In Dakar to meet with the High Level Group of Education For All (Éducation pour tous) on December 10, 2007, UNESCO director-general Koïchiro Matsuura sent a message in French (see video) to the first session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Promotion and Diversity of Cultural Expressions in Ottawa, Canada.
In his introduction, Mr. Matsuura sent his best wishes for every success to the first session of the intergovernmental committee. He noted that promoting cultural diversity had always been one of his organization’s main priorities since its foundation and stressed that UNESCO’s latest cultural instrument—the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions—had completed the normative foundation his organization required to achieve its goal.
“The first conference of parties held at UNESCO headquarters last June 18 to 20 was an important step,” the director-general declared. “It allowed us to set a course for the Convention’s implementation, requiring not only hard work and determination, but flexibility and realism. However, its main characteristic—in the eyes of everyone—has been its dual pursuit of efficiency and consensus. I have no doubt that this spirit will continue to guide our work.”
Mr. Matsuura then expressed his great satisfaction at the regular, ongoing pace of Convention ratifications that have continually expanded its geographical representation. “Since the very first ratifications—from Canada and Mauritius—the Convention has expanded to include 76 parties, a further encouragement to us all,” he added.
The director-general further declared that “The Convention was eagerly awaited, but the tools it will provide in support of cultural expressions thanks to your efforts are even more eagerly awaited.” To this end, Mr. Matsuura noted the variety of topics the first session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions was to look at over its four days. “You will have to define work methods, draw up a schedule, and begin to exchange views on innovative ways to develop international cultural cooperation and bolster the position of civil society. You will also have to agree on how the International Fund for Cultural Diversity is to be used. Clear and pragmatic guiding principles must be outlined in all areas under the purview of your intergovernmental committee,” said Mr. Matsuura.
According to the director-general, the big issue will be finding a way to foster the emergence of a dynamic cultural sector. He also noted the need to help build and develop thriving cultural and creative industries to ensure sustainable development, reduce poverty, and promote greater social cohesion. “Our hope is to use this instrument to enrich all citizens of the world through a diet of all the world’s cultural expressions nourished in fertile dialog,” indicated Mr. Matsuura.
In conclusion, the UNESCO director-general stated, “The eyes of the international community are on us today awaiting the decisions you will make and the direction our future will take. I wish you every success with your work, whose results I will follow closely.”
For her part, in an address given at the start of the Ottawa meeting, UNESCO assistant director-general for culture Françoise Rivière stated that ratifications continue apace. In fact, she noted, some 15 Member States representing all UNESCO electoral groups had announced that they had begun and, in some cases, completed their internal ratification processes. “I am happy to announce that the United Kingdom deposited its ratification instrument on December 7. This reflects the efforts of the entire international community, and more specifically the International Organization of La Francophonie and its secretary general, Mr. Abdou Diouf, the International Network on Cultural Policy, as well as various civil society coalitions.”
Ms. Rivière noted that we must continue to lend our support to the movement underway. “The legitimacy of any instrument is linked to the number of ratifications and representation of all regions of the world,” she said. “Moreover, international solidarity—a major aspect of this Convention—cannot be meaningful without a balanced geographic representation of the parties.”
As for the agenda for the first meeting of the intergovernmental committee, Ms. Rivière reminded attendees, “You will have noted that the draft decisions that have been submitted to you do not propose to hold an expert meeting prior to your next session. The time we have been given is limited, as is the staffing of the Secretariat of the Convention. The work to be completed is immense; it is also urgent. I would therefore like to appeal for associate or national experts to be seconded to the section that ensures the Secretariat of the Convention. The most pressing needs concern operational projects aimed at fostering the emergence of an enabling environment for cultural industries through partnerships that permit an exchange of knowledge and best practices, with respect for the equal dignity of cultures, which is a governing principle of the Convention.”
On an entirely different matter, the assistant director-general for culture announced that on May 21, 2008, UNESCO would hold fun and exciting celebrations to mark the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialog and Development. Ms. Rivière explained that the celebrations would highlight the conceptual premises of the Convention, involving artists from all walks of life in order to illustrate the need to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions.