The entry into force of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions has met with broad general approval around the world. In Canada, Beverley J. Oda, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women, expressed her satisfaction to see the Convention come into effect, noting in a press release distributed for the occasion that “ The Convention’s entry into force is a crucial step in our endeavor to preserve and protect cultural diversity in Canada and throughout the world. This important treaty will allow us to adopt policies that promote the growth of cultural industries and help our artists and creators to continue sharing their ideas and stories with all Canadians and with the rest of the world .” She added that “ Canada’s New Government intends to continue working with its provincial and territorial partners, particularly Québec, and with the arts and cultural community in order to play an active role in implementing the Convention, which is the next step in this important undertaking.” The news release also mentioned that by standing as a candidate for election to the Intergovernmental Committee, Canada hopes to participate in decisions that will monitor the Convention, and to ensure that the treaty remains firmly focused on the field of application for which it was designed. “We want to ensure concrete and prompt action on the provisions concerning international cooperation, and for that reason, we are pledging to contribute to the Fund that will be established to help developing countries acquire the tools they need to maintain the vitality of their cultural expressions,” said the minister.
In a letter addressed to UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura, French president Jacques Chirac stated that the document “ addresses the essential need to respect and promote the diversity of cultural and artistic expressions in the face of globalization, to create a cultural dialog in the face of growing extremism, and to encourage solidarity between citizens in the face of the growing gap between the rich and poor.” Mr. Chirac also mentioned that the Convention “inscribes in international law the right of each state to decide its own cultural policy according to the values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In so doing it offers protection in international negotiations for the cultural and audiovisual goods and services of individual countries, recognizes the fundamental role culture plays in development, and introduces mechanisms of cooperation that will help states preserve their material and immaterial heritage as well as protect their cultural creations.”
In Québec in an open letter in the media, (Québec’s Minister of Culture and Communications, Line Beauchamp; Minister of International Relations and Minister responsible for La Francophonie, Monique Gagnon-Tremblay; and Minister of Economic Development, Innovation, and Export Trade, Raymond Bachand, applauded the entry into force of the Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, saying that it represented a major step forward in a process aimed at gaining international recognition of the rights of states and governments to freely create their own cultural policies. They also mentioned that the Convention marked the beginning of a new stage in which Québec intended to once again play a very active role. “We must remember that the Convention’s legitimacy will be proportional to the number of countries that ratify it and that we must therefore continually strive to obtain as many ratifications as possible.” The ministers added that now that more countries had ratified the Convention, seeing to its implementation was the next major challenge. “Québec intends to contribute in a variety of ways—including through the presence of its UNESCO representative—to all aspects of the work of implementing the Convention, be it encouraging cultural cooperation, promoting the goals of the Convention in other international forums, or sharing information on cultural policies,” they explained. Furthermore, taking advantage of the presence of representatives of over thirty diversity coalitions from around the world at a general assembly in Montréal, the ministers noted that “the presence here in Québec of these distinguished guests reminds us that the best way to ensure that the Convention will always play the role we want it to is to continually preserve and improve our cultural policies and support measures where they are present and to create them where they are absent. We can therefore conclude that cultural diversity coalitions and all of civil society throughout the world have a central role to play. The more countries there are that encourage the cultural expression of their citizens using the appropriate policies and measures, the more support there will be for the Convention’s goals and principles.”
The Swiss Commission for UNESCO and the Swiss Coalition for Cultural Diversity greeted the Convention’s entry into force enthusiastically. In a joint press release, the two organizations expressed their desire that “the ratification process for this treaty, which Switzerland has undertaken, be concluded as quickly as possible and that in the meantime [ Switzerland] begin applying its goals and principles in all international trade negotiations.”
In an open letter published in the March 17/18, 2007 edition of Québec daily Le Devoir, Canadian Coalition for Cultural Diversity executive vice president Robert Pilon stated that “the entry into force of the Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions is a huge victory for all countries and for all government and professional cultural organization representatives from around the world who have worked with commitment and dedication for nearly ten years to bring this Convention to fruition.” Mr. Pilon added that in the coming weeks, the Canadian coalition together with the entire international movement of coalitions would begin working on the second phase of the ratification campaign in the hopes of achieving at least 125 and even as many as 150 ratifications over the next two or three years. He also drew attention to the importance that must be placed on ensuring equal representation of all the world’s regions and subregions and of every major language group from among the signatory states. He ended by stating that “for implementation of the Convention to be truly effective, we will first have to strengthen the institutional and financial capacity of developing countries to create and implement policies that sustain the development of their national cultural industries. We must also hasten to find ways of supporting the political will of states not to renounce their right to set their own cultural policies in the face of pressures to liberalize cultural industries in multilateral or bilateral trade negotiations.”
In conclusion, below is a list of hyperlinks to a selection of articles that have appeared in the international press on the occasion of the entry into force of the UNESCO Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.