Minority Rights Group International (MRG) Deputy Director, Claire Thomas, writes this opinion piece for the Thomson Reuters News Foundation.+ LEARN MORE
Research: How to defend minority cultural rights by using local laws in the Southern Mediterranean region?
Deadline: 29 May 2016
In the framework of the European Union (EU) funded regional programme “MedCulture“, Minority Rights Group International, in partnership with the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development, the Civic Forum Institute Palestine, and Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies, is looking to fund qualified consultants or researchers to carry out a study of the feasibility of using legal remedies for abuses of cultural rights particularly affecting minorities.
The DDD project is one of three culture projects funded by the EU within the regional programme “MedCulture”, which aims to support the efforts of the Southern Mediterranean countries in building deep-rooted democracy and to contribute to their sustainable economic, social and human development, through regional co-operation in the field of culture. It supports activities fostering cultural policy reform and reinforcing the capacity of cultural policy makers, as well as promoting investment and the development of cultural operators’ business capabilities.
Terms of Reference
Minority Rights Group International will fund qualified consultants or researchers to carry out a study of the feasibility of using legal remedies for abuses of cultural rights particularly affecting minorities.
Each study should result in a 10-20 pages practically oriented report detailing key information and findings, including names and contacts details of suitably qualified lawyers interested in taking cases (if possible pro bono) as well as existing precedents and areas of the law which would benefit from clarification or enforcement. The reports should, where possible, also list NGOs already undertaking human rights legal work in that country and their degree of interest in litigating cultural rights/minority rights, as well as organisations interested in starting litigation work that are not already doing so. All reports will be peer-reviewed for quality by 2 experts on that country as well as an MRG minority legal specialist. Once finalised, the reports will be used by MRG and its in-country partners to develop advocacy / new projects.
Minority Rights Group intends to investigate and assess the possibility of using legal remedies to tackle cultural rights abuses in Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Israel.
Each project will receive up to 3,000 euros.
4. Deadline and projects duration
The deadline to apply is 29 May 2016.
We are looking to fund up to 6 projects in 6 different countries. This call will therefore be open until 6 projects are selected for funding. Applications will be reviewed as they are received, and, due to the high number of applications received, MRG will only contact successful applicants. Please note that no answer from MRG in the month following your application will mean that it has not been accepted.
Teams should be willing and able to submit draft reports no later than 3 months after contract signing. Final reports in English should be submitted no later three weeks after comments on the draft report are received.
5. Eligibility requirements
We welcome applications from independent consultants, civil society organisations, legal professionals, law firms and universities. The partners undertaking the studies will be expected to have detailed knowledge of legal systems and cultural practices in the country, as well as of international cultural rights and minority rights norms and a basic understanding of international legal remedies. They should also have excellent writing skills and able to demonstrate experience of writing for non-legally qualified audiences in accessible ways. Previous experience in advocacy activities and project management, as well as good connections with local civil society and/or minority rights activists, will be considered positively. Team members should have had practical experience of litigating on social justice or similar issues. Knowledge of English is desirable: if the team does not have strong English, MRG may reserve a small portion of the funding to translate the draft and final reports into English.
6. Methodology and definition of cultural rights:
The applicants will be expected to meet and talk with minority community leaders to assess abuses of cultural rights and the extent to which minority organisations are already supporting individuals or groups to seek redress. Remedies investigated could include domestic litigation, reference of cases to Ombudsmen, National Human Rights Institutions, Equality Commissions or similar (as well as the potential prospects of success / limitations of such remedies). Where these do not exist or have not proved effective, the studies may also explore potential advocacy opportunities and international legal remedies.
Cultural rights are a category of human rights aiming at ensuring that all people without discrimination can freely access, participate and contribute to cultural life. They are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in the UN Declaration on the rights of persons belonging to minorities, and they are protected by a number of international treaties, at the international and regional levels.
Applied to minorities and indigenous peoples, cultural rights include the following elements:
- Right of access to cultural activities:
° States must ensure the affordability and accessibility of cultural centres, libraries, museums, theatres etc. to the widest possible audience, without discrimination
° States must remove barriers to equal participation to cultural life (redress regional disparities, make culture accessible to all)
° States must preserve cultural heritage (take measures to safeguard artwork, monuments, archaeological sites)
- Right to contribute to cultural life: right to disseminate creative work and traditional cultural expressions (e.g. songs, music, paintings, stories, mythologies, clothing, food, ritual practices and other expression of a group identity), in the language of one’s choice, without unjustified censorship, destruction of artwork and cultural products, harassment of creators… This right also includes the right to benefit from the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which a person is the author.
- Right of minorities and of persons belonging to minorities to conserve, promote and develop their own culture. This right entails the obligation of States to recognize, respect and protect minority cultures as an essential component of the identity of states themselves. Minorities have the right to their cultural diversity, traditions, customs, religion, forms of education, languages, communication media (press, radio, television, Internet) and other manifestations of their cultural identity and membership. The protection of the cultural rights of a minority can include the preservation of a language, traditional practices and a particular way of life (ex: activities related to a land, especially for indigenous communities).
Examples of violations of cultural rights include (the list is non-exhaustive):
- Prohibiting the teaching of a certain language
- Prohibiting the teaching of elements of a certain culture (songs, stories, traditions…)
- Impeding the public display of some traditional practice, including religious rites, unless it is justified by the necessity to protect public safety order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights of others, and in conformity with human rights law
- Promoting negative stereotypes of a certain minority culture in school
- Banning or censoring an exhibition, a show, a concert while relying on discriminatory and/or illegitimate reasons under human rights law
- The destruction of historic or cultural heritage sites
- A discriminatory practice consisting in maintaining only sites, shrines and monuments belonging to a certain culture or religion
- A discriminatory allocation of resources for libraries or cultural centres which reduces the access to culture for part of the population, living in certain areas of the country.
7. How to submit an application
All applications should include the following:
- Summary CVs of main personnel (up to 3 CVs – each maximum 3 pages) plus contact information of main applicant.
Proposed methodology for the research and study, including the objectives, proposed stakeholders and beneficiaries, activities and timeframe (minimum 1 page, maximum 3 pages)
- Detailed project budget.
- One writing sample/example of similar piece of work.
We encourage applicants to submit these documents in English although we will also accept applications in Arabic or French. Please submit all applications to email@example.com
MRG is a non-governmental organisation working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples and seeking to improve cooperation and understanding between communities.