Line Beauchamp, Minister of Culture and Communications of Québec, Paris, October 20, 2005 – 2005/10/20
At the conclusion of the plenary session of the General Conference on October 20, one observer declared, “This is a great day. The adoption of this Convention by UNESCO is a sweet victory that will protect and promote cultural expressions in a spirit of openness and reciprocity. In some ways, the convention also rehabilitates politics as a viable force in the face of economic rationale by bringing non-market considerations into the trade liberalization equation. It has also given Québec an opportunity to enhance its international profile by bringing its political convictions and the expertise of its civil servants and researchers to the world stage, and by demonstrating the commitment of Québec artists and civil society, who have helped make the convention a reality by actively contributing to UNESCO working groups, committees, and other forums at every stage of the process.” A journalist echoed this view, describing the convention as “a victory for French, Canadian, and Québec diplomats, because they pioneered the initiative to create a legal foundation for cultural diversity at the international level.”
Canadian heritage minister Liza Frulla and Québec culture and communications minister Line Beauchamp had already addressed the Commission IV meeting, where they were warmly applauded and thanked by the Commission chair himself. In her remarks, Ms. Beauchamp stressed the importance of maintaining pro-convention momentum. Adding to the Canadian position by expressing Québec’s views, Ms. Beauchamp declared, “Like the Canadian federal government, the government of Québec is in favor of the adoption of the draft convention in its current form. This document is a reasonable and balanced compromise acceptable to the greatest number. It would inappropriate to amend it because any change could threaten that balance. This convention deserves our support for various reasons, including the reaffirmation of the sovereign right of states to develop and implement policies and measures promoting and protecting the diversity of cultural expressions; recognition of the special nature of cultural activities, goods, and services; affirmation of the non-subordination of the convention to other international instruments; and its strong commitment to cultural dialog, international cooperation, and openness to civil society. After all these years of debate, we urge you to give your clear support to the draft convention.”
In fact, the vote by UNESCO member states at the 33rd General Conference is a victory for Québec, which worked for years alongside the French and Canadian governments and in close collaboration with the Canadian Coalition for Cultural Diversity to defend the principle of cultural diversity. But as Ms. Beauchamp also stressed, “We need to start the diplomatic push for ratification and rally support (…). Québec wants to be one of the first governments to approve the convention, and the National Assembly will be the scene of a historic ceremony in November.” Commenting on the U.S. position, the minister emphasized the importance of “maintaining dialog and finding arguments to convince the U.S. that cultural diversity is in its interests. We also need to give the convention time to get off the ground in order to show its worth. There is still much work to be done in order to get as many countries as possible on board for ratification.