Cultural diversity

News Releases / Speeches / Declarations

Coalitions for Cultural Diversity Hail Adoption of UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity; Urge Countries to Ratify on Urgent Basis

International Liaison Committee of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity (ILC) Paris, October 21, 2005 – 2005/10/21

Coalitions for Cultural Diversity applauded last week’s overwhelming majority vote at UNESCO to adopt an international convention on cultural diversity as an historic achievement in the campaign to ensure countries retain the right to have cultural policies. And they urged leader countries to embark on an immediate campaign to secure fast-track ratification of the convention to ensure it goes into legal effect as soon as possible.

According to these 31 coalitions for cultural diversity now in existence, the overwhelming majority vote in favor of the convention shows that the right to have cultural policies (domestic content quotas, subsidies, tax credits, foreign ownership rules, etc.) is now recognized as a priority by countries all over the world. The reason for this is clear: with very few exceptions, countries need to be able to have such policies to ensure their citizens have access to their own culture. Healthy levels of domestic cultural production are essential for there to be a balanced exchange of cultural goods and services among countries internationally.

Moreover, the coalitions support that with countries under increasing pressure in trade negotiations to give up their right to have cultural policies, it was imperative that the UNESCO convention be adopted as soon as possible.

Although only the United States and Israel voted against adoption, and Australia, Honduras, Liberia and Nicaragua abstained, this convention…

  • Recognizes in international law the distinctive nature of cultural goods and services as vehicles of values, identity and meaning
  • Clearly affirms of the right of countries to have cultural policies to ensure genuine diversity of cultural expressions domestically
  • Includes provisions by which developed countries undertake to support developing countries in nurturing the development of their own emerging cultural industries
  • Asserts the principle of non-subordination—meaning the legal status of the convention in international law will be equal to that of other international treaties, including trade agreements
  • Commits countries to take the provisions of the convention into account not only when entering into other international agreements, but also when applying and interpreting agreements to which they are party
  • Includes a basic dispute settlement mechanism, creating the potential that in the years ahead the convention will accumulate a body of decisions on issues of cultural policy that will ultimately influence how culture is treated in trade agreements

In fact, the coalitions pledged the engagement of cultural professional organizations around the world to ensure the convention becomes a genuine pillar of the international legal system. While hailing the major progress represented by the vote on adoption, the coalitions stressed that the campaign is not over but instead now shifts to a new phase: ratification.

The coalitions, which have worked actively over the past six years to build broad international support for the idea of an international convention on cultural diversity, urged countries that had championed the convention through the negotiations and adoption phase to now launch a concerted ratification campaign. They noted that this will clearly be needed in light of the intense opposition to the convention from the United States throughout the negotiations—opposition now expected to be channeled into pressure on other countries not to ratify. Therefore, the coalitions pledged to urge the governments of their own countries to ratify the convention on an urgent basis, and to continue their mobilization work in building broad support internationally for the sovereign right of countries to have cultural policies.

The 31 coalitions for cultural diversity now in existence are members of the International Liaison Committee of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity (ILC). They are comprised of more than 500 professional organizations representing writers, composers, director, performing artists, and visual artists as well as independent publishers and producers and distributors of film, television, and music from 31 countries: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Congo, Ecuador, France, Germany, Guinea, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Ivory Coast, Korea, Mali, Morocco, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Senegal, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Togo, and Uruguay.