Cultural diversity

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La diversité culturelle : une nécessité politique du gouvernement - « Il faut cantonner l'OMC aux échanges économiques »

M. Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, ministre français de la Culture et de la Communication, 19 novembre 2004 - 2004/11/19

In an interview given to the Figaro within the framework of the France-Mexico-Québec business mission in Mexico, the French Minister of Culture, Mr de Vabres, explained to journalist Emmanuel Schwarzenberg why the struggle for the defence of culture had become a national issue and how cultural diversity was a political necessity of the French government. He maintained that globalization appeared as a good opportunity as well as the destruction of industries and markets with the resulting consequences. Today, everybody therefore wants to protect his own identity, his culture, his roots and his heritage. In this context, the most fragile cultures are always the most exposed, and even if certain countries, such as France, are lucky enough to enjoy a wealth of influence and outreach based on heritage and artistic creation, they are not safe, sometimes because of technology. Hence the political role played by the President of the Republic and the French government on the international scene of saying "Yes to cultural exchange. Yes to the rights of nations to sustain their country's cultural policy," in unison. This is the direction of the debates that will take place in 2005 under the aegis of UNESCO, he states.

Mr de Vabres particularly affirms that the UNESCO Convention on the diversity of cultural expressions brings guarantees: "Cultural and artistic activity is unlike other activities and deserves special protection. The rules applicable to the flow of goods cannot be applied to what is inelegantly referred to as cultural items. What was the theme of cultural exception (.) appears today to most countries in the world, and even to our American friends, as a political and strategic necessity (.). The major difficulty facing us is to legitimize the political and legal authority of the WTO for health issues; that of UNESCO for cultural issues, and to restrict the WTO to economic exchange".

Mr de Vabres also insisted that the mandate that all the European Ministers of Culture has just given the European Commission to have the right to cultural diversity acknowledged in the face of the WTO is a very significant step and that the Europe of culture, which has been delayed for too long, is gathering strength. In his opinion, if the UNESCO treaty is not adopted as planned in 2005, there may very well be a risk of standardization, of a kind of single culture which will certainly have a boomerang effect. Some countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, already feel thrown off by certain forms of cultural hegemony because they were unable to protect their national talents in time . ( Available in French ) [82]