Vol. 6, no 29, Tuesday, September 5, 2006
Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions: The mobilization in order to promote its ratification is building growing momentum!
The Québec Minister of Culture and Communications Line Beauchamp and the UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura
Speech by Québec prime minister Jean Charest
Photo : Paul Ducharme
IN THIS ISSUE :
The Convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions 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.
From now on, seven (7) countries have formally ratified and deposited their Instruments of ratification with the Director General of UNESCO: Canada, Mauritius, Mexico, Romania, Monaco, Bolivia, and Djibouti (Source: UNESCO).
Based on available information, ten (10) other States have already concluded their internal ratification processes and are expected to file their instruments with UNESCO in short order: Togo, Peru, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Croatia, France, Finland and Austria.
In addition, several other countries have their ratification processes well underway such as Belgium, Moldavia, the Popular Republic of Congo, Norway, Spain, Brazil, Madagascar, Chile, among other (source: Coalition Currents )
As we mentioned it in the last edition of our Bulletin, the distinction between ratification of the convention and deposition of the relevant instruments with UNESCO is crucial: a member state is only deemed to be a State Party to the Convention when it has ratified and filed its documentation with UNESCO’s Paris headquarters. Moreover, there is a clear incentive for the UNESCO Member State to ratify early: those that do will be among the participants at the first Conference of Parties, which will elect the initial 18-member Intergovernmental Committee that will be charged with developing the operational mechanisms of the Convention. The Intergovernmental Committee members therefore stand to have a major role in setting the direction of the new Convention.
This is the reason why we must continue with the mobilization campaign, in order to promote the ratification of the Convention with the UNESCO Member States to reach the target of the 30-ratification threshold by the end of next June. If we reach this goal, the Convention will enter into force through its first Conference of Parties at the time of the 34th UNESCO General Conference in October 2007.
Why must States ratify this Convention? To find out about it, consult the January 16th issue of our Bulletin
Official Text of the UNESCO Convention
Last August 29, while visiting Helsinki, the French Minister of Culture and Communication, Mr. Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, deemed "urgent" the ratification by the Member States of the European Union (EU) of the Convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions. To do so, he indicated that he would propose to Finland which, like France, has completed its internal ratification process, to officially adhere to the Convention without waiting for the other EU Member States to have completed their ratification process. He also stated that Spain, Luxembourg, Italy, Austria, Malta and Sweden are the EU countries closest to ratification.
The Minister de Vabres notably recalled that this Convention has as its "main objective to free the different "cultural expressions" from the rules governing international trade, thus making culture an exception that could be subsidized by States". To that effect, evoking the obstacles that might explain the slowness of the ratification process in certain countries, the Minister recalled some countries which "are manoeuvring to stop" the ratification of the Convention. It is notably recalled that "the United States, which had admitted their deception following the devastating vote at UNESCO in favour of the text, had announced that they would try to act upon countries that had signed it in order to obstruct its ratification and, failing that, its abusive utilization".
It is worth also noting that the President of the French Republic Jacques Chirac determinedly committed himself to a vast mobilization in order to accelerate the number of ratifications of the UNESCO Convention by adressing on July 12 a series of letters concerning the ratification of this Convention to the President of the European Council, to the President of the European Commission, to the Director General of the UNESCO, to the Secretary General of the United Nations (UNO), and to the Secretary General of the International Organization of la Francophonie (IOF). (See the August 14th issue of our Bulletin).
In its August 30th issue, the daily Le Devoir reports that "The world campaign in favour of the ratification of the UNESCO Convention on the cultural diversity progresses rapidly and that its Canadian promoters keep hope to witness its adoption in proper shape and manner next year". According to the Journalist Stéphane Baillargeon, the Government of Canada maintains its official position in favour of the international legal instrument and takes advantage of all occasions to encourage the ratification of the Convention.
In this manner, the Canadian delegates exerted influence last May in Brasilia (Brazil) during the INCP’s Working Group on Cultural Diversity and Globalization meeting (International Network on Cultural Policy), last June in Montreal within the framework of the 12th edition of the International Economic Forum of the Americas, last July in Paris during the 60th session of the Permanent Council of la Francophonie, preparatory to the Summit of la Francophonie in Bucharest, on September 28 to 29, during which "pressures will begin anew" in order to ratify the Convention.
Furthermore, the thirty or so of the Coalitions for Cultural Diversity, grouped within the International Liaison Committee of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity (ILC), also multiply international approaches in order to ratify this Convention. In this respect, the Executive Vice-President of the Canadian Coalition for Cultural Diversity, Mr. Robert Pilon, adds up international meetings to mobilize in order to ratify the Convention. He has thus visited all Latin American countries (except Bolivia), where he has met the Ministers of Culture or Foreign Affairs. According to Mr. Pilon, one cannot be satisfied to reach the level of the 30 Parties States to the Convention between now and the UNESCO General Conference on October 2007: "One will be deemed serious when one has reached 70 or 75 adhesions. This treaty must also receive weight through obtaining a balanced regional representation ». Thus his efforts made towards Asia and Anglophone Africa during the coming months.
