International Humanist and Ethical Union
49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (28 February – 1 April 2022)
Interactive Dialogue: The Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights
Thank you Mr Vice President,
We warmly welcome the Special Rapporteur in her new role and thank her for the excellent report setting out her vision for the mandate, including her planned focus on vulnerable and marginalized populations.
Cultural diversity brings color to our lives and a greater awareness that we all, regardless of origin, share a common humanity. Artistic and scientific freedom is one of the hallmarks of a free and flourishing society.
Despite this, around the world cultural expression is repressed through a variety of mechanisms; including the use of oppressive security measures, harmful traditional practices and cultural relativism, and fundamentalist paradigms rejecting the universality of human rights. The spaces helping foster critical thinking, artistic expression, and intellectual curiosity are being eroded.
Indeed, the current abhorrent actions by Russia in Ukraine have been facilitated by the repression of cultural rights at home – including the criminalisation of artists with de-facto blasphemy laws – and the removal of any opportunity to question the nationalist dogma used by the government to defend its illegal actions.
Notably such actions include the destruction of cultural heritage sites – the importance of which in shaping our collective identity and memory cannot be underestimated.
When the heritage and output of writers, filmmakers, musicians, visual artists, academics or scientists is suppressed, and their freedoms threatened, further oppression will inevitably follow.
The protection and promotion of cultural rights is crucial for the realization of other rights, for holding those in power to account, and for the flourishing of humanity as a whole. Accordingly, we look forward to working with, and supporting, the Special Rapporteur in her mandate.
'Importance of cultural and scientific freedoms', Humanists International