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Thematic reports

A/76/178: Cultural mixing and cultural rights - Report of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Karima Bennoune


19 July 2021

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Cultural rights


Cultural mixing and cultural rights

In her final report to the General Assembly, the Special Rapporteur calls for greater recognition of human rights-respecting cultural mixing and syncretism and increased respect for mixed cultural identities, all of which is necessary for the implementation of cultural rights.

Key findings and recommendations

The Special Rapporteur notes that in recent years, increasingly monolithic notions of culture and identity and purist views of the interrelationships of diverse cultures have taken hold in various sectors across the political spectrum around the world, and have been advocated by some Governments. In response, she calls for the defense of open and multiple understandings of culture and of intercultural relations, spaces and heritage that fully respect all human rights, the recognition of new ways of being and the diversity of diversities and for greater consideration of how we transmit histories of syncretism and cultural mixing.

The Special Rapporteur recalls that syncretism, or the combining and merging of various cultural elements, have been constants in the accretion of dynamic hybrid human cultures throughout history, stands in contrast to assimilation and rejects homogenization. Understanding and acknowledging such patterns, even when they have emerged from a history of domination, inequalities and violence, is closely related to promoting peaceful coexistence.

The report affirms the rights to mix, borrow, traverse and fuse cultures and to engage in syncretic cultural practice as cultural rights. Rather than constraining people by assigning them to narrow identity categories, a human rights and cultural rights approach recognizes each person’s internal diversities and their agency to engage in cultural exploration and development. 

Main recommendations include the need to create the conditions that enable everyone, including marginalized members of society, to participate in cultural life in a meaningful way, including by dismantling structural barriers such as poverty and discrimination; ensuring the right of everyone to participate on a basis of equality in defining and redefining cultures, specifically ensuring these rights for those facing pervasive or historic discrimination, and recognizing and responding to histories of and ongoing realities of cultural hegemony, cultural assimilation, and their impacts.