The Dialogue on cultural rights and human development was held in Barcelona from August 23 to 27 in the convention center of the Universal Forum of Cultures. The assembly gave a clear message: cultural diversity is an indispensable tool for human development. It is necessary to put words into action with the participation of all the players involved in this field, from artists and governments to international institutions and civil society as a whole.
Cultural diversity is an essential tool for human development. Multicultural policies give recognition to differences, defend diversity and foster cultural freedom in order for all individuals to be able to communicate in their own language, practice their religion and, ultimately, be able to chose freely for themselves. The Dialogue on Cultural Rights and Human Development was held August 23 to 27 during the Barcelona Universal Forum of Cultures and gathered 70 speakers, namely researchers, professionals and officers from all over the world who came to discuss around the fundamental issue of the right to participation in cultural life, the definition of cultural indicators to measure the contribution of culture to human development and the drafting of an action plan that would allow them to move beyond the usual rhetoric in the field of culture and take action towards the implementation of public policies.
Culture as an Indicator of Development
Discussions and debates on development have overlooked the notion of respect, dignity and cultural liberty. The Dialogue on Cultural Rights and Human Development helped bring culture and development to the forefront. In this respect, Sakiko Fukuda-Parr presented the Human Development Report for 2004 that was published by the United Nations Development Program, in which special emphasis is put on the importance of cultural liberty in order to achieve human development. "Cultural rights were like the poor cousins of the other rights, but they are essential for achieving a free and full life,” stated Fukuda-Parr, who also highlighted that 900 million of people worldwide belong to groups whose individual freedoms are restricted. Yvonne Donders of the Human Rights Division of UNESCO, stated that cultural rights had been traditionally neglected as a key component of human development, although “they are essential for the integrity and growth, as they are part of a person’s dignity and contribute to create identity and a feeling of belonging.”
Cultural diversity is related to a series of elements that are the key to development, as it introduces pluralism, social cohesion, growth and sustainable development, cultural dialogue and juridical security. The authorities must count on the juridical security in order for policies not to be dismantled or challenged. In this respect, Fernandez Gomez-Riesco stated the need for a regulatory framework with laws, since the world market of cultural assets and services is far from perfect and it requires intervention and mechanisms to correct the imbalances. “It is essential to show that the cultural and political spheres are closely related and that any political project must of necessity have cultural vision,” he stated.
Katerina Stenou, Director of the Division for Cultural Policies and Intercultural Dialogue of UNESCO, underlined that cultural diversity will enable people’s life projects and the respect for human rights. All speakers condemned the misuse of the term cultural diversity as a justification for human rights violations.
Rafael Rodríguez Ponga, PhD in Philosophy, identified the four challenges for cultural diversity, namely cultural identity, universal languages, the right to equality and culture as an aspect of development.
“An integration that preserves the specificity of languages and cultures is possible,” he stated.
New cultural indicators are fundamental to measure the degree of influence of cultural diversity in human development. Current indicators of growth are based on economic criteria that contribute to adopt patterns that result in an increased fragmentation of society. The UNDP Report is a great step towards achieving change in this respect.
For Patrice Meyer-Bisch, coordinator of the Interdisciplinary Ethics and Human Rights Institute (IEDH), the indicators for assessing cultural policies should not be limited to statistics measuring the number of copies sold or university graduates; they should rather reflect if cultural rights are effectively in place to enable full participation. Johan Galtung, Director of the Network for Peace and Development Transcend, stated, “I cannot accept culture as a mere contribution to economic growth,” for – as he explained – “the state and the capital markets kill 125,000 people every day.”
Greek philosopher Corina Suteu stated with regard to cultural indicators "New research methodologies are needed in order to develop cultural policies; we must show the highly democratic worth of these policies, foster discussion around them and make an appraisal in terms of the measures implemented. Cultural policies allow for an enhanced social cohesion while providing best practices in conflict management.”
Cultural Development as a Social and Political Commitment
With regard to concrete action plans and the role of each sector in this task, Alfons Martinell, Director General of Cultural and Scientific Cooperation of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, emphasized the importance of the cultural sector and its resolve to face the challenges of the human kind, namely the fight against poverty, insecurity and conflict resolution. "Culture should move away from the usual cultural rhetoric and show a commitment with more active policies,” he stated, and went on to underline that cultural development should be regarded as investment rather than expenditure.
