By Adriano Iaria, University of Florence alumni, LPD Assistant
In this post I would like to explore the question raised in my previous blog post: are humanities, that is, art, history, and philosophy, necessary to better understand human rights? It seems a very difficult question to answer. I began my inquiry by going back to the period of Word War II and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, which was discussed in NYU Florence’s recent conference “Public Humanities” on October 9-10 of last week. Article 27 enshrines that “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits”.
December 10, 1948 the international community, one day after the approval of the UN Convention on Genocide, decided to set down a list of inalienable rights, which included the right to participate in cultural life and to enjoy the arts. Of course, in the aftermath of World War II, the devestating effects were wide ranging and people were not the only victims of that war. Monuments, manuscripts, and the arts in general were affected by the conflict, which lasted six years. If we think about the cultural heritage that was lost under the bombs, maybe it is easier to understand why the framers of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights decided to include the right to education and to participate in the cultural life of the community next to the right to life, liberty and security.
What is left of a people without the preservation of its cultural heritage? Can we talk about a people if there is no trace of its art, literature or philosophy? It is not just by chance that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was founded two months after the end of World War II. Educating people to remember, through the arts, literature and philosophy, is the first step to avoiding the perpetration of crimes and the violation of human rights. The collective reparation of human rights violations envisaged by, for instance, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights includes measures such as a public apology, and the construction of a commemorative building.
As the above has illustrated, the humanities in recent history has been an integral part of our understanding of human rights and deserves the protection and safeguard of the international community. They represent, therefore, a valuable subject of study in order to ensure the respect of human rights.