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Some Ways of Looking at Cultural Diversity and Human Rights

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Presentation on theme: "Some Ways of Looking at Cultural Diversity and Human Rights"— Presentation transcript:

1 Some Ways of Looking at Cultural Diversity and Human Rights
Dr Janet Blake UNESCO Chair for Human Rights, Peace and Democracy, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran

2 Subject of this talk Two main questions addressed are:
2003 Convention on Intangible Heritage – the challenge of cultural relativism Safeguarding endangered languages and multilingualism Plus: 2003 Recommendation on on the Promotion and Use of Multilingualism and Universal Access to Cyberspace 2005 Convention on Diversity of Cultural Expressions.

3 Cultural heritage and identity
Cultural identity issues are very complex and, with regard to cultural heritage, we often have the specific right of one people to a special relationship with their cultural heritage while also the right of all to the equal enjoyment of the cultural heritage of mankind. e.g. Aboriginal rock art at the Kakadu National Park in Australia (listed as a World Heritage Site) where rock art was still practised until very recently in a tradition that dated back thousands of years. This rock art is regarded as having a universal significance for humankind, but it also holds an immense special significance for Australian Aborigines for whom it represents their cultural identity. NOTE: Policies relating to the protection and conservation of the material cultural heritage tend to favour the heritage associated with the cultural hegemony over that of minority groups.

4 Human rights and the 2003 Convention
Promoting the right of every person to participate in cultural life and the right to preserve and develop a culture through its emphasis on the role of communities, groups and individuals in all aspects of ICH. e.g. Art. 2(1) definition of “intangible cultural heritage” as: … the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. This intangible cultural heritage … provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity… [Emphasis added]

5 Role of communities in the 2003 Convention
Article 15: “Within the framework of its safeguarding activities of the intangible cultural heritage, each State Party shall endeavour to ensure the widest possible participation of communities, groups and, where appropriate, individuals that create, maintain and transmit such heritage, and to involve them actively in its management.” Other specific references to community involvement in safeguarding ICH, e.g. in 11 (b) the Parties are required to identify and define the elements of ICH on their territory “with the participation of communities, groups and relevant nongovernmental organizations”.

6 Applying a human rights ‘filter’ to listing ICH?
Art. 2(1) definition of ICH: “… For the purposes of this Convention, consideration will be given solely to such intangible cultural heritage as is compatible with existing international human rights instruments …” However, two important questions remain: How far this should be applied – should it exclude all ICH that is gender-specific on the grounds of non-discrimination? Who should decide on this?

7 Back to the universalism versus relativism debate …
As Stavenhagen noted: “… when we speak of the respect for different values as being essential to the concept of collective cultural rights, does that very distinction not imply a rejection of universality in order to recognize the specificities of different social groups?” Listing under the 2003 Convention cuts to the heart of this debate. An Expert Meeting of UNESCO in (2005) proposed an explicit human rights ‘threshold’ for inscription criteria to act as a filter for all nominations. This was dropped by the Committee in favour of simply referring to the definition of ICH (above) as one of the main criteria. This shows how problematic this question is!

8 The ‘problem’ of gender-defined ICH
Rituals and other traditional practices may often serve the purpose of reinforcing segregation rules in a society that can be detrimental to women. However, such rituals can also be seen as providing avenues of self-expression for women and providing them with a social status. Moreover, women themselves may accept practices and rituals that appear to discriminate against them. This makes it an extremely sensitive and complex question as to how to address such cases. But this is also dangerous – we should be aw are of the danger of imposing an inappropriate view of gender relations (e.g. Native American group that recognise seven genders)

9 The institution of hlonipha in sub-Saharan Africa
FGM, female infanticide, forced marriage … these are the easy questions to address. The problem arises with more subtle expressions of gender-based ‘discrimination’. e.g. The institution of hlonipha in sub-Saharan Africa that represents practices of respect between married women and their in-laws. This practice reveals an apparently unequal power relationship whereby the bride is given a new name by her in-laws, required to dress in a certain way and excluded from the kraal in which all cultural practices and rituals take place. How should we view this through a ‘human rights lens’?

