Tag Archives: worldwide

On Freedom of Artistic Expression and Cultural Relativism

The German Institute for Foreign Relations (ifa) has published a paper that examines two major challenges to the defence of artistic freedoms: the insufficient discussion of “artistic freedom” in international legal fora and the insufficient use of the potential of international law to defend and promote artists’ rights. At its core, the input asks how the diverse cultural norms, traditions, and values in states should be reconciled with the universal imperative to protect artists’ rights? 


Andra Matei and Sanchit Saluja: The “Right to Freedom of Artistic Expression” and Cultural Relativism.  International Law Perspectives (PDF, eng)

Artistic Freedom in the Global Landscape

In its May 2023 report on ‘Defending Creative Voices: Artists in Emergencies, Learning from the Safety of Journalists’, UNESCO called for more protection for artists under attack.

The new study from ifa – Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen “The Fragile Triangle of Artistic Freedom: A Study of the Documentation and Monitoring of Artistic Freedom in the Global Landscape” by Ole Reitov and Sara Whyatt explores the current status of artistic freedom monitoring and documentation systems. It identifies gaps in the promotion and protection of artistic freedom, including what is needed to address them, and points to a number of positive developments as well as negative trends.  Unlike media protection organisations, which receive verified documentation on attacks on media professionals from professional unions as well as individuals from all over the world, the CSOs documenting artistic freedom violations rarely receive any information from organisations representing artists. Added to this are the ‘under-the-radar’ examples of self-censorship by artists, curators, librarians, galleries, film distributors and producers, and others working across the cultural value chain.

Download the full study


Supporting Artists on the Frontline

In March 2023, at the Salzburg Global Seminar session “On the Front Lines: Artists at Risk, Artists who Risk”, a global assembly of fifty artists, activists, and representatives from supporting organizations spanning forty countries united to create the Salzburg Statement on Supporting Artists on the Front Line. The session explored the intersection of contemporary art, activism, politics, law, research, technology, ethics and organizing.  The final statement urges institutions shaping social and cultural policies to create an enabling, human rights-based environment that supports artists at risk.
By the end of 2025, policymakers, funders, and international organizations are called upon to:

  1. Conduct a comprehensive study of factors inhibiting creative workers’ artistic freedom and cultural rights.
  2. Produce a detailed report on best practices for identifying, evaluating, and addressing the needs of creative workers at risk.
  3. Establish legal frameworks for Emergency Artistic Freedom visas, ensuring entry and work authorizations for creative workers at risk.
  4. Allocate resources to support the relocation and professional development of at-risk creative workers.
  5. Integrate artistic and cultural rights into international policy work, prioritizing them in state and human rights NGO agendas.
  6. Recognize artists as essential partners in addressing sustainable development, democracy, and innovation, prioritizing their collective expression and activities in the human rights field.

Sources:  Meeting report (PDF), The Salzburg Statement (PDF)

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)

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