Cultural diversity

Publications and Studies

La diversite culturelle en europe et dans le monde

Rencontres Cinématographiques de Beaune, le 23 octobre 2004 - 2004/10/23

As part of the 14th “Rencontres Cinématographiques de Beaune,” a panel discussion was held on Saturday, October 23 on cultural diversity in Europe and the world, headed by writer/director/producer and ARP board member Jacques Fansten. An information document released on the occasion in review of the issue stated that t he principle of “cultural exception“ which has been replaced by the wider and more offensive principle of “cultural diversity”, was first mentioned on the French initiative , as part of the “Seattle mandate” in leadup to the 1993 round of WTO trade negotiations. It was a question of obtaining that, in the cultural sphere, the goods and services be exceptions, that they be kept in the background of the trade talks opened within the “Uruguay round” framework. This principle is now entrenched in the European Constitution, giving it a concrete legal character. Moreover, recognition of this principle in international law should be forthcoming with UNESCO’s adoption of an international agreement on cultural diversity aimed at protecting and promoting culture at the European and international level and striking a balance in culture’s favor, after it was largely overshadowed by trade in international negotiations. However, application of such a principle must lead to tangible outcomes. At the European level, culture and audiovisual aid policies (MEDIA 2007-2013) such as those presented by the European Commission are encouraging ways and means. At the international level, thought must be given to commitments to concrete means that will provide a full range of possibilities for promoting cultural diversity, notably through a more balanced north/south relationship.

The document also states that in the cultural fieldand except for the conventions on copyrights of which the structuring with the WTO refers to the intellectual propriety agreements, from the trade rules viewpoint there is no referent (values, principles, purposes) nor normative text. Hence the plan to make the UNESCO plays this part and to have an International Convention on Cultural Diversity as a law. The adoption of this international restrictive legal tool on cultural diversity could allow to fill a gap in the international law, offering the states a legal basis to establish, apply and preserve their cultural policies. These were the issues that the Panel members, including the French and Spanish ministers of culture and an expert who took part in developing the preliminary draft, were invited to discuss.

The document noted a certain number of fears the Convention’s adoption was raising. “As well as the technical and legal problemsthat will turn on the structuring between the obligations ensuing from the new convention and the agreements subscribed on the account of the WTO, the adoption of the convention will be checked by some political oppositions of different naturesand first of all by the partisans of the global liberalizationof the cultural sector. Very likelyreinforced by the American return, they will contest the UNESCO’s competence to deal with issuesthey consider to be a matter for the WTO alone.The second threat for the Convention comes from the countries with multi-ethnic structureswhich fear that cultural diversity contains the seeds of ethnic groups’ demands for recognition likely to threaten the national unity or the State’s authority. In the third place, resistance also comes from developing countries which consider that the debateon cultural diversity concerns above all the rich countries, endowed with powerful industries. To them, the priority, as far as access to the market is concerned, concerns their agricultural products much more than an embryonic cultural production13. Actually, some developing countries (among which : Brazil, China, Korea, Jordan, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Taiwan, Uruguay, Mexico, India, Mali, Peru) have filed some petitions to the European Union on September 30, 2003, in order for it to liberalize its audiovisual sector .” ( Available in French, English ) [77]