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The Human Right to Access and Enjoy Cultural Heritage in the United Kingdom

Kristin Hausler

On the 31 May 2018, the British Institute of International and Comparative Law hosted a workshop on the human right to access to, and enjoyment of, cultural heritage in the United Kingdom (UK), which was moderated by Kristin Hausler (Dorset Senior Fellow). This workshop was organised as part of HEURIGHT, a research project on Cultural Heritage in the European Union, in relation to which an edited volume was published by Brill Nijhoff in 2019.

While there is no right to cultural heritage per se, a right to access and enjoy cultural heritage is now understood as being part of the human right to take part in cultural life as enshrined in Article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which was ratified by the UK in 1976. The former Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Farida Shaheed, stated that "[C]onsidering access to and enjoyment of cultural heritage as a human right is a necessary and complementary approach to the preservation/safeguard of cultural heritage" and that "[A]ccessing and enjoying cultural heritage is an important feature of being a member of a community, a citizen and, more widely, a member of society." Within the good practices her report highlighted, there was one example regarding the UK, i.e. the free admission policy for national-funded museums and galleries. The goal of this workshop was to identify further how, and to what extent, the right to access to, and enjoyment of, cultural heritage is being implemented in the UK from a human right's perspective. It sought to highlight some good practices, such as the use of digitisation to make heritage more widely accessible. In addition, it also sought to identify possible obstacles to access to, and enjoyment of, cultural heritage in the UK, including those that may arise out of Brexit.

For the report of the workshop, click on the download PDF button on the right.

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