices that undermine the development of cultural processes and rights. South Africa encourages the SC to investigate the role of traditional and indigenous knowledge on sustainability.

Bangladesh appreciates the cultural rights of migrants and minorities. The country is committed to give importance to the traditions and cultures of all peoples. Bangladesh has adopted policies to protect all cultural expressions regardless of origins, caste or ethnicity. Bangladesh fights discrimination and empowers its population in distributing free textbooks to ethnic minorities in their respective mother language. Finally, the country notes that it possesses three UNESCO listed sites.

The United States of America (USA) respects the cultural rights of members of marginalized and underrepresented populations and the celebration of diverse cultural and religious heritage. The country condemns the detentions of Afro-Cuban artists in Cuba and stands with freedom of expression, religion, and belief. The country asks how the world can protect fundamental freedoms.

Afghanistan is saddened by the world that has forgotten the Taliban that destroy cultural heritage on a daily basis. In addition to that, the Taliban are banning music and threatening

musicians. Afghanistan condemns the Taliban for being oppressive, extremist and for violating fundamental human rights. Finally, the country notes that by abandoning the Afghan people, the international community is violating its commitment to universal human rights values.

Bahrain gives great importance to cultural rights and embedded the right to practice music and engage in literary work in its constitution. The government of Bahrain perceives the protection of this right as a fundamental pillar of economic and social development. Bahrain's states that it actively contributes to stimulating creativity, innovation, culture, arts, music and architecture. Finally, Bahrain asks the SC on successful best practices to protect cultural rights in light of the spread of epidemics.

Azerbaijan shares the views of the SC. The country confirms that it was committed to preserve cultural heritage and the enjoyment of cultural rights within its boundaries. The country launched diverse initiatives to protect cultural heritage and further peacebuilding. The country is saddened that after the conflict with Armenia, Azerbaijan had the obligation to reconstruct the destroyed cultural heritage. Azerbaijan blames Armenia for its deliberate destruction of cultural heritage.

Greece aligns itself with the statement made by the EU and gives high importance to cultural rights. The country believes that the 2016 Al-Mahdi judgment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) should serve as a legal compass in case of intentional destruction of cultural heritage. Finally, the country asks if the SC will cooperate with the ICC in future.

Botswana notes that it passed a Bill establishing the National Arts Council to develop and promote the Arts and Culture Sector within the country. Botswana is saddened that the COVID-19 pandemic limited the enjoyment of cultural life. However, cultural gatherings such as weddings were still allowed. The country stresses the importance of the right to practice culture, profess one's own religion and the use of one's own language.

Italy aligns itself with the EU and is committed to safeguard cultural heritage. It has recently ratified the Faro Convention of the Council of Europe. The country engages in improving online accessibility to cultural content in order to support people during most vulnerable situations. Italy will also invest 300 million Euros to its National Recovery and Resilience Plan to further reduce inequalities and gaps. Finally, Italy implements small initiatives in favor of sustainability such as the "Attrattività dei Borghi" project.

Georgia reiterates its full support to Ukraine in sight of the Russian invasion that caused tens of thousands of civilians to flee. Georgia demands the end of the military intervention. Georgia sees culture as a positive element of human rights and notes that each of its citizens has the right to develop their culture. Georgia stresses that culture is accessible to all members of society including children, adolescents, disabled, minorities IDPs or refugees.

Bolivia stresses the importance of respecting cultural expressions, customs, traditions and practices of indigenous peoples. Even though the pandemic has furthered inequalities, it also has contributed to reaffirm the importance of good practices. Bolivia has a plan on how to promote 30 alphabets for 30 original indigenous languages. The IIALI will conserve and

promote the development of indigenous languages in Latin America through the implementation of linguistic and cultural policies.

Cyprus aligns itself with the statement made by the EU and thanks the SC for her report. Cyprus along with a number of other countries will present a draft resolution on cultural rights at the end of the session and looks forward to working with the SC on this issue.

Ukraine condemns the Russian military aggression that wiped cultural heritage with its shelling and bombings. Ukraine is saddened by the targeted civilians. In addition to that, Russia has destroyed museums and the Memorial Center in Kiev with its bombardments. Moreover, Russia distorts cultural sites in Crimea. Ukraine notes that cultural artifacts are hidden in bunkers which has not happened since the Second World War. Ukraine urges the international community to step up and prevent further damage of cultural heritage and human casualties in Ukraine.

Timor Leste thanks for the report. It gives importance to cultural heritage and monuments. Timor Leste notes that its constitution gives the right of enjoyment and creation of culture. The country looks forward to working with the SC.

Ms. Alexandra Xanthaki, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights (Final Remarks):

● Cultural rights of minorities? The international standards given by the ICPR give a clear framework on how to tackle the issue.

● Finally, the SC concludes in saying that the cultural rights are important resources of the past that evolve with their respective communities. It is important to use them and build on them.

● At the end she notes that she hopes to see the civil society in the discussions as soon as possible and see their direct engagement and participation with the states.

Vice president Tamim M. Baiou ended the meeting.


Cultural Diversity and Sustainable Development for Peace