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Defending Creative Voices: Protection of Artists in Times of Emergencies

April 9 | New York

Tuesday, April 9
Speaking section: 4:30 - 6:00 pm EST
Performance and Reception: 6:00 - 8:00 pm EST
United Nations Headquarters
405 E 45th Street
New York, NY 10017

This event is free, but registration is required to attend. PLEASE RSVP BY APRIL 5 @ 9AM (EST)!

Bringing together renowned experts and artists, the event aims to raise awareness among UN Member States and civil society actors about the impact of emergency situations on writers and artists, as well as to call for enhanced coordination and comprehensive efforts to defend artistic freedom during crises.

The discussion will build on UNESCO’s report Defending Creative Voices: Artists in Emergencies, learning from the Safety of Journalists, as well as on ARC’s publication, Art Is Power: 20 Artists on How They Fight for Justice and Inspire Change.

Deeyah Khan, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Artistic Freedom and Creativity and Norwegian-Pakistani filmmaker; DJ Switch, Nigerian musician and songwriter; Dinaw Mengestu, Ethiopian-American writer; Zarifa Adiba, Afghan violist and author; and Alexandra Xanthaki, UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights will participate in a panel discussion in support for enhanced protections to defend artists’ lives, livelihoods, and the right to free expression. The discussion is moderated by Julie Trebault, ARC Managing Director.

A reception will follow the event, featuring a performance by DJ Switch and a visit to the exhibition “Culture under Attack: Safeguarding Heritage in Emergency” (6:00pm- 8:00pm).

This event is co-sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Norway to the United Nations.


  • Opening Remarks: Eliot Minchenberg, Director of UNESCO New York Office and UNESCO Representative to the United Nations in New York; Andreas Løvold, Deputy Permanent Representative/Chargé d’affaires, Permanent Mission of Norway to the United Nations
  • Panel Discussion: Deeyah Khan, filmmaker and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Artistic Freedom and Creativity; Dinaw Mengestu, novelist and journalist; DJ Switch, musician and songwriter; Zarifa Adiba, Afghan violist and author; and Alexandra Xanthaki, UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights
  • Q&A
  • Closing Remarks: Julie Trébault, Managing Director, Artists at Risk Connection (ARC)
  • Reception featuring a performance by DJ Switch followed by a visit to the exhibition "Culture under Attack: Safeguarding Heritage in Emergency"


Zarifa Adiba, Violist and Author

Zarifa Adiba, a 25-year-old musician from Kabul, Afghanistan, gained international recognition as the conductor of the First-Female Orchestra of Afghanistan in 2016. She led the Zohra orchestra at the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and subsequent concerts across Europe. Adiba, a talented violist, has performed at prestigious venues including the Presidential Palace in Afghanistan and various embassies. Additionally, she is a published author, with her debut book "Playing for Freedom: The Journey of a Young Afghan Girl" available in multiple languages. Adiba is also a passionate advocate for girls' education, as demonstrated by her participation in panels and summits worldwide.

Deeyah Khan, Filmmaker and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Artistic Freedom and Creativity

Documentary director and producer Deeyah Khan has won two Emmys, a BAFTA, an RTS, and two Peabody Awards in over a decade of making empathetic and unflinching films that deal with some of the most important and polarising issues confronting the world today: extremism, violence against women, inequality, racism, and social exclusion.

Dinaw Mengestu, Novelist and Journalist

Dinaw Mengestu is the award-winning author of two previous novels, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears (2007) and How to Read the Air (2010). He is a graduate of Georgetown University and of Columbia University’s MFA program in fiction and the recipient of a 5 Under 35 award from the National Book Foundation and a 20 Under 40 award from The New Yorker. His journalism and fiction have appeared in publications such as Harper’s MagazineGrantaRolling StoneThe New Yorker, and The Wall Street Journal. He is a recipient of a 2012 MacArthur “Genius Grant” and currently lives in New York City.

DJ Switch, Songwriter and Musician

Obianuju Catherine Udeh, also known as “DJ Switch,” is a Nigerian DJ, songwriter, and musician who is originally from Enugu State and grew up in Warri, Delta State, Nigeria. She graduated from the University of Port Harcourt with a B.Sc in Geology and worked at Halliburton as a log analyst for over a year before chasing her dreams in arts. She was the winner of the Star Quest musical reality show, releasing a hit single with her band The Pulse, titled "Pray Sote," which featured American superstar Busta Rhymes on the remix. She is also the winner of the X-Factor West Africa, releasing a hit song titled "Safe Landing" under the Sony Music imprint and the winner of the Red-bull 3style championship, which is a global DJ competition. She founded her company SwitchNation Entertainment Limited in 2014. She was awarded the City People Music Award and Top Naija Music Award for best DJ in 2016 and named Culture Icon 2021. She is also an activist working to establish a nonprofit called RenovateNigeria, which will focus on providing a platform for socially and politically conscious creatives only.

Alexandra Xanthaki, UN Special Rapporteur in the field of Cultural Rights

Alexandra Xanthaki was appointed UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights in October 2021. Alexandra is Professor of Laws at Brunel University London, United Kingdom. A leading expert on cultural rights, Alexandra has published on cultural rights of minorities and indigenous peoples, cultural diversity, cultural heritage, balancing cultural rights with other rights and interests, and multicultural aspects of international human rights law.

Julie Trébault, ARC Managing Director

Julie Trébault is the managing director of the Artists at Risk Connection. Prior to joining PEN America, she served as director of public programs at the Museum of the City of New York and the Center for Architecture. Before moving to New York, she worked at the National Museum of Ethnology in The Netherlands where she built a network of 116 museums. From 2004 until 2007, she was Head of Higher Education and Academic Events at the Musée du quai Branly (Paris). Trébault holds a Master’s Degree in Arts Administration from the Sorbonne University and a Master’s Degree in Archeology from the University of Strasbourg. 


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