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News & Advocacy

49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

49th session of the Human Rights Council

The 49th session of the UN Human Rights Council, from 28 February – 1 April 2022, will consider issues including the protection of human rights defenders, cultural rights freedom of religion or belief, the protection, and promotion of human rights while countering terrorism, and the right to food and adequate housing, among others. It will also present an opportunity to address grave human rights situations in states including Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Venezuela, China, Syria, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Myanmar, and Eritrea, among many others.

ARC and PEN International will issue two oral joint statements on behalf of a group of cultural rights organizations, one on March 9 during the interactive dialogue by the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Alexandra Xanthaki, on her new report entitled "Capturing the state of the art," and one on March 11 during the interactive dialogue by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, regarding her new report on human rights defenders working against corruption. The statements will be published on this page on the day of their release.

ARC’s Director Julie Trebault and PEN International’s Latin America coordinator Alicia Quiñones, along with a group of NGOs, will raise awareness about artistic freedom and the persecution that artists around the world face on a daily basis, and advocate for UN mechanisms to ensure greater recognition and protection for cultural rights defenders.

The Human Rights Council is an intergovernmental body within the UN responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights around the world. The Council holds three regular sessions throughout the year, bringing together UN officials, diplomatic representatives, and human rights organizations to discuss human rights issues of global concern.

The UN Human Rights Council will hold its 49th regular session at Palais des Nations in Geneva from 28 February – 1 April 2022. During the session, follow the live-updated program of work on Sched and the sessions on UN TV. A full list of the reports to be covered during the session can be found here. Stay up-to-date: Follow @atriskartists and #HRC49 on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Joint Oral Statement on the Situation of Artists in Time of War and Crisis

Thank you, Mr. Vice President,

On behalf of PEN International, Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), a project of PEN America, 70 organizations and individuals, it is my honor to address the Human Rights Council today to express our support for the new Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Ms. Alexandra Xanthaki.

Globally, writers, artists, and cultural rights defenders are increasingly under threat. Those from marginalized communities face additional obstacles in exercising their right to artistic expression. We are constantly receiving reports of threats to cultural heritage and attacks on cultural actors, particularly in Afghanistan, Cuba, Myanmar, and Uganda, to name a few.

We are currently witnessing the indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas in Ukraine, where the situation is critical, and museums and other cultural institutions -- otherwise protected under humanitarian law – have also been affected.

Therefore, we urge member states to recognize artists, cultural practitioners, and cultural rights defenders as a particularly at-risk group in times of war and crisis.

The mandate of the Special Rapporteur is absolutely essential at this time of global upheaval. We are committed to working with her to ensure that cultural rights are respected as fundamental human rights, particularly in relation to the most vulnerable communities, including refugees, minorities, and indigenous peoples. 

We wish to assure the Special Rapporteur of our full cooperation and commitment throughout her mandate.

Thank you for your attention.

List of Signatories
  • Danish PEN
  • English PEN
  • PEN America
  • PEN Belarus
  • PEN Bolivia
  • PEN Canada
  • PEN Chile
  • PEN Club of Cuban Writers in Exile
  • PEN Eritrea
  • PEN Gambia
  • PEN Guadalajara
  • PEN International
  • PEN Kenya
  • PEN Nigeria
  • PEN Norway
  • The New Zealand Society of Authors Te Puni Kaituhi o Aotearoa (PEN NZ) Inc
  • PEN Québec
  • PEN Paraguay
  • PEN San Miguel
  • PEN Sierra Leone
  • PEN Togo
  • PEN Uganda
  • Uyghur PEN
  • Africa Human Rights Network (AHRN)
  • Arterial Network
  • Artsequator, Singapore
  • Artist Protection Fund (APF)
  • Artistic Cultural and Social Association (Artveda), Tunisia
  • Bytes for All Pakistan
  • Cartel Urbano (Colombia) - Juan David Arenas
  • Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI)
  • Club de las Letras - Nicaragua
  • Cubalex
  • Festivales Solidarios, Guatemala
  • Freedom House
  • Fundación Acceso - Shelter City Costa Rica
  • Hammerl Arts Rights Transfer (HART)
  • Humanists International
  • Makhampom Foundation
  • Mekong Cultural Hub, Cambodian Living Arts and Living Arts International
  • National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders in Kenya (Defenders Coalition)
  • Omong-Omong Media
  • ONG Acción Constitucional (Chile) - Danny Rayman
  • PAGASA- People for Accountable Governance and Sustainable Action Philippines
  • Penn Cultural Heritage Center
  • Protection International (PI) Africa
  • Rujak Center of Urban Studies (RCUS)
  • Safe Havens Freedom Talks
  • Shirkat Gah-Women's Resource Centre
  • Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network
  • Treatment Action Group
  • Olfa Arfaoui, Founder FeMENA Network, Tunis, Tunisia
  • Dounia Benslimane, Independent Cultural Operator and activist Casablanca, Morocco
  • Thanom Chapakdee, cultural worker, Thailand
  • Nelson Dino, poet and novelist, Malaysia
  • Louis Gitinywa, Advocate and Senior Partner, Kigali Attorneys and Legal Partners Rwanda
  • Tran Luong, curator and visual artist, Vietnam
  • Rahima Mahmut, U.K. Director, World Uyghur Congress
  • Aunohita Majumdar, journalist, Nepal/ India
  • Dr. Ismail Mohamed, Director Center for Creative Arts, University of KwaZulu-Natal
  • Nora, visual artist, Myanmar
  • Dr. Stella Nyanzi, Scholar at Writers-in-Exile, PEN Germany
  • Diana Ramarohetra, individual art supporter and advocate
  • Rachita Taneja, Political cartoonist, India
  • Ma Thida, writer, Myanmar
  • Woon Tien Wei, Co-Artistic Director, The Substation Singapore
  • Jing-Wen Tseng, cultural practitioner, Taiwan
  • Rina Tsou, filmmaker, Taiwan
  • Hiroko Tsuboi-Friedman, Expert Facility member, UNESCO 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, Japan
  • Kacey Wong, visual artist, Hong Kong

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