May 21, 2008, marked World Day for Cultural Diversity. According to the Canadian Coalition for Cultural Diversity, the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions “recognizes the distinctive nature of cultural goods and services and affirms in international law the right of countries to apply cultural policies and other measures to ensure that their citizens have access to books, films, television, music, performing arts, and other cultural content that speak to their own experience.” The Coalition adds that “strong domestic cultural industries are essential if a country is to contribute to balanced cultural exchange at the international level.”
During a visit to Canada in the third week of May, International Federation of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity President Rasmané Ouedraogo of Burkina Faso praised “(…) the major contribution that organizations representing artists, creators, and all cultural professionals the world over have played in building support for the UNESCO convention—and the importance of maintaining this mobilization through the crucial early stages of implementing it.” Mr. Ouedraogo stated that an important role of his Federation “will be to ensure that cultural professional organizations have a strong voice in the process for implementing the UNESCO convention.”
The Canadian Coalition also declared that “Mr. Ouedraogo’s visit to Montreal recognizes the important work achieved to date in rapidly mobilizing broad international support for the convention, but also underscores the major work that lies ahead.”
According to the Coalition, “The process for implementing the UNESCO convention is still in its earliest stages, and the voice, of artists, creators, and all cultural professionals must be heard clearly in this process,” adding that in order for the convention to realize its full political and legal potential, “countries that ratify it must be coherent in their actions by upholding the principles and objectives of the convention in other international forums, including trade agreements.” Moreover, the Coalition added that major work remains to be done in achieving broader ratification from the current level of 80 countries to 150 or more ratifications—“a benchmark for any major international agreement.”
The Canadian Coalition believes that international cooperation “is also fundamental to the convention—including creation of an International Fund for Cultural Diversity to assist developing countries in nurturing the emergence of their own cultural industries, notably through the application of cultural policies. […] For the fund to fulfil its role, it will need to be adequately resourced by developed countries that have ratified it. […] The announcements by the Governments of Canada and Quebec—both of which have strongly supported the convention initiative from the very beginning—at the first meeting of the convention’s intergovernmental committee last December that they will contribute $500,000 and $100,000 respectively to the Fund were important signals on this count.”
The full version of the Canadian Coalition for Cultural Diversity press release is available online.