Cultural diversity

News Releases / Speeches / Declarations

Adoption of the UNESCO Convention of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions: An historic achievement

Canadian Coalition for Cultural Diversity, Paris, October 17, 2005 – 2005/10/17

In a press release, Pierre Curzi and Scott McIntyre, copresidents of the Canadian Coalition for Cultural Diversity representing 38 of Canada’s leading cultural organizations from the book, film, television, music, performing arts, and visual arts sectors, declared that UNESCO’s adoption of the Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions by an overwhelming majority of member states was an “historic achievement” in the international campaign waged in recent years to ensure the right of states to have cultural policies. “The real historic precedent in this UNESCO Convention is that it recognizes in international law for the first time ever the distinctive nature of cultural goods and services as vehicles of values, identity, and meaning. They cannot be reduced to mere commercial goods. The growing pressure on countries to renounce their right to cultural policies in trade negotiations made it absolutely urgent to adopt the UNESCO Convention without delay,” added Mr. Curzi.

For Scott McIntyre, the decisive majority vote in favor of the Convention shows that the right to cultural policies is now recognized as a priority by countries around the world. “The reason for this is clear: with very few exceptions, countries need to be able to adopt such policies as national quotas, subsidies, tax credits, and rules on foreign ownership to ensure their citizens have access to their own culture, and to the cultures of other countries around the world. Without such policies, Canadian books, music, TV shows, and movies would be few and far between. These were the stakes in the debate.”

Both Mr. Curzi and Mr. McIntrye praised the leadership role that the Canadian government played over the last six years in rallying international support for the draft Convention and lauded its efforts in the last year to arrive at a final text with real teeth. They noted that the federal government’s efforts were enhanced by the vigorous promotional support the Government of Québec had provided since day one, and more recently by the unequivocal support of the province of Ontario.

While hailing the major progress represented by the vote on adoption, the Canadian Coalition stressed that the campaign was not over, but instead now shifting to a new phase: ratification. “Let’s be clear: this Convention won’t achieve much if it is only ratified by Canada, the 25 member states of the European Union, and a smattering of other countries,” declared Coalition executive vice president Robert Pilon. “For it to carry any weight, 50 to 60 countries need to ratify it quickly, over the next two or three years, in all regions of the world—Latin America, Asia/Oceania, and Africa, in addition to Canada and Europe” he added, urging countries that had championed the Convention to now launch a concerted ratification campaign, particularly in light of the intense opposition by the United States throughout the negotiations, opposition now expected to be channeled into pressure on other countries not to ratify. “That’s why the Canadian government must continue its leadership role on the issue by making the case for ratification in all appropriate world forums. We also expect Canada to lead by example by becoming one of the first countries to ratify the Convention.”

Mr. Curzi concluded by pledging that “the coalitions will continue to urge ratification of the Convention, in support of diplomatic efforts by Canada and other countries leading the fight.”

Press Release of the Canadian Coalition for Cultural Diversity