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Bosnia's Culture And Education Hijacked By Political Debate: UN Expert

The United Nations Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Farad Shared, has urged all levels of the Governments of Bosnia and Herzegovina to maximize the opportunities for people to engage in culture, sports, science and arts, and to have access to "neutral spaces where politics and Ethan-national affiliations do not interfere."

"Culture and education seem to have been held hostage to political debates," Shared said at the end of her first mission to the country on Friday. "This has an immense detrimental effect on the artistic, cultural, scientific and academic life in the country, and on the right of all people, without discrimination, to enjoy their cultural rights and to access their cultural heritage," she added.

She cited the example of the current uncertainty surrounding the fate of seven crucial cultural institutions for Bosnia and Herzegovina, including the National Museum which closed its doors last year.

The Special rapporteur expressed concern over "the extent to which political bodies have expanded their influence over cultural institutions, whose independence should be guaranteed in law as well as in practice." The rights expert noted that throughout her visit frustration has been expressed across the board that efforts are being blocked at the level of senior decision makers and politicians.

She stressed that "one worrying trend lies in over-emphasizing cultural differences, including linguistic differences, to justify practices amounting to segregation of people based on their Ethan-national affiliation, in particular in the field of education."

"Contrasting perspectives exist on the future of this country and how its political and administrative structures should be established," she said. However, Shared underscored that those perspectives were not irreconcilable. In her view, divisions do persist in the country almost 20 years after the end of the war, but the divide is much greater at the political level than on the ground.

She said "The time has come to move forward if Bosnia and Herzegovina wishes a better future for its children."

During her 12-day mission, Shared met with a wide range of actors in the cultural field, including cultural institutions, academics and artists, as well as civil society representatives in Sarajevo, Mo star, Jakes, Banjo Liuka, Brok and Sabrina. She also visited a number of monuments, memorials and museums.

The Special Rapporteur will present a comprehensive report on her mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina at a forthcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council.

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