UN: Cultural Rights: New UN Independent Expert Takes Charge

UN Press Release

Pakistani sociologist Ms. Farida Shaheed has taken office as newly appointed Independent Expert in the field of cultural rights, one of the latest areas earmarked for special monitoring by the UN Human Rights Council. My decades of work at the grassroots in promoting human rights leaves me in no doubt that the right to cultural life and cultural development is an essential and inherent right of all individuals and peoples, said Ms. Shaheed, who was appointed by the Human Rights Council in October 2009.

After a first series of consultations to shape her new mandate, held at the Geneva headquarters of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Shaheed stressed that cultural rights must celebrate the diversities that define our collective humanity.

The challenge is to ensure that the right to pursue, develop and preserve culture in all its manifestations is in consonance with and serves to uphold the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights, said the new Independent Expert. This includes the right not to be forced into participation.

Farida Shaheed, recipient of several national and international human rights awards, has worked for more than 25 years promoting and protecting cultural rights by fostering policies and projects designed in culturally sensitive ways to support the rights of marginalized sectors, including women, peasants, and religious and ethnic minorities.

An experienced participant in negotiations at international, regional and national levels, Ms. Shaheed has brought her distinctive perspective on the integration of culture and rights to her work as an independent expert/consultant to numerous UN and development agencies as well as to the government of Pakistan since 1980.

Ms. Shaheed is the Deputy Director of a research project on Womens Empowerment in Muslim Contexts: gender, poverty and democratization from the inside out, and is a visiting fellow at the City University of Hong Kong. She is also the Director of research in Shirkat Gah Womens Resource Centre in Pakistan.