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Opening remarks at the launch of State of Artistic Freedom

State Secretary Marianne Hagen's opening remarks at the launch of Freemuse’ annual report State of Artistic Freedom.

Good morning,

UNESCO’s Goodwill Ambassador for Artistic Freedom, Norwegian-born Deeyah Khan, once said:

‘Arts and culture are expressions of our common humanity’.

Culture and the arts have the power to build and shape societies, as the Norwegian Coalition Government points out in its policy platform.

Artists make full use of the human capacity of creation, stir our imaginations, question the world we live in - and sometimes rage against it.

Silencing them, hiding their works from the public eye, and suppressing the diversity of human expression diminishes the lives of all of us.

It makes society poorer.

Therefore, we must continue to support all those who are risking their lives to safeguard freedom of artistic expression.

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Norway is a staunch supporter of human rights. We support the UN’s work in this field, including the work of UNESCO, the UN organisation with culture in its mandate.  

This is why Norway is a strong partner of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and of the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights.

It is also why we support Freemuse and the important work that you do.

The Freemuse reports are invaluable, knowledge-based sources of statistics and other information on the status of artistic freedom.

As the 2019 Freemuse report sadly documents, in many parts of the world artists and audiences face censorship and violations of the right to freedom of expression.

Artists and audiences are at risk of being targeted, manipulated or controlled by those in power or in search of power.

Threats against freedom of artistic expression are also becoming a challenge in Europe.

The pressure is not just coming from governments. It is also coming from groups and movements that want to silence artists for various reasons. Female artists and their families, as well as minorities, are particularly at risk.

Last year, Freemuse launched a special report entitled Creativity Wronged, which examines the way women’s rights to artistic freedom are denied and marginalised.

Discrimination and violations of rights on the basis of ideologies or traditions cannot be justified.

It is alarming that countries increasingly use anti-terrorism laws to silence artists.

Creativity, critical thinking and participation are three basic components of a free, liberal society.

Artists, writers and publishers have always been at the front line in the struggle for these values.

We commend Freemuse and other organisations working in this field for their tireless efforts to ensure the full recognition of cultural rights.

You are human rights defenders.

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Norway’s cultural policy is based on freedom of expression and tolerance. A free and vibrant cultural sector and civil society are crucial for fostering an enlightened public debate and creating a thriving democracy.  

The right of all people, without discrimination – men and women – to have access to, participate in, and contribute to cultural life is enshrined in Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

States have a legal obligation to respect human rights, protect against violations, and provide adequate resources and infrastructure for cultural and artistic expressions.

We cannot take cultural rights for granted.

Governments must show political commitment and seek partnerships with likeminded states, through the UN system and with civil society organisations that work for artistic freedom and cultural rights.

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Defending cultural rights is one of the two priority areas in Norway’s support to the cultural sector abroad.

I am very pleased to announce that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is increasing its funding for efforts to promote cultural rights and artistic freedom in 2019 with 20 million Norwegian kroner.

The other priority area is support to cultural heritage and safeguarding of world heritage sites.

There is a clear connection between access to cultural heritage, identity, pride and basic human rights.

There are many examples of what happens when people no longer have access to places of prayer, and can no longer celebrate their traditions or speak their native language.

World heritage sites in Africa are underrepresented on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and face many challenges.

Natural world heritage sites particularly face challenges - be it natural disasters or clashes of interest between commercial and conservation actors.

The Government is therefore increasing its support to capacity-building in world heritage conservation in Africa with 30 million Norwegian kroner.

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To conclude, let me again underline the following:

Cultural rights are an integral part of the universal, indivisible and interdependent human rights system.

Cultural rights apply to everyone.

We must be tireless in our efforts to protect artistic freedom of expression.

Thank you.

                                                            

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