Vol. 7, no 21, Tuesday, June 26, 2007
The first Conference of Parties to the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions marks the start to Convention implementation
IN THIS ISSUE :
UNESCO’s Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions came into effect on Sunday, March 18, 2007. At press time, 62 states had ratified the treaty. More than ever, the mobilization campaign to encourage Member States who haven’t already done so to ratify the treaty must continue with commitment and conviction. The Convention’s legitimacy will be directly proportional to the number of countries from all parts of the world that ratify, accept, approve, or join the treaty.
The first session of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, chaired by Professor Kader Asmal of South Africa, closed on June 20 at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France. Some 300 delegates representing the 57 Parties to the Convention participated, along with observers, notably from the six states that have ratified the Convention over the past three months and a number of groups from civil society.
In a press release issued at the end of this meeting, UNESCO noted that during the two and a half days of work, the Conference of Parties—the Convention’s supreme decision-making body—had adopted its rules of procedure and elected the 24 members of the Intergovernmental Committee that will operate under its supervision. The States Parties elected onto the Committee are Albania, Austria, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Canada, China, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, India, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mali, Mauritius, Mexico, Oman, Saint Lucia, Senegal, Slovenia, South Africa, and Tunisia. The press release goes on to state that in order to ensure the geographical representation of all regions and in conformity with agreements made during the meeting, several seats on the Committee were reserved for developing countries. Half of the countries on the committee will serve for only two years, while the other half will have four-year terms.
The UNESCO press release adds that the Intergovernmental Committee will be responsible, among other things, for promoting the objectives of the Convention, encouraging and ensuring its implementation, and preparing operational directives. It will hold its first meeting in December 2007 in Ottawa.
The press release concludes, “With this Convention, UNESCO disposes of [sic.] a comprehensive set of standard-setting instruments, comprising seven conventions covering cultural diversity in all of its manifestations, and especially the two pillars of culture: heritage—tangible and intangible—and contemporary creativity.”
With the inaugural Conference of Parties to the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions now over, we felt it important to go back over the main points raised by UNESCO director general Koïchiro Matsuura in his opening address to the meeting on June 18, 2007. Among other things, Mr. Matsuura’s speech provided an idea of when he intended for further meetings on the Convention’s implementation to be held.
Mr. Koïchiro Matsuura began his address by stating that the Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions had come into force in record time for a cultural agreement, noting that “the main reason was no doubt the topicality of the ideas.” The director general believes that the Convention constitutes “the first normative instrument that so clearly ties culture to development, tackling head on what is proving to be one of the major challenges of the 21st century: the role of cultural expression in development, given the great changes in how culture is created, produced, and disseminated.”
Another reason for its success according to Mr. Matsuura is that “this Convention is one of the first, and one of the few, international instruments that simultaneously acknowledges globalization and endeavors to guide it and control its processes so that they ensure not only the protection but also the promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions.”
Mr. Matsuura nevertheless went on to say that even though he was delighted with its exceptionally fast ratification, “the geographic breakdown of the Party States to the Convention is regrettably still a little unbalanced.” In order to meet its objectives, he continued, “it is crucial that States Parties represent the world’s various regions in a balanced manner.” Noting that currently only three states from the Asia-Pacific region had ratified the Convention, and only three Arab states, Mr. Matsuura expressed his desire to see other countries from these regions quickly ratify the Convention.
As mentioned earlier in this bulletin, it was decided at the first session of the Conference of Parties that the Intergovernmental Committee would hold its first meeting in December 2007 in Ottawa, Canada. In his opening address, Mr. Matsuura said he anticipated the next meetings on the Convention’s implementation to shape up as follows: an extraordinary session of the Committee in May 2008, followed by an ordinary session in fall 2008, if required, and perhaps another extraordinary session in spring 2009. The director general also made it clear that the second Conference of Parties could be held two years after the first, in June 2009, in order to adopt all the Committee texts. Mr. Matsuura nevertheless stressed that this was only a preliminary timetable that would have to be more clearly defined as work advanced and other needs became clear.
Mr. Matsuura’s full address in French can be consulted here.
In a press release dated June 20, 2007, the Honorable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women, expressed her delight at Canada’s election to the Intergovernmental Committee under the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. Canada was elected to the Committee at the first session of the Conference of Parties to the Convention June 18 to 20, 2007, at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris, France.
“ Canada's election to the Intergovernmental Committee bears witness to the unstinting work performed by the federal government with the Government of Québec, the provinces and territories, and civil society to promote the diversity of cultural expressions around the world,” said Minister Oda. “As a member of the Committee, Canada intends to continue working together with its partners to ensure that the Convention is implemented quickly and effectively. I am also proud to note that Member Parties have accepted Canada’s offer to host the first meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee in Ottawa.”
The press release continues, “Under the Canada-Québec Agreement Concerning UNESCO, which was signed on May 5, 2006, the Government of Canada is pleased to note the participation of the Government of Québec within the Canadian delegation. The agreement gives a formal role to Québec in this important international forum by providing for the Government of Québec to have a permanent representative on Canada’s permanent delegation to UNESCO.”
Noting that the Intergovernmental Committee, consisting of representatives of 24 Party States to the Convention, is mandated to promote the Convention and undertake follow-up of its implementation, the release continues, “The election of Canada will enable it to work with other Committee members to establish the International Fund for Cultural Diversity, which will help to achieve the objectives of the Convention. Canada has stated that it intends to contribute to the Fund once it is established.”
