Human Rights and the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme

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    International institutions have a tendency to compartmentalize areas of knowledge and endeavour. Within the United Nations (UN), for example, broad topics such as peace, security, the environment, the global economy, health and human rights are all associated with different parts of the UN system; they have different geographical locations and headquarters, and different systems and sensibilities. There is an inevitable tendency for institutional jealousies to develop over budgets and influence. The UN has attempted to develop ‘cross-cutting’ themes in order to break down some of the artificial barriers created between major areas of activity; for example, the idea of gender mainstreaming has been introduced into the UN to ensure that all areas consider the differing impact of policies and programmes on women and men. In 1997 the UN Secretary-General designated human rights as a cross-cutting issue in his reform programme; this has become known as the project of ‘human rights mainstreaming’. According to the UN, mainstreaming human rights means integrating human rights into the broad range of UN activities. However, mainstreaming projects have had, overall, a limited impact on the UN’s compartments; this is due to inadequate resources being devoted to the task; lack of time available for experts in one area to become familiar with another set of ideas and vocabulary; and a sense that the mainstreaming project is at heart cosmetic, irrelevant and likely to have little to offer (Charlesworth 2005). The focus of this chapter is the relationship between the areas of human rights and cultural heritage at the international level. They have developed in quite separate ways, with different emphases and purposes. Human rights scholars have largely ignored the issue of cultural heritage, and, with a few notable exceptions (e.g. Logan 2008), the converse is also true. I want to argue that there is room for much more engagement between these two fields and they have much to learn from each other. This chapter considers a particular aspect of cultural heritage – UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme – and what a greater human rights focus might mean in this context.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationCultural Diversity, Heritage and Human Rights: Intersections in Theory and Practice
    Editors Michele Langfield, William Logan, Mairead Nic Craith
    Place of PublicationAbingdon and New York
    PublisherRoutledge, Taylor & Francis Group
    ISBN (Print)9780415563673
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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