10 A possible approach To understand whether this represents inequality between the sexes or not, we should concentrate not on the difference of the roles, or even their inferiority or superiority, but rather to consider whether they generate the power to dominate and humiliate. A further and much more problematic aspect to this issue is the question of who should have the power to decide if inequality exists or not and what form the discrimination takes.

11 Languages and Cultural Diversity
The importance of linguistic diversity: Languages carry complex implications for identity, communication, social integration, education and development and are of strategic importance for people around the world. When a language is lost an important repository of unique sets of knowledge, memory, value systems and cultural diversity are also lost. There exists a specific relationship between linguistic diversity and multilingualism whereby the latter acts as a kind of supportive principle to aid the achievement of the first.

12 Some Facts on Language Endangerment
Worldwide, there are approximately 6,800 different languages (not including dialect forms). 95% of languages have fewer than 1,000,000 speakers while 500 languages have 100 speakers or less. The greatest share of linguistic diversity is found in small communities and 300 out of the world’s languages are spoken by 90% of people. Hence, only 10% of the world’s population speak the remaining 6,500 languages and this places many of them in a situation of extreme endangerment. It is estimated that 90% of today’s languages could become extinct by the next century. Approx. 4,800 of the 6,800 languages are indigenous.

13 Some important approaches to linguistic diversity
To protect endangered languages: We must develop national policies that foster the functional use of all languages in society. Linguistic diversity should not be regarded purely quantitatively as a ‘numbers game’ but also qualitatively in terms of the functional use of the languages. Importantly, the will of the speaker community to preserve their language is essential for any measures aimed at ensuring the continued and effective use of a language. They should play a central role in deciding that their language should be maintained. The simple guarantee of individual rights (e.g. freedom of speech) and ensuring non-discrimination and equality is not enough to guarantee the ability to speak and use one’s own language - recognising a language also means respect for the people who speak it, their culture and their full inclusion in society.

14 What languages to protect
Language loss is a natural process and languages naturally evolve, split, merge or die; so, not all languages being spoken today should, let alone could, be safeguarded. Which languages should be safeguarded (on what grounds)? Essentially, the cultural and social significance of a language for the speaker community and for their identity is an important criterion here. The desire of the speaker community to preserve their language is a fundamental criterion and essential for the success of any measures aimed at ensuring the continued and effective use of a language. [Cf. The subjective criterion in minority rights under Article 27]

15 National language policies
Action taken to prevent language loss will only be effective if meaningful contemporary roles can be found for minority languages in a State. This means, in practice, their use in everyday life, commerce, education, writing, the arts and the media. The position of culturally (linguistically) diverse States in which a national language is viewed as essential to national identity is problematic. Language use (and the choice of official and personal languages and language of instruction) touches on complex and sensitive issues of personal and national identity. An interesting and informative exercise would be to look at the experience of those States that have managed to apply multicultural (multilingual) approach. Note: Multilingual policies imply use of a national (or state) language, a local language and teaching of an international language; speakers of a dominant language should be encouraged to learn a local language.

16 An example of good practice – Papua New Guinea
By 2001, Papua New Guinea was using 380 (out of a total of 850 local languages) as the medium of instruction of pre-school and years 1 and 2 of primary school in a population of 5 million.

17 The general policy approach
Essentially, national policies should be aimed at (a) safeguarding linguistic diversity by protecting and revitalising languages and (b) promoting multilingualism as far as possible. On the international level, this is essentially a similar two-pronged approach (a) to preserve global linguistic diversity as a prerequisite for cultural diversity and (b) to promote multilingualism (including in administration, education, the media and cyberspace).

