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Seminar on implementing cultural rights

Groundbreaking seminar and expert consultation organized in 2010 for the mandate of Special Procedure in the field of cultural rights


The adoption by the Human Rights Council of Resolution 10/23 on 23 March 2009, establishing the mandate of the independent expert in the field of cultural rights, as well as the adoption by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of General Comment 21 (2009) on article 15 (1) (a) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, relating to the right to take part in cultural life, offered an unprecedented opportunity to reflect on the scope of cultural rights within the international human rights system, as well as to identify obstacles and best practices for the implementation of these rights.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), in partnership with the International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF) and UNESCO, and in collaboration with the Observatory of diversity and cultural rights (Fribourg, Switzerland), held a seminar and expert meeting on the parameters of, issues arising from, and challenges posed by cultural rights. This was the first seminar addressing cultural rights in such a thorough manner, with numerous experts taking part in defining the field. It was held in Geneva on 1-2 February 2010.

See the first report of the Special Rapporteur building on this seminar (A/HRC/14/36) and learn more about the nature, issues at stake and challenges to cultural rights

Objectives of the seminar

  • to clarify concepts and reflect upon main issues raised by the realization of cultural rights;
  • to provide valuable insights that will help the Independent Expert in fulfilling her mandate
  • to identify how best to implement cultural rights, while ensuring the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of human rights.

To do so, expert panels were asked to introduce the debate on each topic in a synthesized manner, on the basis of available preparatory documents.

Agenda and documentation

Session 1: Nature and scope of cultural rights within the human rights system

This session addressed:

  • the definition of cultural rights, on the basis of existing normative instruments; which rights can be classified as "cultural", and on the basis of which criteria? What is the nature and commonality of cultural rights? Which provisions of existing international instruments can be invoked for the purpose of cultural rights?
  • issues raised by the recognition of cultural rights as an integral part of the body of universal, indivisible and interdependent human rights; how do the individual and collective dimensions of cultural rights link up together? How to ensure the full integration of cultural rights within the human rights system? What constitute possible limitations to cultural rights?

Session 2: Relationship between cultural rights and cultural diversity

This session explored the existing relationship between cultural rights and cultural diversity; do cultural diversity and cultural rights protect each other and if so, in which circumstances? What is the positive or negative impact of the globalization of exchanges and information on cultural rights; what are the main concerns in this regard? How to respond to these challenges from the perspective of cultural rights? How best can policies integrate cultural rights bearing in mind the diversity of cultural identities?

Session 3: Cultural rights, development and participation

This session addressed:

  • issues of participation and exclusions of individuals and communities in cultural development; what are the major concerns arising from the impact of development processes on the enjoyment of cultural rights? What are the diverse forms of violence and exclusion in the enjoyment of cultural rights? In particular, how do the relationships between women, family and communities interface with participation in cultural life?
  • measures that need to be taken; what is the impact of policies for the promotion and protection of cultural rights on development processes and on the fight against poverty and violence? which measures need to be taken to ensure that development is based on respect and realization of cultural rights?

Invited experts

  • Ms. Anna Maria Biró, Human Rights Consultant (Hungary)
  • Mr. Ahmed Boukous, Moroccan National Council on Human Rights, Director of the Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture (Morocco)
  • Mr. José Teixeira Coelho, University of Sao Paulo, School of Communication and Arts, Director of the Contemporary Arts Museum of the Sao Paulo University (Brazil)
  • Mr. Kenneth Deer, Indigenous World Association (Canada)
  • Ms. Geneviève Defraigne Tardieu, ATD Quart monde (France)
  • Ms. Josefa Salita Fransisco, Chairperson, International Studies Dept. Miriam College (Philippines)
  • Ms. Anita Gurumurthy, IT for Change, Executive Director (India)
  • Ms. Marie-Aimée Hélie Lucas, Sociologist (Algeria / France)
  • Mr. Jaime Marchan Romero, Chair of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Ecuador)
  • Mr. Jean-Bernard Marie, Director of research, National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS) (France)
  • Ms. Angela Melo, UNESCO, Human Rights Section, Director
  • Mr. Patrice Meyer-Bisch, Fribourg University, Observatory of diversity and cultural rights (Switzerland)
  • Ms. Dimitrina Petrova, Executive Director, The Equal Rights Trust (Bulgaria)
  • Mr. Frédéric Sampson, UNESCO, Coordinator of the World report on Cultural Diversity
  • Ms. Katarina Stenou, UNESCO, Division of cultural policies and intercultural dialogue, Director
  • Mr. Abdoulaye Sow, Lecturer in Social Sciences, Coordinator of the Interdisciplinary Center on Cultural Rights, University of Nouakchott (Mauritania)
  • Ms. Fatou Sow, Sociologist, Research Group on Women and Laws in Senegal (GREFELS) (Senegal) 

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Contact Information

Karima Bennoune, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Telephone: +41 22 917 96 30
Fax: +41 22 917 90 06

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