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An Integral Part of Human Rights and Democratic Governance

This space for information and debate is to be understood as an effort on the part of the Compendium editors, the Council of Europe Secretariat and the ERICarts Institute, to raise awareness for cultural rights and ethics particularly in the domain of cultural policymaking. It will highlight legal and political texts as well as voices from the field and thus complement efforts of the authors of Compendium country profiles. In this space, participation from among Compendium users will again be greatly appreciated.

The editors are aware of the fact that some of the issues to be dealt with under our new heading may be considered "controversial" and that interpretations of rules set forth even in international conventions and other binding legal instruments such as the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of the Council of Europe (ECHR), may not always lead to identical conclusions. Here are two examples of resulting debates that are of particular interest in the culture sector (and could be dealt with, among other topics, under "Debates"):

  • the relationship between Freedom of Religion (Article 9 ECHR) and Freedom of Expression (Article 10 ECHR) - as experienced in the so-called "Danish Muhammad Caricature Conflict"; or
  • advocating "positive measures" for e.g. minorities in the light of common principles of "non-discrimination".

However, debates about differing views and interpretations of culture-related rights issues, if conducted in an open, informed and, at the same time, respectful manner, will surely contribute to transparency and to the further development of a "culture of human rights" in Europe and beyond.

This expectation has also been confirmed by the new handbook entitled "Culture and Human Rights: The Wroclaw Commentaries", published by De Gruyter / ARCult Media in November 2016, whose development was stimulated in 2013/14 by Compendium authors. First results of this basic guide with 130 keyword articles were publicly discussed in November 2015 at the 14th Assembly of Compendium Authors in Wroclaw.

Working Definition

Ethics has been defined as a set of moral principles and values governing appropriate or the "correct or right" choice of conduct. It is also used to refer to rules or standards governing the conduct of a person or the members of a profession. In Fair Culture? Ethical dimension of cultural policy and cultural rights  (2007), Koivunen and Marsio state, "Ethics in cultural policy means a system of moral values...basing decision-making and choices in cultural policy on stated procedural codes and normative principles.'' Rights, in turn, are defined as the legal or moral entitlement to do or to refrain from doing something in order to obtain or to refrain from obtaining an action, thing or recognition in civil society. (draft, proposed by John Foote)
In international discourse, cultural rights are seen as part of civil rights relating mainly to:

  • freedom of expression;
  • right to and responsibility for cultural heritage;
  • right to free practice of art and culture and to creative work;
  • right to protect the intellectual and material benefits accruing from scientific, literary and artistic production;
  • right to participate in cultural life and right to equally accessible and available cultural, library and information and leisure services;
  • right to choose one's own culture;
  • right to the development and protection of culture;
  • respect for culture and its autonomy and for cultural identity.

The Compendium addresses Cultural Rights and Ethics

Compendium Authors collect and present significant country-based information on issues or initiatives arising from domestic and international human and cultural rights instruments and performance reviews and which have entered into force and form part of the major legal contribution to the development and implementation of cultural policies. While there is at present no separate chapter on ethics and rights in the Compendium, Authors have referred to various aspects of human and cultural rights throughout their respective country profiles. They are well aware of the enormous body of law and cultural capital in Europe and the world which has been generated around rights achievements and initiatives over the past six decades. Member States of the Council of Europe are bound, among other regulations, by five basic texts setting out these rights:

  • The European Convention on Human Rights
  • The European Social Charter
  • The European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
  • The European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities
  • The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages