Cultural diversity

The Diversity of Cultural Expressions

Vol. 5, no 13, Monday, May 9, 2005

Draft Convention on the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions : The process of elaboration continues!


Press Releases, Speeches, and Declarations

Recent Publications

Other News of Interest

Press Releases, Speeches, and Declarations

The Convention on the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions : " a crucial issue for our governments and for civil society "

Monique Gagnon-Tremblay, ministre des Relations internationales du Québec et ministre responsable de la Francophonie, Québec, le 21 avril 2005 – 2005/04/21

Accompanied by the president of the Québec National Assembly, Monique Gagnon-Tremblay welcomed members of the Education, Communication, and Cultural Affairs Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Francophonie (APF) to Québec City. The minister declared that Québec places special importance on issues dealt with by the committee, including adoption by UNESCO of a Convention of the Diversity of cultural content and artistic expression —a “crucial issue for our governments and for civil society.” She hailed the pioneering efforts of Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) and its constituent assembly (APF), which have worked tirelessly to promote and defend cultural diversity. She expressed her wish that “the commitment on the part of our members and parliamentarians—both within and without the francophone community—must not waver until the convention is adopted at the 33rd session of the General Conference.” She also mentioned APF’s role in promoting and defending cultural diversity since 2000, including informative reports on cultural diversity, the evolution of WTO negotiations and their impact on intercultural dialog, and the development of a Convention of the Diversity of cultural content and artistic expression at UNESCO and the status of trade negotiations.

The minister noted that for the government of Québec, “a ‘good convention’ would guarantee the right of states and governments to support culture through policy on one hand, while fostering openness to non-domestic cultural expressions on the other. The convention must be on an equal footing with all other legal instruments, including trade agreements. We also believe that it must include an effective dispute resolution mechanisms and be carefully circumscribed, while at the same time recognizing the dual nature of cultural goods and services.” She also stressed the importance of maintaining the October 2005 target date “because the increase in the number of bilateral and multilateral trade agreements being negotiated could significantly undermine the ability of governments to support culture.”

The minister also stressed that in the case of developing countries who had high hopes for the convention, culture has the potential to make a significant contribution to sustainable development and poverty reduction. “Not only do we need to protect their capacity to support their cultural industries in the future, we have to help them develop such industries in the first place. Rich countries shouldn’t be the only ones capable of supporting their artists and protecting their cultural expressions. We need to rethink cooperation with the South in a way that fosters the emergence of viable cultural industries consistent with the principles of sustainable development, industries that engender strong cultures reflecting the identities of their peoples. […] The fight for cultural diversity is fundamental for these countries because they, like us, are defending who they are, who they want to be, and the expressions of their identity.”

This is why the minister is working to support and mobilize these nations to secure adoption of the convention in October 2005 at UNESCO. “Together, we must continue our efforts, garnering support for our actions and the justice of our cause. On this depends our ability to globalize in a human way that recognizes the arts, literature, ways of life, and values of the world’s peoples and guarantees our right to preserve and protect identities and communities while at the same time opening up to other cultures.” [05-13]

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" C ulture is a fundamental cornerstone of European construction and a precondition for its success "

José Manuel Barroso, président de la Commission européenne, Paris, le 3 mai 2005 – 2005/05/03

In his closing speech to the Meetings for Europe and Culture, European Commission president José Manuel Barroso spoke out to dissipate the “sentiment that Europe is perceived too much as an economic concern, and not enough as blueprint for civilization.” Affirming that in the hierarchy of values, culture comes before the economy, he declared that culture is a fundamental cornerstone of European construction and a precondition for its success. Barroso called for “more culture for a more successful Europe,” but also warned that this goal had to be reached “in a manner consistent with the principles of the current treaty—which are upheld in the Constitutional Treaty. European cultural action is, by definition, complementary to national initiatives. It must respect the subsidiary principle. Legislation, even harmonization, at the European level is out of the question […] European culture is diversity—a diversity that is the source of our cultural wealth and must be preserved. Those best positioned to protect it are the representatives and repositories of this diversity in our member states, regions, and communities.” In these conditions, “funding for cultural initiatives cannot be transferred to the European level. However, respect for these principles by no means precludes legitimate action on the part of the European Union.”

