Appealing for the ratification of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions is now a priority for the International Organization of La Francophonie. Besides the Declaration adopted at the conclusion of the Summit , participants in the opening ceremony called on everyone to defend cultural diversity and ratify said Convention. Below is a summary of a few initiatives.
The 11th La Francophonie Summit took place from September 25 to 29 in Bucharest , Romania . Seventy-two countries were represented, including 43 state and government leaders, 40 foreign affairs ministers, 10 ambassadors, and over 1,500 members of official delegations. Notable participants included UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. Over 17,000 participants attended the meeting, where over 500 accredited journalists were present (Rompres). OIF, which up to that time consisted of 53 member states and governments and 10 observers (Rapport d'activités 2004-2006), saw its numbers grow. Six new countries (Serbia, Montenegro, Sudan, Ukraine, Mozambique, Thailand, and the Sovereign Order of Malta) applied for OIF observer status and four other countries (Albania, Macedonia, Andorra, and Greece) requested "full membership" at the Summit, while Ghana and Cyprus requested "associated member" status (La Presse Canadienne ; Actualités ; Roumanie.com). OIF now numbers 68 countries, including 55 member states and governments and 13 observers (OIF). Québec will host the next Summit in 2008.
The 11th OIF Summit, which opened in Bucharest, Romania, on September 25, concluded on September 29 with the adoption of a declaration (Bucharest Declaration), part of which makes reference to the Summit theme (Information Technology in Education ), while another involves the position of French-speaking countries regarding current crises and the state of democratization in French-speaking states. To promote the ratification of the UNESCO Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, the heads of state and government of French-speaking countries (OIF) gathered on September 28 and 29 declared.
"While we are delighted with the cooperation between our states and governments that promoted the adoption of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions at UNESCO in October 2005, we urge states that have not yet deposited their instruments of ratification to do so.
"We request that OIF strengthen its support for countries in the South that wish to develop their national cultural policies and increase the production and distribution of their cultural products and content. We pledge to implement this Convention quickly, notably its cooperation provisions supporting the South."
OIF Secretary-General Abdou Diouf was reelected head of La Francophonie by heads of state and government for a 4 year term. Paying tribute to the United Nations secretary-general, who "urged that multilateralism is the only democratic response to world crises," Mr. Diouf stated, "It is this multilateralism (.) that enabled us to take a historic step at UNESCO in November 2005 with the adoption of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions . I would like to tell the UNESCO secretary-general that this Summit is also a gathering for cultural diversity, a gathering that marks a commitment not only with words, but also action. Action to ratify the Convention, which has forged ahead and will be accelerated thanks to the impetus of our member states, and action to prepare for its implementation. We are committed to strengthening the cultural policies and industries of our states. We will succeed! We are committed to strengthening international cultural cooperation, because it is vital to the cultural dialogue we so desperately need. We will succeed!"
In an interview with AFP on September 27, Mr. Diouf explained that during the Bucharest Summit, La Francophonie would confirm its commitment to cultural diversity as opposed to "a hegemony, an exclusive world view" held by the United States . "We do not consider culture to be a commodity (.).Washington fears that application of the Convention on cultural diversity would create a barrier to the sale of movies and music. The Convention's main goal is to exempt various "cultural expressions" from rules governing international trade, thereby making culture an exception that can be funded by states (.). The cultures of countries should be shared, but other countries-not just those in the South, but all of the world's countries-must have access to the market of culture and cultural works in all their forms, including cinema, music, and the visual arts. These works must be subject to balanced exchange so that we do not become hostages of a monoculture, one-way thinking, or a single identity."
AFP states that "the United States , which expressed disappointment with the overwhelming vote in favor of the UNESCO Convention, announced that it would try to deter countries that have signed it from ratifying it and, failing this, from abusing it." Despite everything, the agency adds, Mr. Diouf is optimistic, assuring that "between now and the UNESCO General Conference in October 2007, we will have enough countries for this Convention to come into effect."
For Ms. Monique Gagnon-Tremblay, Québec's Minister of International Relations and Minister responsible for La Francophonie, Québec has been an OIF member and participating government for 35 years. It takes part directly in and contributes to the work, programs, and funding of OIF and its operators. Its continuous push for many years to have a convention on cultural diversity adopted by UNESCO could not have led to such an outcome if it had been conducted outside the institutional framework of La Francophone, she stresses.
Although only 12 countries have actually deposited their instruments of ratification at UNESCO, this poor turnout does not worry Québec Premier Jean Charest, who states, "For us, it's a continuing battle. We're putting a lot of energy into the ratification round. We believe that as many countries as possible should ratify the Convention as soon as possible so that it can be implemented and move from words to action." The Convention must be signed by at least 30 countries by June 2007 in order for it to come into effect at the next UNESCO General Conference in October 2007. In this regard, Mr. Charest stresses, "I am totally confident that we'll succeed. I have no doubt about it. But we want more than that. We want more than 30 countries. We want countries from beyond La Francophonie." To accomplish this, Mr. Charest promised to take advantage of the 11th Summit to promote the Convention to other government leaders.
At the opening ceremony of the Summit , Stephen Harper said he would, as prime minister of Canada , ensure that Canada 's bilingual and multicultural nature would be faithfully reflected on the world stage. He stated that "it is not surprising that we were the first to ratify the new Convention on cultural diversity. As such, La Francophonie has played a major role in adopting a UNESCO convention by making cultural diversity an essential frame of reference." Mr. Harper stated, "We will be vigorously pursuing ratification of the Convention on cultural diversity in both our official languages."
At the La Francophonie Summit forum, French President Jacques Chirac stressed that "cultural dialogue will depend largely on peace and the future of the world." This "dialogue dynamic" is in his eyes the best response to globalization, because "our modern societies are being pulled apart by opposing forces. The risk of uniformity and the fear of identity dilution are met with the threat of withdrawal and a state of tension." For Mr. Chirac, the 11th Summit is "a major discussion forum between players who share the French-speaking community in globalization." For this reason, he urged his partners to ratify the UNESCO Convention on cultural diversity: "I call upon all French-speaking signatory states to give this Convention its full expression by ratifying it as quickly as possible. It is our common tool for developing our cultural policies and businesses, creating new occupations, and offering our youth the hope and freedom of an open world."
In his speech during the opening ceremony of the 11th La Francophonie Summit, Mr. Blaise Compaoré, President of the Republic of Burkina Faso , stressed that "in a world tempted by uniformity and standards, cultural diversity is both a confirmation and factor of growth. That is why I welcome the commitment of La Francophonie member states to UNESCO, which led to the adoption of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions in October 2005. I invite states that have not yet done so to accelerate the ratification of this Convention." Mr. Compaoré added that in a number of French-speaking countries, legal and organizational instruments have been set up to promote cultural diversity.