Cultural diversity

News Releases / Speeches / Declarations

Adoption of the UNESCO Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions: This text inscribes into international law the diversity, equality, and dignity of cultures and hence the right of states to take measures in support of cultural policies

Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, French Minister of Culture and Communications, Paris, October 21, 2005

French culture minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres has greeted UNESCO’s adoption of the Convention as “fabulous news.” “It is a recognition of diversity, a recognition that culture is not a mere commodity (…) This international instrument gives culture special status.” Speaking for France and “the fight for values,” the culture minister was unequivocal: “This Convention will have a real impact on the audiovisual and book industries. But the fight has gone deeper than that, it has been a battle over the principles of respect for the law and building peace through culture, science… UNESCO’s very missions. Culture has moved beyond good intentions to become an actual concern in society. We hesitate to speak of cultural diplomacy, but that is what this is about. (…) It means I have more clout in Brussels today to defend France’s system of financial aid to the movie industry, to cite one example.”

In an article in Le Monde, the minister wrote that “Seeing as the question of identity will no doubt be the great question of the century—more than mere creativity and artistic and cultural expression in our increasingly standardized and trade-regulated world—this text inscribes into international law the diversity, equality, and dignity of cultures and hence the right of states to take measures in support of cultural policies (…) Inscribing in international law that works of art and the mind cannot be treated as mere goods of trade in this day and age of all-encompassing trade when anything can be bought and sold confers a special status on culture, one in keeping with the dignity of human beings and our duty to history. This is the meaning of this text.” The minister also added that “This is not a message of withdrawal, it is not a surrender to close-mindedness and idiosyncrasies that would justify acts of violence or fanaticism. (…) In this initiative embraced by the international community and backed whole-heartedly by the European Union, France’s contribution must be to help make it clear that adopting UNESCO’s text is an essential step toward humanizing and gaining greater control over globalization. (…) Our challenge today is to take this heritage and use it to advance artistic and cultural creativity, to foster the sharing of ideas and works, and to mold the world of tomorrow. Created in the aftermath of war, UNESCO was to serve the world, and must now save the diversity of the world. This undertaking is not just cultural. It is profoundly political (…) Because it is the very foundation of peace. Cultural diversity is not about arrogance. It is not a survival reflex. It is not the protest of a minority. It is a helping hand. A mark of respect. An urgency in today’s world to stop the spiral into fundamentalism and provide momentum for peace and humanism.”

Questioned on the attitude of the U.S., the minister declared, “I would have preferred to see the U.S. abstain or vote in favor, because it is in their interest. In that respect, there are no differences of opinion in the democratic world. We all believe that wherever there is strife, hatred, or war, we must deliver a message of respect for others. It is very important.” He also added that “We can’t be hypocrites. The reality is that one country dominates, and there is a risk of uniformity. U.S. films represent 85% of all ticket sales in the world. The goal is to preserve the broadest possible diversity while also aiming for equity. For trade to occur, the other trading partner must exist. (…) I’m surprised by this harder line, which is no doubt related to the success of this Convention. This stance does not seem wise. The U.S. should be the first to promote cultural diversity, rather than leave people confused about their intentions. No one can object to the concept. It is a fight for values.”