In the August 21th issue of our Bulletin, we presented a document on the recent developments at the WTO Doha Development round of trade talks which the suspension indefinitely, notably brought about fear of a multiplication and acceleration of negotiations of bilateral and of multilateral free trade agreements increasing this way pressure on the States to liberalize their cultural sector. We indicated that this could result into a decrease of the breathing space of these States in the implementation of their cultural policies to promote cultural diversity. These fears are real, in view of the information related hereafter.
The Ministers of the Economy of the Association of the South East Asia Nations (ASEAN) have undertaken last August 22 in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia their 38th meeting on economic cooperation and integration during which they agreed to move forward by five years, to 2015 instead of 2020, the date anticipated for the creation of a common market within ASEAN which gathers 10 States (Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Laos, Vietnam, Kampuchea and Burma). "If we do not accelerate the creation de ce marché commun régional, l'ASEAN could run the risk of losing its position as an important investments destination", warned the Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (Le Temps)
In other respects, the free trade agreement between ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand will be ready on 2007, as indicated in a press release published last August 25 in Kuala Lumpur at the issue of the meeting of the Ministers of the Economy of the three Parties which moved forward the calendar at the term of their consultations (Le Quotidien du Peuple)
Furthermore, ASEAN should sign between now an December an agreement opening the lucrative Chinese market of services, indicated last August 24 the Malaysian Minister of Trade Rafidah Aziz. The agreement will allow the firms of the Ten from ASEAN to offer in China banking, tourism or information technology services, notably. (Agence France Presse)
In addition, meeting in Kuala Lumpur on the same day, the Ministers of the Economy of the Ten from ASEAN and their counterpart from South Korea Kim Hun-Chang expressed in a joint release their intention to accelerate the bilateral negotiations on trade of services and investments (Agence de Presse Xinhua)
Following the discussions with their counterparts of South Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and India on strengthening economic cooperation and on negotiations concerning free trade agreements (AtlasVista Maroc), ASEAN showed its restraints on the Japanese proposal aimed at creating a large common market for Far East Asia . This one proposes the establishment of an economic community that would gather 16 countries, and intends further to create a free trade agreement with the Ten from ASEAN between now and mid-2007 but on the basis of already existing bilateral agreements similar with the free trade agreements that Tokyo has signed notably with Malaysia and Philippines. Japan would like to sign in parallel similar agreements with Kampuchea, Laos, Vietnam and Burma while ASEAN rather favors the conclusion of a regional free trade agreement with Japan. In other respects, Japan hopes for the creation of a free trade coalition of the Ten from ASEAN with the addition China, South Korea, Australia, India and New-Zealand. In addition, ASEAN has called for the resumption of the negotiations on the opening of the trade exchanges held within the framework of the OMC (L'Économiste).
In spite of the recent setbacks in the negotiations on the Doha Development Program within the WTO, the United States continue to look for an agreement that will considerably open up the markets, declared the United States Trade Representative Susan Schwab last August 20.
Although the law so called "fast track" allowing the White-House to negotiate commercial agreements and submit them to Congress for its approval and representatives do not have the right to amend them comes to expiry on June 30, 2007, the United States continue to negotiate bilateral free trade agreements with several countries, indicated Mrs. Schwab who specified that the United States had negotiated free trade agreements with 15 countries. Two other ones, with Colombia and Peru, have been concluded but not yet approved by Congress. Besides, negotiations of free trade agreements with Korea and Malaysia are also under way and she hopes that these agreements will be ready before the end of the year and be submitted to Congress before July 2007.
How will Quebecois and Canadians use digital technologies in a near future? What possibilities do these technological innovations offer to cultural promoters? What will be the results of digital distribution in the movie industry? What do telepresence or immersive projection mean? How will these innovations have an influence on artistic practices? Those are but a few of the questions to which the Canadian ministers responsible for Culture and Heritage meeting in Montréal are trying to answer, on August 31 on the occasion of the Technology Showcase — Montréal 2006, under the theme: Imagine our Culture in the Future!
This event, organized by the Society for Arts and Technology and presented by the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications du Québec in collaboration with the Department of Canadian Heritage, aims at demonstrating that the potential of the most recent digital technologies and their impact on artists’ work, industries and cultural policies. To the Quebec Minister of Culture and Communications Mrs Line Beauchamp, who inherited from her counterparts the presidency of the Committee responsible for examining this project during the federal, provincial and territorial meeting of the ministers responsible for the culture and the heritage of Canada, held last year in Banff (Alberta), this meeting will allow « to initiate a reflection as to the impacts that such changes could have on our cultural policies ». We will return to this event in our next issue.