Cultural diversity

News Releases / Speeches / Declarations

UNESCO Convention: “Focus Now on Building Strong Vote for Adoption in October” – The mobilization in Canada

Canadian Coalition for Cultural Diversity, Montréal, July 2005 – 2005/07

In this month’s edition, the Coalition Update provides the latest news on support and mobilization in Canada in favor of the Draft Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. It reports that Canada took advantage of a major international meeting of culture ministers held in Madrid, Spain, June 11–12, to make a strong statement against reopening negotiations on the proposed UNESCO convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions. The Minister of Canadian Heritage Liza Frulla, undertook a commitment to build support internationally for the convention. This commitment is an extension of work she was doing in the run-up to the critical third negotiations session, notably in an address she gave at a May 16 gathering of the foreign diplomatic corps in Ottawa (See our Bulletin no 15, 24 May 2005). The speech to the diplomatic corps expanded significantly on themes in which the Minister situated Canada’s work to secure an international convention at UNESCO as part of a seven-part strategy for ensuring the country’s cultural sovereignty.

Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew affirmed that Canada’s network of embassies will be deployed in service of its campaign to build support for the proposed UNESCO convention. In this regard, the Minister said that Canadians could “count on Canadian diplomacy throughout the world to play a part in this progress, which is a direct reflection of the priorities we have been promoting in collaboration with the Government of Quebec. Our embassies will ensure that a large number of countries follow us along this great path.” Moreover, Pettigrew’s speech, which took as its departure point Canada’s International Policy Statement released on April 19, reiterated that the energy of the market, notably through international trade, is an essential driver of development for all countries. But this “spirit of confidence driving development must be coupled with an ethic of conscience: I have often said that globalization must be given a more human face. The battle that the governments of Canada and Quebec are waging for cultural diversity bears witness to the importance of our actions,” he said. Underscoring his government’s commitment to the convention campaign, the Minister also paying tribute to the work of Canada’s Coalition for Cultural Diversity in the process, which promotes the Convention and the importance of cultural diversity at the international level,” he said. The Minister also applauded the work being done by Canada’s cultural organizations, through the CCD, to build international support for the Convention.

At the same time, the Bulletin underlines a motion unanimously adopted by the Members of the Quebec National Assembly in which Quebec’s Minister of International Relations Monique Gagnon-Tremblay emphasized that the proposed text of the Convention, adopted during the final intergovernmental experts meeting, responded to the fundamental objectives of Quebec: “In its present form, this text deserves to be defended by all those who believe in the diversity of cultural expressions,” she said. “We must therefore maintain—in fact, intensify—our mobilization efforts in order to obtain the maximum support from the member countries of UNESCO and ultimately secure the adoption of the convention on the diversity of cultural expressions during UNESCO’S General Conference next October.”

Now back from the Madrid meeting of culture ministers, Quebec Minister of Culture and Communications Line Beauchamp shares the same perspective, emphasizing the importance of “redoubling our efforts to maintain the strategic advance that we now hold. We still have to convince those states that are undecided and above all maintain the existing base of support. In the coming months, we will continue our mobilization and hold the line so that the draft convention will be adopted in October 2005.” In this regard, the Minister reiterates that “the draft convention represents a reasonable compromise supported by a large majority of member states of UNESCO. It establishes the political and legal foundations for an instrument that will be able to fill a void that now exists.” (See our Bulletin no 19, 20 June 2005).

Ontario Minister of Culture Madeleine Meilleur is of the same mind, emphatically asserting her government’s support for the UNESCO campaign for an international convention to protect the diversity of cultural expressions at a roundtable discussion on May 16 in Toronto: “This convention is especially important for our cultural industries such as book and magazine publishing, film and television production, live theatre, sound recording and new media. They are the most likely targets of trade challenges (…). We want to ensure that the convention contains provisions clarifying and harmonizing its relationship with existing trade agreements, and the nature of the dispute resolution process (…). I know that all of us here today agree on a guiding principle: the right of Canada, and all countries, to take measures to support artists and creators across all forms of cultural expression,” the Minister concluded. [05-24]