Cultural diversity

The Diversity of Cultural Expressions

Vol. 5, no 28, Monday, September 26, 2005

Toward adoption of the Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions at UNESCO in October 2005: We must stay the course and keep up the pressure!

Dear Reader,

Please note that the next issue of the newsletter will go online on October 11.


Press Releases, Speeches, and Declarations

Recent Publications


Press Releases, Speeches, and Declarations

Preliminary draft Convention on the Diversity of cultural expressions : The 172nd session of UNESCO’s Executive Board recommends that the General Conference at its 33rd session consider the said preliminary draft as a draft Convention and adopt it as a U

UNESCO, September 23, 2005 – 2005/09/23

The 172nd session of UNESCO’s Executive Board got underway at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on September 13 and will continue through September 29. Director-General Koichiro Matsuura was re-elected by members of the Executive Council for another four-year term at the head of the organization. At the Council’s recommendation, he will be named Director-General at the next General Conference.

In response to the general policy debate, Mr. Matsuura declared that the Convention on the Protection of the Diversity ofCultural Contents and Artistic Expressions “clearly remains a sensitive issue,” adding “It has been the subject of much debate and has generated considerable expectations and reactions. I have done my best to respond to the request of the General Conference, and have already shared my comments on the matter with you. It is now up to the member states to assume their responsibility. I hope that we will be able to reach an agreement that serves the best interests of our Organization.”

The Executive Board was to examine the Report presented by the Director-General on August 11 (Item 19 on its agenda) and the Preliminary Draft Convention on the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions prepared for the third session of the intergovernmental meeting. In this Report, while stopping short of asking the Executive Council to recommend that the General Conference adopt the text “as is,” Director-General Koichiro Matsuura recommends that the Executive Council take note of the text of the draft (document 172 EX/20). A draft amendment presented by Canada and signed by 50 (of the 58) member states of the Executive Council was submitted to the Executive Council and proposes to add a new paragraph to the decision proposed in document 172 EX/20. This paragraph recommends that the General Conference at its 33rd session consider the said preliminary draft as a draft convention and adopt it as a UNESCO convention (UNESCO, doc. 172 EXIPX/DR.1, Paris, September 20, 2005).

At the request of the representative of the United States, the final decision was taken in a plenary session standing vote by member states, and recorded in the minutes, in accordance with Section 53 of the internal regulations. Thus, members of the Program and External Relations Commission adopted the draft amendment proposed by the Canadian Ambassador by 53 “for,” 1 “against” ( USA), and 1 “abstention” ( Australia). Cap Verde, Pakistan, and Ukraine did not attend the plenary session. [05-28]

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At the UNESCO General Conference in October 2005, Switzerland will announce its support for the adoption of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions

Switzerland Federal Culture Bureau, Bern, September 21, 2005 – 2005/09/21

At the UNESCO General Conference in October 2005, Switzerland will announce its support for the adoption of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, which it has supported throughout the drafting process. The declaration was made by the Federal Culture Bureau, which has actively represented Switzerland in UNESCO’s work on this issue to date.

According to the Bureau, cultural diversity is a major concern for Switzerland as “it is key to our understanding of the state and is rooted in our federal constitution.” In addition, the Bureau states that “while stringent international standards already exist for environmental protection (…), they are sorely lacking in international cultural policy. The Convention takes culture out of the legal vacuum and puts it the arena of international law, thanks to an instrument that recognizes the special role of cultural goods and services as vehicles of meaning, moral values, and identity.”

The Bureau also points out that “The goal of the Convention is to enhance the role of cultural diversity on the international scene (…), defined as a domestic policy objective. It lays out the rights and obligations of states in a binding international instrument. The protection of cultural diversity will thus carry as much weight in the international community as the protection of economic interests. The Convention is therefore not only about protecting and promoting cultural diversity, but also about recognizing the right of all states to enact provisions in this regard. It notably regulates matters dealing with the support and promotion of culture. In addition, the principle of the pluralism of the media and public radio broadcasting is written into the Convention—thanks in part to Switzerland’s initiative. And lastly, the Convention explicitly recognizes the essential role of civil society (NGOs, the media, etc.) in protecting and promoting cultural diversity.” [05-28]

 Contact : Andrea F. G. Raschèr, Head Legal and International Affa

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Countdown to the UNESCO General Conference: Supporters on track for strong adoption vote on Convention, but U.S. dilute and delay tactics may yield challenging ratification climate

Secretariat for the International Liaison Committee of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity (ILC), September 6, 2005 - 2005/09/06

