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Thematic reports

A/74/255: Report on the importance of public spaces for the exercise of cultural rights


30 July 2019

UN symbol



Cultural rights


For her 2019 thematic report to the General Assembly, the Special Rapporteur addressed the importance of public spaces for the exercise of cultural rights and the challenges that must be addressed so that everyone can access and enjoy such spaces.

The term "public spaces" in her study aims at underlining the plurality, diversity, and the differences in nature and scope of these spaces. Public spaces include not only urban but also rural and natural spaces, and real and virtual spaces.

Key Findings and Recommendations

The Special Rapporteur addressed multifaceted issues, such as impediments in public spaces to cultural expression, the organization of cultural events, the conduct of cultural practices and the use of languages. Referring back to her work on heritage and memorialisation processes, she looked at the presence or absence of cultural narratives in public spaces in the form of symbols, memorials, architecture or advertising.

She also considered how various degrees of privatization may affect public spaces, and how this situation may require that different measures be adopted to ensure the realization of cultural rights.

As public spaces are conduits for realizing human rights for all, the expert insists that the human rights framework should be applied to the design, development and maintenance of public spaces in urban, rural, natural and digital spaces. Authorities therefore have obligations to guarantee the collective and participatory character of public spaces and should promote the creation and regeneration of public spaces in conditions of quality, equality, inclusiveness, accessibility and universal design.

Read the report on public spaces and cultural rights and learn more about how policies regarding public space influence the enjoyment of cultural rights


In May 2019, the Special Rapporteur invited all concerned stakeholders, including States, United Nations agencies, academics, experts, artists, scientists, cultural workers and practitioners, as well as civil society organizations, to answer to a questionnaire, in order to benefit from their diverse views and experiences.

See the Note Verbale from the OHCHR and the letter from the Special Rapporteur.

Access the questionnaire.

Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto, is a site of political demonstrations and rallies, public memorials, and arts and cultural celebrations, operating as a space for most public discussions, conversations, actions and even emotions. Photo © Jackman Chiu on Flickr.

Issued By:

Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights

Delivered To:

General Assembly at its 74th session