Cultural diversity

News Releases / Speeches / Declarations

The UNESCO Draft Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions at t he Franco-Québec Meeting on the Democratization of Culture

Line Beauchamp, ministre de la Culture et des Communications du Québec et Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, ministre de la Culture et de la Communication de France, Montréal, 3 octobre 2005 – 2005/10/03

The Franco-Québec Meeting on the Democratization of Culture held at Grande Bibliothèque du Québec in Montréal from October 3 to 5, brought together some thirty speakers from France and Québec. Their presentations and discussions with participants stressed the sharing of concrete knowledge and a number of measures developed by the French and Québec governments to get citizens more involved in culture. The event, which was organized by Ministère de la Culture et des Communications du Québec and the Culture and Communications Department of the French Republic in cooperation with Bibliothèque nationale du Québec and the support of Ministère des Relations internationales and the French Consulate General in Québec, was part of the Montreal, World Book Capital festival.

At the opening ceremony, minister Beauchamp expressed her delight “in noting that this Franco-Québec meeting is fostering productive discussions between stakeholders, who are all committed to making culture as accessible as possible to all citizens. We have everything to gain from this sharing of initiatives and achievements.” Stating that the meeting was an initiative of the French prime minister and Québec premier set out in a Decision Report creating a New Franco-Québec Alliance (See Newsletter 16 of June 2, 2003), minister Beauchamp remarked that culture not only contributes to the development of our identity, but also to the economic and social development of our societies as a tool for dialog and integration. Ms. Beauchamp also singled out the main thrusts of the democratization of culture, which in Québec are founded on a government cultural policy that states, “Culture is one of the three pillars of society, along with its social and economic dimensions; creative independence and freedom of expression are fundamental values that must be protected; and access to culture is a right for all citizens, just as is access to education.”

The minister also noted the importance of the adoption of the Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions within UNESCO. According to her, this convention must confirm the right of states to develop their own cultural policies without being threatened under international trade and other agreements. “The topics to be discussed during this meeting hinge on states like France and Québec, which were leaders in this international debate, being able to continue supporting through forceful cultural policies not only creativity and cultural development, but also access to culture,” the minister declared. “I hope that cooperation between our two governments continues and is renewed, given the current challenges posed by the impact of new technologies and demographic changes,” the minister concluded.

In a video message, Mr. Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres stated that “Québec and France, with broad international support, have worked for many years towards a draft convention within UNESCO that will legitimize one of the main objectives of our respective ministries: support creativity and encourage its exposure inside and outside the country. The Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions was our joint struggle. We hope it will be adopted in the coming days so that the uniqueness of cultural goods and services will be taken into account in international law, thereby safeguarding and promoting our identities. This is crucial, as our language and culture cannot be reduced to an intellectual pastime, an educational decoration, or a mere pleasantry. It is a key protection that will shape our future, our economy, and, to a large degree, the jobs of tomorrow.”

He also noted that “Our times are marked by terrorism and violence, the spread of ethnic and religious hatred, and the temptation to turn inward. Given this, cultural policy can no longer only serve as a means to share artworks and open society to other cultural contributors. It must also work, in a more general sense, to promote cultural practices that promote tolerance, respect for differences, and the fight against all forms of exclusion or segregation, and that create a desire for us to live and create together. This essential joining together of cultural figures, artistic institutions, and all levels of government must better take into account those groups that are the least familiar with cultural institutions, namely those from deprived areas.”

Minister de Vabres also remarked that “Cultural and artistic education must equip children and young people to better judge the vast array of cultural productions made possible by the worldwide development of cultural industries as well as help them take a critical approach to the homogenization and standardization of cultural tastes and practices. This policy must tie education to respect for copyright, mainly for musical and video production.”