Cultural diversity

News Releases / Speeches / Declarations

Convention de l'UNESCO sur la diversité des expressions culturelles: « Il faut obtenir un poids équivalent aux accords de commerce »

Pierre Curzi, co-chair of the Canadian Coalition for Cultural Diversity, gave a presentation before members of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage of the House of Commons on December 6, 2004.  He discussed the positions adopted by the Canadian Coalition for Cultural Diversity on several important articles in the text of the preliminary draft of the UNESCO Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.

According to the CCD, « The central objective of the Convention is to fill a void in the international legal system by creating a new legal instrument that will clearly affirm the sovereign right of countries to establish their own cultural policies in support of the diversity of cultural expressions. But the sole affirmation of this sovereign right risks having little practical benefit if we do not at the same time confer upon the UNESCO Convention a strong legal status within the framework of international law. The Convention must therefore include provisions that clearly establish its legal weight with respect to other international pertinent instruments ». In this respect, the CCD believes that a clear distinction must be made between the Convention's relationship to international human rights instruments and its relationship to international trade agreements. The CCD firmly recognizes that the primacy of international human rights instruments over the Convention is entirely self-evident, but the same does not hold true for international trade agreements. Indeed, the CCD is resolute in its conviction that the Convention must have a legal status equal in weight to that of trade agreements within the framework of international law if it is to be effective and have any real sway. To ensure its practical application, this "at par" legal status with trade agreements must be clearly reflected in three key articles of the Draft Convention, more specifically in Articles 13, 19 and 24.

 The CCD states that Article 19 is « A Question of Equity »: Options A and B proposed in Article 19, the CCD asserted that Option A is better, but only in relative terms. Indeed, in the interests of countries that have made previous liberalization commitments on culture in trade agreements, the Coalition recommends that “Option A be used as a starting point to develop new wording. So, « States Parties could agree to incorporate terms and conditions into the Convention that would enable Signatory States that have made prior liberalization commitments on culture to other Signatory States to initiate a mutual review of these engagements with the objective of providing greater latitude in applying policies to protect and promote their culture ».

According to the CCD, Article 13 is one of the key clauses of the Draft Convention in that it seeks to set the guidelines for how States Parties should act « when making any international commitments » within the framework of other instruments. This article must be strengthened so that it can play a key role in ensuring that the Convention truly becomes the authoritative instrument on questions of cultural policies, a reference that Signatory Parties can cite to other Member States as their basis for refusing to make liberalization commitments on culture that run contrary to the objectives of the Convention.

With regards to Article 24, the CCD states that: « If the UNESCO Convention is to be truly equal in weight to other international instruments, its mechanism for dispute settlement should necessarily be equal in weight and have a similar architecture to those found in trade agreements. Without such a binding mechanism, it will be almost impossible to make of the Convention the definitive reference for resolving disputes relating to cultural policies ». The CCD also proposes that the UNESCO Convention should incorporate a formal commitment by States Parties to use the mechanisms provided by the Convention for resolving such disputes and not undermine the Convention by seeking rulings in international trade fora. [05-