Cultural diversity

News Releases / Speeches / Declarations

Rapport mondial sur le développement humain 2004 du PNUD

M. Koïchiro Matsuura, Directeur général de l’UNESCO, le 16 juillet 2004 - 2004/07/16

At the presentation of the 2004 World Human Development Report published by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), UNESCO director general Koïchiro Matsuura stressed that cultural freedom and diversity are intrinsically bound: “Cultural freedom depends on the widest possible selection of cultural expressions, and therefore diversity. Neither is an end in and of itself: Diversity has value only when it promotes cultural freedom and enriches people’s lives; similarly, cultural freedom has value only when it supports true cultural plurality.” He noted that “our work on the Convention and the Report presented to us today share certain similarities, complementary approaches, and a shared concern with finding appropriate answers. I was especially interested in the links the Report identifies between cultural freedom and cultural diversity. While the Report specifies that preserving cultural freedom does not automatically promote diversity, it affirms the need to promote the diversity of cultural practices, as this is the basis for cultural freedom.” According to Mr. Matsuura, the UNDP Report makes the same observation regarding cultural freedom as the UNESCO Convention on cultural diversity, i.e., that “globalization, a process facilitated by rapid developments in information and communication technologies, is a challenge for both. While, as the Report indicates, this process allows unprecedented freedom in the exchange of ideas and values, which has never been so intense, it also carries risks, in that international trade and means of communication may exclude, destabilize, and fragment entire areas of the world, societies and cultures made more vulnerable by this unprecedented circulation of cultural goods and services.” In addition, he noted, the UNDP Report identifies risks to both cultural freedom and diversity, including increased imbalances due to international trade in cultural products, the dispossession of native peoples whose know-how is not protected, and disregard for cultural rights in a world of increasing migration.
Mr. Matsuura took advantage of the Report launch to review the mandate UNESCO member states had given the organization to develop an international Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Content and Artistic Expression. He indicated that he had just sent all member states a preliminary draft of the Convention. In Mr. Matsuura’s eyes, the draft “identifies a framework for international action to preserve the diversity of cultural expression within and between societies as a source of creativity and a factor of social cohesion and economic development. But it also takes up the challenge of cultural pluralism, where each culture and each creator can find a place, and all people can exercise their cultural freedom in every sense of the term. It addresses the urgency of establishing a framework of international rules identifying the rights and obligations of states in order to promote the ability to create, produce, distribute, and promote cultural expression nationally and internationally.” In his view, “the challenge we face is to ensure fair access by each culture to the most varied means of expression while opening each culture to others so that each country, each group—especially native peoples—and each person can participate in the cultural and economic development generated by cultural expression, as well as by the goods and services that are its main conveyors. If we succeed in adopting this Convention, as I would like, we will have completed the standard-setting work UNESCO has been tackling for years, and we may consider that we have succeeded in establishing a complete mechanism for preserving cultural diversity.” [65] (Available in French)