Culture and Human Rights

Cardinal Roger Etchegaray and the Grand Mufti of Bosnia, Mustafa Ceric receive the 2003 Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize together. Photographer: Michel Ravassard © UNESCO

“No one may invoke cultural diversity to infringe upon human rights guaranteed by international law, nor limit their scope.”

UNESCO 2001 Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity

The universal nature of human rights is clearly established as international law in the UN Charter “for all without distinction”. The approach of UNESCO, through all of its cultural Conventions, is firmly grounded on this principle. The emphasis is on acknowledgment, understanding and tolerance of other cultures on the basis of a binding global ethic founded on universal values and mutual respect across cultural boundaries.

Human rights include many very important cultural rights, which should be given equal attention, such as the right to participate in cultural life, enjoy one’s culture, etc. Even these, however, are not unlimited. In accordance with international law, the right to culture is limited at the point at which it infringes on another human right.

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