Contract Individual Consultant, Cultural Sector

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Terms of Reference


Cultural heritage and diversity have increasingly become the direct targets of systematic and deliberate attacks in numerous conflicts around the world. More and more, UNESCO and its partners are called upon to respond. Cultural resources are particularly vulnerable to collateral damage, looting and intentional destruction, which is often paired with the persecution of individuals based on their cultural, ethnic or religious affiliation and practices, and the denial of certain identities, resulting in ‘cultural cleansing’. Moreover, conflicts no longer have clear endings: they create complex humanitarian emergencies of a protracted nature. Even when peace agreements are signed, power struggles continue that challenge fragile agreements, leaving large parts of the population displaced and dependent on humanitarian aid. The absence of clearly distinguishable post-conflict phases and the high number of protracted conflicts that can escalate at any given time require a prolonged engagement on the part of the international community with regards to the delivery of basic humanitarian assistance, protection responsibilities, including the safeguarding of human rights, and strengthening of governance to reestablish lasting peace and the rule of law.

Cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible, is also increasingly affected by disasters around the world, triggered by both natural and human-induced hazards. As the number of disasters is growing, with more exposure and vulnerabilities caused by urban and demographic expansion, so is the impact on cultural landmarks, sites and museums.

Cultural resources and heritage, as expressions of peoples’ identity, repositories of memory and traditional knowledge and creativity, are essential components of human dignity and social capital. The significance of culture in the lives of communities and individuals makes its continuity a powerful tool for building resilience, serving as a basis for sustainable recovery after trauma and the prevention of further tensions. Enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, access to, participation in and contribution to cultural life, including through the safeguarding and enjoyment of cultural heritage and the promotion of artistic freedom, must be integrated within the humanitarian response to crisis situations and into peace-building processes.

Over 68 million people are currently forcibly displaced worldwide. Many are suffering from the direct targeting of their cultural references – intentional or through the non-recognition of their value - and from diminished opportunities to exercise and transmit their culture, that both deny them the enjoyment of their cultural rights. Refugees and displaced people tend to draw from their intangible cultural heritage as a resource for social and psychological resilience in the face of intense difficulties. At the same time, their intangible cultural heritage is threatened due to the disruption of communities and families and the distance from the places and sites of significance. Their ability to access and enjoy culture must be guaranteed in these circumstances as it helps them cope with the psychological distress of forced displacement, and ensures their well-being in adapting and settling into the new context of a host country.

Cultural resources and initiatives also have a unique capacity to bring together people in inclusive dialogue. Shared cultural heritage, references and cultural life provide opportunities for participatory local governance, and the engagement of a diversity of persons with one another through cultural resources lie at the heart of sustainable peace and inclusive societies. Distinctive cultural institutions that respect the rights of all, including traditional practices and authorities, should therefore be seen as a resource for conflict prevention or peace-building processes, knowledge, legitimacy, participation and enhanced effectiveness. In complex emergencies, cultural resources can be a vehicle to foster tolerance, mutual understanding and reconciliation, mitigating social tensions and preventing renewed escalation into violent conflict. Film, dance and theatre, for example, have been used to build mutual understanding among diverse refugee communities and to express grief and overcome losses in a non threatening manner. 

Respect of cultural diversity and dialogue are prerequisites for building respect and tolerance. They are a positive force in promoting inclusivness and they counter restrictive visions of cultural identity that can threaten stability. A more inclusive heritage dialogue that goes beyond stereotypes and includes marginalized persons and groups in the overall discussion is crucial in peace-building processes.

The realization of the right to enjoy, develop, have access to and participate in cultural life and respect for the principle of non discrimination towards a person’s identity, moreover, is an enabler of other fundamental human rights to which they are closely linked such as the right to privacy, education, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of association and peaceful assembly. In turn, those rights are also “key to ensuring the full realization of cultural rights, [as the latter] transcend the juncture of civil and political rights and economic and social rights and thus are important markers of interdependence and indivisibility”.

The challenge to be addressed

Thanks to awareness-raising and advocacy efforts, the security and humanitarian implications of attacks against cultural heritage have been widely recognized at the highest political levels, notably through the adoption of resolutions 2199 (2015) and 2347 (2017) by the UN Security Council, as well as Resolutions 33/20 (2016) and 37/17 (2018) by the Human Rights Council. Despite the recognition of culture as a soft power for resilience, peace and stability, however, this has not yet fully being harnessed in support of peace and the realization of human rights. A concern for culture, indeed, is not yet fully integrated into peacebuilding, security or humanitarian policies and practices. This sentiment is confirmed by the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of Cultural Rights when she calls for a human-rights based approach to the intentional destruction of cultural heritage.

