Cultural diversity

News Releases / Speeches / Declarations

The UNESCO convention on the diversity of cultural expressions: "Culture is not a commodity"

La Coalition suisse pour la diversité culturelle, Berne, 28 septembre 2005 – 2005/09/28

Taking inspiration from other countries, Switzerland is the latest nation to see the birth of a coalition for cultural diversity. The new coalition, the thirtieth worldwide, is supported by the Federal Office for Culture and represents some fifty professional cultural organizations, copyright associations, university organizations, etc. It will pressure political authorities to treat culture as more than a mere commodity and supports the UNESCO convention on the diversity of cultural expressions due for adoption at the 33rd General Conference in Paris, calling it “indispensable for protecting cultural diversity against globalization.”

For Diego Gradis, a member of the coalition committee, the convention is “not sufficiently binding, but does establish important principles.” These include “the right of countries to pursue their own cultural policies.” Without the convention, he believes, cultural subsidies could disappear in Switzerland. The coalition is also calling upon the Swiss government to ratify the convention. As Swissinfo reports, “Each national coalition is seeking to convince authorities that cultural goods and services are not just ordinary commodities subject to WTO laws or bilateral agreements with the EU. This is a crucial point in the leadup to WTO negotiations scheduled to begin in Hong Kong in December.

According to its “terms of reference,” the Swiss coalition will be active nationally and internationally, especially in the following areas: educating and informing the public and political and cultural communities; lobbying Swiss and international authorities; monitoring developments; encouraging support for international cooperation; federating professional organizations; and promoting the importance of culture in Switzerland.