Coalitions en mouvement, Bulletin des coalitions pour la diversité culturelle, Vol. 2, no. 5, septembre 2004 - 2004/09
In this issue of its newsletter, the International Liaison Committee of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity (ILC-CCD), announces that the countdown has begun at UNESCO as member states prepare to debate the UNESCO draft convention on cultural diversity content. The organization, witch has been accorded observer status for the UNESCO intergovernmental negotiations process, believes that the proposed draft text «represents a workable starting point for discussions and negotiation». However, it acknowledges that there is a definite need to strengthen key articles, including «those dealing with the rights of states to have cultural policies (articles 5 and 6), the clause spelling out the responsibility of states to uphold the objectives of the convention in other international fora (Article 13), and the key article establishing the relationship of the convention to other international agreements (19). It also calls for changes in the wording of certain clauses it feels could weaken the convention or divert it from its objectives if left in their current form. The organization also emphasizes how important it will be for cultural organizations in each country to lobby not only their culture minister, but also their head of state and government, their foreign affairs minister (generally the minister to whom both UNESCO and WTO ambassadors report), and their international trade minister. It believes that «country-by-country mobilization and lobbying would be key to securing an effective convention». It also contends that «this reinforces the importance of cultural organizations in each country taking the lead to advance this issue within their own country and concentrating their impact wherever possible by joining together in coalitions that bring cultural organizations from all sectors (…) to speak on this issue with one voice».
ILC-CCD sees a parallel between the resumption of WTO negotiations and the international context for developing the UNESCO convention, which according to the organization, has changed significantly by the recent breakthrough at the WTO that led to a successful relaunch of the Doha Round negotiations. For ILC-CCD, «it is worth noting that the work program document for the resumption of these talks emphasizes that there should be no a priori exclusion of any sector of services from the negotiations—meaning cultural services are in the mix unless each member state specifies otherwise». In this regard, the organization warns, «we must keep sight of the May 31, 2005 , deadline for tabling initial liberalization offers in the Doha negotiations. This deadline shows how the UNESCO and WTO processes are now on virtually parallel tracks, and heightens the importance of countries refraining from making liberalization commitments affecting culture in all trade negotiations during the period when the UNESCO convention is being developed, adopted and ratified».
This warning is even more justified by the fact that since the launch of the campaign for the adoption of a convention on cultural diversity, pressure continues to be exercised on various countries through bilateral free trade negotiations «to accept serious limitations to their ability to have cultural policies», as shown by «the ambitious program of bilateral trade negotiations launched by the United States over the past five years». The organization therefore urges cultural organizations to « persuade their governments of the importance of refraining from commitments on culture in trade negotiations during the critical period when the convention is being developed, adopted and ratified». According to ILC-CCD, key negotiations to will be those involving the Andean Pact countries as well as bilaterals involving South Africa and Thailand.
In the meantime, ILC-CCD continues to build its cultural diversity campaign through further expansion. Newly established coalitions in Benin , Belgium Colombia, Germany , Peru , Togo and Uruguay have brought to 18 the total number of coalitions, joining Argentina , Australia , Burkina Faso , Canada , Chile , France , Korea , Mexico , Morocco , New Zealand and Senegal. ILC-CCD notes that «the new coalitions have wasted no time taking action to advance the cultural diversity file in their countries». (Available in French, English, Spanish)