Canada’s governor general was invited to address UNESCO’s Executive Board at the opening of the “Cultures and Developments” exhibition in Paris at UNESCO’s General Conference. The Right Hon. Michaëlle Jean reaffirmed the leading role intercultural dialogue plays in promoting peace and democracy. Below is a brief extract from her speech.
“Where is the world going ... when the concentration of distribution networks becomes a pretext for establishing a ‘monoculture,’ to borrow the powerful term coined by anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss?”
“In a world in which our fates are inextricably linked, we should be very wary of leaning toward a commercial logic without any safeguards, one in which the ‘fend for yourself’ mentality would make the rules.”
“We should be wary because today’s challenges affect every citizen of the world and every culture they represent. We have no choice but to acknowledge the situation and expand our definition of civic responsibility as a result. We have no choice but to enhance the notion of freedom and our sense of fellowship. Our freedom must no longer be defined in terms of individual interests; it should include everyone’s interests. That, I believe, is the beauty and extreme relevance of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, which Canada still passionately defends and which represents the first decisive step toward recognition of an international cultural right.”
“When culture is taken as more than a mere commodity and understood to be key to encouraging our unique contributions to the heritage of humanity, it is important that we do not sell it to the highest bidder, that we give every country the means with which to assert and emancipate the ways in which they express themselves, not to the exclusion of others, but in tune with them. I am proud to have this opportunity to recognize UNESCO’s remarkable and historic efforts in this regard.”
The speech is available in full, in English and French, on the Governor General of Canada website.