For all of these reasons, he argued, “we must foster stronger intercultural dialog and, through it, mutual awareness of cultural diversity while at the same time highlighting the cultural identity we share; encourage mobility among artists and cultural operators, and the dissemination of cultural goods—material and immaterial—including works in translation; prioritize, through these same initiatives, actions that bring old and new member states closer together; and ensure that culture is taken into account in all internal and external EU policies, as required under Article 151 of the Treaty. This aspect is particularly important, especially with regard to ongoing UNESCO negotiations on the protection of cultural diversity […] Together, these elements determine the specificity of European cultural policy.”

In his conclusion, Barroso stressed that in the area of culture, as in many others, the Constitution for Europe innovates while safeguarding past achievements: “The Constitution explicitly includes respect for cultural and linguistic diversity among EU objectives. It stipulates that the EU must ensure the preservation and development (the two words are important) of Europe’s cultural heritage. As for the Charter of Fundamental Rights now enshrined in our founding text, it recognizes freedom of expression and information and freedom of the arts and sciences as values shared by all the peoples of Europe. It also recognizes the right to the protection of intellectual property. Everything we hold dear in cultural terms is thus reinforced by the Constitution.” [05-13]

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The combat for the cultural diversity : "Face the challenges of a world that must find unity in its own diversity"

Jacques Chirac, président de la République française, Paris, le 2 mai 2005 – 2005/05/02

In his speech at the opening of the "Rencontres pour l'Europe de la culture", French president Jacques Chirac drew attention to the challenges of “cultural Europe,” declaring “Today, we face the challenges of a complex and often confusing and turbulent world. A world where technical advances open new horizons. A world where the threat of uniformity awakens identities, and civilizations must state their case through dialog to avoid confrontation. A world that must find unity in its own diversity.

The president defended the European Constitutional Treaty, which would mark a major step forward for cultural Europe. He affirmed that the European Constitution would make it possible to “build a European future based not only on economic interests, but also on a community of values, principles, and ideals.” He also argued that the treaty would enable France and the EU to better protect their cultural industries against U.S. hegemony while also stressing that for the first time, the cultural vocation of European construction would be elevated to the rank of a fundamental EU objective: ‘While false prophets of a ‘clash of civilizations’ predict a cultural collision we oppose with every fiber of our being, we cannot live in isolation behind national borders. Walling ourselves in would be fatal to our cultures, which aspire to dialog in a spirit of mutual recognition and respect. More than ever, we must ensure that Europe continues to welcome other cultures, that it continues to serve as a beacon of influence and openness for artists, intellectuals, and creative talents from every nation on earth. In a world increasingly driven by the chase for profits, cultures must also stand as a barrier to the tidal wave of standardization. We must resolutely defend the diversity of the world’s cultures, because the risk of homogenization is at our doorstep. The vitality of our cultural industries is one of our greatest assets in this fight […] We also recognize that culture cannot be left to the play of market forces, no more than it should become a ward of the state. Concentration is as much a threat to diversity as cut-throat competition. It is therefore necessary and legitimate for public powers—i.e., our states, and Europe—to intervene to guarantee freedom of expression and cultural diversity.”

The French president also referred to six-country initiative to establish a “virtual European library,” affirming that projects like this put Europe in the forefront of the fight for cultural diversity. “This is what the combat for the cultural exception is all about.” Led by France and Europe, the campaign draws its strength from the conviction that the WTO and international trade talks are not the appropriate forum for tackling cultural trade. “It is a tough battle that we must wage without tiring because the economic stakes are high,” said Mr. Chirac. “Thanks to the European Constitution, the cultural exception principle we are so strongly attached to will be permanently entrenched. This same ambition must inspire the efforts underway at UNESCO to develop an international convention on cultural diversity,” he added. “The convention should be devoted to the specificity of cultural goods. It must reinforce the legitimacy of cultural diversity policies and serve as a frame of reference for states and international organizations. These are major steps forward. France will use all of its powers of persuasion to ensure the convention is signed next fall. And we are counting on broad support to achieve this goal.” [05-13]

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Les Rencontres pour l'Europe de la culture réaffirment la place essentielle de la culture dans la construction européenne et la préservation de la diversité culturelle

Présidence de la République française, Paris, le 4 mai 2005 – 2005/05/04

On May 2 and 3, 2005, under the patronage of the president of France and at the initiative of the minister of culture and communication, 800 European artists (intellectuals, culture industry stakeholders), some 15 European ministers of culture, 20-odd French and European parliamentarians and nearly 300 journalists gathered in Paris to “participate through their personal accounts, contributions, and proposals in the edification of cultural Europe.” The Paris Meetings for Europe and Culture event followed on the “A Soul for Europe” conference held in Berlin on November 26 and 27, 2004, at the initiative of German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, which led to a draft charter signed by the 17 EU member states (See our newsletter, No 5 of April 4, 2005). “Along with the need to invest Europe with a cultural identity so that is not just governed by economic considerations, member states understood that culture has become a battlefield where the U.S.-Europe rivalry comes to head.” States defending the cultural exception principle do so on the conviction that “culture is not just a commodity like any other.”

In organizing the Paris meeting, culture officials drew on the results of four workshops by professionals asked to develop concrete proposals for all fields of artistic endeavor, from theater and dance to film and publishing. After Berlin and Paris, further Meetings for Europe and Culture will be held in Budapest, Hungary, in November 2005; Madrid, Spain, in 2006; and Lisbon, Portugal, in 2007. According to the press release issued by the French government after a cabinet meeting to discuss the event, fourteen ministers have signed the European Cultural Charter. The document reaffirms their commitment to protecting cultural and linguistic diversity as well as the following principles: recognition of the specificity of cultural and audiovisual goods and services, which are not ordinary goods; the right of public bodies to implement policies appropriate for the preservation and development of their cultural and artistic expressions; and the specificity of audiovisual goods and services. These principles apply most notably to trade agreements on cultural and audiovisual services that may affect the cultural and linguistic diversity of the European Union, and require unanimous approval by EU member states.

Culture and communication minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres also presented five areas participants at the meeting identified for priority action: heritage (European heritage label and creation of a joint insurance fund to facilitate circulation of artistic works), film, art education, and dissemination of musical works and promotion of books and translation. In an interview with Le Figaro and La Croix, he described the goal of the meetings as follows: “We need to affirm the vital role that culture plays in building a political Europe at time when people justifiably fear not only the loss of identity, but also standardization, globalization, and even commodification. It was time to reassert the defense of cultural identity and the commitment to openness on the part of all EU member states.

The minister stresses that the European Constitution guarantees the cultural exception, which is the focal point for European ambition: “For years, Europe neglected culture. This is no longer the case. The Constitution now numbers cultural and linguistic diversity and the safeguarding of Europe’s cultural heritage among EU objectives. Adoption of the qualified majority will make it possible to move ahead even more quickly to strengthen Europe’s cultural influence. In any event, were WTO agreements to threaten cultural diversity, France could impose its veto using the unanimity rule.” He also pointed out that reaffirming diversity was the key to protecting film and audiovisual assistance support mechanisms. “In a world fearful of standardization, it is vital to keep the specificities of our culture and heritage in the forefront. We have fought hard to preserve this possibility within the EU.” [05-13]

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Recent Publications

The Future of the WTO: Addressing institutional challenges in the new millennium

WTO's Consultative Board - Report to the Director-General, April 2005 – 2005/04

From 20 to 22 April 2005, the World Trade Organization (WTO) hosted its annual public symposium at the WTO's headquarters in Geneva (Swiss) on the theme: “WTO After 10 Years: Global Problems and Multilateral Solutions”. This year's event coincided with the 10th Anniversary of the WTO. Participants from governments, parliaments, civil society, the business sector, academia and the media were invited to analyse and reflect upon these past ten years and discuss the challenges the organization faces into the future. On this occasion, WTO Director-General Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi declared: « The objective of the public symposium in 2005, a year that marks the 10th Anniversary of the WTO, is to have a stimulating public debate on where we are and what is expected from the WTO and its Member governments. There have been important achievements in the multilateral trading system over the last decade but a number of challenges remain ahead of us, including completion of the Doha Development Agenda negotiations, which require active input and support from all of our stakeholders. I therefore hope that an honest and thorough assessment of our first ten years and our hopes for the future, will contribute to building political support for the DDA and the multilateral trading system. I invite participants at the public symposium to share with us their thoughts and ideas on future directions ».

The 2005 symposium featured dedicated high-level work sessions on the WTO's economic, legal and institutional functions, as well as work sessions on key subjects being negotiated in the Doha Round. The report of the Director-General's Consultative Board “The Future of the WTO — Addressing institutional challenges in the new millennium” served as an interesting basis for discussion. Other topics included trade and development, non-agricultural market access and trade and environment. In the main conclusions of the report, the Advisory Council expressed serious apprehensions about “the proliferation of preferential trade agreements. [We] are not convinced by the economic arguments made in their favor and are particularly concerned that preferential treatment becomes a reward for governments pursuing objectives that have nothing to do with trade. In the Council’s view, governments must show restraint or risk further compromising the multilateral trading system.

In terms of cooperation with other intergovernmental organizations, the Council stressed that “the drafting and interpretation of WTO rules concerns WTO members only, and outside interference must be avoided. The WTO is not—and should not—be part of the UN system. It is a sui generis organization, and observer status should only be granted on the basis of a potential contribution to WTO’s role as a trade negotiations forum.”

As was the case during previous symposia, much time was set aside for governments, civil society and parliamentarians to organize their own events during the symposium. To this effect, The International Network for Cultural Diversity (INCD) organized on April 20 a seminar on the topic : Trade in Cultural Goods and Services: Assessing the Compatibility between WTO trade rules and UNESCO's cultural diversity convention. [05-13]

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Other News of Interest

May 9-11, 2005 – Cultural diversity at Madrid meeting in Spain

The Fourth International Meeting of Cultural Professional Organizations open in Madrid, Spain, from the 9 to May 11 on the following topic: Cultural Diversity: A New Pillar of the International Legal System. The Spanish Coalition for cultural diversity is the host of this Madrid Meeting, which organizes it with the collaboration of the International Liaison Committee of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity (ILC) and the support of the Spanish government . Are awaited this Meeting leaders of organizations representing artists, creators and other cultural professionals from more than 75 countries around the world (actors, writers, directors, composers and musicians, visual artists, publishers, and independent producers and distributors of film, television and music). The Meeting’s panel discussions will feature leaders of organizations representing cultural professionals from around the world, experts on the trade and culture debate, and key negotiators engaged in the UNESCO talks. Political leaders and government officials responsible for the culture, foreign affairs and trade portfolios from several countries will also take part. This Madrid Meeting is held on the eve of the third intergovernmental session at UNESCO to negotiate the proposed Convention on the protection of the diversity of cultural contents and artistic expressions, scheduled for May 25. [05-13]

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May 16, 2005 - international symposium : "Protecting images from the South for the sake of cultural diversity"

An international symposium on the status of audiovisual and cinematographic heritage, particularly in the Southern nations, will be held on May 16 as part of the 58th Cannes Film (Hôtel Gray d'Albion – Croisette Room). Representatives from Europe’s 25 audiovisual and film agencies will look at issues related to cultural policy, online film, new technologies, and piracy, as well as the urgent need for protective and promotional measures. The symposium is being organized in partnership with Centre national de la cinématographie (CNC), Institut national de l’audiovisuel (INA), Musée du quai Branly, OIF, UNESCO, the Cannes Festival and Pavillon des Cinémas du Sud. [05-13]

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May 18, 2005 – symposium : "La diversité culturelle : dialogue entre les cinéastes du Sud"

“On the occasion of the 58th Cannes Film Festival, Centre national de la Cinématographie (CNC) wishes to foster a dialog between artists of the South and the North and demonstrate its commitment to respecting and defending cultural diversity and the need for intercultural dialog.” To this effect, the center, in conjunction with SACD, Agence intergouvernementale de la Francophonie, TV5, and their partners at Pavillon des Cinémas du Sud, is organizing a symposium entitled "La diversité culturelle: dialogue entre les cinéastes du Sud" to be held on May 18 in Cannes (Diane Barrière room at Hôtel Majestic).

Given UNESCO negotiations on a Convention on cultural diversity calling for international cooperation, and the focus on cultural diversity at many international organizations, the organizers felt that it was crucial to seek input from southern filmmakers about the specific needs of their own countries, especially those representing cultural diversity coalitions in countries eligible for Fonds sud cinéma funding (Argentina, Burkina Faso, Chile, Korea, Morocco, Mexico). They will discuss ways of promoting cultural diversity in the Southern countries, international audiovisual cooperation needs, and the crucial reflexions and awareness campaigning undertaken by coalitions for cultural diversity. [05-13]

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