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Series 2 No. 12 (Spring 2005): Cultural Rights


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Since the early 1990s, conflict around the world has been marked by ethnic tensions, and increasingly minorities are calling for political recognition and respect for their cultural identities. Within the area of human rights, the concept of cultural rights has the potential to address the injustices these communities suffer. Yet scholars and practitioners have paid surprisingly little attention to cultural rights, despite the fact that they have been enshrined in international law since 1966 when the United Nations adopted the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 27)and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 15). This issue of Human Rights Dialogue focuses on the evolving concept of cultural rights and explores its potential effectiveness both in achieving social justice and advancing the rights claims of ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples and other cultural communities. Contributions from scholars and practitioners bring insight to the context of particular claims for cultural rights or cultural rights abuses, as well as the actions being taken to address them.


Introduction | 04/22/05
This issue of "Human Rights Dialogue"—the final issue in Series Two—focuses upon the potential effectiveness of cultural rights in advancing the human rights claims of ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples, and other cultural communities. Author(s): Robert Albro, Joanne Bauer

Section 1

Section One Introduction: The Case for Cultural Rights | 04/22/05
This section of Human Rights Dialogue: Cultural Rights (Spring 2005) serves as an introduction to the application of cultural rights and addresses the question of why the concept of cultural rights is a necessary part of a human rights approach.

Rethinking Cultural Genocide Under International Law | 04/22/05
Cultural genocide is a unique wrong that should be recognized independently and that rises to the level of meriting individual criminal responsibility. If the highest values of a society are expressed through its criminal laws, then acts of cultural genocide are indeed criminal. Author(s): David Nersessian

"This Forest Is Ours" | 04/22/05
The cultural survival of the Yiaaku people in the Mukogodo forest of Kenya depends upon preserving their intimate relationship with the forest. The Yiaaku want the status of the Mukogodo forest changed from a protected forest to a Trust Forest in their name. Author(s): Muthee Thuku

Language Rights And Guarani Renaissance In Bolivia | 04/22/05
Guarani claim the right to native language schooling not just to reproduce their distinct identity, but also to engage in a pluralistic society as equals. Author(s): Bret Gustafson

The Stolen Generation: Aboriginal Children In Australia | 04/22/05
The Australian government's policy to eradicate Aboriginal culture constitutes a clear-cut violation of the group's cultural rights. Author(s): Danielle Celermajer

Section 2

Section Two Introduction: Claims, Claimants and Conflicts | 04/22/05
This section of Human Rights Dialogue: Cultural Rights (Spring 2005) focuses on the political contexts within which cultural rights claims are asserted, and how these contexts affect the articulation of cultural rights with regard to other human rights.

Women's Rights As Cultural Rights: The Case Of The Irish Travellers | 04/22/05
Traveller women in Ireland are at the forefront of efforts to promote the cultural rights of their people. Author(s): Niamh Reilly

A Chinese Lesson On Cultural Rights | 04/22/05
Xiaorong Li argues that while the Chinese Government may claim to protect the cultural rights of its people, its record suggests otherwise, and represents a failure to recognize the indivisibility of human rights. Author(s): Xiaorong Li

Cultural Rights In The Age Of The 'War On Terror' | 04/22/05
Kristen Ghodsee and Christian Filipov demonstrate the effects of tensions introduced into national Bulgarian politics by the requirements of participation in the European Union and of cooperation with the U.S. war on terror upon the cultural rights of Slavic Muslim Pomaks. Author(s): Kristen Ghodsee, Christian Filipov

When Rites Are Rights: Cultural Challenges To Marriage Laws | 04/22/05
Alison Dundes Renteln explores the role of culture in the legal recognition of marriage in the United States and elsewhere, demonstrating how legal definitions of marriage often make it difficult to recognize marital bonds for minority cultures. Author(s): Alison Dundes Renteln

Section 3

Section Three Introduction: Institutionalization and Standardization | 04/22/05
In this section of Human Rights Dialogue: Cultural Rights (Spring 2005) we examine some of the latest efforts to recognize and institutionalize cultural rights, with essays that illustrate the problems encountered in setting clearly defined and judiciable standards for cultural rights claims.

The Distinctive Culture Test | 04/22/05
In Canada, the application of a "distinctive culture test" is a well-intentioned effort to apply standards to cultural distinctiveness. Yet it is not without its shortcomings. Author(s): Avigail Eisenberg

A European Experiment In Protecting Cultural Rights | 04/22/05
Will Kymlicka argues that, as Europe continues to institutionalize its union, the cultural rights approach it has adopted falls short of comprehensively addressing the variable circumstances of minorities across different states. Author(s): Will Kymlicka

The UN Human Rights Committee's Decisions | 04/22/05
Over the past twenty-five years, virtually every time a cultural minority has petitioned the Human Rights Committee under Article 27 of the ICCPR, it has failed. Dinah Shelton explains why. Author(s): Dinah Shelton

Cultural Rights And Intellectual Property Debates | 04/22/05
Drawing upon the case of the appropriation of the music of Taiwan's Ami people by the band Enigma, Rosemary Coombe explores how best to protect the rights of cultural minorities amid debates about the ownership of intellectual property. Author(s): Rosemary Coombe

Online Exclusive

A South African Commission's Mandate To Protect Cultural Rights | 04/22/05
The 2004 creation of the CRL Commission to address cultural rights marked the final effort by the South African government to bridge the racial and socioeconomic gaps left from the apartheid era. Morrow describes this effort to unite a culturally diverse population. Author(s): Sean Morrow

World Heritage Rights Versus National Cultural Property Rights: The Case of the Jikji | 04/22/05
Sun-Young Kwak discusses a little known controversy over ownership of the Jikji, the world's oldest existing book printed with movable metal type, exploring the tensions that exist between world heritage and Korea's cultural property rights. Author(s): Sun-Young Kwak

Discussion Questions

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: "Cultural Rights" | 08/02/05
Discussion questions are based on issues considered in Human Rights Dialogue: Cultural Rights (Spring 2005).

Annotated Resources

ADDITIONAL READINGS on Cultural Rights | 10/14/05

ARTICLE RESOURCES: "Cultural Rights" | 05/25/05

ORGANIZATIONS working on Cultural Rights | 05/18/05

TREATIES AND DECLARATIONS on Cultural Rights | 09/26/05

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