Cultural Rights, governance and managing diversity
Cultural diversity is seen at CCFU as a driving force of development, not only in respect to economic growth, but also as a means of leading a more fulfilling intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual life. Cultural diversity is an indispensable asset for poverty reduction and the achievement of sustainable development, but this requires acceptance, recognition and protection.
While declining cultural heritage resources is rarely presented as a humanitarian issue, we are convinced that immediate action is necessary to protect our vanishing cultural heritage as a means to strengthen the observance of Ugandans’ cultural rights. Thus, one of CCFU’s main programme areas focuses on enhancing an appreciation of cultural rights.
The goal of the programme
In 2012, CCFU embarked on a programme whose overall goal is to enhance the cultural rights of Ugandans through heritage promotion. The programme has three main inter-connected and mutually re-enforcing objectives:
- To promote the development of cultural heritage through supporting community-based plans and micro-projects in three selected districts.
This intervention focuses on assisting local government or traditional institutions in Rakai, Moyo and Kibaale (in 2014) districts to mobilize their respective communities to conserve tangible or intangible cultural heritage in their vicinity (for instance a sacred forest, literature, oral history, monuments). Stakeholders in the these districts are facilitated to identify cultural heritage resources in selected areas and design and implement heritage development plans which involve Community Development and Tourism Officers, Environmental Officers and traditional institutions, including capacity building, where appropriate.
- To preserve and develop the cultural assets of ethnic minorities through language and community museums promotion.
An essential form of cultural identity is language. This objective seeks to support the languages of ethnic minority groups under threat, especially where there is no written literature, to strengthen the self-confidence of ethnic minority groups in protecting their cultural assets and to alert policy makers to their threatened cultural rights.Through a ‘minority language’ book competition, an awarding ceremony and publication, CCFU seeks to raise the profile of minority groups’ literary achievements and to produce a bilingual (minority language – English) record of such achievements. This involves Language Development Associations – where these exist – and promotes their establishment where they do not exist, in addition to working with relevant institutions such as Libraries and Institutes of Languages attached to Universities.In addition, the Ik community in Kaabong, the Benet in the Mt Elgon region and a cluster of ethnic minority groups (Babwisi, Vonoma and Bamba-in 2014) in Bundibugyo are be supported to develop private initiatives in form of cultural resource centres and ‘Community Museums’ as sustainable enterprises. These initiatives are provided with methodological, business and technical training to document and publicize their achievement.
- To promote a conducive policy environment for safeguarding Ugandans’ cultural rights.
CCFU, in collaboration with a range of other organizations and cultural heritage activists has spearheaded a coalition to lobby relevant key policy makers and government to make the necessary changes to the current legal framework to allow effective conservation and sustainable development of Ugandan heritage and cultural diversity. Further efforts are needed, such as ensuring that the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the diversity of Cultural Expressions is both ratified and implemented by the Uganda government. The cultural rights of ethnic minorities are especially at risk and require urgent attention. More broadly, there is a need to express to policy makers the need for policy change to place cultural rights much higher on the national agenda than is currently the case.CCFU therefore works with the ethnic minority groups mentioned above to develop status reports and engage district authorities on their cultural rights– this involves research and writing support visits (in the form of “write-shops”), and facilitating meetings district authorities to discuss salient issues raised in the status reports and development and dissemination of a national policy brief on cultural rights.All the above activities are therefore documented to provide information and experiences that may be used as the basis for advocacy and engagement of the relevant authorities.