Arts Rights Justice: protecting and promoting artistic freedom--an interview with Daniel Gad.

Author:Vickery, Jonathan
Position:Cultural Rights and Global Development - Interview

You are the manager of the UNESCO Chair in Cultural Policy for the Arts in Development at the Department of Cultural Policy, University of Hildesheim (Germany). Recently you and the Chair (Professor Dr Wolfgang Schneider) innovated a new educational forum, called the Arts Rights Justice Academy. Please explain your rationale.

It is vital that the rights of the artists and the protection of artistic freedom are recognised as an integral part of the international human rights frameworks--and that States deliver on their obligations to uphold them. The aim of the ARTS RIGHTS JUSTICE PROGRAM [The ARJ programme] is to strengthen and expand structures for the promotion and protection of artistic freedom. To this end, we seek to disseminate and professionalise skills, ensuring that the exchange of knowledge and build expertise on the subject.

The ARJ PROGRAM was developed in cooperation with 30 international expert institutions with the support of the German Foreign Office and the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN). Mary Ann DeVlieg and Julia Farrington, of International Artists Rights Advisors (IARA), along with Todd Lanier Lester, acted as consultants to the program. It is further informed through exchange with specialist organisations such as FREEMUSE, PROTECT DEFENDERS and other significant agencies and actors.

In terms of content, The ARJ ACADEMY invites 30 young professionals to join a group of international experts in the field for a program of workshops, discussions, teamwork, presentations and individual consultancy. All participants in the ARJ ACADEMY are and will be practitioners in cultural policy-related work, arts or cultural management practice, free expression advocacy, human rights defense, or related areas.

We are committed to bringing together participants from as wide a range of places and regions of the world as possible, to create a peer-to-peer learning ambiance based on dialogue, learning and exchange. In focus, for us, are young professionals and practitioners of all nationalities working within 'artists at risk' residencies, arts and cultural project managers, artists, lawyers, jurists or further related area with working experience in a field related to human rights, cultural rights, cultural policy, freedom of expression and artistic freedom, artist mobility, arts or social development. The specific topics under scrutiny can be identified as (i) the fundamentals of freedom of expression; (ii) understanding freedom and threat: censorship and policy structures; (iii) legal frameworks and artists' rights; (iv) advocacy & campaigning: creating the conditions for free expression to thrive; (v) working with artists: training, protection, visas, relocation; and (vi) funding & networking.

Cultural Rights are effectively a minor subsection of Human Rights. They have maintained a low profile, despite the fact that "culture" is intrinsic to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and also it is one of the three principle terms of the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights [the ICESCR]. Why is Cultural Rights an important area for you now, and how does it intersect with the arts on the one hand, and justice activism on the other?

Human rights and fundamental freedoms are interrelated, and are regarded by us as prerequisites for a sustainable society--meaning, a society that facilitates diverse participation in its prosperity and in its general aims of promoting a fulfilled life for its members. Following this, human rights and fundamental freedoms are also a prerequisite for artistic creation--in the context of the potential diversity of cultural expressions in general. But, the question arises, why is it necessary to protect and promote artistic freedom? Why is this so at the beginning of the 21st century? And how, or what means or ways are there to engage in activities of protection and promotion?

Art cannot be said to be functionally good or useful for a society per se, and it is not necessary to argue that it is important for shaping a society into something more positive or better. Art, rather, possesses a facility to question society, to understand it anew, and to engage in a "re-think", and in a "language" that allows many...

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