In adopting the Strategy for the Reinforcement of UNESCO’s Action for the Protection of Culture and the Promotion of Cultural Pluralism in the Event of Armed Conflict, the Organization’s General Conference has given priority to the incorporation of a concern for culture into humanitarian action, security strategies and peace-building processes by engaging with relevant stakeholders outside the culture domain, which is one of its two main objectives. This is also reflected in the Action Plan for the Strategy’s implementation, endorsed by the 201st Session of UNESCO’s Executive Board, through a number of activities and, with reference to human rights, in particular its Activity 24 on “Cooperation and exchange of information with the Human Rights Council and the UN Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights”. One important way of addressing this challenge is by strengthening the capacities of the humanitarian, security and peacekeeping/building sectors in integrating a concern for culture in their operations.

Cooperation between UNESCO, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights

In this context, UNESCO, the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of Cultural Rights and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have increasingly sought opportunities to cooperate.

In order to capitalize on the advocacy efforts already undertaken and address the recommendations generated in the Intersessional Seminar convened on 7 July 2017 in Geneva by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Special Rapporteur and UNESCO seek to develop modalities of cooperation to promote a human rights-based approach to cultural diversity and the safeguarding of cultural heritage in humanitarian action, security, peacebuilding and peacekeeping operations.

Objective of the Assignment

Under the supervision of Mr Giovanni Boccardi, Chief of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Unit, the Consultant shall draw from recent analysis, reports and developments in the fields of cultural rights and heritage, as well as from existing practice, the main elements demonstrating the linkages between human rights, cultural diversity and the safeguarding of cultural heritage, as well as the gaps in leveraging culture in humanitarian action and security, peacebuilding and peacekeeping operations.

This assignment should take the form of a study of no more than 60 pages (excluding annexes), in the English language.

Duties and Expected Outputs

The Individual Specialist will:

  • recall the legal framework of international obligations covering the protection of cultural heritage and culture in the largest sense, including the ability to participate in cultural life, creativity and freedom of artistic expression in all its forms, including both International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights law;
  • shed light on the key cultural capacities and resources that are crucial for a human being and a society, which must be protected and promoted to ensure their dignity and rights, notably in a crisis situation and in transition phases;
  • identify case studies of best practices and gaps in leveraging culture in humanitarian action and security, peacebuilding and peacekeeping operations;
  • review existing training programmes and materials on the subject of Human Rights for humanitarian, security and peacebuilding actors, to understand the extent to which cultural rights are taken into account and to identify gaps to be addressed and best practices on which could be built;
  • identify target groups and stakeholders at operational level which could pilot guidance or toolkits for the better integration of a concern for culture, cultural diversity and the safeguarding of cultural heritage in humanitarian action and security, peacebuilding and peacekeeping operations;
  • recommend the most appropriate/effective strategy to strengthen capacities among humanitarian/security/peacebuilding actors in integrating cultural rights in their work, for example on whether it would be better to develop a separate manual (and if so, which structure it should have) or to work with actors in the field to update their existing trainings with cultural-right specific content.

In terms of methodology for the study, the Consultant will be responsible for gathering and analysing data for the assignment, through desk research, evaluating relevant literature and case studies as well as conducting interviews with selected relevant individuals.

Timetable and Deliverables

  1. Methodology, proposed scope of report and table of contents - Start date + 1 month
  2. First draft of report and recommendations - Start date + 3 months
  3. Final report and recommendations - Start date + 6 months


  • Advanced University Degree in a relevant field (Law, Human Rights, Social and Human Sciences, International Development, Cultural Heritage etc.);
  • At least six years of experience at the international level in the implementation of cultural projects or in human rights protection and promotion, with a focus on culture. Relevant experience in emergency situations and United Nations experience, in particular field experience would be an asset;
  • Excellent knowledge of English;
  • Knowledge of UNESCO’s culture programme, including in emergency situations would be an asset.

Supervisory arrangements

The Consultant will carry out his/her tasks under the overall authority of the Deputy Director of the Division for Heritage and the direct supervision of the Chief of the EPR Unit.

Facilities to be provided by the Consultant

Phone, computer and Internet access.

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