Human Rights and Culture – The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission

I’m Michael O’Flaherty. I’m Chief Commissioner
of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. I’m here in Derry/Londonderry today to make
our contribution to Derry City of Culture. We were delighted to bring together a group
of the world’s leading experts on the human right to culture
to discuss with the people of this city some of the most challenging issues around how
you honour, promote and respect the human right
of culture in societies that are coming out of conflict or are divided.
I think events like this are really important in terms of the networking that would happen
here, the understandings – hopefully they will be
catalysed and continue to work in the future and to link up people,
but I think hopefully the people here who are working on culture would get a better
understanding of what cultural rights are that you can apply.
They are actually international human right standards and norms and treaties
that help us to move this forward. And so that is the challenge before us: how
do we interpret history, how do we teach history in ways that everyone is included:
that we hear the other voices, at least we acknowledge the other voices and the other
perspectives and therefore, as I said, a bridge to the
future. I think what’s critically important for me
is to ensure that there is implementation of the right to culture
because we have too many examples of where there is denial,
either a denial of history or a denial of an existence of a people, a denial of identity
of people, so I think once we begin to look at implementation
of this collective right, and individual right as well,
from a human rights perspective, then I think it will enrich the world.
It will enrich humankind if I may put it that way, to focus on the strengths of our diversities.
We as the Human Rights Commission see it as critically important that we reinforce that
sense that your cultural identity, the expression of
your cultural identity, is your human right, your entitlement.
This is world class work that’s being done here in Derry over these few days
and it will result in the production of a set of recommendations that will go to the
United Nations General Assembly for debate and discussion.
So we’re making a contribution globally to how we understand culture and human rights
and we’re also saying something of significance as a contribution to the City of Culture celebrations.

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