International Network for Cultural Diversity (INCD), November 21, 2005 – 2005/11/21
With the adoption of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and the Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, the INCD and culture ministers in the INCP are moving into a new phase: “We must work for the implementation of the Convention and to find concrete ways to make it effective as a political and development tool. It is especially significant that we are embarking on this next phase of our work in Africa, the birthplace of humanity, and in Senegal, with its rich diversity of arts and culture that, unfortunately, must struggle to overcome the obstacles created by the rules of commercial dissemination in order to reach audiences on every continent. This is the challenge facing all the world’s cultures, and the INCD will do all it can to help them. We must put conditions and rules in place to allow rich, varied, and balanced cultural exchanges.”
These are the words set out in the Declaration adopted at the end of the 6th Annual Meeting of the International Network for Cultural Diversity that brought together 138 delegates from 45 countries, from November 17 to 20 in Dakar, Senegal. The Conference was held in partnership with the Senegalese Network of Socio-Cultural Actors and the National Coalition for Cultural Diversity (Senegal).
As INCD noted, in three days of dynamic dialogue the INCD delegates focused on four key issues: the immediate ratification of the Convention by 70–85 UNESCO member states; resisting demands in the WTO and regional and bilateral trade and investment agreements to make commitments that undermine the objectives and principles of the Convention and that would render it meaningless; identifying policy initiatives and projects that give life to the commitments in the Convention, particularly to create preferential opportunities for artists and cultural productions from the South and to provide the necessary resources to develop cultural capacity and creative industries; and enhancing cooperation among states committed to the Convention, especially in forums where its objectives and principles are under threat, and between those states and civil society at national, regional, and international levels.
INCD delegates celebrated along with culture ministers the adoption of the UNESCO Convention, which they feel is a significant victory. INCD believes that the challenges of achieving ratification should not be underestimated: “Our delegates leave Dakar with a commitment to work at the national and regional levels to help our governments to understand why ratifying the Convention is so crucial.” But, ratification alone is not enough: “We will also be insisting that UNESCO assume the key role it is assigned under the terms, and we urge culture Ministers to do the same. It must collect and disseminate the critical information, so that we can all understand the state of development of the creative industries in each country and the current balance of trade in cultural goods and services.”
In addition, INCD stresses that ratification of the Convention will not ease the pressure on governments to make commitments in trade and investment agreements that are incompatible with its vision of genuine cultural diversity and culture-driven development. In fact, like the International Liaison Committee of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity (See our Bulletin No. 35, November 25 ), INCD underlines that as governments face pressure to make new commitments at the WTO and in regional and bilateral agreements, INCD delegates are urging Culture Ministers to work with trade ministers to ensure they understand the wide scope of cultural policy tools that are at risk. This extends beyond the audiovisual, publishing, and music industries to include telecommunications, electronic commerce, retail and distribution services, the media, and many other sectors. Commitments in any of these could potentially paralyze the ability of governments to protect and promote their own artists and cultural producers. In this respect, given current developments in the WTO and in bilateral and regional negotiations, delegates to the INCD meeting concluded that we must be more vigilant than ever, and urged states to continue working with each other and with civil society to quarantine cultural goods and services from the trade and investment agreements. Recent moves by the governments of Kenya, Brazil, Venezuela, and others to resist demands in the WTO from the European Union to establish minimum benchmarks in the General Agreement on Trade in Services are an important example of the potential for such solidarity. Moreover, INCD members at the meeting also signed an urgent appeal to the President of the Republic of Peru to resist pressure from the United States to conclude a US/Andean free trade agreement without a comprehensive cultural exception.
In conclusion, INCD affirms that it will work with INCP to ensure the speedy ratification of the Convention, to promote opportunities for cultural actors, and to challenge developments and negotiations that threaten the integrity of local cultures and genuine cultural diversity in the national and international spheres.