AI Weiwei Creates Flag to Mark 70th Anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights

“In 1948, a group of visionary women and men drafted the landmark Universal Declaration of Human Rights – a set of protections and fundamental freedoms that should be available to human beings everywhere. Some of these rights were ones long enjoyed in Britain, like free speech and the right to a fair trial. But seven decades on, many British citizens seem unaware of these freedoms or indifferent to them, and some view human rights very negatively. This project will use the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration to take on this apathy, explain what human rights are and why they matter to all, highlight new threats to rights posed by growing levels of bigotry and xenophobia, and help build a bigger, more diverse and more energised British constituency for human rights.” — the late David Mepham, UK Director, Human Rights Watch

Today on the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’, a major new project has been announced to raise awareness of human rights across the UK and for generations to come. A new flag for human rights has been designed by Ai Weiwei, commissioned in response to the real and present dangers of a world changing at break-neck speed, to offer hope and to educate generations to come about the absolute importance of universal human rights. This grassroots moment of creative awareness and activism will be led – jointly and uniquely – by arts organisations and human rights charities.

The flag will be available to schools and care homes, town halls and office blocks, hospitals and libraries across the UK, with everyone invited to Fly The Flag for Human Rights six months from now between 24 – 30 June 2019 in events across the country, more information on which will be released in due course. Wherever flown, both physically and digitally, by groups or individuals, big or small, the flag will mark the value of human rights in everyone’s daily lives in the UK.

Weiwei says this flag is just the start.  He encourages everyone to make this flag their own to represent the shared ideal of human rights.

Education packs have been produced, by the Donmar Warehouse in collaboration with Liberty,  to creatively explore Fly The Flag. Designed to support the Citizenship and PSHE curriculum for Key Stages 1-5, the education packs support teachers and young people to engage with human rights issues. The packs are available to download for free at from 10 December 2018.

Fly The Flag is co-produced by Fuel (Lead Producer), Amnesty International, Donmar Warehouse, Human Rights Watch, Liberty, National Theatre, Sadler’s Wells and Tate Art Galleries. Additional co-commissioners include Coventry City of Culture Trust.

The original Universal Declaration of Human Rights was created by women and men who witnessed first-hand the horror and inhumanity of the Second World War and were determined that it should never be repeated. And today, through the UK Human Rights Act, this powerful idea protects the rights of everyone in this country. Human rights inspire a vision of a world free from abuse and cruelty and empower by protecting people from state abuse and curbing the reach of society’s most powerful, ensuring that a minimum standard of safety and dignity is guaranteed to every human being.

Fly The Flag was launched today at Forest Gate Community School in London.

Fly The Flag advocates include: Action for Children’s Arts; Africa Centre; Akram Khan;   Company; Art Fund; ArtsAdmin; Belarus Free Theatre; Birmingham Rep Theatre; Clean Break; Common Wealth; Cornwall Museums Partnership; Counterpoint Arts; Coventry University; Eden Court; Edinburgh International Festival; Emergency Exit Arts; English National Ballet; Environmental Justice Foundation; Equality and Diversity Forum; Fawcett Society; Graeae Theatre; Historic England; In Between Time; Julie’s Bicycle; Kali Theatre; Kiln; Libraries Unlimited; The Lisson Gallery; Lyric Hammersmith; Manchester International Festival; MIND; National College for Creative & Cultural Industries; National Museums Liverpool; National Museum Wales; Northern Stage; Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; Old Vic Theatre; Prime Theatre; Project Everyone; Refugee Action; RightsInfo; Roundhouse; Royal Academy; Royal & Derngate, Northampton; Royal Opera House; Royal Shakespeare Company; Sage Gateshead; Serpentine Galleries; Shakespeare’s Globe; Slung Low; Somerset House; South Bank Centre; Stonewall; Theatre Peckham; The Chineke Foundation; The Core at Corby; UAL London College of Fashion; What Next? National Network; Yard Theatre; Young at Art; Young Vic; Gillian Anderson; Caryl Churchill; Stephen Daldry; Noma Dumezweni; David Edgar; Chiwitel Ejiofor; Inua Ellams; Richard Eyre; Pete Fowler; David Hare; David Isaac; Kazuo Ishiguro; Helena Kennedy QC; Francesca Klug; Jude Law; Paul Mason; Ross Millard; Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE; Geoffrey Robertson QC; Sir Ken Robinson; Juliet Stevenson; Wayne McGregor; Joe Wright.

In addition to the co-producers, the Fly The Flag steering group includes: Erica Bolton, David Lan, Phyllida Lloyd, Gbolahan Obisesan, Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp and Alex Beard.

“Weiwei is honoured to have the opportunity to design a flag for the 70th anniversary for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As we all come to learn, human rights are the precious result from generation after generation’s understanding of the human struggle. He is proud to be a part of this force.”— Ai Weiwei’s studio, Berlin

Image credit: Camilla Greenwell