Arts and Human Rights

Why the Arts and Human Rights?

The Right to Artistic Expression and Creativity

According to the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commission, ‘by engaging people and encouraging their interaction through artistic and cultural expression, actions in the field of culture can open a space in which individuals and groups can reflect upon their society, confront and modify their perception of one another, express their fears and grievances in a non-violent manner, develop resilience after violent or traumatic experiences, including human rights violations, and imagine the future they want for themselves and how to better realize human rights in the society they live in. The increased social interactions, mutual understanding and trust that can be built or rebuilt through these initiatives are essential to achieve a range of human rights goals and to respect cultural diversity.’

Beginning in 2009, the Human Rights Council of the United Nations has put forward a number of resolutions supporting the promotion of protecting everyone’s cultural rights and a respect for cultural diversity. A Special Rapporteur has been appointed (an independent expert in the field of cultural rights) who reports to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations on an annual basis. The Special Rapporteur works to promote and protect cultural rights at local, national, regional and international levels, and ‘addresses how actions in the field of arts and culture can make significant contributions towards creating, developing and maintaining societies in which all human rights are increasingly realized’.  The Special Rapporteur reports on areas such as the right to artistic freedom, the impact of fundamentalism and extremism on the enjoyment of cultural rights and the cultural rights of women.

‘The arts have a unique power to bring people together’ (Amnesty International), to promote change and to advance human rights. Artists are storytellers who can shine a light on injustice using the power of artistic processes to raise awareness about important human rights issues, to inspire people to support human rights and to engage new audiences in human rights advocacy. The end result is increased awareness and activism for arts and human rights, and the long-term promotion and protection of human rights. The Smashing Times International Centre for the Arts and Human Rights will take you on an extraordinary journey of inspiration and education into the world of equality, diversity and freedom.

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