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The May 18 Spirit

III. The Right to Culture

Ⅲ-1. Globalization has led to better integration, adaptation and learnings from other cultures. But it has also led to the ascension of American culture as the global culture, while relegating all other cultures as local. In this context, states have a special responsibility to protect, preserve and promote music, films, dance and all other art forms. As many Asian states are multicultural in nature, states should treat all cultures equally. Fringe groups masquerading as guardians of culture should not be allowed to violate the individual rights of citizens in the name of protecting culture.

Ⅲ-2. The right to education is vital to the realization of the right to culture. States should take steps to provide opportunities for affordable and quality education at the primary, secondary and university levels and to ensure academic freedom for faculty members and students. Faculty should have the freedom to teach, to research and to express their views. Similarly, students have the right to choose courses in an atmosphere of freedom, especially that of freedom of expression. State intervention should be limited to ensuring quality and non-discrimination.

Ⅲ-3. Language is a powerful medium of expression of culture. Imposition of a particular language or script on linguistic minorities should be avoided. Efforts should be made to make all official information available in all the languages spoken in the state. Every student has a right to receive education in a language of his choice. Efforts should be made to provide quality education in all the languages. States should not impose or prefer one language as the medium of instruction. States should take all measures to preserve, protect and promote languages.

Ⅲ-4. Asia is home to many indigenous communities and states in the region have a duty to protect indigenous communities and their cultures. States should recognize the symbiotic relationship that indigenous communities have with nature. Attempts to conserve nature and its resources by these communities should be encouraged. Displacement for development destroys indigenous communities and their distinct cultures. Existing international legal principles, including the principle of ‘prior informed consent’, should be strictly adhered to in matters of land acquisition. Traditional knowledge is an important component of culture and Asia is rich both in biological diversity and traditional knowledge associated with it. National governments should protect traditional knowledge and combat ‘bio-piracy’.

Ⅲ-5. Religion can be only one component of culture; it should not be equated with culture. In the Asian context, many cultures transcend religion. Special care should be taken to protect cultural diversity existing within religions. Attempts by religious minorities to adapt to local cultures should not be discouraged or prevented. At the same time there should not be any coercion for the religious minorities to adapt to local cultures.

Ⅲ-6. As culture has evolved in close and continuous interaction with nature, states should take special care in environmental protection and respect traditional ways of doing this. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development reflects realization that development has to be sustainable. Culture can inform and contribute to the realization of the 17 sustainable development goals enshrined in the document. States should focus special attention on the cultural dimensions of these goals.

Ⅲ 7. The idea that migrants implicitly relinquish their cultural claims when they leave their country of origin must be emphatically rejected. There should be a policy of respect, non-discrimination and non-interference in the day to day cultural practices of the immigrants. Preference for the language of the country of origin, or in the case of second and third generation members of the immigrant families, language of their parents or grandparents, should not be interfered with.

Ⅲ-8. Culture is often viewed as an impediment to the realization of women’s human rights and cultural practices are often used to discriminate against women. This is mainly due to viewing culture as ‘static’ and certain values as ‘intrinsic’ to a given culture and therefore unchangeable. Women lack influence in decision making processes and have limited opportunities to further develop cultural life. Attempts at all levels must be made to ensure that women can fully realize their human rights, owning and belonging to their culture at the same time. In this context, states should honor their commitment to ensure the right of women to participate in recreational activities, sports and all aspects of cultural life.

Ⅲ-9. Many of the states in Asia have gone through conflicts as well as colonialism with its associated violence. In building post-conflict societies culture can play an important role. The state should adopt an inclusive approach accommodating the ethno-cultural diversity of a society.

Ⅲ-10. Media has a big role to play in the protection of the right to culture. In their reporting, media should be sensitive to cultural differences and diversity in society. Stereotyping of certain communities should be avoided. ‘Fake news’ can have serious implications for the enjoyment of this right. Media should consider the need for self-regulatory bodies acting independently either at the organization or national level.

Ⅲ-11. Business, especially transnational corporations have a huge bearing in the realization of human rights in Asia. In the context of the right to culture, businesses should acknowledge cultural diversity and respect local culture in terms of recruitment, conditions of work, holidays etc. Business can also play a positive role in promoting culture. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities may be used for promoting different cultural forms.