Cultural diversity

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Speech by Mr. Koïchiro Matsuura at the 2nd session of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions

With the closing of the 2nd session of the Conference of Parties, UNESCO has posted Mr. Koïchiro Matsuura’s opening speech on its website. We present here a summary of his remarks.

The Director General began with a tribute to the work of the Intergovernmental Committee, which helped develop critical guidelines for implementing the Convention, saluting its respective presidents, Ambassador Gilbert Laurin of Canada and Ms. Vera Lacoeuilhe of Sainte Lucie.

While expressing satisfaction at the rapid pace of ratification (98 states and the European Community), the Director General also expressed the wish that the regions still under-represented, Asia and the Pacific as well as the Arab states, take all necessary measures toward ratifying the Convention. “It is only through universal or quasi universal ratification that the international cooperation the Convention was created to promote can have full effect,” the Director General emphasized.

Mr. Matsuura went on to review planned operational directives and guidelines regarding the promotion and protection of cultural expressions, the role and participation of civil society, international cooperation, and the question of preferential treatment for developing countries subject to the Conference of Parties, after intense debate during Committee sessions, as well as planned guidelines for allocating resources from the International Fund for Cultural Diversity.

“An essential tool for implementing the Convention and for strengthening international cooperation, the Fund is made up principally of voluntary contributions that are neither linked nor assigned […]. The Committee has clearly stated that the Fund should be used to support cultural industries in developing countries, cooperation for sustainable development, and poverty reduction,” said the Director General, announcing the Fund had reached $1.5 million.  

Noting that the Fund is made up only of voluntary contributions, the Director General expressed the hope that “in this period of financial crisis, parties to the Convention and other potential contributors will remain convinced of the importance of the diversity of cultural expressions and international solidarity, so that truly sustainable development policies can be implemented.”

Mr. Matsuura also emphasized the importance of education and public awareness in the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions, as well as the critical issue of visibility, “on which depend the Convention’s success, financing, and credibility.”

The Director General concluded by expressing the hope that the directives submitted to the Conference of Parties would be approved and become effective immediately, so that the Convention would become fully operative a mere three and a half years after its adoption, constituting “a record in the history of UNESCO.”

The full text of Mr. Matsuura’s address is available in French and English on the UNESCO website.