Cultural diversity

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Québec's comments on t he preliminary draft Convention on the Protection of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions

After the Canadian government sent comments to UNESCO, Québec made its analysis of the preliminary draft convention public.

In their letter to their federal counterpart, Ministers Monique Gagnon-Tremblay and Line Beauchamp emphasized the close collaboration between the Quebecker and Canadian delegations during the first session of governmental negotiations surrounding t he preliminary draft Convention on the Protection of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions , which took place between 20 and 24 September 2004 at UNESCO. Their main hope is that the partnership thus established between the governments of Québec and of Canada continues and they also reiterate the government of Québec's willingness to collaborate and to maintain an active presence in future stages of the process underway at UNESCO, in particular, the editorial board and the meetings of governmental experts

Mrs Beauchamp stresses that this document, which explains Québec's analysis and comments on the preliminary draft Convention in detail, and whose main aim is to contribute towards formulating the comments that Canada intends sending to UNESCO's director general, is the fruit of the dialogue between the ministries of Culture and Communication, of Economic and Regional Development, of Research and of International Relations, as well as of consultation with civil society, particularly on 31 August 2004.

Québec's comments and amendment proposals concern the following elements:

  • The government of Québec sees the draft as a good point of departure for discussion, which deserves to be enriched, but which has to remain the reference document for governmental negotiations. The draft should be one whose scope remains limited to " the protection of cultural contents and artistic expressions ", in accordance with the mandate given to UNESCO's director general by the 32 nd General Conference in October 2003. For this purpose, each time it is brought up in the body of the document, the convention should repeat the expression "diversity of cultural expressions";
  • This diversity of cultural expressions cannot exist without significant national production. The convention, therefore, has to clearly insist on the sovereign right of States and governments to adopt and to implement cultural policies in order to sustain cultural expression in their territory, and to welcome forms of cultural expression from outside in a spirit of openness;
  • It is fundamental for the specificity of cultural items and services to be acknowledged. In fact, in the case of Québec, cultural items and services, in addition to being trade goods, are powerful vectors of identity, of values and of meaning for any society. Furthermore, the discourse applied to culture should not only be economic but also an important part of its specifically cultural dimension. In this respect, formulations which imply culture's subordination to a strictly commercial way of thinking should be avoided. Québec indeed supports an international convention on the diversity of forms of cultural expression which will create a cultural right alongside the international commercial right, without a hierarchical relationship with other international instruments. Also, in its in-depth comments, the government of Québec draws up a proposal in this regard which, it hopes, will respond to Canada's commitment to find an alternative to the options stated in the section on the relationship between the convention and other instruments;
  • The government of Québec has always been strongly in favour of a binding international legal instrument equipped with an effective dispute settlement mechanism. In this respect, it would like the convention to offer the possibility to party States to have recourse to dispute settlement mechanisms on an individual basis rather than at the sole request of the two parties. Also, for transparency's sake, it appears essential for Québec that the decisions taken by the dispute settlement body are made public, which will also contribute to the creation of a cultural right;
  • For Québec, the convention should be implemented for the sake of economy and efficiency, but keeping in mind that monitoring bodies and mechanisms are required for its effective operation. Furthermore, they too will contribute towards the creation of a specifically cultural jurisprudence. With this in mind, the concern for administrative restraint should induce party States to capitalize on existing structures, such as UNESCO's Institute of Statistics, rather than to create a new Observatory for cultural diversity as proposed by the draft;
  • The government of Québec reiterates its support of the creation of mechanisms of cooperation and of assistance to developing countries within the framework of the convention. Their support is of primary importance and especially dependent on the advantages they will be able to gain in terms of developing their own cultural industries and access to markets of the developed world. [82]