“ Countdown to the UNESCO General Conference: Supporters on track for
strong adoption vote on Convention, but U.S. dilute and delay tactics may yield challenging ratification climate,” reports the Secretariat for the International Liaison Committee of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity (ILC) in the September 2005 issue of its newsletter Coalition Currents . It also calls on organizations representing cultural professionals to be vigilant during this period: “Don’t take a positive vote on adoption by your country’s government for granted. Make last-minute approaches to ministers responsible for culture, foreign affairs, and education (any of which may represent their governments during the General Conference), as well as the minister responsible for trade. Consider writing your head of government or state, as final decisions on the Convention may well be made at this level. Whatever the channel, make sure the government hears clearly that the cultural sector attaches great importance to their supporting the Convention—that the negotiations are over, that the Convention should be adopted without any further changes, and that they should commit to ratify it as soon as possible following the General Conference.”

In fact, according to ILC, the ratification challenge is to bring the Convention to life. In this respect, ILC considers that although the adoption of the Convention in October will be a watershed moment in the campaign to secure an international convention that recognizes the distinctive nature of cultural goods and services, and affirms the right of countries to apply cultural policies to ensure a genuine diversity of cultural expressions at the national and international level, this one is an essential step in the process, and not an end in itself . So if the Convention is adopted in October, it will signal the beginning of a new phase—the campaign to ensure that the required number of countries ratify it at the national government level in order for it to enter into effect, underscores ILC.

In this respect, according to ILC, leader countries and cultural professional organizations supporting the Convention should share a common objective on this count: securing fast-track ratification of the Convention by 30 countries—ideally more—in time for the founding Conference of Parties to be held at the 34th General Conference in October 2007. Securing ratification by 30 countries is frankly an ambitious goal, but it can be attained if the work of national coalitions is matched by a similarly concerted effort by leader countries supportive of the Convention. Without this campaign, the outlook for timely ratification of the Convention is much less favorable.

Moreover, ILC argues that if the Convention is adopted by vote this fall, the intense opposition from the United States will simply be redirected into a concerted campaign to pressure countries not to ratify the Convention. And it must be recognized that for various reasons—economic or political dependency, aspirations to secure new trade agreements (or admission to the WTO), the desire to secure U.S. support in other fora (e.g. territorial disputes)—several countries could prove susceptible to this pressure. Therefore, ILC strongly urges as many countries as possible to ratify the Convention, and civil society to massively throw its support behind it: “Much work can be done at the international level and in regional and linguistic fora to highlight the importance of the UNESCO Convention and exhort countries to ratify it. But this decision, in the end, will be made at the individual country level. Coordinated work by coalitions in countries around the world will be crucial to reaching this objective in a timely fashion.” [05-28]

Coalition Currents (Vol. 3, No. 6, September 2005)

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The Buenos Aires Declaration: Coalitions for cultural diversity urge adoption of Convention, launch plans for international federation

Coalition Currents , vol. 3, no. 6, September 2005 – 2005/09

“Support adoption of the UNESCO Convention.” “Resist overtures to reopen the negotiations.” “Commit to ratify the Convention on a priority basis.” “Set about translating its principles into real-world cultural policies at the national level.” These were key messages for governments during the Seventh General Assembly of the International Liaison Committee of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity (ILC), held September 6 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

In the declaration issued at the conclusion of the meeting, the coalitions for cultural diversity present in the five continents “call(ed) on all member states of UNESCO to adopt the Convention in October 2005 and to ratify it in 2006 to ensure it rapidly enters into effect.” Moreover, “t he coalitions further urge these governments to integrate into their own policies the principles set out in the Convention.” T he coalitions also “undertake to urge their own governments to maintain their strong support for the text of the Convention approved at the final intergovernmental experts meeting, and released by UNESCO’s Director-General on August 4, and to resist all pressures to reopen the negotiations and thereby either dilute the Convention or delay its adoption; continue to work to ensure that the Convention becomes an effective instrument for protecting and promoting the diversity of cultural expressions around the world, by seeking a sustainable development where we can evolve together, side by side; and advance this unprecedented movement of civil society from the cultural sector by establishing an International Federation of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity with an organizational structure favoring balanced representation by all regions of the world.”

