The First International Congress on Cultural Rights : the Dialogue on Cultural Rights and Human Development , was held between 24 and 27 August, 2004 in Barcelona, within the framework of the Universal Forum of Cultures 2004. The Dialogue was co-organised by the Interarts Foundation, the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation (AECI), UNESCO and the Universal Forum of Cultures. The event counted with the collaboration of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Office of the United Nations Human Development Report. During the Dialogue, more than 80 invited speakers from more than 40 countries and over 700 participants took part in different sessions.
For the Interarts Foundation hosting this Dialogue was a great satisfaction. At the same time it meant a great achievement after many years of work initiated by Eduard Delgado. This work aims at indicating that cultural rights and the role of culture in development are essential in today's world. The results of the Dialogue were convincing because the conference managed to encourage international exchange within the cultural field and the participation of diverse agents, with a strong presentation of the civil society. During the Dialogue it was stated that the civil society needs to make its voice heard and to mobilise itself around cultural values to promote a better understanding of cultural rights and the role of culture in development. There was a consensus that this should be a shared responsibility that takes into account local development necessities.
Since its founding in 1995, one of the objectives of the Interarts Foundation has been to become a platform for encounter, exchange and research, and to raise awareness. The results of the dialogue have shown that it was important to celebrate this dialogue; the first international congress on cultural rights and human development. In the development field not everyone understands the importance of culture. Culture has always been the poor relative in budgets of cooperation, and the results of the dialogue indicated the enormous necessities that there are to be answered in order to make culture the base for development. This responsibility belongs to all of us.
The Dialogue formed a natural continuity of the work realized in the field of cultural rights and indicators that the Interarts Foundation has carried out for many years. Eduard Delgado, founder of Interarts, was a master of innovative ideas and networking. The role of culture and its importance in the well-being of people, and the protection of culture and cultural rights were special passions of his. He took part in many forums, seminars, and international projects on these themes and was the master mind behind the Charter of Cultural Rights and Responsibilities of the Citizen of Barcelona that the Interarts Foundation prepared jointly with the Culture Institute of the Barcelona City Council in 2002. This Charter was the result of a participatory process of consultations with the civil society to articulate the fundamental elements that allow to construct a shared space for coexistence. The idea of bringing the debate to a new level was born as a result of the Charter process with the idea of including the civil society agents so that different actors could be heard. The invitation was also addressed to international organisations.
The Dialogue had three main goals: to provide information, to share experiences and to mobilize what sometimes is considered to be a very fragmented sector. the domineering opinion is that we In general there seems to be a consensus that we did achieve these targets. The Dialogue was aspiring to attract travsverse interests combining the presence of specialists and acadmics with that of artists and professionals of the cultural sector and aimed at attracting transversal interests by combining the presence of specialists and academics with artists and professionals from the cultural sector and international organizations; researchers, local authorities; citizens and students. Based on the richness of the presentations, representation of regions, ideas, themes and professions it is possible to consider that the Dialogue managed to be an extraordinary encounter to discuss such important matters.
The main objectives were, on the one hand, to contribute to the redefinition of the right to take part in cultural life in accordance with the debate at the United Nations and the presence of this right within the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Throughout the Dialogue, different contributions from intergovernmental organisms as well as from academics and representatives of the civil society, dealt with these issues, including the relationship between cultural rights and other dimensions of human rights. In addition to the affirmation that cultural rihts form an integral part of human rights, the participants conincided with the idea that no cultural practice should infringe human rights. It was also affirmed that all human rights have clear cultural dimensions.
On the other hand, the Dialogue dedicated part of its attention to the viability of defining and constructing indicators that allow to evaluat the contribution of cultural to human development. Despite the increasing recognition of the importance of culture in the quality of life and the inclusion of cultural aspects in some reflections on development, it’s certain that so far the attempts to establish transferable measures have not been very successful.
The recent publication of the Human Development Report 2004 of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) which for the first time affirms the relevancy of cultural freedom for human development is an important step. This volume was presented in Barcelona by its lead author and director of the Office of the Human Development Report, Sakiko Fukuda-Parr. Together with her, throughout the event, the participants were invited to contribute to the development of indicators, and to present policies and best practices that could serve for a better understanding on how diversity, access and participation in culture, creativity or education are related to human development.
Within the Dialogue we were trying to close the gap between international law and the realities of cultural communities in order to see which are the priorities that cultural groups and people have. We were not only looking for a wide and conceptual debate on different definitions on what culture is and what its dimensions are in relation with human rights and development, but also to create a dialogue between different actors so that we could move towards concrete results.
During the Dialogue we had the chance to listen to more than 80 speakers from 43 different countries from five continents in plenary sessions as well as in workshops.
During the Dialogue it was stated that the cultural sector should start to respond to the challenges faced by human development: poverty, conflicts, democracy..... the notion that the principles of cultural rights are linked to other human rights as well as to the UN Millennium Development Goals. Another observation was that the cultural sector needs to integrate in other fields The Dialogue offered a great variety of points of view, shared opinions between representatives of different continents, and an endless numbre of ideas, knowledge and enrichning experiences.
Finally, it was stated that culture and education should be much more linked to development policies. It was also indicated that the roots of social exclusion should be tackled simultaneously as we fight social and economic exclusion.
Beyond the reflections, the Dialogue on Cultural Rights and Human Development defined an agenda of values and of actions for follow-up that, based on the set principles, should foster cooperation and shared responsabilities between different sectors. The same way as in other areas of social conscience, such as environment, the dialogue saw a global platform being born for culture based on shared values and the will to guarantee equivalent and diverse exchanges. This way, a series of events were identified in different regions of the world that will keep live the debate on diversity and the cultural participation in times of globalization. Also, what was affirmed was the need to increase available information on themes themes and to encourage networking.
The Interarts Foundation hopes that the results of the Dialogue will contribute to that fact that cultural rights will have a major presence in the reflections on cultural policies, social cohesion and participation.
From the beginning of the process, we felt that the dialogue was only a step, although a very important and visible step in the long term. During the process several consultation meetings were celebrated in different parts of the world to gather information and diverse expositions on these issues. The same way,
the questionnaire on regional perceptions of cultural rights distributed in the whole world could offer added important information on the knowledge on cultural realities and the understanding of the cultural rights.
For Interarts it is important to keep on working with these topics and we hope that, taking as a base the principles that have guided the dialogue, the measurements and initiatives should become a shared responsibility of a wide group of agents: an extensive platform of agents who want to promote the recognition of cultural rights and to gather information to increase the awareness on the role of culture in development.
ROSA MARIA CARRASCO, President of Interarts Foundation
Strategy document - cultural indicators in Africa
Informe final en portugues / in Portuguese
Le cadre juridique du droit à participer à la vie culturelle - Yvonne Donders (in French / en français)