Cultural Rights and Cultural Heritage

Cultural rights and cultural heritage is significant in the present, both as a message from the past and as a pathway to the future. Viewed from a human rights perspective, it is important not only in itself, but also in relation to its human dimension, in particular its significance for individuals and communities and their identity and development processes.

Cultural heritage is to be understood as encompassing the resources enabling the cultural identification and development processes of individuals and groups, which they, implicitly or explicitly, wish to transmit to future generations. It is critical to emphasise the connections between culture more broadly and cultural heritage, and to recognise cultural heritage as living and in an organic relationship with human beings. This encourages its preservation and discourages its destruction.

Cultural Heritage includes tangible heritage composed of sites, structures and remains of archaeological, historical, religious, cultural or aesthetic value, as well as intangible heritage comprising traditions, customs and practices, vernacular or other languages, forms of artistic expression and folklore.

The right of access to and enjoyment of all forms of cultural heritage is guaranteed by international human rights law, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, deriving its legal basis, in particular, from the right to take part in cultural life, the right of members of minorities to enjoy their own culture and the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination and to maintain, control, protect and develop cultural heritage. All of these international rights have been extended to St. Helena.

Given that destruction of cultural heritage is most often irreversible, we must come together to prevent and stop, as a matter of priority, such deliberate acts of destruction of cultural rights and the culture of humanity. We should endeavour to address the widespread destruction of cultural heritage engendered by development and modernisation.

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