Cultural diversity

Publications and Studies

Protection of Cultural Diversity in the Context of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) – Discussion paper

Confédération parlementaire des Amériques (COPA), le 22 avril 2005 – 2005/04/22

This text served as a study paper for members of the Committee on Education, Culture, Science and Technology within the framework of the VIth COPA General Assembly held in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, from May 6 to 11, 2005. The document discusses the need to adopt at UNESCO an international convention on the diversity of cultural expressions that would create a cultural law parallel to international trade law. The document states that cultural goods and services—in addition to being trade items—are powerful vectors of identity, values, and meaning for all of society. We must therefore ensure that the discourse used in reference to culture is not merely economic, but also leaves ample room for its specifically cultural dimension. It is thus imperative to avoid wording that would imply that culture is subordinate to purely market-driven concerns.

However, the document believes that adopting a convention at UNESCO cannot resolve all the problems entailed in protecting cultural diversity. This is why it calls on COPA parliamentarians to continue discussing the issue with respect to the integration process in the Americas. Thus, following the example of the European Union, he suggests that if the FTAA ever comes to pass, programs be established to assist artists, professionals, and businesses working in the cultural industries of the poorest countries in our hemisphere. The document also raises issues regarding the piracy of intellectual property on the Internet, the dual nature of cultural products, the unequal distribution of cultural resources in a given area, the use of open source software, access to culture, and the relationship between cultural life and education.

The document is divided into four parts: The first addresses the treatment of cultural goods and services in current trade negotiations, notably FTAA negotiations. The second section consists of a progress report on adoption by UNESCO of an international convention on cultural diversity. The third section presents the initiatives of inter-American institutions to promote and protect cultural diversity in the hemisphere. Lastly, the final section proposes courses of action for parliamentarians who wish to promote cultural diversity. [05-20]