Sara Whyatt is a campaigner and researcher on freedom of artistic expression and human rights. She is a member of the Expert Facility to UNESCO’s 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, and expert for Columbia University Global Freedom of Expression. Her experience was gained through leading PEN International’s global free expression programme for many years, and, previously, as campaign coordinator at Amnesty International’s East Asia team. More recently she has focussed on freedom of artistic expression, including social and economic rights in the cultural sector providing expertise to organisations including the Council of Europe, PEN International, UNESCO, the Swedish Arts Council and Freemuse.
Examples of Sara’s work:
Sara developed and led PEN International’s global freedom of expression strategy between 1990-2013. During this time, she assisted in the establishment in 2006 of the International Cities of Refuge Network and developing its working practices. Since then, her work has included providing strategic advice to organisations developing their work on artistic freedom, identifying issues affecting artistic freedom, to developing monitoring and advocacy programs. She is among 43 international experts forming the Expert Facility providing expertise on UNESCO’s 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, specifically on freedom of artistic expression.
Training has been central to Sara’s work, through workshops, and producing handbooks and tool kits on protecting and promoting freedom of expression for PEN Writers in Prison Committee, and CultureActionEurope’s Arts Rights Justice project, and more recently co-designing a training programme for UNESCO geared towards artists, cultural actors, governments, academics, and others working to protect artistic freedom.
Connecting and Mapping
Sara’s many years of heading up a small team of experts providing global research, monitoring, and advocacy at PEN and Amnesty International gives her understanding of the challenges and ways to utilise global networks for change. In 2019 she created a survey of organisations working globally on artistic freedom for the Swedish Arts Council which laid the basis in 2021 for its Artistic Freedom programme providing grants for organisations working in this field. She is also on the Council’s advisory committee.
Research, Evaluation and Writing
Sara has produced numerous reports and articles on artistic freedom for organisations including PEN International, the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), Freemuse, Council of Europe, ifa – Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, Arts Rights Justice, among others. She is the author of the chapters on artistic freedom and social and economic rights in the 2018 and 2022 Global Reports on the Convention, and co-designer of a training program geared towards artists, cultural actors, governments, academics, and others working to protect this right.
Working with Legal Frameworks
Sara has worked with PEN, Freemuse and the Turkish arts organization, Siyah Bant in engagement of artists with the United Nations notably with various UN Council on Human Rights ‘mechanism’ including liaising with experts, making written statements and panel debates within the UN. She was an advisor to the creation of the Council of Europe 2020 Manifesto on artistic freedom.
Public Speaking and Events
Sara has many years’ experience of organizing international conferences and workshops, notably PEN International’s biennial Writers in Prison Committees (1996-2012). Sara has been a speaker and panellist at numerous events globally on freedom of expression, artistic freedom and advocacy. She has delivered seminars on cultural and artistic rights to masters students at the Goldsmiths College, London University, Institute of Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship.