The Universality of Human Rights, Cultural Diversity and Human Rights


AWID, IHEU, Muslims for Progressive Values, Artists at Risk Connection, Due Diligence Project, United Nations Human Rights Special Procedures, UN Plaza, New York, Church Center, 10th floor, 777

A side event to examine the cultural rights approach to the universality of human rights, and the close relationship between universality and cultural diversity.

The universality of human rights is one of the most important principles codified in international
law. It is the central idea of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a foundational
aspect of the entire human rights system. But as we mark the 70 th anniversary of the adoption of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 2018, universality is under sustained
attack, from both the political right and left, from State and non-State actors, including
extremists, fundamentalists and populists around the world, and even from some academics,
including those who misuse culture and cultural rights justifications.

Simultaneously, respect for cultural diversity is also threatened. For some, cultural diversity is
still wrongly understood as being in opposition to universality, who misuse it as an excuse for
violations of the very universal human rights within which its enjoyment is explicitly embedded.
It is also denied by those who seek to impose monolithic identities and ways of being, and who
advocate various forms of supremacy and discrimination.

The UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Karima Bennoune, will also discuss her current
report to the General Assembly (A/73/227) focusing on the current threats to universality, calling
for foundational renewal and vigorous defence of this principle, and recognition of its close
interrelationship with cultural diversity.


Naureen Shameen, Manger, Advancing Universal Rights and Justice Initiative, AWID


  • Wole Soyinka, Nigerian playwright, poet and essayist, Literature Nobel Prize Winner (1986)
  • Karima Bennoune, Special Rapporteur on the field of cultural rights
  • Zarizana Adul Aziz, Director of Due Dilligence Project


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