Cultural diversity

The Diversity of Cultural Expressions

Vol. 3, no 31, Monday, October 20, 2003

L’opportunité d’un nouvel instrument normatif sur la diversité culturelle

In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, October 14, delegates of UNESCO Commission IV on culture unanimously passed a resolution mandating the UNESCO director general to develop a preliminary draft convention on protecting cultural content and artistic expression. In the next issue of our newsletter, we will take another look at this important resolution adopted by all delegates at the 32nd session of the General Conference .

As the 32nd session of the UNESCO General Conference drew to a close in Paris after deciding on “the desirability a new standard-setting instrument on cultural diversity,” the Sixth Annual Ministerial Meeting of the International Network on Cultural Policy (INCP) was under way until October 19 in Opatija, Croatia. At this meeting, ministers focused on the new draft International Convention on Cultural Diversity prepared by the Working Group on Cultural Diversity and Globalization. You can view this document on the INCP Website at


Press Releases, Speeches, and Declarations

Publications and Studies

Other News of Interest

Press Releases, Speeches, and Declarations

Le canada défend la diversité culturelle

Entrevue de Mme Sheila Copps,  ministre du patrimoine canadien  - 13 octobre 2003 – 2003/10/13

AFRIK.COM - 13 octobre 2003 – 2003/10/13

When asked about Canada’s commitment to defending cultural diversity, Ms Copps stated, “For us, cultural diversity means remaining open to the world’s many cultural influences and products while sharing our stories and making our voices heard. We believe that cultural diversity is a source of creativity and innovation, as well as an agent of social cohesion and economic development. It is as crucial to the wellbeing and future of humanity as biodiversity is to the health of the planet.” In this perspective, she indicated that the first Canadian Forum on Cultural Enterprise will be held in Paris on January 12 to 14, 2004. This international meeting will bring together arts and culture entrepreneurs from Canada, Europe, and francophone Africa. Ms Copps explained that this Forum reflects Canada’s commitment “to promoting the export of cultural products and services, as well as cultural diversity at the international level.” According to Ms Copps, the challenge of penetrating foreign markets is particularly great for businesses in developing countries, which do not have the same support structures or infrastructures as businesses in industrialized countries. In this respect, she stressed that “whether helping to strengthen the cultural policy–making abilities of governments, supporting the promotion and presentation of the arts, or fostering audiovisual production, Canada is actively involved in multilateral partnerships with many African countries.” (Available in French only)

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Publications and Studies

Opportunité de l'élaboration d'un instrument normatif international concernant la diversité culturelle» (débat 5 – point 5.11) - rapport de la commission iv (32 c/74) – unesco, conférence générale, 32e session

Paris, le 16 octobre 2003 – 2003/10/16

On Thursday, October 16, Commission IV adopted a report including its recommendations to the General Conference on each item on its agenda, including Item 5.11 on “the desirability of drawing up an international standard-setting instrument on cultural diversity.” In this item, the Commission recommends that the resolution on which it reached a consensus be adopted by the General Conference. The Commission thus calls on the General Conference to decide that “the question of cultural diversity as regards the protection of the diversity of cultural content and artistic expression shall be the subject of an international convention.” In this respect, it invites the director general to submit to the General Conference at its 33rd session a preliminary report on the problem to be regulated and the possible scope of the proposed regulation, accompanied by the first draft of a convention on protecting the diversity of cultural content and artistic expression. ( Available in French and English)

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La diversité culturelle et les accords de commerce international

Par Valérie Bisson – ministère québécois du développement économique et régional – mai 2003 – 2003/05

In this article, Ms Bisson notes that the rules in international trade agreements tend to challenge the role of states and governments in supporting culture. This being the case, she stresses, cultural policies and the various measures to support culture are viewed as trade barriers. Ms Bisson states that cultural diversity is increasingly threatened as the trend grows for trade agreements and negotiations to cover more topics likely to have an impact on the issue of cultural diversity. This is why “Québec became involved in the cultural diversity debate very early on and was the first government to support an international instrument on cultural diversity.” According to Ms Bisson, the General Conference, which is currently “deciding to continue efforts to develop a new international standard-setting instrument on cultural diversity and determine the nature of this instrument,” is an “event” that “will be a turning point for the future of the instrument.” Ms Bisson also stresses that “Québec’s position on cultural diversity is the result of close cooperation among Ministère du Développement économique et régional (MDER), Ministère de la Culture et des Communications (MCC), and Ministère des Relations internationales (MRI). ( Available in French only )

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Hollywood pratique une discrimination culturelle à l'échelle planétaire

Christophe Germann, lundi le 13 octobre 2003 – 2003/10/13

While UNESCO debates preserving cultural diversity, Ms Sandra Vinciguerra reports in Geneva’s Le Courrier on comments by Geneva attorney and director Christophe Germann. Mr. Germann denounces the complacency of a certain press that always has room for more coverage of Hollywood blockbusters. Mr. Germann also denounces the influence of these big productions, which he views as a threat to diversity of opinion. According to Mr. Germann, this rampant phenomenon jeopardizes ”both journalistic criticism and state subsidies to publishing and film.” This concern has led him to file a complaint with the Swiss Press Council. (Available in French only)

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Other News of Interest

Le projet d'une convention internationale pour la préservation de la diversité culturelle au centre de la 32e session de la conférence générale de l'unesco

