Cultural diversity

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Preserving cultural diversity: La Francophonie seeks allies

Montréal Campus - Le journal étudiant de l´Université du Québec à Montréal, Vol. XXIV, no. 27 , 9 février 2005 - 2005/02/09

Concerned about the threats to culture posed by the globalization of markets, several members of La Francophonie , as well as members of Spanish and Portuguese-speaking communities, met at the the 5th World Social Forum (WSF), held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, to discuss ways of resisting the American hegemony "out of concern for diversity, in order to prevent cultures from simply being eliminated," according to Le Journal étudiant de l'UQAM in its publication of last 9 February . Among the solutions recommended, Bernard Cassen, director of Le Monde diplomatique and founder of ATTAC, proposes replacing this "hyperpower" with linguistic multipolarity, the result of an alliance between all non-Anglophones, which would restore balance in relations between peoples.

In an assessment of ongoing negotiations for the adoption of a International Convention on the protection of the diversity of cultural expressions. Mr. Didier Le Bret of the French ministry of the Foreign Affairs and representing France at UNESCO , maintains that the draft would allow States to apply certain measures to protect culture and the arts, despite their commitments to international free-trade agreements. In particular, he stresses that the United States , which makes its fortune by exporting their "cultural products," fiercely opposes any protectionist measure. "If absolutely necessary, it's possible to make them admit that it's possible to support certain low-profit activities, such as dance, theatre or museums. But as soon as we talk about so-called "cultural industries" or "entertainment," they flatly refuse and allow trade to dominate." Mr. Daniel Turp, député du Parti québécois, argues for a UNESCO convention that is even more legally binding and deems the current draft unsatisfactory. However, Mr. Leonardo Brant, chair Brazilian Association for cultural diversity , affirmed his commitment to the protection of culture and, like many of his compatriots, is concerned about its growing "merchandization." In this respect, Brazil is considered a "pivotal country" concerning cultural issues. As a large exporter of televised soap-operas throughout the world, Brazil may have certain "offensive" interests in the international cultural industry sector.

However, while many participants are pinning high hopes on the possible adoption of the UNESCO's Draft Convention, this is not the case for Mr. Ricardo Petrella, professor of economy at the catholic University of Leuwen , in Belgium , and an author highly regarded by ultramodernists, who appears more pessimistic. He worries that under current conditions, "The UNESCO's Convention on cultural diversity will not achieve the aims its supporters having been working towards." According to him, as long as the major powers claim that this is the "information and knowledge" age, as long as they believe that these areas are the largest source of wealth and that private property is a basic human right, little will change. "Information and knowledge have become strategic. The West is transforming the world into a battleground where everyone is trying to conquer a maximum amount of knowledge and information, he adds. Confrontation is inevitable. There will have to be winners and losers. Some cultures that are deemed weaker or less competitive will be eliminated." [05-05]