Cultural diversity

News Releases / Speeches / Declarations

"Fostering a dialog of cultures and the protection of cultural diversity and the UNESCO’s commitment to the promotion of the fruitful diversity of cultures"

Koïchiro Matsuura, Directeur général de l'UNESCO, Paris le 7 juin 2005 – 2005/06/07

At the opening session of the second meeting of Ministers of Culture of Asia and Europe held in Paris (France) on 7 and 8 June 2005, French culture and communication minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres invited the two continents to recognize their shared interest and increasing convergence in order to protect and promote cultural diversity and prevent worldwide uniformity: “In the face of this growing uniformity, in the face of the resulting risks of cultural depletion, states have a duty to respond [and] must have the right to protect and promote broader cultural expression. It is not simply a matter of protecting cultures and traditional heritage, but also all sectors of contemporary artistic and cultural creation. Cultural diversity cannot be fully credible unless it allows all countries—regardless of their degree of development—to express their own identity and national spirit, not only in the preservation and protection of their material and non-material heritage, but also in their ability to participate in cultural production and the exchange of contemporary works in all areas of cultural and audiovisual creation.”

The minister added, “But to be of any benefit, our shared interest in promoting dialog and the diversity of world cultures must have highly concrete outcomes. both in terms of the promotion of cultural exchanges between our two continents and support for the mobility of creators of works of art and of the mind, as well as international and multilateral cooperation to establish a multilateral legal framework that recognizes the distinct nature of cultural goods and services and artistic expressions, as well as the right of states to protect and promote their own cultures. I want to speak particularly about the draft Convention currently under discussion at UNESCO.” In this regard, he reiterated France’s position: “In accordance with the unanimous and shared European position, France wishes […] to strongly reaffirm the following principles: recognition of the distinct nature of cultural goods, services, and activities, which are vehicles for distributing works of the mind, as well as conducting trade in goods; the right of states to adopt or maintain the measures they deem appropriate for preserving their cultural heritage and developing their cultural and linguistic expressions; reinforcement of cooperation and solidarity with developing countries, in order to help rebalance trade in cultural goods and services and foster cultural pluralism; non-subordination of the Convention to other treaties, particularly trade agreements; and a binding mechanism for dispute settlement.” In addition, he stated: “Fostering a dialog of cultures and the protection of cultural diversity entails much more than the artistic and cultural spheres. We must harness and humanize globalization. Because we are committed to peace and development, we promote the dialog of cultures. Because we are aware of the complexity of the world, we defend diversity—a source of wealth and progress.”

Invited to speak at this opening session, the Director-General of UNESCO Mr Matsuura took the opportunity to recall UNESCO’s unswerving commitment to the "promotion of the fruitful diversity of cultures". After underlining the "remarkable effort made over the last two years since the General Conference placed this new task on the Organization’s work plan", the Director-General commented on the text drawn up by the governmental experts, 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 ». "During the process", said the Director-General, the governmental experts had shown themselves to be "sensitive to the spirit of fellowship, dialogue 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 ». This text, he added, « considers international cooperation, particularly with developing countries, as a key element of its provisions, and acknowledges culture as a cornerstone of the sustainable development of our societies ».

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. It would be the greatest honour that could be done to culture! » he concluded. [05-18]