This year’s lecture is delivered by Karima Bennoune, UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights and chaired by Dr Andrew Fagan, Director of the Human Rights Centre.
Preventing Cultural Catastrophe in the Pandemic: A Cultural Rights Approach
The most recent report of the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Karima Bennoune, to the UN Human Rights Council warns that the pandemic may lead to a global “cultural catastrophe” with severe, long-lasting consequences for human rights if effective action is not taken immediately to guarantee cultural rights. Yet, cultural rights are absolutely vital during a global health crisis. In fact, culture is the heart of our response to COVID-19. However, culture sectors have been among those hardest hit. For example, an entire generation of young artists may be forced to turn elsewhere by pandemic-related unemployment crises, diminishing cultural life for years to come. Hence, a cultural rights approach to the pandemic is essential. The cultural rights commitments of states under international law require them to take action so as to avoid catastrophe but also to lead to cultural renewal as an essential component of any efforts to build back better.
Professor Bennoune will discuss the ongoing implications of her March 2021 report, provide a brief introduction to the work of the cultural rights mandate, and share some reflections on the UN Special Procedures system as she prepares to conclude her mandate on October 31. Cultural rights, she will explain, are not a luxury but central to the human experience, and critical for implementing other human rights and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. They are an integral part of the indivisible and interdependent framework of universal human rights which should be given serious consideration by human rights advocates.
Karima Bennoune holds the Homer G., Angelo and Ann Berryhill Endowed Chair in International Law and is a Martin Luther King, Jr. Professor of Law at the University of California, Davis, School of Law in the United States. She has served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights since November 2015.
During academic year 2021-21, she will be a visiting professor at the University of Michigan Law School. In 2017, she served as an expert in the reparations phase of the groundbreaking Al Mahdi Case before the International Criminal Court concerning intentional destruction of cultural heritage in Mali. A former Legal Advisor for Amnesty International, her field missions throughout her career have included Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cyprus, Egypt, Lebanon, Mali, Malaysia, Maldives, Niger, Pakistan, Poland, Serbia and Kosovo, Southern Thailand, Tunisia and Tuvalu. Bennoune currently serves on the Board of Editors of the American Journal of International Law (AJIL). Her academic publications have appeared in leading journals such as AJIL, the Berkeley Journal of International Law, the Columbia Human Rights Law Review, the European Journal of International Law, and the Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, while her topical pieces have been featured in outlets such as the Guardian (Comment is Free), the Huffington Post, the New York Times, Open Democracy and on Reuters. She has appeared widely in the international media, including on CNN, Fox Business News, MSNBC, Algérie Presse Service, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, BBC Radio 4, France Culture, and Radio France International. Her book, “Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism,” which recounts the stories of people of Muslim heritage working against extremism, won the 2014 Dayton Literary Peace Prize. The TED talk based on the book has been viewed by over 1.5 million people. Professor Bennoune serves on the scholar advisory board for Muslims for Progressive Values.
She can be followed on Twitter: @UNSRCulture or @karimabennoune.