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Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights

Purpose of the mandate

Cultural rights are fundamental for the respect of human dignity, in the diversity of its expressions. This mandate was created to:

  • Give greater visibility to cultural rights in the human rights system; and to
  • Foster a better understanding of the severity of their violations, and of the opportunity of their realisation for all.

Learn more about how the implementation of cultural rights is critical for sustainable peace, equality and development through the Issues in focus section.

About the mandate

In 2009 the Human Rights Council decided to establish, for a period of three years, a new special procedure entitled "independent expert in the field of cultural rights" through resolution 10/23.

This mandate was extended for a period of three years in 2012, through resolution 19/6; in 2015, through resolution 28/9, and in 2018, through resolution 37/12.

Learn more about the mandate

Current mandate holder

Karima Bennoune, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights

Karima Bennoune was appointed UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights in October 2015. Ms. Bennoune grew up in Algeria and in the United States. She is Professor of Law and Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall Research Scholar at the University of California-Davis School of Law, where she teaches human rights and international law. 

Read Karima Bennoune's full biography

Key documents

Cultural rights: tenth anniversary report

This report marks the tenth anniversary of the mandate on cultural rights (2019). It provides an overview of the work of her mandate since its creation in 2009 and recalls the inherent importance of those rights within the universal human rights framework. As the realization of these rights contribute to the implementation of other rights in the Universal Declaration of human rights and to achieving other critical goals such as sustainable development, peace and inclusion, the report also suggests strategies for advancing cultural rights during the next decade.

PDF: العربية | 中文 | English | Français | Русский | Español

The universality of human rights, cultural diversity and cultural rights

To marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (2018), this report highlights the place of cultural rights in the universal, interdependent and interrelated system of human rights and examines the close interrelationship between universality and cultural diversity. In it, the Special Rapporteur recalls how cultural arguments and respect for diversity can never be used to justify violations of any and all human rights, and demonstrates how cultural diversity and cultural rights contribute to strengthening the universal framework of human rights.

PDF: العربية | 中文 | English | Français | Русский | Español

Latest thematic reports

Cultural rights defenders: This report aims to raise awareness about the work of cultural rights defenders, with a view to enhancing the attention and assistance they receive. The report includes a definition of cultural rights defenders, an overview of the diverse human rights work they engage in, and the challenges and risks they face. Recommendations for better recognizing, defending and supporting them are also provided. View Issue in focus page | View document A/HRC/43/50

The importance of public spaces for the exercise of cultural rights: In this 2019 report to the UN General Assembly, the Special Rapporteur looks at the importance of public spaces for the exercise of cultural rights and the challenges to overcome so that everyone can enjoy such spaces. The report looks at existing frameworks and proposes a more holistic, human rights based-approach to policymaking. View Issue in focus page | View report page | View document A/74/255

Latest country reports

Mission to Poland (24 September to 5 October 2018)
View document A/HRC/43/50/add.1

Mission to Maldives (9 to 18 June 2019)
View document A/HRC/43/50/add.2

Latest news

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Archived news
(over 3 years old)

Calls for input

Joint questionnaire: The impact of the 2019-2020 pandemic on human rights 
Closed. Report to be issued in March 2021.

Cultural rights and climate change
Closed. Report to be issued in October 2020.


Intervention of the Special Rapporteur on “Culture is the heart of our response to COVID19” at the Local and Regional Governments day of the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, 10 July 2020

Intervention by the Special Rapporteur in the round table "Imagine the tomorrow", thematic session on "The cultural mobilization in the COVID19 pandemic"
22 April 2020

Conference by the Special Rapporteur "Defending the Right to Freedom of Artistic Expression", in the framework of the Art-at-Risk conference on "Creative work in challenging contexts", organised by artasfoundation, Zürich, Switzerland
28 February 2020 

Keynote address by the Special Rapporteur on "Why cultural rights matter" for "The Hour of Freedom – Facts, Fictions and Freedom of Expression", organized in the framework of the Frankfurter Bookfair, Frankfurt, Germany
17 October 2019

Official visit to Tuvalu (18 to 24 September 2019) end of mission press release and statement

HRC adopts resolution 37/17 on cultural rights and the protection of cultural heritage
22 March 2018

More activities


26 April 2019
20th anniversary of the 2nd Protocol of 1999 to the 1954 Hague Convention: On the importance of protecting cultural heritage against intentional destruction
Watch the video

26 October 2018
UDHR 70th anniversary message: Universality and cultural diversity go hand in hand
Watch the video

26 October 2018
Universality, cultural diversity and cultural rights: Discussion with Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka
Watch the video

5 July 2018
Interview on access to culture for all (in English with French subtitles)
Watch the video

Former mandate holder

Ms. Farida Shaheed