Cultural diversity

News Releases / Speeches / Declarations

La diversité des expressions culturelles au Colloque de l’AIF sur "l'apport des industries culturelles au développement durable des pays du Sud " , Ouagadougou, le 9 novembre 2004

In our November 8 newsletter, we announced that a symposium was held in Ouagadougou from November 3 to 5, 2004, to discuss “l'apport des industries culturelles au développement durable des pays du Sud.” This symposium was part of a series of events AIF is hosting in Burkina Faso around the 10th Francophonie Summit to be held in Ouagadougou on November 26 and 27, 2004. Organized in partnership with Burkina Faso’s Ministry of Culture, Arts, and Tourism, Québec’s Société de développement des entreprises culturelles (SODEC), and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), this symposium looked at the contribution of cultural industries to the economy of developing countries. The hundred-odd cultural players from some twenty French-speaking western and central African countries who participated were also invited to identify ways to quantify the economic potential of this type of activity and make political decision makers aware of the need to integrate culture into their development strategies.

Observers described the AIF-sponsored meeting in Ouagadougou as a forum for discussing actions to promote and give impetus to cultural organizations. According to Mr. Bernard Petterson, Director of Culture and Heritage at AIF, a formal system must be created to develop cultural industries. He adds that such an undertaking demands a fierce battle against piracy and copyright infringement, as well as the enactment of tax measures. Ms. Maria Nieulescu, Director of Economic Cooperation at AIF, says that we must go beyond heritage protection to make culture a true source of wealth. She believes that the nations of the South have yet to lay the groundwork for a veritable cultural industry. Statistical data on the matter is still lacking. Consequently, she suggests that culture is now dependent on creativity.

The meeting in Ouagadougou also raised the question of “promoting cultural diversity.” As special envoy of Francophonie secretary general Abdou Diouf, Ms. Louise Beaudoin gave a presentation entitled the “Challenges of promoting cultural diversity for the sustainable development of southern hemisphere countries.” She believes that the goal of the Convention on Cultural Diversity under development at UNESCO - a draft of which was submitted in summer 2004 for adoption in fall 2005 - is “to give countries and governments the RIGHT to develop and adopt cultural policies and take appropriate steps to create and/or develop their cultural industries through tax measures, subsidies, regulations, and quotas that cannot be contested as trade obstacles before the WTO.” She indicates that “if adopted, the Convention will be a development tool, not a protectionist instrument, as some would have us believe. The goal is not to limit trade in cultural goods but to achieve a better balance, not only between wealthy countries, but all countries so that all may benefit and not just a few.” Noting the current balance of power, she indicated that “the United States has a clear strategy to prevent adoption of the Convention or at least any convention of substance.” This strategy consists of “signing bilateral free trade agreements that liberalize cultural industries to varying degrees. Countries that sign such agreements fully or partially relinquish measures aimed at developing their cultural industries, both in the present and the future, as it is very difficult to turn back the clock once this type of treaty is signed.” The U.S. is therefore pressuring as many countries as possible to also sign multilateral liberalization agreements in areas such as film and television coproduction and digital media. She believes that the U.S. considers cultural products as mere trade goods and aims to achieve the most open market possible for its products. This makes matters “urgent,” stresses Ms. Beaudoin: “Time is running out […] Everything will be decided in June 2005,” which is why governments and international organizations must mobilize “in support of culture and particularly cultural industries.” In the same vein, Mr. Jean-Claude Crepeau, Director of Film and Media at AIF, stressed that the pro-Convention coalition at UNESCO will help counter those in favor of liberalizing cultural goods and services: “It will be a tough battle,” he warns. “We must stand firm because in bilateral relations and international law, nothing is guaranteed in advance.” ( Available in French ) [80]