Global Campus of Human Rights Magazine n 4 (August 2021)
Della Vedova, Benedetto
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We are living in a period of severe global crises, but also at a time of transformation. Scientists have been telling us for decades - and politicians slowly seem to be starting to grasp the concept that global warming will make our planet uninhabitable if we do not take swift and decisive action to address the root causes of our global environmental crisis, including the deliberate destruction of our rainforests, the emission of greenhouse gases that contribute to accelerated climate change, and a rapid loss of biodiversity etc. The COVID-19 Pandemic has contributed to strengthening our belief and opening even the eyes of the most sceptical politicians that we can no longer leave the solution of our global problems simply to market forces, as was the mantra of neoliberal economists and politicians for almost half a century. Most people realise today that we need robust and well-functioning democratic states, regions and cities with accountable politicians willing to take responsibility for protecting our human rights to life, health and a sustainable environment as well as the same rights for our children and future generations, if necessary against powerful business interests. Since the voices of human rights defenders and academics are usually not loud enough and often overheard by politicians and business corporations, human rights need to join forces with the arts in order to reach out to a broader public. I do not know any place which would be better suited to combining the arts with human rights as Venice! For 1,600 years, Venice has established itself as one of the most fascinating cities of arts in the world. Wherever you walk in Venice, you see, feel and breathe the beauty of arts: in architecture, sculptures, paintings, music and many other forms. With the Global Campus of Human Rights, Venice also hosts the Headquarters of the largest institution worldwide in the field of human rights education. As Senator Orietta Vanin and others advocate, the City of Venice should declare itself as an official human rights city, and the Global Campus stands ready to support it on this journey. Koen Vanmechelen and Nick Danziger are two world famous artists with whom we have been cooperating for many years, with the common aim of bringing human rights closer to photography, cinema, the fine arts, architecture and action-related applied arts. The annual Summer School on Cinema, Human Rights and Advocacy, which Nick has been organising together with Claudia Modonesi for many years, in cooperation with the Venice Film Festival, is a big success and has empowered generations of participants to express their human rights messages by means of documentaries or feature films. In addition to donating his well-known sculpture of Collective Memory to the Global Campus , a sculpture that catches the eye of every visitor when entering our cloister, Koen Vanmechelen has organised Cosmocafés in many parts of the world, where we discussed human rights-related topics from an artistic perspective. The ultimate aim of all these events is to create a Human Rights Pavilion for the future Art Biennale. I fully agree with Nick and Koen that we need to join forces with like-minded artists and policy makers to use empty spaces and transfer Venice into a city of human rights artists. We recently signed a Partnership Agreement with the Fondazione Venezia and started a close cooperation with the magnificent and innovative M9 Museum in Mestre, directed by Luca Molinari. This is a multi-media museum about the development of the Italian people, life and culture throughout the 20th century, full of human rights related aspects. I am sure that the Global Campus and our students will both benefit from this partnership but also contribute to enriching the human rights approach of this remarkable museum. We also would like to strengthen our cooperation with the Human Safety Net of the Generali Group to assist them in their aim of transforming Venice into a “world capital of sustainability”, as Emma Ursich explained. By renovating and opening the magnificent Procuratie Vecchie at St Mark’s Square to the public for the first time after almost five centuries, new and vibrant spaces will be made available for debates that could centre around the arts, human rights and the future path of Venice transforming from a UNESCO supported, but fragile World Cultural Heritage threatened by global warming and the rise of the sea level, towards a sustainable human rights city. As the Italian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation, Benedetto Della Vedova, so eloquently said: “Venice is the most ancient city of the future”! With the recent decision of the Italian Government to deny cruise ships as from 1 August 2021 any passage through the city, an important first step towards the future has been taken, away from mass tourism towards a city, where native Venetian citizens, artists, students, academics and intellectuals feel home and inspired again. The Global Campus of Human Rights is happy to become one of the drivers for this important transformation.