18 Stakeholders and their roles
The State: Clearly, this requires leadership from the State in terms of national policy-making but many multilingual States may face serious resource and other practical constraints. The speaker community itself will ultimately determine whether their language is to be maintained or abandoned. External specialists are also important actors in this area, such as linguists, educationalists and language activists. The private sector, particularly in relation to ICT development, the media and the entertainment industry. The international community must ensure an equitable opportunity for non-dominant languages in international fora and the cultural marketplace, as well as promote and support linguistic diversity. NOTE: It is important to bring in both speakers and specialists more widely into national policy-making – often the specialists can play a mediating role between government policy-makers and community members.

19 A Summary of Language-related Human Rights
The following are the main human rights associated with languages spoken by persons belonging to national minorities. Right to be educated in the mother tongue in State schools when the minority members wish Right to establish and operate linguistic minority schools Equitable access to state funding Use of minority languages in court and administrative proceedings (or access to interpretation where not available) The right to publish (in all media) in the language of choice, as long as minimum standards are met Non-discrimination on the grounds of language in relation to the rights associated with: work, social security, health, family life, education, participation in cultural life, a fair trial, freedom of speech and taking part in public life Right to maintain their own language (as part of the right to participate in cultural life) Freedom of speech (to seek, receive, impart information and ideas orally or in a form of art or media of one’s choice) Right to take part in public affairs and public service without discrimination on the grounds of language Children not to be denied the right to use their own language Non-discrimination on the grounds of language in relation to the rights associated with: work, social security, health, family life, education, participation in cultural life, a fair trial, freedom of speech and taking part in public life.

20 How languages are protected under the 2003 ICH Convention
Under Article 18 some language-related ICH safeguarding programmes have now been instituted: Projet de sauveguarde et de revitalisation de la langue et de la tradition orale des Sillanko (Burkina Faso) - a community centre will be equipped as the focus for language-related activities Language Documentation in Three Indigenous Communities (Brazil) - its focus more directly on the ICH that is to be transmitted – the myths and traditional games of three Amazonian indigenous groups Safeguarding the Yukagir Language and Oral Traditions through Capacity-building for Communal Education in Places of their Compact Settlement in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) (Russian Federation) – the emphasis proposal is more on developing digital resources (including multimedia teaching aids and a digital inventory) and developing education in the languages in question. The following Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage that were proclaimed by UNESCO from 2001 to 2005: Language, Dance and Music of the Garifuna (Middle America), The Oral Heritage and Cultural manifestations of the Zapara (Ecuador, Peru), The Art of the Kyrgyz Akyns (epic storytellers, Kyrgyzstan), The Oral Traditions of the Aka Pygmies (Central African Republic) The Huhdhud chants of the Ifugao (Philippines).

21 The 2003 Recommendation on Multilingualism in Cyberspace
The context of this Recommendation: Although the development of ICTs provides new opportunities for the free flow of ideas, the emergence of culturally-marginalised groups and societies is an increasing modern challenge. Linguistic diversity in cyberspace is the central objective but, at the same time, mother tongue education (as part of basic education/literacy programmes) is also important. An important means for promoting multilingualism in cyberspace is to involve a variety of actors – public and private sector, civil society, governments, the ICT industry and intergovernmental organisations – in collaboration at different levels (local, national, sub-regional, regional and international) to achieve its elements.

22 Measures to promote multilingualism in cyberspace
The 2003 Recommendation proposes the following: To reduce language barriers on the Internet to allow all cultures access to cyberspace in all languages, including indigenous ones (Actors: Private/public sectors and civil society at all levels). Capacity-building for producing local and indigenous content on the Internet (Actors: Member States and intergovernmental organisations). Appropriate national policies for language survival in cyberspace designed to promote teaching of languages, including mother tongues, in cyberspace (Actors: Member States). International assistance to developing countries for the development of skills/human resources in this area (Actors: Developed countries and intergovernmental organisations). Collaborative/participatory research and development on the local adaptation of Internet technology and software “with extensive multilingual capabilities” (Actors: Private/public sectors, ICT industries and Member States). Support international co-operation with regard to “intelligent linguistic systems” for multilingual information retrieval and other Internet-related activities (Actors: Member States, intergovernmental organisations and ICT industries).

