Human rights and cultural heritage in international law
Title: Human rights and cultural heritage in international law
Author: VRDOLJAK, Ana Filipa
Citation: Federico LENZERINI and Ana Filipa VRDOLJAK (eds), International law for common goods : normative perspectives on human rights, culture and nature, Oxford : Hart Publishing, 2014, Studies in international law, Vol. 50, pp. 139-175
Regional and international conflicts defined as a so-called ‘clash of civilisations’, civil conflicts from Central and South America, to former Yugoslavia, from the north Africa and the Middle East to Southeast Asia, and discrimination against and persecution of vulnerable individuals within ethnic or religious communities, appear to indicate tensions between human rights and culture at all levels of society, from the global to the local, from the collective to the individual. Despite the growing cognisance of these cleavages, the international community rather than suppressing cultural, ethnic or religious differences, has actively promoted the importance of cultural diversity and religious tolerance for peace and stability and enjoyment of human rights generally. This chapter focusses on cultural diversity as a common good by exploring the relationship between culture and human rights in international law and its possible future development. In seeking to highlight the transformative effects of culture and human rights in dissolving boundaries in international law which have often been barriers to its progressive development, I have divided this chapter into two parts. First, I examine the dominance of the state in the protection of cultural heritage and mid-century interpretations of cultural rights. Then, as a foil to the trenchant resilience of the state, I will consider the rise or re-emergence of non-state groups in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries and their dissolution of the pre-existing boundaries and accepted wisdoms in international law. It is suggested that rather than leaving international law and international society in a fragmented state, culture and human rights and their protection have not only exposed the shortcomings and instability of long-established principles, practices and personalities in international law, they are a common good which may serve to reformulate the values and aspirations which bind citizens with a state, individuals within international society.
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