Cultural diversity

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Countdown to the UNESCO General Conference: Supporters on track for strong adoption vote on Convention, but U.S. dilute and delay tactics may yield challenging ratification climate

Secretariat for the International Liaison Committee of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity (ILC), September 6, 2005 - 2005/09/06

“ Countdown to the UNESCO General Conference: Supporters on track for
strong adoption vote on Convention, but U.S. dilute and delay tactics may yield challenging ratification climate,” reports the Secretariat for the International Liaison Committee of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity (ILC) in the September 2005 issue of its newsletter Coalition Currents . It also calls on organizations representing cultural professionals to be vigilant during this period: “Don’t take a positive vote on adoption by your country’s government for granted. Make last-minute approaches to ministers responsible for culture, foreign affairs, and education (any of which may represent their governments during the General Conference), as well as the minister responsible for trade. Consider writing your head of government or state, as final decisions on the Convention may well be made at this level. Whatever the channel, make sure the government hears clearly that the cultural sector attaches great importance to their supporting the Convention—that the negotiations are over, that the Convention should be adopted without any further changes, and that they should commit to ratify it as soon as possible following the General Conference.”

In fact, according to ILC, the ratification challenge is to bring the Convention to life. In this respect, ILC considers that although the adoption of the Convention in October will be a watershed moment in the campaign to secure an international convention that recognizes the distinctive nature of cultural goods and services, and affirms the right of countries to apply cultural policies to ensure a genuine diversity of cultural expressions at the national and international level, this one is an essential step in the process, and not an end in itself . So if the Convention is adopted in October, it will signal the beginning of a new phase—the campaign to ensure that the required number of countries ratify it at the national government level in order for it to enter into effect, underscores ILC.

In this respect, according to ILC, leader countries and cultural professional organizations supporting the Convention should share a common objective on this count: securing fast-track ratification of the Convention by 30 countries—ideally more—in time for the founding Conference of Parties to be held at the 34th General Conference in October 2007. Securing ratification by 30 countries is frankly an ambitious goal, but it can be attained if the work of national coalitions is matched by a similarly concerted effort by leader countries supportive of the Convention. Without this campaign, the outlook for timely ratification of the Convention is much less favorable.

Moreover, ILC argues that if the Convention is adopted by vote this fall, the intense opposition from the United States will simply be redirected into a concerted campaign to pressure countries not to ratify the Convention. And it must be recognized that for various reasons—economic or political dependency, aspirations to secure new trade agreements (or admission to the WTO), the desire to secure U.S. support in other fora (e.g. territorial disputes)—several countries could prove susceptible to this pressure. Therefore, ILC strongly urges as many countries as possible to ratify the Convention, and civil society to massively throw its support behind it: “Much work can be done at the international level and in regional and linguistic fora to highlight the importance of the UNESCO Convention and exhort countries to ratify it. But this decision, in the end, will be made at the individual country level. Coordinated work by coalitions in countries around the world will be crucial to reaching this objective in a timely fashion.” [05-28]

Coalition Currents (Vol. 3, No. 6, September 2005)