UN Joint Statement | Cultural Rights and the COVID-19 Pandemic
On March 3, 2021, on behalf of 16 organizations, Dr. Elizabeth O’Casey, Director of Advocacy at Humanists International, made a joint statement in support of the report (A/HRC/46/34) on COVID-19, culture and cultural rights of the United Nations Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Karima Bennoune, at the 46th session of United Nations Human Rights Council.
In the report, Bennoune expressed concern that some governments had exploited emergency powers to censor and criminalize artists with dissenting views. “I call for all those imprisoned for their artistic or cultural work to be immediately released, such as Ahmed Kabir Kishore, a Bangladeshi cartoonist, and Nigerian singer Yahaya Sharif Aminu.”
If you want to learn more about this topic, please watch here our side event with a group of experts and artists.
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:
- Increase funding for the cultural sector, and ensure that funding is integrated into all COVID-19 relief and stimulus packages;
- Recognize the public health value and social contributions of the cultural sectors in responding to the pandemic;
- Be fully inclusive when consulting on COVID-19 relief measures;
- Ensure that artistic and scientific freedom are respected, protected and fulfilled at all times, including for those who are critical of government responses to the pandemic and post-pandemic;
- Release all artists and cultural rights defenders detained as a result of their creative work to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infections.
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)
International Service for Human Right (ISHR)
Minority Rights Group International
Urgent Action Fund | For Women’s Human Rights