In Québec, the Minister of International Relations and Minister Responsible for La Francophonie, Ms. Monique Gagnon-Tremblay; the Minister of Culture, Communications, and the Status of Women, Ms. Christine St-Pierre; and the Minister of Economic Development, Innovation and Export Trade, Mr. Raymond Bachand, have all hailed the successful first session of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and expressed their delight at Canada’s being elected to the Intergovernmental Committee.
A press release dated June 21, 2007, notes that Québec took part in this first Conference of Parties as indicated in the Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of Québec concerning the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Michel Audet, the Government of Québec representative on Canada’s permanent delegation to UNESCO, will head the Québec delegation.
The release also quoted Minister of International Relations and Minister Responsible for La Francophonie Monique Gagnon-Tremblay as saying, “I am happy that Québec was able to make its position clear at this first Conference of Parties. The collaboration between Québec and Canada on the Canadian delegation and between the ministries concerned is a reflection of the historic agreement itself that we signed in May 2006 and how smoothly it was implemented.
“By taking part in the first Conference of Parties, Québec is helping to implement this Convention, which guarantees states and governments the right to adopt and uphold their cultural policies and appropriate support measures. This is a vital instrument for the creation and dissemination of Québec culture,” noted the Minister of Culture, Communications, and the Status of Women, Ms. Christine St-Pierre.
The press release states that the first Conference of Parties marked the official start of work on Convention implementation. Its main aim was to elect the 24 members of the Intergovernmental Committee, the body tasked by the Conference with drafting a proposal for Convention implementation.
Ministers Gagnon-Tremblay, St-Pierre, and Bachand all stressed that Québec intended to continue sharing the fruits of its work on implementing the Convention and actively contribute to ensuring the first session of the Intergovernmental Committee—to be held in Canada in December 2007—was a success.
After mentioning that the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions was adopted by UNESCO on October 20, 2005, the press release went on to note that Québec was the world’s first state to approve the Convention, by a unanimous vote of the National Assembly on November 10, 2005. A few days later Canada became the first country to ratify the international treaty, which came into effect on March 18, 2007.
On June 19, 2007, Québec’s Minister of International Relations and Minister Responsible for La Francophonie, Ms. Monique Gagnon-Tremblay, announced a voluntary additional $2 million contribution to the International Organization of La Francophonie (IOF). Commenting on the decision, the minister explained that “Québec is actively involved with a number of bodies within La Francophonie and is renowned for its input, commitment, and innovative thinking. I am delighted to announce this additional support to IOF as a demonstration of our common desire to respect the diversity of cultures and to serve the causes of peace, democracy, education, and sustainable development.” The press release issued for the occasion added that this amount was in addition to Québec’s $10 million contribution for 2007.
According to the press release, the Government of Québec’s additional contribution includes, among other things, $400,000 in financial support for the IOF’s new programs to support cultural policies and industries in the southern hemisphere in accordance with the UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity, with Québec being “one of its most ardent promoters.”
Various documents from the first Conference of Parties to the Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions are available on the UNESCO website. They include a number of addresses made at the conference, a list of the members elected to the Intergovernmental Committee, adopted resolutions, the rapporteur’s oral report, working papers, and information documents.
Relais Culture Europe is launching a series of information meetings on Euro-Mediterranean cultural cooperation. By way of background, the organization points out that cultural cooperation is one of the cornerstones of Euro-Mediterranean relations, noting that in a recent statement promoting a “European cultural agenda in the age of globalization,” the European Commission stressed the role that culture can and must play in helping the European Union attain its goals, both within and without its borders. Relais Culture Europe claims that by proposing a true European cultural strategy, “the European Commission is acknowledging increasing recognition of culture as a key driving force, particularly in its dealings with partners from outside of the EU, including the southern Mediterranean.”
Moreover, Relais Culture Europe notes that, at the same time, the new community funding picture is coming into focus, marked by the deployment of new instruments. According to Relais Culture Europe, a series of tools will be put in place in the Euromed zone by year’s end, some of which will be open-ended or earmarked for cultural cooperation.
To get a closer take on Euro-Mediterranean cultural development, Relais Culture Europe will be holding a series of information meetings from July to December 2007 aimed at French cultural operators and their partners. These meetings will attempt to help participants understand the European Union’s goals and what is at stake in the area with regard to cultural cooperation. Another objective is to prepare cultural operators to make full use of the new cultural development tools that will be made available between now and the end of the year.
The first information meeting will take place on July 12, 2007, on the theme “Euro-Mediterranean Cultural Cooperation: Context and Tools in a Changing World.” The meeting will run from 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Institut Supérieur des Techniques du Spectacle, Salle des Commissions (2nd floor), Espace Saint-Louis, 20 rue du Portail Boquier, in Avignon, France.
The other meetings will also be held in France, as follows: September 2007 in Paris on “The Role of Culture in Good Neighbor Policy” (date and place to be confirmed), and in October 2007 in Paris on “The Cultural Heritage Program” and Marseille on “Cultural Cooperation and Territorial Development” (dates and places to be confirmed).
To learn more about information meetings and how to attend, click here.
For more information, call Leila Badis: +33 (0)1 53 40 95 79