Cultural diversity

News Releases / Speeches / Declarations

Adoption of the Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions at UNESCO: “Cultural diversity gains force of law”

Ernst Iten, Swiss ambassador to UNESCO, Berne, October 25, 2005 – 2005/10/25

In an interview with Swissinfo, Swiss ambassador to UNESCO Ernst Iten discussed the 33rd UNESCO General Conference where the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions was approved during a plenary session vote by “an overwhelming majority of delegates,” “despite fierce opposition from the United States.” According to ambassador Iten, this document, fast-tracked by France and Canada, “which aims to protect cultural diversity,” “recognizes the specific nature of cultural goods, gives signatory countries the right to take measures that promote cultural diversity, and gives effect to the importance of culture for development.”

The ambassador regrets that the United States and Israel are opposed to the Convention, which all other member countries supported because they consider it the result of a “balanced compromise.” “In the eyes of the United States, this ‘hastily written’ Convention could lead to the establishment of trade impediments against exported cultural goods (films and pop music, for example) and indirectly restrict freedom of expression.” Speaking about Switzerland’s expectations with regard to the results of this accord, the ambassador stated: “The concept of ‘cultural diversity’ is now entering international law. It will now have a compulsory dimension for both those who do and do not comply with the Convention. For the first time, cultural diversity is a matter of international law, like biodiversity, for example. Now we will see which countries ratify it and how quickly. Switzerland wishes to ratify it as soon as possible.”