At the Buenos Aires meeting, the coalitions also took stock of the rapid growth of the movement—30 coalitions are now in existence, almost triple the number from just one year ago—and agreed to start work on putting a more formal organizational structure in place to coordinate their activities. The meeting, hosted by Argentina’s coalition (the Forum for the Protection of Cultural Industries) was attended by representatives of ILC member coalitions. The coalitions were joined by leaders of key cultural organizations from Bolivia, Paraguay, and Venezuela actively working to establish new coalitions in their countries . The Coalitions Meeting was organized by the ILC Co-Secretariat, with financial support from the Canadian and French coalitions for diversity, and the generous support of the Culture Secretariat of the City of Buenos Aires, which also hosted two major meetings of its own on cultural diversity: the Third International Meeting on Cultural Diversity, which was also hosted by the City of Buenos Aires, and a meeting of the culture secretariats of the major cities of Ibero-America. [05-28]

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TV5 World, a valuable tool for cultural diversity

Jean-Jacques Aillagon, Président-directeur général de TV5, 21 septembre 2005, 2005/09/21

In this article that appeared in the September 21 issue of Le Figaro, Jean-Jacques Aillagon, CEO of TV5 and former French Culture Minister, urges UNESCO to adopt the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions at the General Conference, which opens on October 3 in Paris: “In a few days, the UNESCO General Conference will deliberate over the Preliminary Draft Convention on the Protection of the Diversity ofCultural Contents and Artistic Expressions. Let us hope that UNESCO will mark its 60th anniversary by, at last, laying out an unassailable international legal framework with which to defend cultural exception, one that shall not be subordinate to other agreements such as the WTO accords, with the exception, of course, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Mr. Aillagon points out that TV5 contributes to the international diversity of news, an expression and condition of cultural diversity. He declares that “The existence of TV5 is concrete proof that cultural diversity can be a reality, and that it is essential that French, Belgian, Swiss, French Canadian, and African works be made available on the international scene. He adds that the interest created for our landscapes, monuments, cities, ideas, festivals, writers, films, artists, cuisine, and languages is the very cornerstone of cultural diversity.  In this respect Mr. Aillagon affirms that “The Tower of Babel is only a curse if its inhabitants remain cloistered in their quarters. If each one comes out to discover the riches the others have to offer, the resulting adventure is a wonderful opportunity to foster curiosity (…), sharing (…), and tolerance (…). This is TV5’s raison d’être and the cause it intends to continue serving.” [05-28]

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The impact of new technology on government cultural policies

Line Beauchamp, ministre de la Culture et des Communications du Québec, le 17 septembre 2005, 2005/09/17

“(…) Rapidly changing technologies are having a major impact on the development of our cultural industries. We must therefore act promptly to better document and understand the consequences these changes can have on our cultural policies,” declared Line Beauchamp, Québec’s Minister of Culture and Communications, on the occasion of the Federal, Provincial, and Territorial Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Culture and Heritage, which wrapped up in Banff, Alberta, on September 16. During the meeting, Quebec was tasked with leading a committee to analyze the impact of new technology on government cultural policies. In 2006, the committee will organize a meeting on the subject for the federal, provincial, and territorial ministers responsible for culture and heritage. [05-28]

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Recent Publications

Trade Treaties and Cultural Diversity

van Bernier, Simposio internacional, Santiago, Chili, 28-29 juin 2005 – 2005/06/28-29

In this study presented within the framework of Simposio internacional "Diversidad cultural : el valor de la diferencia" which was held in Santiago of Chile the 28 and last 29 June, Mr. Ivan Bernier, an emeritus professor at Université Laval Faculty of Law in Québec, and the one of the independent experts appointed by the UNESCO Director-General to develop the preliminary draft Convention on the Protection of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions questions whether “the draft Convention approved at the third session of the international meeting of government experts held in Paris from May 25 to June 3, 2005, is one whose ultimate goal is to bar culture from WTO talks or whether it is essentially cultural and aimed not at modifying WTO rights, but rather providing a framework, guidelines, and a forum for all states that see the protection and promotion of distinct cultural expressions and the preservation of cultural diversity in a broader sense as key components of globalization.” To answer this question, he examines how cultural diversity is addressed in trade treaties and UNESCO’s draft convention because, in his view, a large part of the problem consists of the fact that cultural goods and services, which are both objects of trade and vectors of identity, can be viewed in two markedly different ways.

Placing the issue in context, he notes that the final wording of the draft convention—which the representatives of over 130 countries approved virtually unanimously at the closing of this third and final meeting and recommended that it be adopted by the General Conference at its 33rd session in October 2005—was vigorously denounced by the United States, which went so far as to say in a statement released by its embassy in Paris that the wording of the proposed convention was deeply flawed because it addressed trade rather than culture. For this reason, the matter was out of UNESCO’s jurisdiction and its adoption could jeopardize UNESCO’s reputation as a responsible international body.

