Cultural diversity

Publications and Studies

International Draft Convention on Cultural Diversity as a response to the world cultural market

Études internationales , Vol. 26, no 2, juin 2005, p. 201-217 – 2005/06

In this study in the current issue of the journal Études internationales (on stands now and online soon), Éric Martin attempts to define the main steps that led to the planning of the UNESCO Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, hoping thereby to “shed light on the main cultural debate in the international community today.” He points out that the difficulties a number of countries have faced in legitimizing their cultural policies due to the stature of agreements governing the liberalization of international trade have enabled Canada and France to campaign to persuade members of the international community to adopt an international convention on cultural diversity.

According to the author, “although UNESCO agreed to carry the torch, an analysis of the factors leading up to this normative project shows that international negotiations on the matter lead to the status quo. While the project is legitimate in many ways, the future convention could very well serve to protect the national cultural policies currently in effect, without interfering with the mechanisms of the world cultural market.”

The author also states that the negotiations will be “tense,” even “very embarrassing,” since “it will hard to make concessions for fear of diluting the scope or limiting the binding nature of the convention. From this perspective, he emphasized, “thirty years after NOMIC (New World Order of Information and Communication Technology), the countries of the South have a new opportunity to put their rights to cultural expression back on the agenda. But judging from the preliminary draft, they will have to put their best foot forward and commit to protecting copyright and fighting piracy. This is no small challenge, considering the enormity of the problem.”

In conclusion, the author asserts that “from all angles, this draft convention on cultural diversity appears to be more than just an end, but rather one more step in this long fight to safeguard and promote national cultural policies.” Based on his analysis of previous negotiations and the current international climate, he hopes “that the future convention will be an effective firewall against the strategies of the U.S., since, in many countries, the survival of cultural production is at stake.”

However, he maintains, we can only “foresee a future of conflict, where the U.S. will try to weaken the scope of the convention. Through negotiations at UNESCO, they will strive to dilute the imperative of protecting cultural diversity in a broader cultural framework and weaken the binding nature of the convention. (…) Washington will surely also continue defending its positions by avoiding the future requirements of a multilateral treaty through a growing number of bilateral agreements, while at the same time supporting the liberalization of digital space and audiovisual services at WTO.” [05-26]