Le Monde, édition du 14 octobre 2003 – 2003/10/14

“Should cultural forms of exchange be treated like all others?” According to Le Monde, the United States says yes because “it completely denies the specific nature of cultural goods.” The reason is that “culture in a broad sense is the primary U.S. export,” and “this also reflects an abusive trade policy of entering into one-sided bilateral agreements with countries powerless to do anything about it in order to impose the complete liberalization of cultural exchange.” Thus the importance, in order to circumvent this practice, of the draft international convention on preserving cultural diversity, now before UNESCO. According to Le Monde, “The idea is to give the declaration on cultural diversity adopted unanimously in 2001 the status of a legally binding instrument. The convention would declare the right of states to protect specific cultural sectors, particularly through subsidies.” (Available in French only)

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L'unesco ouvre le chantier de la diversité culturelle

Radio-Canada, 14 octobre 2003 – 2003/10/14

Radio-Canada reports that the 190 UNESCO member countries meeting at the 32nd session of its General Conference in Paris unanimously decided to look at cultural diversity and allow the organization “two years to develop a legally binding international convention giving each state the right to defend and support its culture.” While the United States would like “culture to be considered as any other good and thus circulate freely throughout the world,” this is not true for other countries—France and Canada leading the way—which believe that “this new protection is necessary for their identity to survive.” Canadian heritage minister Sheila Copps was “delighted by this new breakthrough on an issue she has shepherded for years.” (Available in French only)

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Copps wins cultural victory - way to solve trade disputes nearer would affect `magazine war' issues

Toronto Star, October 15, 2003 – 2003/10/15

In this article, Mr. Graham Fraser indicates that Canadian heritage minister Sheila Copps won a significant victory for cultural diversity in Paris at the 32nd session of the UNESCO General Conference when the United States withdrew its objections, allowing delegates to adopt a resolution mandating the UNESCO director general to develop a preliminary draft convention on protecting cultural content and artistic expression . According to Ms Copps, the U.S.’s embrace of this consensus is good news in the long term. The International Convention on Cultural Diversity slated for adoption in 2005 will give states the means to settle international disputes on protecting cultural diversity that are currently brought before WTO. (Available in English only)

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La convention internationale sur la diversité culturelle «permettra de sceller dans le droit international les règles de la protection des biens et contenus culturels» - jean-jacques aillagon, ministre français de la culture et de la communication

Paris , 13 octobre 2003 – 2003/10/13

Mr. Aillagon is delighted by “UNESCO’s unanimous decision to begin negotiating an international convention on cultural diversity.” He states that “this resolution that France has anticipated for years will entrench rules for protecting cultural goods and content in international law.” According to Mr. Aillagon, “This outcome shows that all UNESCO member states are committed to cultural diversity and dialog between cultures.” (Available in French only)

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Diversité culturelle et commerce international: «les américains n'hésitent pas à jouer de tous les moyens de pression

Le Monde, édition du 13 octobre 2003 – 2003/10/13

In this article, Ms Nicole Vulser maintains that the Hollywood lobby embodied by the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA), which includes the leading U.S. studios, mounts an offensive anywhere in the world whenever the issue of film is raised. Its strategy “is to intervene in international trade (WTO) and culture (UNESCO) organizations and, more covertly, in bilateral trade agreements” by offering targeted states “an agreement they can scarcely accept.” To illustrate this strategy, Ms Debora Abramowicz points out, in the case of the United States–Chile Free Trade Agreement, that " Chile, a big ore exporter, accepted this principle. But it can no longer extend its audiovisual quota policy to private channels and must limit it to public channels. Its cultural policy applies only to current means of distribution, and not the Internet. This means that in five years this country may no longer have its own cultural policy.” According to Mr. Pascal Rogard, delegate general of French association Auteurs Réalisateurs Producteurs, this “clearly shows that the U.S. wishes to subjugate culture to trade in response to the Hollywood oligopoly, which openly seeks to standardize cinematographic and audiovisual production for its own benefit” (,1-0@2-3246,36-337896,0.html). That’s why most states view UNESCO, rather than WTO, as “the legitimate forum for creating an international law on culture.” This is also why they are delighted by UNESCO’s decision to begin negotiating a preliminary draft c onvention on protecting cultural content and artistic expression . (Available in French only)

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Production littéraire et diversité culturelle : «une logique de plus en plus industrielle et de moins en moins littéraire» – les détours de babel

Libération, édition du 9 octobre 2003

This survey was conducted at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the “international meeting place of publishing professionals, where cultures come into contact and books published all over the world are exchanged.” Ms Natalie Levisalles indicates that 50% of translations worldwide are from English, and only 3% of U.S. publishing is devoted to foreign books. According to her, “another U.S. trend in the past ten years is the concentration of the vast majority of publishers into five large groups (Bertelsman alone owns 40% of the country’s publishing firms) with an increasingly industrial and decreasingly literary bent.” Ms Levisalles maintains that “when it comes to literature of a more commercial nature, Americans tend to believe that they do it best. […] All the more so seeing as those who have made exceptions have rued the day.” Yet, as Ms Jill Schoolman stresses, “Americans are not opposed to foreign literature, just underexposed. They sorely need contact with literary movements and circles beyond their borders. Never have we been so isolated from the rest of the world. We live in an empire that would rather export than import, that has selective hearing and vision, even in terms of art and literature. In these troublesome times, small, independent publishers must make room to ensure that world literature is in the country’s libraries.” ( Available in French only )

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