To mark the 10th anniversary of the mandate on cultural rights and the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights has written a report to give an overview of the work of her mandate including suggestions for strategies for advancing cultural rights during the next decade.

Libraries worldwide have an essential role in protecting and promoting human rights in their communities. They do this through resisting censorship and discrimination, providing access to information, and supporting the rights of immigrants, minorities, people with disabilities, women, children, adolescents and others.


Libraries are also the primary institutions in any society for safeguarding documentary cultural heritage, as well as ensuring that everyone has the possibility to benefit from it. They are increasingly aware of their role in encouraging creativity, in addition to supporting access to culture, and in promoting understanding and tolerance.

In November 2018 IFLA submitted its response to the consultation of the Special Rapporteur on cultural rights, highlighting how libraries are adding to the mandate’s work, as well as the challenges that they face.

Special Rapporteur recognises the importance of libraries

The Special Rapporteur stresses that all citizens should be guaranteed cultural rights, including, the right to freely take part in cultural life, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits. This is particularly important in times of crisis, when some, mistakenly, may see cultural rights as being less important.


In her report, she states that cultural rights will only be realised if new ways are found to stand up for them and new allies mobilised in support. She particularly recognises the role of libraries in this, drawing on IFLA contributions, for example with marginalised groups such as indigenous groups. Furthermore, she highlights the work IFLA has done in establishing and distributing guidelines on relevant cultural rights for librarians and highlights how libraries are contributing to giving access to culture.

She notes in particular IFLA’s regular use of the work of the mandate and how artistic freedom and copyright issues has been integrated as vital complements to freedom of access to information.

We are happy to see libraries being recognised in this context, but it should not end there. Much more still needs to be done!

Looking forward to the next 10 years

The Rapporteur makes a set of recommendations to make culture fully accessible to all. To realise this vision, cultural rights must not only be mainstreamed, but cooperation between the mandate of the Rapporteur and other relevant mechanisms must be established.

To ensure this Governments must improve the opportunities for all to take part actively in cultural life by dedicating more support to public cultural events, as well as supporting independent civil society and the voluntary sector, and thereby promoting a plurality of voices in the public space.

Libraries around the globe are already providing a welcoming public space that fosters freedom of expression, freedom of association and access to heritage resources. IFLA therefore welcomes the recommendations made by the Rapporteur. We are looking forward to working further with the Rapporteur to ensure that the recommendations will be upheld.

Find the 10th anniversary report by the Special Rapporteur here, and read the IFLA contribution to the mandate on cultural rights here.