The United States and Israel announced on 12 October they were pulling out of the UN’s culture and education body. The double withdrawal comes as board members are voting to elect a new director-general, with Arab candidates from Qatar and Egypt vying with a French competitor. The US decision, announced in Washington, follows years of tension at the organisation which it accused of having an “anti-Israel bias.”
Already in 2011, the United States under president Barack Obama has cut off funds to Unesco as a punitive action after the Palestinian Authority was accepted into the UN agency as a full member in defiance of American, Israeli and European pressure. Within hours, the US announced it would withhold its huge contribution to Unesco’s budget as a result of the vote due to a 21-year-old law prohibiting the payment of funds to any UN body accepting the Palestinians as full members. The US contributes 22% of UNESCO’s annual budget.
The United States has walked out of the 195-member organisation once before under president Ronald Reagan, who quit in 1984 over alleged financial mismanagement and claims of anti-US bias in some of its policies. President George W. Bush announced America’s return in 2002.
Washington’s withdrawal is set to take effect on 21 December 2018, when it will establish an “observer mission” to replace its representation at the agency.
ACAR has joined the new Artists At Risk Connection platform which was launched on 10 October. ARC connects more than 500 global organizations that aims to provide life-saving resources to artists worldwide who face oppression, persecution, arrest, and violence for their creative work.
ARC is a three-year pilot program at PEN America, sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Yesterday, at the opening of the Berlin Internationales Literaturfestival, 30 international writers, artists and students commemorated the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
ACAR made a successfull presentation about tools and partners for artists rights, presenting the recent Freemuse Report on artistic freedom violations “Art under Threat” and the Artists Rights Justice Toolkit. The congress decided unanimously a resolution to support the initiative of Ole Reitov at the 2017 World Press Freedom Day to call the UNESCO, UN and parties to create an UN Plan of Action for the safety of artists and the safe promotion of art, according to the reaction scheme for journalists. The second resolution which ACAR brought to the congress was also fully adapted. It expresses the support of ITI with the Israeli theatre and performance artists in their protest against the exclusion of PRISONERS OF THE OCCUPATION from this year’s Acco Festival (see letter to ACAR for detailed information). For congress participants ITI Germany and ACAR organized also a seminar on the role of Civil Society Organisations for the implementation of the UNESCO convention on Cultural Diversity. “The Declining of Diversity” was conducted by Cornelia Dümcke, ITI’s representative at UNESCO Cultural Diversity IG Committee.
Thomas Irmer (Germany), journalist and theatre expert, will be the new coordinator for ACAR. Ann Mari Engel (ITI Sweden) remains as spokesperson. Thomas Engel (managing director of ITI Germany), ACAR coordinator from 2011-17, remains in ACAR for backup from the German ITI centre.
Resolution 1 (en, fr), Resolution 2 (en, fr), Presentation sheets Tools and Partners for Artists Rights
Invited by UNESCO for a keynote speech at the World Press Freedom Day event in Jakarta (1-4 May), the outgoing Freemuse co-founder and Executive Director Ole Reitov pointed out that while UNESCO drafted the UN Plan of Action for the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, no such plan exists for artists, who work, create and communicate in very different ways.
“Journalists are articulate, well organized and their work for the protection of journalists has led to a number of international declarations and support programmes. This is not the case with artists,” Reitov explained. “Artists express themselves differently and in many countries they are poorly organized. There should be no distinction between the condemnation of attacks on journalists and artists.”
Thus, Freemuse calls for the current and forthcoming Director General of UNESCO to strongly condemn censorship, imprisonment and attacks on artists, and to draft a UN Plan of Action for the Safety of Artists and the Issue of Impunity.
Further Freemuse also calls on UNESCO to revamp its mechanism for filing human rights complaints needs to be strengthened, made more accessible and easy to use.
The ARJ Program was developed in cooperation with 30 international expert institutions and is initially intended to run from 2017 until 2019 with the support of the German Foreign Office and the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN). It will encompass an annual ACADEMY accompanied by an international CONFERENCE at the University of Hildesheim (Germany); a series of ARJ LABORATORIES with partners in different world regions; and an open access online library.
This year’s ARJ ACADEMY runs from August 24 – August 30, followed by the ARJ CONFERENCE August 30 – September 1 in Hildesheim (Germany). A call for particiaption an an application form is online. Deadline: May 15, 2017.
Source and further information: arts-rights-justice.de