Cultural diversity

News Releases / Speeches / Declarations

La Convention sur la protection et la promotion de la diversité des expressions culturelles : défis et possibilités pour le Québec, 2006/06

Within the framework of its progress report about the impact of globalization on the culture in Québec, the Laboratoire d'étude sur les politiques publiques et la mondialisation (LEPPM) of the ÉNAP publishes a study prepared by Mrs. Jacinthe Gagnon in which she explores the challenges and possibilities of the Convention for Québec. According to the author, if it is difficult right now to evaluate the impacts of this Convention on national cultural policies, however we can verify the States’ sensibility level concerning the parameters established by this Convention inasmuch as we observe in the signatory States a tendency to put cultural issues in the first place and take measures in favour of the cultural diversity. This will also allow them to legitimate their interventions in cultural matters, sending at the same time a political message about their engagement towards the protection of cultural diversity.

Considering that the emergence of new information and communication technologies will lead to a government action that will be concretized by the elaboration of new policies and laws aimed to regulate the concerned sectors (telecommunications, copyright, media, electronics), based on Convention’s provisions, she emphasizes that these policies could be influenced by negotiations about services liberalization in process to the WTO. From this point of view, she says: “the critical date” when the Convention will enter into effect is extremely important because it will allow member States to protect its spheres of activities thanks to the Convention’s provisions.

In addition, she describes, in the following terms, the challenges of the ratification of this Convention may face: “If it is true that the Convention may represent the response to juridical vagueness concerning the relation between trade and culture, it is necessary to elaborate a jurisprudence favourable to the protection and promotion of the cultural diversity. This jurisprudence will take into consideration at the same time the provisions related to commercial agreements and to the Convention, and it will reinforce the legitimacy of such Convention. From now on, for the States that consider this Convention an outrage to individual liberty and cultural exchanges, and have been fiercely opposed to it, the coast is clear”. In fact, political challenge nourished by U.S. opposition, concerning culture’s commercialization goes further than the concepts of “cultural exception” and "cultural diversity" that prevailed during the agreements of GATT and the UNESCO Convention. According to her, “these notions, kind of uncertain concerning the trade agreements, must be now materialized into real cultural policies. From now on, the United States (USA) will have the pleasure to use strategies aimed at discouraging the signatories of the Convention to continue. They have already convinced, using astute manoeuvres, some governments about the lack of relevance of this legal instrument. The slow ratification process leaves the U.S. diplomacy all the time to negotiate bilateral agreements whose goal is to weaken the Convention, demanding its partners to renounce to some rights that the Convention could provide them if they ratify it. Is one of the most convincing ways that Bush administration has implemented to slow the ratification process and reduce the scope of the Convention. Since not too many countries can neglect the USA as commercial partner, it is difficult to defy the conditions they impose within the framework of the trade agreements".

In the same order of ideas, she asserts that the increase of bilateral agreements concluded by the USA could devastate the multilateral system in favor of a practice that promotes only particular interests. For example, “negotiations between South Korea and the United States with a view to reach a free-trade agreement demonstrate very well the influence of U.S. diplomats and the dilemma that represents for a State to choose between its economic development and its cultural policies (Korean screen quota system)”. This illustrates the governments’ difficulty to keep their cultural policies in a world where trade becomes more important than culture. This is the reason why, considering the negotiations under the sponsorship of the WTO concerning services liberalization and the risk that the USA could obtain concessions on audiovisual services, many countries have decided not to make a liberalization engagement in these sectors (Québec, Canada, European Union, African Union).

In conclusion, the author affirms, “If it were possible to obtain, before the next UNESCO General Conference on October 2007, the ratification by a number of States higher than the minimum required and there could be a high level of representatives from signatory States, this will send a clear message: it will be then much more easier to declare that the cultural sector must be treated independently from the commercial area”.