Advocacy statements

Cultural Rights and the Covid-19 Pandemic

  • Date / 2021
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Item 3: Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights


International Humanist and Ethical Union

46th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (22 February – 19 March 2021)

Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights


We thank the Special Rapporteur for her excellent report addressing the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on culture and cultural rights worldwide, and for highlighting the positive potential of cultures and cultural rights to enhance rights-respecting solutions and build resilience. On behalf of a group of NGOs, we would like to put on record our support for it.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear and unequivocal the importance of the indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights. Central to this mix is the role of cultural rights.

Unfortunately, just at the moment when the benefits culture provides as means of comfort, catharsis and communication were most keenly in evidence arts practitioners – the cultural rights defenders – found their working conditions increasingly difficult and stifling.

We have seen a marked increase in censorship, arrests, detentions and even deaths of artists and cultural rights defenders – including those from minority and indigenous backgrounds – whose work addresses the pandemic and the measures take against it; cuts in arts funding across the board; and restriction of access to places where the arts can be enjoyed and where they thrive.

Urgent action is needed to guarantee the cultural rights of all. Accordingly, we highlight some of the recommendations made in the report:

Cultural rights are central to the human experience and where they are denied other universal human rights inevitably follow. Cultural freedom is not a luxury; instead, it needs to be at the heart of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Artists at Risk Connection (ARC)
Artist Protection Fund
Asociacion Cultural Ankidu
Asociación cultural Baizara
Association Kulturanova (Serbia)
Baltic Sea Cultural Centre
Cartooning for Peace (CFP)
Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI)
Culture Action Europe (CAE)
European Women’s Audiovisual Network (EWA)
Humanists International
International Service for Human Right (ISHR)
Minority Rights Group International
PEN America
PEN International
Urgent Action Fund | For Women’s Human Rights

Suggested academic reference

'Cultural Rights and the Covid-19 Pandemic', Humanists International

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