Cultural diversity

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Interview with Ivan Bernier: Scope of the Article 21 resolution

Prof. Ivan Bernier is considered to be one of the fathers of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. He has written numerous papers on the Convention's implementation and relationship to international trade instruments.

Although recently retired, he has agreed to share his thoughts with the Canadian Coalition for Cultural Diversity on the text that was adopted in June 2011, regarding the Article 21 resolution.

As a reminder, "[the Conference of Parties, in] the context of the implementation of Section V of the Convention on the relationship to other instruments, requests the Secretariat to present, in relation to Article 21, a compendium of cases wherein the Convention is invoked or utilized in other international fora for examination by the Committee at each ordinary session" (Resolution 3.CP 11, paragraph 5).

Amongst other things, Mr. Bernier said that he was pleased with this resolution:

"The exercise that is about to be undertaken is likely to produce better results than an early attempt to develop operational directives. The need to agree on directives might have yielded disappointing results given the possibility that, as a result of avoiding stormy debates on a number of issues, such directives might have ended up being too broad and evasive to produce concrete results or initiate a true dialogue on those important issues. As the Parties will now be free to put forward what they consider to be their own good practices, they will definitely be less reluctant to expose their views."

Prof. Ivan Bernier also mentioned the possibilities that are being offered to the Parties and the civil society with this exercise, including the following:

"A Party that would claim as one of its good practices the preservation of its ability to develop and implement its own cultural policy as part of trade negotiations will feel free to identify this as a good practice without fearing that it might be perceived as a universal practice being imposed on all other Parties [...] In that light, this exercise fills the basic purpose of operational directives, which is to foster the implementation of the Convention."

"The granting of such reservations or exceptions to the signatory parties to the Convention that demand them as part of trade agreement negotiations is certainly a practice that should be recognized by all Parties as it is directly in line with the reciprocal rights that the Parties themselves have recognized at the time they ratified the Convention."

"This exercise must go beyond exchanges between Parties. The civil society must also have an opportunity to express its views. For a start, the Coalitions must state their own views, either in written documents or verbally as part of Intergovernmental Committee sessions."

To read the entire text of the interview, please consult the Canadian Coalition for Cultural Diversity website.