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).
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.
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.
The Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Alexandra Xanthaki, has published a series of 14 Questions & Answers, following an interaction with the International Olympic Committee after the recommendation of the IOC Executive Board, on 28 February 2022, to exclude all Russian and Belarusian athletes from sports events.
The concern of the Special Rapporteur on the exclusion of Russian and Belarusian athletes includes a “wider concern of on-going unnecessary exclusions of Russian and Belarusian people from participating in cultural life. Artists too have been excluded from cultural events, festivals and other platforms based on their nationality and their artistic freedom tightened.”
In her thematic report the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Alexandra Xanthaki, underlines the rights of migrants to have access to and effectively participate in all aspects of cultural lives, both of the host State and their own cultures: “Migration enables individuals, both migrants and the host population, to reevaluate their cultural frameworks and be positively influenced by other ideas, values and practices. In that process, States must be aware of the vulnerabilities of migrants and take measures to enable them to enjoy their cultural rights, irrespective of their status.”
The HRW World report looks at the state of human rights and covers nearly 100 countries. Besides the crises arise and authoritarian governments deepen their assault on human rights, HRW’s Acting Executive Director Tirana Hassan writes that 2022 revealed a “fundamental shift in power in the world that opens the way for all concerned governments to push back against…abuses by protecting and strengthening the global human rights system.”
The 712-page world report can be downloaded in total or browsed by country at the HRW website.