23 2005 Convention on Diversity of Cultural Expressions
The notion of ‘cultural diversity’ espoused by the 2005 Convention is less straightforward and the actual subject of this instrument is not cultural diversity per se but the diversity of cultural expressions. This fact is the key to understanding the specific orientation of the Convention – it is concerned with those cultural expressions that are cultural products. The 2005 Convention operates also within a clear human rights framework, noting that “cultural diversity flourish[es] within a framework of democracy, tolerance, social justice and mutual respect between peoples and cultures.” (Preamble para. 4) Internationally, it evokes social justice (intra-generational equity) by calling for international cooperation and solidarity aimed at “enhancing the capacities of developing countries … to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions.” (Article 1(g)(i))

24 International cultural policy context
Some of the major issues to be addressed here are: Unequal access for masses of people worldwide to the audiovisual industries due to technological, language or educational reasons. To find a balance between public and private interests on a global level ̶̶ a ‘common round of public interest’ To address the dichotomy of ‘central’ and ‘peripheral’ States in global cultural markets. To balance the dual requirements of efficiency of markets (e.g. GATT) and equity (e.g. Rio). How to foster creativity in a world of commodified culture. Avoid conflict with the trade liberalization agenda of GATT/GATS

25 Subject of the 2005 Convention
The 2005 Convention addresses: (a) Cultural expressions that are cultural products (i.e. creations deriving from human activity/labour that have a symbolic value and the potential to generate IPRs) and (b) Cultural goods and services that are the means by which (a) are conveyed to the public. In doing this, the Convention aims to recognize the specific nature of cultural goods and services as vehicles of identity, values and meaning while, at the same time, reaffirming the sovereign right of States to draw up their own cultural policies.

26 Objectives of the 2005 Convention
Protect/promote the diversity of cultural expressions and respect for it at all levels; Allow free interaction of cultures in a mutually beneficial manner but ensure not only wider but more balanced cultural exchanges in the world; Reaffirm the importance of the link between culture and development; Give recognition to the distinct nature of cultural activities, goods and services (i.e. not only economic but important for identity and other values); Reaffirm the sovereign rights of States to set their own cultural policies in this area; Strengthen international cooperation and solidarity in a spirit of partnership, especially to enhance capacities of developing countries to act in this area. Two underlying approaches taken here are: Preferential treatment for developing countries. Rights of States to take appropriate measures to promote diversity of cultural expressions with due regard for human rights.

27 Obligations on States The obligations placed on the Parties include the following. Endeavour to create in their territory an environment which encourages individuals and social groups: (a) to create, produce, disseminate, distribute and have access to their own cultural expressions (paying due attention to the special circumstances and needs of various social groups, including minorities and indigenous peoples); (b) to have access to diverse cultural expressions from within their territory as well as from other countries of the world. (Article 7) Foster public understanding of the importance of the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions. (Article 10) Acknowledge the fundamental role of civil society in protecting and promoting the diversity of cultural expressions and encourage the active participation of civil society in their efforts to achieve the objectives of this Convention. (Article 11) Integrate culture in their development policies at all levels and, within this framework, foster aspects relating to the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions. (Article 13)

28 Role of civil society As with the 2003 Convention, the role of civil society is embedded in the text (both implicitly and explicitly): Article 11 is explicit in its reference to the role of civil society. References to non-profit organisations (Articles 6, 15 and 19) Reference to the contribution of social groups, cultural communities and organisations (Article 7) Reference to civil society and NGO partnerships (Article 12). Reference to developing international partnerships between the public sector, private sector and civil society (Article 15). Here, civil society is primarily concerned with the roles of the State and the market relative to that of citizens and society as a whole. Civil society here is a ‘buffer zone’ between the State and market that can help to keep both in check. It can also help to promote public consensus and local ‘ownership’ of national cultural policy.

29 All you need is love … Turkish and Arabic in love are one – love speaks all the languages under the sun. (Hafez-e Shirazi)

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