Cultural diversity

News Releases / Speeches / Declarations

“We are facing an immediate challenge, and I ask you to continue to rally around it as enthusiastically as possible: The adoption of the convention on cultural diversity at the UNESCO General Conference in October 2005”

Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, ministre de la Culture et de la Communication de France, Paris, 19 juillet 2005 – 2005/07/19

July 19 to 20 were International Cooperation and Development Days in Paris. Under the theme “Keeping the Flame of Cultural Diversity Alive,” they brought together some 2,000 attendees, including the heads of Services de Coopération et d’Action culturelle, Alliances françaises, research institutes, audiovisual agents, technical assistants, and some 70 exhibitors to discuss with all the stakeholders at the French government. French Minister of Culture Mr. de Vabres took the opportunity to declare “we are facing an immediate challenge, and I ask you to continue to rally around it as enthusiastically as possible. It’s the adoption of the convention on cultural diversity at the UNESCO General Conference beginning October 3 in Paris.” The minister emphasized this was an important deadline for France, because “if it pans out, we’ll have to consider this result of our concerted action not an end, but a new beginning to guide our cultural policy for more controlled globalization and a calmer, more tolerant world.”

The minister notably reminded attendees that “the three intergovernmental meetings of experts held between December 2004 and June 2005 led to the adoption of a coherent, balanced text by relative consensus—only the U.S. formally opposed. This draft “Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions” recognizes the nonsubordination of the convention to other existing international treaties and meets France’s three objectives: assert the sovereign right of states to implement cultural policies, acknowledge the distinct nature of cultural goods and services, and strengthen cooperation and solidarity with developing countries.”

The minister also pointed out that “although the draft adopted on June 3 was approved by a broad consensus, it may still be tempting to take the text back to the drawing board in an attempt to achieve unanimity among all states. We have to step up our efforts to bring UNESCO member states resolutely on board and prevent the text from being reworked in any way. We must continually explain, convince, and remind how important it is for every country to avoid entering into any kind of liberalization agreement in trade negotiations that may get in the way of the UNESCO Convention’s application. Lastly, if the text is in fact adopted in October as we hope, it will be crucial that as many states as possible ratify it as quickly as possible. Although relatively few ratifications are needed for the convention to enter into effect—the number has been set at 30—it is important not to underestimate how slowly the wheels turn in the ratification process and remember that the more states that sign on, the more weight the convention will have over other international agreements.”

The minister went on to say “this puts us in a true ‘race against the clock,’ since countries are signing the bilateral free-trade agreements that the U.S. proposed to many with cultural and audiovisual service liberalization clauses and the current Doha round continues at the World Trade Organization. That makes your support as essential as ever in this new phase (…). The UNESCO Convention will be the first step toward international law on culture, beginning in the same way as international law on health an the environment.”

Ms. Brigitte Girardin, the Minister Delegate for Cooperation, Development, and Francophony, declared as she launched the Cooperation and Development Days that “thanks to the France and its partners, (...) the theme of cultural diversity is now well established on the international scene. (...) We still have to give this notion of cultural diversity real form and create the tools needed to implement it. (...) The convention on cultural diversity is a first concrete response. The trade negotiations picking up again in Hong Kong this December are also important. We all hope UNESCO will adopt the convention being negotiated this fall—in a form that guarantees it will become part of the international legal system.” [05-24]