Cultural diversity

News Releases / Speeches / Declarations

The 33rd UNESCO General Conference: For the of the Draft Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions by the widest possible margin

Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, ministre de la Culture et de la Communication de France, Paris, le 30 septembre 2005 – 2005/09/30

Speaking at the Cercle des ambassadeurs meeting in Paris, French culture minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres maintained that “ culture is a key component of diplomatic initiatives and international relations .” With regard to cultural diversity, he said he hoped that the UNESCO General Conference would adopt by the widest possible margin the Draft Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. In response to the questions “Why is this convention important?” and “Why is France such a staunch defender of this text, together with the European Union?” the minister stated, “This convention is not at all about wallowing in differences or renouncing human rights. We are defending cultural diversity—the diversity of identities—in the name of universal and humanist values. Cultural diversity is a matter of independent expression, that of artists and creators as well as peoples and societies. Full political independence is not possible when a society, a people, cannot express both its difference from and its connection to the world through its works of art and the mind.”

According to the minister, cultural diversity is also a tangible issue in that the risk of uniformity in the film, audiovisual, and cultural industries will have an impact on artistic creativity and the expression of a world vision: “According to UNESCO’s 2000 world report on culture,” he stated, “the eight leading Hollywood studios share 85% of the world market; the three biggest audiovisual firms are located in the United States (Time Warner, Viacom, and Walt Disney); nine of the world’s ten most translated authors are English-language writers; and in 2004, four companies shared the bulk of the world recording market.” The minister added that culture is not only good for the soul, cultural activities are becoming increasingly important in the creation of wealth and jobs.

Mr. de Vabres also discussed the purpose of the convention and why France and the European Union are satisfied with it: On one hand “ because it creates a new international law on culture […]. It’s a step toward increasing awareness of our shared interest in protecting the diversity of cultures, all equal in dignity. […] The objectives of the convention are clear: to recognize the distinct nature of cultural goods and services; to reaffirm the sovereign right of states to protect, adopt, and implement the cultural policies and measures they deem appropriate; and to strengthen international cooperation and solidarity with developing countries in order to help them promote the diversity of their cultural expressions.” On the other hand “ because the convention provides a humanist solution to a specific problem, that of the relationship between culture and international trade: Works of art and the mind cannot be considered as mere traded goods. Certain governments may fear that the convention is protectionist and may be invoked against other international commitments, particularly in trade. Quite the contrary, we want cultural dialog to develop; we want films, books, works of art, and artists to circulate. […] This convention is balanced in the way it relates to other treaties. It recognizes the obligations of states under previous commitments while setting out its non-subordination to other treaties. This convention will have legal effects, particularly thanks to Section 20 on the relationship between UNESCO and WTO. It will be effective against third parties in WTO expert panels. It does not beg the question, rather, it is an international legal agreement with an impact on international trade law.”

Consequently, stated the minister, “If this text is adopted at the next General Conference, as we hope, UNESCO can be proud to have laid the cornerstone of a real international law on culture that extends to all areas, not just heritage. By enshrining culture—all cultures—in tomorrow’s world order, we recognize its role in economic development. Cultural diversity is part of an area’s or country’s appeal.”

On September 29 during Foreign Culture Week hosted by Forum des Instituts culturels étrangers à Paris prior to the 33rd session of the UNESCO General Conference , Minister de Vabres echoed participants’ eagerness to see the General Conference adopt the convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. He believes the convention is aimed at promoting the expression of cultures and artists and affirming the openness of each culture toward other cultures: “ In no way does it encourage protectionism or withdrawal into national cultures; on the contrary, it encourages dialog between cultures and appreciation for their own distinct features.” The minister took the opportunity to ask that cultural ambassadors and advisors “ stress the importance of this text to your UNESCO delegations to ensure that they support its adoption. We need to reach out to everyone […]. Adoption of the convention will be a decisive step. Then we will have to continue our work and efforts of persuasion to ensure that this text is ratified by as many countries and as soon as possible.”