Cultural diversity

News Releases / Speeches / Declarations

Signature of a new agreement: PAF and UNESCO formally reinforce their level of cooperation in order to contribute to the promotion of cultural diversity

UNESCO - APF, Paris, le 5 juillet 2005 – 2005/07/05

In the presence of ambassadors, permanent delegates, and members of the francophone group at UNESCO, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Francophonie (PAF) and UNESCO formally reinforced their level of cooperation on July 4 with the signature of a new agreement that complements the one signed by UNESCO and IOF (International Organization of the Francophonie) in December 2000. The goal of the new agreement is to “contribute to joint projects in such areas as the promotion of democracy and human rights, respect for cultural and linguistic diversity, education and training, cultural and communication, and promotion of the status of women.”

Speaking on the occasion, UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura drew attention to the importance that UNESCO places on cooperation with parliamentarians, whom it views as “permanent partners for action.” “Parliamentarians in all democratic societies are key actors in the political process […]. This is why UNESCO considers it crucial to establish close ties with them in order to ensure UNESCO ideals have fertile ground in which to take hold,” he declared. Mr. Matsuura expressed his satisfaction that the PAF session scheduled this week in Brussels would be devoted to cultural diversity, an issue at the heart of PAF concerns, as reflected in the declaration adopted in April by the PAF Commission for Education, Communication, and Cultural Affairs. As he pointed out, “There is no doubt that this represents a major area of cooperation for our two institutions… cultural diversity encompasses multiple aspects that UNESCO has an obligation to preserve by any means possible.”

Specifically evoking the question of cultural content and artistic expression, Mr. Matsuura pointed out the importance of the work undertaken by the intergovernmental experts in order to prepare the preliminary draft convention which will be submitted to the general Conference of UNESCO, in October 2005: “During the process,” said the Director-General, the governmental experts had shown themselves to be “sensitive to the spirit of fellowship, dialog and multi-polar exchange” as they sought to “find the meeting point between the demands of free circulation and access; of equal dignity of, and respect for, all cultures; of open-mindedness and equilibrium; and of international solidarity and cooperation, by highlighting the duality of cultural activities, goods, and services in their economic and cultural dimensions.” The result was a text that was “rich and generous, proposing a set of measures designed as much to promote as to protect the diversity of cultural expressions.” However, noting that “on certain key clauses, it has not been possible to reach a consensus,” Mr. Matsuura expressed the hope that “in the months between now and the time of the General Conference, these differences can be ironed out so that satisfactory wording can be found for all articles.” “It would be most regrettable were those countries that have recorded reservations on some of the key clauses of this convention finally to decide not to support it, given its crucial importance and urgency for the protection and promotion of cultural diversity. I can therefore only hope that one more attempt is made to allow culture to unleash its full unifying force and succeed in producing a consensus.”

PAF president and president of the National Assembly of Niger, Mahamane Ousmane, expressed his satisfaction with the agreement formalizing PAF-UNESCO cooperation and stressed the importance of the draft Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. “The cultural, economic, and political stakes are high, for it is but a short step from cultural homogenization to ideological homogenization, a step some appear determined to make—and quickly. We are not among them,” he reaffirmed. The permanent delegates from Canada, Lebanon, and Switzerland also praised the strong relations UNESCO has developed with the Francophonie, and especially with APF. They reiterated their commitment to cultural diversity and their hopes that the draft convention—a priority for the member countries of the Francophonie—be adopted during the 33rd session of the UNESCO General Conference. [05-22]