With regard to the paths to take towards cultural development, Jesus Martin Barbero, PhD in Philosophy, emphasized “Culture requires a new institutional status.” For many people inclusion or exclusion is made visible in the domain of culture. Therefore, it is necessary to reinvent democracy to enable life quality with full acceptance of diversity by all members of society. To this end, Barbero proposed, “International cooperation by means of new institutions that promote a social focus in cultural production and creation.”
Throughout the congress sessions, participants insistently stated the need to reach some political conclusions. “Boundaries between sectors should be eliminated in order to allow for a linkage between culture, the economy and politics,” stated Robert Palmer, dialogue advisor, in his summary of the event. Politics should be based on cultural values, since human development will be achieved by recognizing cultural rights. Professor Stephen Marks of the University of Harvard stated, “Cultural rights enable us to establish the cognitive links of society, therefore we have the moral obligation of incorporating them into human rights," and went on to reflect on the imbalances between the current international trade regime and the regime of cultural production. Marks called upon governments to respect the rights of people and correct these imbalances. In addition, the state should guarantee and promote access to culture while preventing violations to cultural rights by enacting laws and regulations, and informing and promoting among citizens the available cultural resources.
For Raymond Weber, director of Lux-Development , the cooperation and development agency of the government of Luxembourg, states must place cultural policies at the same level as other policies. He also stated that Europe must change its current economic and trade priorities that tend to relegate culture to a marginal place. The European Union needs to have a cultural policy in the context of globalization, without overlooking the importance of the cultural context and the values that should go beyond the political and economic spheres,” stated Weber.
A renewal of the cultural policies currently in place requires a commitment to create cultural spaces in which all agents participate –members of civil society and from other sectors alike. “It is necessary to develop participatory cultural policies within the current knowledge society that counts on all of its members acting in full awareness of their role as individuals and also as a community,” pointed out Corina Suteu.
The impact of globalization and the mass media on cultural life was another topic discussed throughout the dialogue. An appeal was made to mobilize civil society against prejudice and defend cultural identity based on diversity.
Egyptian writer Nawal El Saadawi, President of the Arab Women Solidarity Association, stated, “Unveiling the mind is the most important thing; a veiled mind is much more dangerous than a veiled face.” She called for respecting differences when unveiling or revealing them. “Multiculturalism is the only wayof being; and it not a matter of minorities or majorities but, rather, about a society in which everyone is counted on ,where everyone can live,” pointed out Sydney Bartley, of the Ministry of Education and Culture of Jamaica, who also sang and recited European, African and Caribbean poetry. Bolivian filmmaker Humberto Mancilla assured, “Although those in power want us to be a minority, the truth is that 70% of the population have an indigenous identity in Bolivia, namely Quechua, Aymara and Guarani. It is important to keep their culture alive and to defend diversity.”
Alinah Segobye of Bostwana presented a dialogue session devoted to AIDS, while genital mutilation was dealt with by writer Nawal El Saadawi and a film by Agustín Hatar.
The issue of cultural tourism and its importance in human development, the right to housing and to water, was also was dealt with during the dialogue.
The importance of networking activities was also assessed through the presentation of various networks and partnerships at local and international level. This resulted in a series of concrete proposals for cultural development. The Interarts Foundation, organizer of this dialogue, promoted the first far-reaching alliance for cultural rights and human development that will have follow-up meetings worldwide throughout 2004 and 2005. Likewise, Interarts launched an Internet portal devoted to exploring the links between cultural rights and human development: www.culturalrights.org , and the first steps towards the creation of an Observatory on Cultural Rights were taken on a proposal by this same foundation.
The Organization of Iberoamerican States for Education, Science and Culture (OEI), the International Organization of Francophone Countries (OIF), the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP) and the Latin Union (UL) presented within the framework of the Barcelona dialogues a the new digital platform with a Permanent Forum on Cultural Pluralism, which will promote discussions on the ways in which cultural diversity can influence our globalizing world. The topics around which this forum will discuss are: reflecting on globalization; public and cultural policies; economics and culture; communications and culture; and cultural globalization.
The dialogue on cultural rights and human development organized by the Interarts Foundation, UNESCO, AECI and the Universal Forum of Cultures – Barcelona 2004 agreed after four days of discussions and workshops held in parallel sessions on the importance of cultural development in human development processes. It also stated that words need to be put into action with the participation of all players involved in this field, from artists and governments to international institutions and civil society as a whole.
Throughout the four days of the congress, participants paid tribute to the late Eduard Delgado, founder of Interarts Foundation and a convenor of this dialogue.