UNESCO director general Koïchiro Matsuura opened the first extraordinary session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions on June 24, 2008, at UNESCO headquarters. Executive Board chairman Olabiyi Babalola Joseph Yaï attended the opening ceremony.
In his address, Mr. Matsuura outlined the “considerable interest” and expectations the international community had placed in the 2005 convention, as witnessed by its “sustained” pace of ratification, now at 84 states parties. He stressed the importance of coming up with directives to enable “the Convention to deliver on all of its promises.”
The extraordinary meeting sought to examine five substantive documents, four of which concerned operational directives to be submitted in finalized form to the Committee’s second ordinary session next December.
The first document concerns measures to promote and protect cultural expressions and international cooperation in situations where cultural expressions are under severe threat. The second document explores partnerships, and the third the role and participation of civil society, the importance of which is expressly noted in the Convention. The fourth document examines the International Fund for Cultural Diversity. The UNESCO press release notes that the latter document is an interim report on party contributions, priorities, and use of Fund resources. Mr. Matsuura stated that for 2007–2008, contributions to the Fund from Andorra, Brazil, Finland, France, Monaco, Québec, and Saint Lucia amounted to approximately $440,000 with more than a million dollars pledged from Cameroon, Canada, China, Germany, India, Italy, Jamaica, Mexico, South Africa, Spain, and Uruguay. The press release concludes by noting that the Committee also sought to examine an interim report on the selection of experts and terms of reference for preferential treatment reports.
In conclusion, the director general declared himself “convinced that all Parties to the Convention will work hard to make the principles become reality and encourage intercultural dialog to ensure wider and balanced cultural exchanges throughout the world,” as stipulated in the Convention’s first article. “This Convention is an innovative tool, which will require lots of imagination and creativity if its implementation is to bring real benefits to all. . . . You will therefore have the challenging but uplifting task of developing common understanding of these principles and providing the Convention with guidelines that all can adhere to,” he said.