SVG lauded for its efforts in cultural heritage recognition
November 13, 2012
SVG lauded for its efforts in cultural heritage recognition

United Nations Special Rapporteur on cultural rights, Farida Shaheed has commended the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines for the efforts undertaken, despite resource constraints, to ensure a better recognition of the country’s diverse cultural heritage{{more}}

“St 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,” Shaheed said at the end of her one-week visit to access the country’s efforts to enhance cultural rights, with a specific focus on history, cultural heritage and tourism.

However, last Friday, during a media briefing at Frenches House, Shaheed also said that there are still numerous challenges, 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.

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 Island, 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 Balliceaux for the Garifuna people, stressing that “their relationship to this island as a site of remembrance must be respected and maintained.”

The Garifuna were exiled to the island and many died there after Chief Joseph Chatoyer –– now National Hero — died in the 18th century.

The issue of history was central in all discussions throughout Shaheed’s five-day visit.

“A main concern is that textbooks continue to have a European perspective and do not sufficiently reflect the specific history of St Vincent and the Grenadines,” she highlighted.

She further said that 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.”

Shaheed proposed building on 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.”

During her visit, 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 special rapporteur’s fact-gathering visit was the first ever to SVG by an independent expert designated by the United Nations Human Rights Council.