Cultural diversity

News Releases / Speeches / Declarations

The United States strenuously opposes the United Nations’ newly approved convention on cultural diversity: “The convention could block free exchange of ideas. It could be manipulated and abused to undermine, rather than promote, cultural diversity”

Louise V. Oliver, U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO, Permanent Delegation of the United States of America to UNESCO, Paris, France, October 20, 2005 – 2004/10/20

In a statement on October 20 following adoption of the Convention by UNESCO member states at the 33rd General Conference, U.S. ambassador to UNESCO Louise Olivier described the U.S. as “the most open country in the world to the diversity of the world’s cultures, people, and products.” For this reason, says Ms. Olivier, the U.S. is extremely disheartened by this decision. She goes on to say that the U.S. has been very clear about its deep concern that the draft convention could be misinterpreted, hindering the free flow of ideas by word and image and also affecting other areas, notably trade.

The U.S. ambassador to UNESCO complained at the Plenary of the General Conference held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris that the text was “deeply flawed” and that her country had no real chance to review it. She also noted that the discussion had not been open and there had not been enough time for serious debate. Despite the plea for consensus by UNESCO’s director general last June, no new talks were held since then and the text with its flaws remained intact, Ms. Olivier claimed. For the U.S., the text had two major flaws: it could be used to restrict freedom of expression and the right to freely choose cultural expressions, and article 20 could be invoked to set up barriers to the free trade of cultural goods and services. She also criticized the draft based on the fact that “any state, in the name of cultural diversity, can use the ambiguities of this convention to (…) block the import of goods or services seen as cultural expressions.” “The term ‘cultural expressions’ has never been clearly defined and opens the door wide to misinterpretation,” added the ambassador, who stressed that the U.S.’s goal is to ensure the free circulation of diversity in all its forms: cultural, informational, and trade.