Artsfreedom newsletter: UNESCO addresses challenges to artistic freedom

16 December 2015

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UNESCO addresses challenges to artistic freedom


A decade has passed since the adoption of the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of Diversity of Cultural Expressions. In the words of one of the prime “mothers” of the convention, Sheila Copps, Former Deputy Prime Minister of Canada, ‘The Convention views culture as a cornerstone of sustainable development, not simply another tradable good’.

In principle, the Convention also promotes and protects artistic freedom.

Today, 16 December 2015, UNESCO publishes a new Global Report on the monitoring of the 2005 Convention: ‘RE | SHAPING CULTURAL POLICIES’. The report provides in-depth analysis of current trends, advances and challenges faced by all relevant policy actors – with examples of innovative policies and measures that address contemporary issues including: transnational mobility, artistic freedom, access to international marketplaces, the digital environment. It also provides – for the first time – an integrated monitoring framework in the field of culture with proposed indicators of change and progress.

Freemuse has contributed to the report in two ways. Earlier this year on behalf of UNESCO and CKU, the Danish Centre for Culture and Development, the undersigned in collaboration with freedom of expressions expert Sara Whyatt, analysed 70 state reports submitted to UNESCO on the implementation of the Convention. We searched for any mention of ‘artistic freedom’ and wrote a background report on artistic freedom, which described how artistic freedom is challenged worldwide, and – in some countries – also protected and promoted.

The first Guiding Principle in Article 2 of the Convention affirms that ‘cultural diversity can be protected and promoted only if human rights and fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of expression, information and communication, as well as the ability of individuals to choose cultural expressions, are guaranteed’.

Artistic freedom is one of these fundamental freedoms and it is for this reason that the chapter on artistic freedom in the new report suggests that monitoring on artistic freedom should figure more substantially in reports produced by Parties in the years to come.

The chapter written by the undersigned analyses the factors and forces, both governmental and non-governmental, which lead to restrictions to freedom of artistic expression and/or access to it. It reviews some of the measures cited by Parties in this domain, as well as other initiatives, both public and private, that bring succour to artists at risk.

It also notes that the freedoms indispensable for artistic expression and creativity were the subject of the first UN Special Report on Freedom of Artistic Expression published by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2013 – a report that Freemuse also contributed to as a consultant to the then Special Rapporteur, Ms Farida Shaheed.

In a special message for the new report she writes: “Artistic expression is not a luxury, it is a necessity – a defining element of our humanity and a fundamental human right enabling everyone, individually and collectively, to develop and express their humanity and world view (…) I am pleased to note a growing realization of the crucial role artists and artistic creativity play in our societies, and the vitality of ensuring that artistic voices are not silenced by different means (…) This chapter on the status of artists is therefore an invaluable tool that will help to guide our future actions on the matter.”

Freemuse has developed this new monitoring tool for UNESCO. We hope the 140 state parties (including the EU) will make use of our proposals and that the chapter on artistic freedom – in the words of Ms Shaheed – will become “an invaluable tool that will help to guide our future actions on the matter.”

Since 1998 Freemuse has advocated and defended freedom of expression for music creators, and since 2011 artistic freedom in general, highlighted through our website and through our inputs to the UN Human Rights Council under the Universal Periodic Review process.

Freemuse is strongly dedicated to continue the defence of artistic freedom and we invite you to read the full chapter ‘Challenges of Artistic Freedom.’

Yours sincerely

Ole Reitov
Executive Director

Read the report summary:
PDF: In English
PDF: In French
PDF: In Spanish
Read the full Global Report:
PDF: In English
PDF: In French
 Artistic freedom news and information provided by Freemuse:


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