Cultural diversity

News Releases / Speeches / Declarations

La diversité culturelle dans l’Agenda 21 de la culture : "Un engagement des villes et des gouvernements locaux en faveur du développement culturel"

Forum des autorités locales (FAL), Barcelone, le 18 mai 2004 - 2004/05/18

Representatives from over 300 cities in 44 countries attending the fourth Forum of Local Authorities (FAL) in Barcelona on May 7 and 8, 2004, approved an cultural charter they would like to see adopted by municipal authorities and international bodies worldwide. The document, called Agenda 21 for Culture, recognizes cultural diversity and rejects its subjugation to market forces. The Porto Alegre Forum of Local Authorities (FAL) is a meeting of mayors working to make local governments into agents capable of developing alternatives to public management in cooperation with civil society in a context of globalization. The fourth FAL was sponsored by UNESCO and focused on the links between culture and social inclusion. It was organized in follow-up to Porto Alegre and to the European and world social forums, and was also timed to coincide with the opening of the International Forum of Cultures being held in Barcelona until September 26, 2004.
Agenda 21 on Culture lays out principles and undertakings, and then concludes with recommendations that specifically target political and other institutions at the local and international levels. The first principle, which is based on the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, affirms that “cultural diversity is the main heritage of humanity,” and “ a means to achieve a more satisfactory intellectual, emotional, moral, and spiritual existence.” It is “one of the essential elements in the transformation of urban and social reality.” Other principles include the freedom of groups and individuals, the need for a host of social agents and for peace, and the essential role cultural development plays in urban development. Agenda 21 also takes a clear stance on market issues: “Cultural policies must strike a balance between public and private interest, public functions, and the institutionalization of culture. Excessive institutionalization or the excessive prevalence of the market as the sole distributor of cultural resources involves risks and hampers the dynamic development of cultural systems.” This clearly echoes Section 8 of the Universal Declaration, which states that cultural goods and services, “as vectors of identity, values, and meaning, must not be treated as mere commodities or consumer goods.”
Agenda 21 recommendations begin with an invitation to local governments to submit the document for the approval of their legislative assemblies and for wider debate. The document also encourages national governments to earmark a minimum of 1% of spending for culture and “avoid trade agreements that constrain the free development of culture and the exchange of cultural goods and services on equal terms.” It concludes with a call to national and international organizations and UN programs and agencies to recognize the document as a reference and with a special recommendation to WTO on the commodification of cultural goods and services. (Available in French, English and Spanish)