Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights


The center of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights is one of the thematic special procedures overseen by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Its focus is the promotion of cultural rights. The Special Rapporteur promotes cultural rights by identifying best practices, detecting obstacles to the promotion and protection of cultural rights, and working with States to encourage the adoption of measures to promote and protect cultural rights at all levels. The Special Rapporteur also studies the relationship between cultural rights and cultural diversity.

The Special Rapporteur is committed to integrating a gender and disabilities perspectives in all work required by the mandate.


The mandate of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights lasts for a period of three years. The mandate is filled by one highly-qualified individual.

The UN Human Rights Council established the Special Rapporteurship in 2009 with Resolution 10/23 and extended it in 2012 with Resolution 19/6.

In fulfilling the mandate, the Special Rapporteur undertakes country visits, communicates with governments concerning information and complaints received alleging violations of cultural rights, holds seminars and consultations, and submits activity reports to the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council.

Country Visits

One important function of the Special Rapporteur is to conduct country visits, which it does on the basis of an invitation from the country concerned. Country visits provide the Special Rapporteur an opportunity to gain an understanding and spread awareness, both locally and globally, of specific issues related to cultural rights. During a country visit, the Special Rapporteur participates in meetings, attends briefings, and cooperates in press coverage of the visit. Following each country visit, the Special Rapporteur reports his or her findings, conclusions, and recommendations.

The Special Rapporteur undertakes an average of two country visits per year. View the list of previous country visits and the Special Rapporteur’s subsequent reports here.

More than 100 countries have extended standing invitations to country visits by all thematic special procedures. View the list of countries that have extended standing invitations here.

Individual Complaints

The Special Rapporteur receives information and complaints concerning alleged violations of cultural rights. Importantly, the Special Rapporteur does not issue decisions concerning individual complaints and cannot require the State to remedy any alleged violation; rather, the Special Rapporteur raises the issue of concern with the relevant State.

The Special Rapporteur may contact the government concerned to invite comment, seek clarification, remind the government of its international obligations, or request information on steps being taken by the government to redress the situation. Generally called “communications,” these exchanges with the government can take a variety of forms of varying degrees of significance. Specifically, the Special Rapporteur contacts a government through either an allegation letter or an urgent appeal.

The Special Rapporteur keeps confidential all communications to and from the government until it includes them in the communications reports of the Special Procedures, which are submitted to the Human Rights Council at each of its regular sessions (in March, June, and September).

In all communications, the Special Rapporteur is careful not to draw any conclusions about the facts of the case. Instead, the Special Rapporteur simply presses for the government to ensure that any cultural rights are not violated.

Allegation Letters

Generally, the Special Rapporteur sends an allegation letter in circumstances where the alleged violation has already occurred, or is not so pressing as to warrant sending an urgent appeal. An allegation letter generally contains a request for the government to clarify the substance of the allegation and to forward any information related to the allegation to the Special Rapporteur.

Urgent Appeals

The urgent appeals procedure is reserved for cases in which there are sufficiently reliable allegations that a person may be arbitrarily detained and that the situation is time-sensitive in terms of loss of life, life-threatening situations, or imminent or ongoing damage of a grave nature. If it appears that the allegation letters procedure is unlikely to address the situation in a timely enough manner, the Special Rapporteur will send an urgent appeal to the government concerned.

Seminars and Consultations

The Special Rapporteur also undertakes seminars and public consultations. Past consultations include the consultation on the right to artistic freedom, the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications, and the right of access to cultural heritage.

Reports to the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council

The Special Rapporteur reports annually to the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly on all of its activities relating to its mandate. These reports are available on the Special Rapporteur’s Annual Reports webpage.


Complaints should be submitted via the online submission form. Complaints submitted to the Special Rapporteur must provide the information requested on the webpage and model questionnaire, including:

  • identity and other details of the alleged victim(s),
  • identity of the alleged perpetrator(s) of the violation,
  • the date, place, and detailed description of the circumstances of the incident(s) or alleged violation, and
  • identity of the person(s) or organization(s) submitting the communication, which will be kept confidential.

The Special Rapporteur may also be contacted by:

  • Mail:

Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights
c/o Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des Nations
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
CH-1211 Geneva 10

To contact the Special Rapporteur regarding another matter (not a complaint), use the email address: [email protected].