According to Mr. Bernier, we should not be surprised by the U.S.’s reaction: “In the leadup to the adoption of the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, the U.S.—though not a UNESCO member at the time—was already working hard to fight “the efforts of France and Canada in view of removing cultural issues from WTO talks and gaining support for its idea of a ‘new instrument’ possibly housed within UNESCO. We also know,” he continues, “that the U.S. was unwillingly brought onboard only after the General Conference decided in October 2003 to start talks to draft a convention on the protection of the diversity of cultural contents and artistic expressions, and was not at all convinced of this convention’s value. Throughout the talks, the U.S.’s behavior clearly indicated that it would not ratify a convention of this nature. We therefore have no reason to be surprised by its rejection of the draft convention approved by the plenary assembly. The two sections of the text address this problem: Trade treaties, or cultural diversity as a roadblock to trade talks, and The UNESCO draft convention, or cultural diversity as an end in itself.

In conclusion, Mr. Bernier proposes an answer to the U.S.’s argument that the draft convention approved at the 3rd session of the international meeting of government experts is above all trade-oriented. We must “stress the fact the convention is truly a cultural convention, one that is under UNESCO’s jurisdiction and which surely includes the cultural repercussions of globalization and the liberalization of trade, unless we assign the WTO the role of a supra-organization that defines the jurisdiction of all other international organizations, an idea that is more and more open to debate.” [05-28]

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Franco-Québec Meeting on the Democratization of Culture, Montreal, Quebec, 3-5 October 2005

The next Franco-Québec Meeting on the Democratization of Culture will take place October 3 to 5 in Montreal, Quebec. Organized by Québec’s Culture and Communications Ministry of and France’s Culture and Communication Ministry, in cooperation with Bibliothèque nationale du Québec, this event, which is part of the Montreal, World Book Capital festival, will share real examples of the democratization of culture and showcase the steps taken in this regard by the French and Québec governments.

The cultural, social, and education sectors are key players in ensuring that citizens have increasingly greater access to culture. In this respect, themes such as groups cut off from culture (in jails, in hospitals), the digital divide, culture and poverty, and educating the media, will be discussed through projects and experiences in France and Québec and documented by speakers active in support of cultural democratization. Participants will also discuss themes such as the role of schools in training culturally active citizens; youth literature promotion activities; the role of institutions in developing audiences; the main and ancillary cultural facilities in cities, regions, town, and neighborhoods; culture dematerialized; new technologies and territorial considerations; and public participation in culture. The meeting will end with the theme Outlook and Perspectives on the Democratization of Culture. [05-28]

Registration is free and mandatory.

Pour renseignements: Marie-France Ferland, ministère de la Culture et des Communications

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Journées de la culture 2005: "Entrez dans l'univers fascinant des créateurs et des créatrices", Québec, 30 septembre au 2 octobre 2005

The eighth edition of Journées de la culture will take place from September 30 to October 2, 2005, throughout Québec. “For three days, citizens will enjoy a backstage glimpse at the fascinating world of Québec’s talented designers and creators as they share their love of their work—in museums and libraries, at archival centers, in artist’s workshops, at historical and archeological sites. The opportunities to explore and discover are virtually endless,” said Line Beauchamp, Québec Minister of Culture and Communications, at the event launch. Nathalie Normandeau, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Regions, expressed her hope that many people would take advantage of this opportunity to bring people together and take part in the numerous activities organized in Montreal and throughout Québec. “Journées de la culture is a special opportunity to experience culture in the company of the artists and artisans who create it,” said Ms. Normandeau. For her part, Lise Thériault, Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities, stressed that “dialog on art and culture brings people of all origins together.”

Québec cultural institutions—Conservatoire de musique et d'art dramatique, Archives nationales, Centre de conservation, Bibliothèque nationale, Musée national des beaux-arts, Musée de la civilisation, Musée d'art contemporain, Grand Théâtre, Place des arts, and Télé-Québec—will also be participating in the activities. [05-28]

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Defending the pluralism of the press , Paris, France, 30 September 2005

Alternatives Économiques has organized a meeting/debate in Paris on September 30 for the general public on the theme “Defending the pluralism of the press.” The event is divided into two round tables. Round table one—Crisis in the press: Taking stock—will take stock of and examine the following problem: “The press is in bad shape. Readership of national dailies is falling, as is their income from advertising. Points of sale are growing fewer, and distribution costs are increasing. The rise of free newspapers is causing further upheaval in the sector. To this can be added changes in reading behavior among the young due to the popularity of new media. Do all of these changes, which tend to reinforce media concentration, threaten pluralism or are they only ushering in a new information age?”

Round table two—Should we help the press, and if so, how?—will look at the current press support system. Participants will analyze existing measures, evaluate their cost, and examine whether government policy fits with the goals it aims to achieve. The round table will also analyze whether selectively providing press support would help preserve and develop the pluralism of the press while limiting the cost of these measures. Further topics of discussion will include which criteria the press would accept and which would garner government support. [05-28]

Registration is free and mandatory

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