Cultural diversity

News Releases / Speeches / Declarations

"Diversité culturelle : une étape déterminante est franchie"

Mme Line Beauchamp, ministre de la Culture et des Communications et Mme Monique Gagnon-Tremblay, vice-première ministre et ministre des Relations internationales, 6 octobre 2004 - 2004/10/06

In this piece written for Le Devoir, Line Beauchamp and Monique Gagnon-Tremblay comment on the first meeting of intergovernmental experts of UNESCO from the 20 to September 24, 2004 in Paris on the draft convention on cultural diversity . The two ministers declare, “This first meeting of government experts testifies to the importance of the steps completed so far and provides grounds for cautious optimism regarding our objective - adoption in 2005 of an international convention ensuring special treatment for cultural goods and services.”

The authors stress, “The plenary assembly recognized that the preliminary draft submitted to member states in July 2004 constituted a solid working base. The text, written by a group of independent experts that included Université Laval professor Ivan Bernier, led to a proposal for a framework for discussion compatible with the objectives Québec has pursued for the past several years. The discussions also confirmed the wisdom of conferring leadership of the project on UNESCO, an institution with all the legitimacy necessary to deal with cultural issues. Lastly, many of the governments represented recognized the special nature of cultural goods and services and the principle that states are entitled to make cultural policy. These results reflect the mobilization orchestrated by various governments - including those in France, Canada, and Québec - with the clear support of civil society.” In this respect, they note, “special mention should be made of the remarkable work by the Coalition for cultural diversity. Through the efforts of Pierre Curzi and Robert Pilon in particular, the coalition helped establish some 20 similar forums in as many countries. Indeed, the progress we are pleased to report on today is due to this close partnership between civil society and government.” Beauchamp and Gagnon-Tremblay also draw attention to the convergent views and actions of Canadian and Québec authorities and the “continuity of the Québec government’s position, which has resisted the temptation of partisanship so that Québec can speak in a single, strong voice.” Reiterating Québec’s position, as reaffirmed by cabinet on September 3, 2003, they declared, “ We are actively promoting a convention that entrenches the right of states and governments to support culture through policy and we are doing so by developing applicable cultural law not subject to trade law and accompanied by dispute settlement mechanisms. This is a major issue for Québec.”

However, they also issue a warning: “It takes more than an objective to achieve the kind of international convention we want. It takes an objective shared by all other countries […] One of the difficulties of the convention will be its relationship with other international instruments and commitments. In fact, this was the only point subject to two alternate proposals in the preliminary draft. To resolve the deadlock, a number of countries have called for an alternative option to achieve the sought-after consensus at UNESCO, an idea welcomed by Québec and Canada, both of which are willing to actively contribute to a solution.” They conclude that “although the match is not over, it is off to a good start. Not only does it call for us to strengthen our partnership with other governments and civil society, it encourages us to be steadfast in our efforts.” ( Available in French ) [75]