Cultural diversity

News Releases / Speeches / Declarations

Le RIDC lance une campagne auprès de l’OMC en faveur du projet de Convention de l’UNESCO sur la diversité des expressions culturelles

RIDC, Bulletin no. 11, Vol. 5, novembre 2004 - 2004/11

This edition of the INDC ( International Network for Cultural Diversity)newsletter includes a report on the network’s 5th annual meeting held in Shanghai in October prior to the 7th INCP Annual Ministerial Meeting ( International Network on Cultural Policy ), which it attended. Members of the INCD steering committee conducted a full review of the status of UNESCO’s Convention on the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions and the launch of intergovernmental negotiations in September 2004. They also agreed upon three fundamental objectives for the convention, as well as on strategies to ensure convention effectiveness and make it come into effect as soon as possible. According to the committee, the Convention must be equivalent to trade agreements in status, contain concrete measures to support cultural development, and recognize the vast array of cultural policy tools. A convention that meets these objectives would provide a basis for strong cultural policies in jurisdictions across Canada and around the world.

Committee members agreed that even though the preliminary text deals with key questions, certain objectives are not met. INCD would also like to propose further amendments. It encourages governments to reject Article 19, Option B, and instead back a tougher version of Option A in order to ensure that culture takes precedence over trade in matters of cultural policy. INCD also believes that the language in Article 17 should be strengthened, clearly establishing developing country obligations to open up their markets to cultural products and services from the developing and less developed countries.

The INCD steering committee was also informed about the general status of international trade talks, renewed attempts to conclude a new General Agreement on Trade in Services, and the alarming situation created by current bilateral and regional trade negotiations. It looked at the implications of UNESCO/WTO consultations on the convention and called upon INCD members to monitor the situation very closely to ensure that in Geneva governments take the same approach to the convention that they had defended at the UNESCO meetings in Paris. The committee also invited INCD members to continue lobbying their own governments to get the message across.

Moreover, the committee alerted INCP ministers to the convention’s priority objectives and warned them that “the primacy of culture is increasingly threatened by trade talks on services currently underway at the WTO and at the bilateral and regional levels. The resulting trade agreements directly or indirectly subject cultural policy to international trade rules involving existing dispute settlement mechanisms. This limits or reduces the right of governments to adopt or maintain policies that protect and/or promote cultural diversity and the cultural community […]. We are very concerned about the power balance that will emerge between culture ministers responsible for the convention and cultural policy, and trade ministers who sit as WTO members. It is crucial that the position taken by ministers of trade and the economy and representatives in Geneva be based on cultural principles, and that governments take a firm and consistent position in talks with UNESCO and the WTO. […] We encourage you to launch a dialog with your ministers of trade and the economy as early as possible in order to develop a strong pro-convention stance with a view to presenting it at the WTO meetings in November and December […]. In fact, it would be advisable to inform your WTO representatives that it is not really their task to discuss the Convention and that the government’s position should be transmitted to UNESCO by the ministry of culture […] We also invite you to work closely with your other ministerial colleagues to present a common position at the GATS, TRIPS, and WTO council meetings to counterbalance the influence of the so-called friends of cultural diversity.” (Available in French) [81]

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Contact and information: Jennifer Heale