Representatives from 30 countries and 5 international organizations gathered in Dakar, Senegal, from November 21 to 23 for the 8th Annual Ministerial Meeting of the International Network on Cultural Policy (INCP), which was chaired by Mr. Mame Birame, Senegalese minister of culture and classified cultural heritage. Participants hailed INCP’s role in UNESCO’s adoption of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and expressed hopes for its rapid ratification and implementation. They also congratulated UNESCO for successfully overseeing the adoption of the convention within the two-year timeframe favored by the vast majority of members states. The Working Group on Cultural Diversity and Globalization, whose mandate was renewed, will identify strategies to stimulate and facilitate ratification of the convention and its implementation.
INCP ministers also met with representatives of civil society and agreed to a shared objective: rapid ratification by as many states as possible. The International Liaison Committee of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity (ILC)—which speaks for 31 coalitions for cultural diversity comprised of over 500 professional organizations representing writers, composers, directors, performing and visual artists, as well as independent publishers and producers and distributors of film, television and music—hailed INCP’s crucial role in the elaboration and adoption of the UNESCO convention. According to ILC, “the provisions of the convention will legitimize the position of states that refuse to make concessions on liberalizing trade in cultural goods and services under international trade agreements.” ILC affirmed that “our cultural policies were under threat from bilateral, regional and multilateral trade agreements, and there was a race on to limit the potential damage these agreements might cause. A crucial step in this process was the adoption of the UNESCO convention on the diversity of cultural expressions by fall 2005. The next step essential step is its rapid ratification by a large number of countries […] For the convention to achieve optimal effectiveness, it must be ratified by at least 50 or 60 states. They will have to resist U.S. pressure to abandon the document and will need the indefatigable support of the countries that helped make the Convention a reality in the first place. This is why we hope to see the states that you represent launch a major ratification and implementation campaign.”
Jean-Pierre Paquin, a member of the Canadian delegation, noted that the Québec National Assembly had already unanimously approved the convention on November 10. He assured that the Québec government would collaborate with the governments of Canada and France as well as the International Organization of the Francophonie and the European Union to lead a sustained campaign encouraging as many states as possible to diligently proceed with ratification. Mr. Paquin also added that the intense focus on ratification did not preclude taking a closer look at convention implementation. Pointing out that the challenge of ensuring vigorous and “inspired” implementation will have to be met as soon as the convention comes into force, he stressed that it is not just a matter of ensuring ratification, but of giving the convention the impetus for implementation that only the states parties can provide.
The 9th Annual Ministerial Meeting of the International Network on Cultural Policy (INCP) will be held in Brazil from November 27 to 29, 2006, with an invitation from the Brazilian's minister of Culture, Mr. Gilberto Gil.