ARTS RIGHTS JUSTICE OBSERVATORY: Launch of the ARTS RIGHTS JUSTICE LIBRARY
21 May 2019
An interview with Dr. Daniel Gad, Managing Director of the UNESCO Chair in Cultural Policy for the Arts in Development at the University of Hildesheim’s Department of Cultural Policy and Head of the ARTS RIGHTS JUSTICE PROGRAMME.
- Why do we need an ARTS RIGHTS JUSTICE Library?
The political and social situations of many countries around the world highlight the current sorry state of freedom of expression and artistic freedom – even within Europe. In 2012, the United Nations had good reason to commission Special Rapporteur Farida Shaheed to compile a report on the right to freedom of artistic expression. The case of the British Indian writer Salman Rushdie, who was placed under police protection as a result of a book he wrote in the late eighties, laid the foundations for a global network of residencies for artists in exile. Today, numerous organisations, mainly civil society groups, are dedicated to the task of protecting and promoting artists and artistic freedom. After four years of consultation with some 30 experts, our UNESCO Chair set up the ARTS RIGHTS JUSTICE Programme in 2017 with the support of the German Federal Foreign Office. The program encompasses a one-week academy and an online library, with the aim of collating knowledge and working with numerous stakeholders from theory and practice to lead the discourse on protecting and promoting artistic freedom.
Governments are finding increasingly ingenious ways of controlling and restricting freedoms, so there is a pressing need to provide access to knowledge on how to protect them. Limited resources mean that only a restricted number of participants can attend the Academy in Hildesheim, but the ARTS RIGHTS JUSTICE Library is a key open-access resource that can be used free of charge.
- Does this kind of resource already exist in Germany? What makes this library different?
This kind of comprehensive library focusing on artistic freedom and artist protection is one of a kind in both Germany and the rest of the world. As an independent institution committed to freedom of information, we aim to make all – or at least the most relevant – documents freely accessible. Our decision on whether or not to include a document in the library is based on the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The ARTS RIGHTS JUSTICE Library stores and collates existing reports, concepts and guidelines under one roof. It is groundbreaking in the way that it provides information to users from a wide range of backgrounds and specialist fields. In the spirit of open access, it is freely and globally available online at www.arj-library.de A computer and internet access is all that is required – there is no need to travel to a particular location. It is also not necessary to register in order to access the library and just browse the website via the menu.
- What are you hoping to achieve, and who are you trying to reach?
We carried out an extensive survey of various stakeholders to find out what knowledge was lacking in this sector and how we should collate, share and multiply knowledge. Based on this, along with the resulting concept of the ARJ Academy, we see the key users of the ARTS RIGHTS JUSTICE Library as artists, human rights activists, cultural managers, lawyers, researchers and people working at policy level. These are the people who are committed to protecting and promoting artistic freedom. We are aware that some users will be unaccustomed to working with academic studies, so we have decided to include a growing number of guidelines and short training documents in our Library.
It is also important to safeguard the body of knowledge on this topic. We know from experience that information can be lost because non-governmental organisations produce valuable reports and guidelines but do not automatically continue to exist in the long run. Changes of government also often lead to different political concepts. Therefore, the ARTS RIGHTS JUSTICE Library also seeks to safeguard the knowledge of the past and make it accessible in the present and future.
- Can you give an example of something in the Library that can’t be accessed in a “normal” city or university library?
Only a fraction of the knowledge about the protection of artists and artistic freedom is published in regular books. The limited financial and human resources that are available to the sector make it difficult to produce a book and distribute it through the book trade. On top of this, in most countries – and particularly in countries with repressive social and political systems – the book trade, distribution channels, budgets for purchasing books and library infrastructures are all so different that it is difficult for knowledge to reach the readers who want it.
Digital documents are stored and made accessible on the internet in many different places and in such complex ways that even seasoned academics can find it difficult to find what they are looking for. That is why the aim of the ARTS RIGHTS JUSTICE Library is to gather knowledge in one place and facilitate access to it in the sense of the global right to freedom of information. In this way, it will contribute to expanding the infrastructure for the protection and promotion of artistic freedom.