Farida Shaheed was the first Special Rapporteur of the United Nations in the field of cultural rights (2012-15), following a period as Independent Expert on Cultural Rights (2009-12). She proposed several initiatives to promote cultural rights as human rights in her periodic reports to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly of the United Nations and country reports. These have become fundamental references on culture, human rights and sustainable development. She identified and documented the main challenges of respecting protecting and promoting cultural rights in our societies, including the right to access and enjoy cultural heritage, the right to benefit from scientific progress and its applications, the right to freedom of artistic expression and creativity, cultural rights of women on an equal basis with men, historical and memorial narratives in divided societies.
With extensive work on rights-based development in her native Pakistan, her interest led to extensively exploring the interface of culture and identity in relation to both development and rights, and the State’s responsibilities in this regard. Extensive work encompassed deepening conceptual understanding as a social analyst and translating that knowledge in practical terms as a development consultant and practitioner with decades of grounded work at the grassroots level, building skills across a wide range of cultural contexts. She received the Prime Minister’s award for her co-authored book, “Two Steps Forward One Step Back? Women of Pakistan”, and several human rights awards.
She is currently based in Shirkat Gah Women’s Resource Centre, the only pioneer on sustainable development issues in Pakistan with a gendered lens and has been very active for several years in activism to protect the cultural heritage of Lahore city.
She was also awarded in the category “Individual” for first edition of the International Award UCLG – Mexico City – Culture 21.