In our age of huge religious, political and territorial conflict, the essential cultural dimension of place, identity, values, and governance, is all too easily ignored. This special issue is given to the social and developmental significance of culture and cultural policies in a Rights framework. Since the 1966 UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, how far has the concept of culture as a 'right' been developed? Since the debates surrounding the UNESCO sponsored 2007 Fribourg Declaration, to what extent are Cultural Rights now accepted as an essential dimension of Human Rights? Perhaps using Human Rights law to facilitate Cultural expression and participation has been problematic and other legal instruments are more effective (such as cultural policies on access and equality, or heritage protections, or international treatises like the 2005 UN Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions). Or perhaps a sustained legal, social and development discourse on Cultural Rights by writers, research scholars and development agencies, has not been sufficiently consistent and robust in any area of development research and policy.
When this Special Issue was first envisaged, it was intended as a global forum for dialogue on how rights currently pertain to this journal's principle (and multidisciplinary) fields of legal, social and development research. It aimed to attract research papers on (but not limited to) the following topics:
> Cultural Rights and Human Rights, international treatises and UN conventions.
> Cultural Rights and Cultural Policies (particularly diversity, equality, gender and heritage policies).
> The cultural conditions of the juridical interpretation and application of Human Rights.
> Cultural Rights, multiculturalism and political pluralism.
> Cultural Rights, mass immigration and diasporas. Cultural Rights in war and conflict zones.
> Religion, faith communities and Cultural Rights. Cultural Rights, censorship and contemporary arts.
> Arts organisations, NGOs and development agencies that promote Cultural Rights.
I have reproduced this list from the original Call for Papers as it indicates the significant scope of relevance for this otherwise under-researched subject. This special issue attracted many contributions, not all of them could be published. The ones that were published adequately cover the first three bullet points; the rest will now feature in a broader research project, out of which will hopefully see forthcoming further thematic issues of this journal. This special issue therefore, did not succeed in defining the parameters of this subject, and for the most part remains focused on the legal emergence of culture as a concept in Human Rights and cognate areas of supra-national policy discourse. Nonetheless, we also broach other significant topics and issues: justice for cultural workers and artists, arts censorship, information and the political management of the media, and NGOs in a specific corner of the European region (Serbia).
This issue opens with an interview, on the occasion of the new Arts Rights Justice Academy (ARJ), whose opening in 2017 attracted the first UN Special Rapporteur in Cultural Rights, Ms. Farida Shaheed (2009-2015). The Academy project does not aim to create an education or training institution as such but more a dynamic and mobile space, where cultural practitioners, activists and researchers, policy, legal and social experts, can come together to discuss the pressing issues facing Rights today. The ARJ's...