Cultural diversity

News Releases / Speeches / Declarations

La Convention de l'UNESCO sur la diversité des expressions culturelles - Combat à finir : Une « convention presque aussi importante que celle des droits de l'homme »

Le Devoir , édition du 20 et 21 novembre 2004 - 2004/11/20-21

Guylaine Boucher, who writes this article in Le Devoir , stresses that the ardent defenders of the concept of an international convention on cultural diversity and of its possible enforcement admit that the game is far from over. The aim of the preliminary draft Convention on the Protection of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions , the result of much international discussion is to acknowledge the right of States to have a national cultural policy and to equip themselves with the necessary tools to sustain it, at the political as well as at the economic level. Once it is adopted, the convention should also make it possible for culture to be excluded from international trade agreements.

This claim, she says, has been long supported by the fervent representatives of la francophonie , France , Canada and Québec in the forefront. But, as Mrs Louise Beaudoin, Chargée de mission for the International Organisation for la francophonie points out, "French-speaking countries have a generally good understanding of the stakes involved in an international convention on cultural diversity and are in line with the principle most of the time, but this does not seem to be the case with Latin America, Asia or Anglo-Saxon countries which are definitely against the project. On this point, Mrs Liza Frulla, Minister of Canadian Heritage, maintains that "on the national level, Canada speaks with one voice as far as cultural diversity is concerned, but the situation is very different at the international level. Certain countries, such as England , the United States and Australia , for instance, are not really involved in the project. They fail to see the pertinence of this kind of convention. In other countries, Ministers of Culture understand the importance of the exercise but are not backed by their government. But things are moving forward regardless. Brazil and Spain are organizing themselves and even China seems to want to become involved, but there is still much work to be done". Mrs Frulla is also setting up "an ambitious programme": "By 2005, we hope to have convinced most of the 160 countries to ratify the convention. This is a huge task which boils down to setting out on a mission and repeating the same things over and over again, but we do not have a choice. This convention is almost as important as the convention on human rights. It is fundamental and will allow everyone to express their culture, what they are in the own country and at the international level."

To convince the sceptics, Mrs Line Beauchamp, Québec's Minister of Culture and Communications suggests meeting them on their own ground: "The majority of countries currently against the convention are those where mass culture and "entertainment" are very important. Their main concern as regards culture is copyright. If we manage to make them understand that countries working towards developing their own national culture are also more inclined to want to protect it by taking a clear stand against piracy, they will see things differently because they will get something out of it". Mrs Beauchamp also sees the convention as fundamental because it will make it possible to acknowledge the fact that "as well as having a market value, culture has a value in terms of identity". For Mrs Beauchamp, the draft convention proposed represents "a solid foundation on which work needs to be done". She further maintains that "something more definite has to be achieved. The convention must have enough legal weight to be able to deal with and to create a jurisprudence relating to the right of States to have cultural policies. We must also make sure that the convention is not made subordinate to other world trade agreements. It must evolve alongside, have effective settlement mechanisms, make it possible for decisions to be taken and find means to make them public". ( Available in French ) [82]