The UDHR and the Group: Individual and Community Rights to Culture
Journal of Public Law and Policy
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The deliberate omission of minority rights from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is suggested to be the basis for the fundamental tension between individual and group rights. This historical background is critical to contemporary discussions of community rights to culture, particularly in the context of traditional cultural expressions and knowledge, as well as in the context of genetic and natural resources. With respect to traditional community knowledge and rights to culture, this primacy of the individual is potentially limiting. This paper examines international developments in the protection of traditional and indigenous knowledge, and the complex and at times discordant relationship between human rights protection and traditional communities. It will consider the impact of that original omission in the UDHR in the context of contemporary discussions of group rights and the right to culture, and the protection of community knowledge as part of the conditions necessary for an individual member of a minority to access that right. Indeed, perhaps the architecture for group rights to culture is necessarily the prerequisite for an individual’s effective cultural participation.
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