“Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: retrieving the past to go forward” – UN expert on cultural rights

KINGSTOWN / GENEVA(12 November 2012) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on cultural rights, Farida Shaheed, said that over the last decade, commendable efforts have been undertaken despite resources constraints to ensure a better recognition of the country’s diverse cultural heritage.

“Saint Vincent and the Grenadines seems to be at an important juncture in its history, retrieving the past to go forward, valuing diversity and consolidating cultural rights for all,” Ms. Shaheed noted at the end of her official visit* to assess the country’s efforts to enhance cultural rights, with a specific focus on history, cultural heritage and tourism.

“Numerous challenges remain”, Ms. Shaheed stressed, “such as ensuring coherence between national policies on culture and tourism.” The Special Rapporteur recommended that a procedure be established guaranteeing that the National Heritage Trust be systematically consulted prior to development projects likely to impact on cultural heritage. “Also, cultural impact assessments should be made prior to major private or public development projects.”

Ms. Shaheed underscored the importance of ensuring that all communities receive equal recognition, consideration and support from the State. “Small groups such as the Maroons on Union Islands, who strive to maintain their particular traditions, do not seem to receive sufficient attention and support,” she said. “These traditions need to be recognized and documented.”

The human rights expert also called on the Government to consider the importance of the Balliceaux Island for the Garifuna people, stressing that “their relationship to this Island as a site of remembrance must be respected and maintained.”

The issue of history was central in all discussions throughout Ms. Shaheed’s five-day mission. “A main concern is that textbooks continue to have a European perspective and do not sufficiently reflect the specific history of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines,” she highlighted. “There should be more opportunities for teachers to present other versions of history and include local literature.”

“Throughout my mission, I was impressed by people’s desire for and commitment to retrieving and reviving parts of their cultural heritage, including history.”

The Special Rapporteur proposed building on already existing initiatives to catalyze the engagement of youth with cultural heritage, including through interactions with the elders as well as the use of information and communication technologies.

“A new cultural policy is being finalized, and it is important that consultations be announced sufficiently in advance with proper documentation to enable meaningful inputs and broad ownership of the policy,” the expert noted. “So far, hardly any of the interlocutors I met were aware of the planned consultations.”

Ms. Shaheed met with Government officials and statutory bodies working in the areas of culture and tourism, education, legal affairs and central planning. She also met with artists, teachers, historians, people involved in organizing cultural events and festivals, as well as representatives of civil society. The expert visited Kingstown, Sandy Bay and Union Island, one of the Grenadines Islands.

The Special Rapporteurs fact-gathering visit was the first ever to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines by an independent expert designated by the United Nations Human Rights Council. She will present a comprehensive report on her mission at a Council’s forthcoming session.

Ms. Farida Shaheed took up her functions as Independent Expert and then Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights in August 2009. She 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. Ms. Shaheed has been the recipient of several national and international human rights awards, and is an experienced participant in negotiations at international, regional and national levels. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/CulturalRights/Pages/SRCulturalRightsIndex.aspx

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur full end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=12770&LangID=E

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/LACRegion/Pages/VCIndex.aspx

For inquiries and media requests, please contact:
In Kingstown: Mylène Bidault, (+ 41 79 444 4355 / mbidault@ohchr.org)
In Geneva: Amanda Flores (+ 41 22 917 91 86 / aflores@ohchr.org) or write to srculturalrights@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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