Preasure on Cultural Organisations in France: Suspending all Further Cooperation with Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso

On Wednesday 13 September a letter by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs caused widespread furore within the cultural community of France. In the wake of the crisis between France and the three Sahelian countries the letter called for an immediate halt to all projects involving nationals from Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. Subsidized cultural establishments would have to “suspend, until further notice, all cooperation…without delay, and without exception.” The letter further states: “All financial support must also be suspended, including via French structures such as associations… Similarly, no invitations should be extended to any nationals of these countries. Students with valid visas and flight tickets are already denied entry to France.

The National Syndicate for Artistic and Cultural Enterprises union (SYNDEAC) released a statement saying that the radical measures represented the intrusive influence of politics in cultural programming and a dent in France’s policy of international artistic solidarity – in particular a damaging blow to the 2005 UNESCO Convention “on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions”. 

In response to the protests, French Cultural Minister Rima Abdul-Malak declared “We never boycott artists from anywhere.” She added that the measures are not a shift in policy but  an adaptation to an extremely deteriorated security context. They will only affect new projects hat would require travel visas for artists.

51 arts organisations signed a press release (PDF) on 19 September calling for a space for dialogue and inter-ministerial work with the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of the Interior and Overseas: “We reaffirm that these obstacles to the mobility of artists and cultural actors from these countries cannot be based on the closure of embassies and the absence of a team on the spot: we recall that the issuance of visas can be done without the presence of a local embassy and that solutions exist.”

Public discussion: “Artists from Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso without visas: exceptional situation or systemic problem?” Wednesday 11 October at 10.30 am on the Elysée Montmartre workshop (Paris).

At the regional level, political influence has been increasing for quite some time. Earlier this year, in March, the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region adopted a “Charter for the defense of French values and secularism” by 152 votes to 32. The charter covers a wide range of concepts, from freedom and secularism to “anti-corruption policies”. It aims to fight “in particular against religious fundamentalism such as Islamism”, against “the so-called inclusive scripture” and against “Anglicism”. Associations and foundations could have their regional subsidies withdrawn if they violate the “republican commitment contract”.

Sources: France 3, Zone Franche, euronews.culture




Development and Trade Organizations are Currently Failing to Respect Cultural Rights

This year’s second report of the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Ms. Alexandra Xanthaki, focuses on “Development and cultural rights: the international governance”. Key findings include the rejection by some organisations of their responsibility to respect cultural rights, the lack of understanding of their scope and how they relate to the work of the organisations, and the predominance of economic development or other interests.  Recognition of the cultural dimension, and in particular cultural rights, of sustainable development remains a challenge. Major international development organisations such as the IMF, WIPO, World Bank, WTO, UNESCO and UNHCR have not yet developed clear processes to mitigate and prevent violations of cultural rights and to promote their realisation in development. 

The Special Rapporteur will be presenting her reports to UN General Assembly this week, on Wednesday 18 October, 4 pm, New York time (10 pm CET). 


Report Development and cultural rights: the international governance (available in all UN languages)

Iran: Mohammad Sadeghi and Mehdi Etemad – Further Arrests of Theatre Artists

After several moments of absence, the Morality Police is back on the streets in Iran. Sunday, July 16 security forces attacked the home of the actor and woman rights defender Mohammad Sadeghi and arrested him because he posted a video expressing his anger over the detention of yet another woman in morality police hands due to her inappropriate hijab. Sadeghi shared his arresting live on Instagram.

The actor Mehdi Etemad Saeed was arrested by security forces on June 9, 2023, in Tehran and is still detained in legal ambiguity. He was reportedly denied access to legal representation and has been charged with “promoting impurity and indecency.” Etemad Saeed’s whereabouts are still unknown.

Sources:, Iran International, Twitter

Saving Hope: Theatrical Artivism in Spaces of Conflict

In June, a two-day symposium on theatre work in war and conflict regions took place in Wroclaw (Poland). Participants from Palestine, Israel, Syria and Sri Lanka took part via video conference, and other projects were presented directly on site at the Grotowski Institute, which organised the event together with the ITI Theatre in Conflict Zones Network. Thomas Engel took part in the event as a representative of the ITI Artist Rights Committee, where above all the possibilities for actively supporting and making visible theatre in resistance were discussed. The results of the discussions serve as a basis for action for further initiatives by the institutions involved.

Conference Information, Facebook site

U.S. to rejoin UNESCO in July

The United States of America had officially notified the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, of its decision to rejoin UNESCO in July 2023, on the basis of a concrete financing plan. The US had suspended its financial contribution in 2011 due to domestic legislation, before notifying UNESCO of its decision to legally withdraw from the organisation in 2017, during the first year of the Trump presidency.

In his letter the U.S. Department of State welcomed the way in which UNESCO had addressed in recent years emerging challenges, modernized its management, and reduced political tensions. The return of the United States was made possible by the agreement reached by Congress in December 2022 authorizing financial contributions to UNESCO. The proposed financing plan must now be submitted to the General Conference of UNESCO Member States for their approval. Some Member States have requested that an extraordinary session be held soon so a decision can be made.

Source:  UNESCO press release 12 June 2023