Ministers of culture and highest appropriate authorities from the member states of the Organization of American States (OAS) met in Montréal, Canada from November 13 to 15 for their Third Inter-American Meeting in order to pursue dialog on cultural policy issues. In the presence of permanent observers as well as representatives of civil society and international organizations, they examined the challenges facing heritage institutions with regard to natural disaster preparation and recovery, and discussed initiatives and partnerships undertaken to address them. They looked at ways to foster the development of partnerships between the education and culture sectors, to facilitate the development and promotion of cultural industries, and to develop means to evaluate achievements and outcomes. The development of common measurements would allow for a more accurate evaluation of cultural policies. The influence of indigenous peoples on the formulation of cultural policies, as well as the importance of preserving Aboriginal languages, was also discussed.
Throughout the sessions, a crosscutting issue identified as a priority at the latest OAS general assembly was also addressed, i.e., support for “inter-American policies and programs that foster the development of culture in the region and consider the impact that ICTs can have on its multiple dimensions,” and “for efforts to protect and promote cultural diversity, as well as cultural identities, within the knowledge-based society.”
The Organization of American States brings together the countries of the Western Hemisphere to strengthen cooperation and advance common interests. It is the region’s premier forum for multilateral dialog and concerted action. Ministerial delegations from 27 of the 34 countries of the Americas were present in Montréal. Canadian heritage minister Beverley Oda and Québec minister of culture and communications Line Beauchamp took the opportunity to promote cultural diversity and attempt to convince as many countries of the Americas as possible to immediately ratify the UNESCO Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.
Reiterating Canada’s new government’s commitment to inter-American cooperation regarding culture and to promoting ratification of the UNESCO Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, Minister Oda asserted that “ Canada is committed to vigorously pursuing ratification of this UNESCO Convention by a large number of countries representing all regions of the world, including the Americas.” Minister Oda added that “the Convention will ensure that all of us will continue to have a voice to express our identity.”
In an earlier meeting with the press, Minister Oda expressed confidence in obtaining the signature of these 30 states in the coming months. “The current priority is not to say how proud we are of ratifying the Convention, but to put our energy and resources into encouraging other countries to do the same,” she stated, adding that both Ottawa and Québec City would “work together” to “encourage acceptance” of the Convention by as many countries as possible.
Sharing the same optimism, Minister Beauchamp stated, “In the first weeks, the first months of 2007, we know we are going to achieve this required ratification by at least 30 countries. But of course it will take more than 30 countries. Thirty countries is the minimum; we’re aiming for many more.” Of the 18 countries that have ratified the Convention, 10 come from the Americas. Now, stresses Minister Beauchamp, “We need to further increase the presence of the Americas to prepare for the first meeting of Convention member states, hopefully in 2007.” According to Minister Beauchamp, “This Third Inter-American Meeting represents an outstanding opportunity to enhance our knowledge and thinking through contact with the sister nations that share this vast hemisphere.” Presenting Québec’s position on the Convention, Minister Beauchamp stated, “The challenges of the ratification process and Convention implementation are enormous. We must get to work immediately; this is our duty as ministers and senior officials.” In private meetings with her counterparts from Brazil and Haiti, Ms. Beauchamp stressed the importance of actively taking part in implementing the Convention starting in 2007.
According to Canadian Coalition for Cultural Diversity executive vice president Robert Pilon, to be legally and politically representative and strong, the Convention should ideally bring together at least 75 to 80 countries from all regions of the world. He indicated that in the coming months, the Coalition would focus on convincing countries in Asia, English-speaking Africa, the Arab world, and the Caribbean to ratify it.
In the press: