Vol. 6, no 40, Monday, November 27, 2006
Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions The ratification process by member states is now well under way!
|13. Republic of Moldova |
|5. Monaco |
|1. Canada |
Why must States ratify the UNESCO Convention?
IN THIS ISSUE :
Cameroon and Albania have now joined other state parties to the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions by respectively depositing their ratification instruments with the Director General of UNESCO on November 22 and 11, bringing to 20 the number of countries having already acceded to this Convention , including Canada, Mauritius, Mexico, Romania, Monaco, Bolivia, Djibouti, Croatia, Togo, Belarus, Madagascar, Burkina Faso, Republic of Moldova, Peru, Guatemala, Senegal, Ecuador, and Mali . As we know, this Convention will enter into force three months after the date of deposit of the thirtieth instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval, or accession, but only with respect to those states or regional economic integration organizations that have deposited their respective instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval, or accession on or before that date.
To date, based on available information, in addition to the 20 states listed, 10 othershave already concluded their internal ratification processes and are expected to file their instruments with UNESCO in short order, while the ratification processis already well under way in 18 others. Overall, according to UNESCO, these states can be broken down as follows:
UNESCO Director General Koïchiro Matsuura welcomed the “particularly rapid” rate of Convention ratification: “No other UNESCO convention concerning culture has been ratified by so many states in such a short time,” he said upon receiving the 16th instrument of ratification, deposited by Senegal. With the adoption of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, he added, UNESCO now has a range of standard-setting instruments that cover the field of culture fully and on which the organization can base its strategy for defending all aspects of cultural diversity, particularly the two pillars of culture: heritage and contemporary creation.
The 9th Annual Ministerial Meeting of the International Network on Cultural Policy (INCP) was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from November 22 to 25 , with some 40 culture m inisters from INCP member states in attendance to discuss, among other things, ratification of the UNESCO Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and certain issues with regard to its implementation.
In a press release issued on November 23, Québec minister of culture and communications Line Beauchamp noted, “We are delighted at the speed with which countries are ratifying the Convention. If the current pace keeps up, this Convention will become the quickest UNESCO convention ever to have gathered the minimum number of ratifications required for implementation. However, we would like to remind everyone that every effort should be made to ensure that the maximum number of countries possible ratifies the Convention. INCP member countries that have played such an important part in getting this Convention adopted must set an example. It is also clear that INCP members must actively participate in the Convention’s implementation.”
Québec MNA Sam Hamad, who headed up the Québec delegation at this meeting on behalf of minister Beauchamp, described the 9th Annual INCP Ministerial Meeting as an “opportunity to invite members not just to ratify the Convention quickly, but also to begin considering its implementation.” He also added that, “regarding the last point, the Québec delegation is prepared to discuss with fellow INCP countries on issues already identified in work into this matter in Québec.”
It should also be noted that the second World Cultural Forum is being held in the same city from November 22 to 30. and will be an opportunity, through its various activities, for participants to promote Convention ratification, among other things. The idea for the Forum arose in 1998 in Stockholm, Sweden, at the UNESCO Intergovernmental Conference on Cultural Policies for Development., where it was seen as a way to rethink the role and positioning of Arts and Culture in the face of the new challenges of globalization, i.e., protection of cultural diversity, the creative economy, and intellectual property rights. The first forum was held in São Paulo from June 26 to July 4, 2004, while the 2006 edition currently under way in Rio de Janeiro will continue in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, from December 1 to 3.
Identity , Diversity, and Development are the key themes that will be discussed in a series of lectures, meetings, and presentations planned for the 2006 Forum to be led by experts and intellectuals from all over the world. Subjects such as culture and citizenship, the creative economy, intellectual property rights and new technology, cultural rights, culture and globalization, culture and development, cultural exchanges, the mobility of artists and the arts, and local cultural developments will also be broached.
Several professionals, researchers, and experts from Morocco, Algeria, and Mauritania took part in the round tableheldin Rabat, on November 20, to analyze the state of the audiovisual industry in the Maghreb, particularly radio, television, cinema, and new technologies, and to discuss the challenges and prospects for the audiovisual industry in the Maghreb, in particular the changes of this sector vis-à-vis freedom of expression and the role of journalists in the industry.
This round table was organized by UNESCO, ISESCO, and the Friedrich Ebert Foundationas part of a project to harness ICTs for the audiovisual industry and public service broadcasting in developing countries.
The European Commission (EC) has finally given the green light to new UK tax incentives after months of negotiations that have led to a revision of the cultural test for British films, Cineuropa reports in its recent newsletter (No. 41). According to the newsletter, the EC’s ratification of the new tax relief legislation is great news for British cinema, which had been in deadlock for months. One year ago, the cultural test determining whether a film can qualify for the new tax incentives was submitted to the EC for state aid clearance. But the EC did not accept that the test, as passed by the UK Parliament in April 2006, went far enough to satisfy the state aid requirements of European law and expressed concerns regarding the treatment of European coproductions in the new tax incentives law. The British government revised the text with the EC so that it met the EU requirements for member states when subsidizing commercial films for cultural purposes to protect open competition between member states.
Competition commissioner Neelie Kroes said she was satisfied with the settlement arrived at by the British authorities, which complies with the conditions set out in its Audiovisual Communication. “It confirms that European coproductions can benefit from the scheme,” she said. For UK film minister Shaun Woodward, “This announcement is good news for the UK film industry. It marks the future for a successful, stable, and sustainable film industry. We have a film framework that will deliver for both the industry and audiences alike. The film scheme will be good for independent and large studio productions.” The scheme has been approved until March 31, 2012.
To mark the first anniversary of the adopton of the UNESCO Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, Dorval Brunelle, a sociology professor at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and director of the Research Group on Hemispheric Integration, published a study in La Chronique des Amériques journal in which he examined the treatment of cultural diversity within three inter-American forums since 1994: the Community of Democracies, the Parliamentary Confederation of the Americas, and the Inter-Parliamentary Forum of the Americas. The author claims that these three forums, which are as much about coordinating meetings between heads of state and government in the Americas as meetings between parliamentarians, were put in place with one sole aim: advancing the project of large scale integration between the countries of the Americas.
However, the author points out, given the themes raised in all three cases and the importance accorded to cultural diversity by some partners, including Canada, matters directly or indirectly relating to culture should have featured prominently in all declarations and recommendations to come out of such meetings since they began. But cultural diversity only began to receive star billing from 2001 onward, only to disappear again following the Summit of the Americas, its evocation restricted to parliamentarians. In an attempt to understand this situation, the author provides a quick review of the circumstances surrounding the Convention’s adoption, reminds readers of a few points concerning inter-American processes, and examines cultural diversity through the prism of the three processes.
Spotlighting the disparity between progress in negotiations on declarations and conventions on issues like cultural diversity and the rights of Aboriginal people worldwide and the treatment they receive within inter-American processes, the author concludes that the evolution of processes at these two levels remains completely separate. In turn, this disparity reinforces still further the influence the United States is liable to exert on cultural diversity in particular through bilateral free trade negotiations. Both these factors could delay the implementation of the UNESCO Convention and block the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the Americas. They could even make themselves felt at a still later stage when it comes time for the signatories of both instruments to proceed with implementation of the standards arising out of these instruments’ internal law. This is why, according to the author, given the lack of true complementarity at the worldwide and inter-American levels on the one hand, and the lack of homology between the protected sectors and domains at both levels on the other hand, there is a risk that cultural industries—increasingly isolated from all other cultural and linguistic expressions as vectors of identity, values, and meaning—will be more easily dismissed as mere traded goods and cut to ribbons by the numerous free trade agreements currently being negotiated in the Americas.
Hors commerce has just published a book entitled Les enjeux de la mondialisation culturelle with an introduction by La Francophonie secretary general Abdou Diouf. It looks at geocultural issues from a strategic perspective and suggests that they be included along with geopolitical and geoeconomic issues in the system of world governance that the current international system can no longer sustain.
For author Jean Tardif, an anthropologist and member of the steering committee of PlanetAgora, an international organization, and coauthor Joëlle Farchy, an economist and professor at Université de Paris 1, the biggest challenge posed by globalization is not how to increase trade, but rather how to live together as a planet despite our constantly evolving cultural differences. While acknowledging the exemplary value of the struggle for cultural diversity, they claim that the UNESCO Convention’s most praiseworthy merit lies in the seeming halt it has put to the trade liberalization process, which seemed set to become the overarching priority.
However, the authors do go on to say that national policies, which are essential to managing the impact of cultural globalization, can only work if steps are taken to ensure that geocultural areas—the Francophonie, IberoAmerica, the Europe of Cultures project, etc.—become useful zones of cultural interaction and exchange. For the authors, the options that remain open are debatable and certainly not a panacea, but they do at least allow us to move beyond the arguments repeated again and again over the past few months, which although they have merit, provide few answers and only a defensive response to the new challenges being created by cultural globalization.