Cultural diversity

Publications and Studies

Avant-projet de Convention sur la diversité des expressions culturelles - Réunion d’information avec les délégations permanentes auprès de l’UNESCO

M. Koïchiro Matsuura, Directeur général de l’UNESCO, le 21 juin 2004 – 2004/06/21

At the third meeting of the expert group at UNESCO headquarters in Paris from May 28 to 31, 2004, the experts wrapped up the first phase of preparation of a preliminary draft of the Convention on the Protection of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions. UNESCO director-general Koïchiro Matsuura took the opportunity to brief permanent delegates to UNESCO in kickoff to the second phase of the draft preparation process, which will be in the hands of government experts. Mr. Matsuura reported that “the expert group has been even more successful than we expected, and the result of this first phase of deliberation is a draft text that reflects a broad consensus. I again express my gratitude to the experts, who embraced the challenge enthusiastically, earnestly, and skillfully, and responded with an intelligent, fitting solution.”
Mr. Matsuura considers the report on the third meeting of experts an excellent basis for further work. It describes in detail the process that led to the final text and thoroughly and clearly sets out the objectives of the Convention and mechanisms to implement and enforce it. The document is divided into seven chapters: a preamble, objectives and guiding principles, areas of application and definitions, the rights and obligations of signatory states, the relationship to other instruments, enforcement bodies and mechanisms, and final provisions.
The preamble addresses a number of important concepts, such as recognition of the dual cultural and economic nature of cultural goods and services, the need to respect artists’ rights, the relationship between cultural diversity and development, and the interaction between cultures and cultural pluralism. The convention’s areas of application have remained unchanged: the convention applies to cultural policies and measures that the signatory states adopt to promote and protect the diversity of cultural expressions. But, as Mr. Matsuura notes, “it will, of course, be important to establish the relationship between the Convention’s areas of application and those of other instruments to avoid any duplication, although the Convention enforcement bodies will formulate the exact criteria.” While the objectives were left untouched, the definitions were adjusted, notably the term “cultural expressions,” which the experts find better encompasses the two notions of “cultural contents” and “artistic expressions.” The Convention’s guiding principles were also clarified and their binding nature stressed. They are now divided into fundamental principles and operational principles. The rights and obligations of signatory states in the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions at the national and international levels were developed and clarified. The experts entered into the meetings with different approaches, but came to a common position by the end: “to ensure the necessary balance between the state’s sovereign right to adopt measures to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions within its own borders and its obligation to protect and promote the same diversity at both the national and international levels.” The document also sets out a new provision requiring member states to take action to promote cultural expressions considered vulnerable or at risk of either extinction or serious decline. This concept of vulnerability is a cornerstone of the Convention. As its main international contributions, the draft proposes innovative mechanisms of cooperation, as well as a number of “tools” for implementation that go beyond a mere support role, such as a Cultural Diversity Observatory and facilities to develop dynamic partnerships. Convention enforcement mechanisms were previously a source of disagreement between the experts, but were considerably fine-tuned. The purpose of these mechanisms is to ensure the Convention is implemented coherently and effectively. The experts recommended three complementary enforcement bodies: a General Assembly of Member States, an Intergovernmental Committee, and an Expert Advisory Group. Dispute settlement mechanisms were also further developed. A process will be put in place through which parties will be encouraged to work in good faith toward agreement. Negotiation, good offices, or mediation would be the first steps, followed by arbitration or recourse to the International Court of Justice if first attempts prove unsuccessful and if so requested by both parties. Any arbitration decision would be binding, but would not in any circumstances involve sanctions. On one issue alone, the relationship between the Convention and other legal international instruments, the experts preferred to stick with two alternatives—option A and option B.
Mr. Matsuura notably called for consultations with the World Trade Organization (WTO), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and “sincerely hope(s) that interministerial consultations will begin without delay, so that the national delegations at UNESCO and WTO are able to defend common positions.” He expects this second phase to begin on schedule in mid-July, when he will distribute a preliminary report and draft of the convention to permanent delegations and ask them to send their comments and observations by November 2004. In this regard, the parties will soon receive invitations to the first meeting of intergovernmental experts, to be held from September 20 to 25, 2004. Representatives of a number of international organizations will also be invited as observers, including WTO, WIPO, and UNCTAD, and many NGOs, as decided by the Executive Board. [63] (Available in French)