Cultural diversity

Newsletter
The Diversity of Cultural Expressions

Vol. 8, no 21, Monday, June 16, 2008

Efforts to implement the Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions are underway!

The Diversity of Cultural Expression Newsletter will be taking a break next week. We’ll be back on June 30, a few days after the conclusion of the first extraordinary session of the Intergovernmental Committee on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural expressions. See you then.

IN THIS ISSUE :

Convention Update

Press Releases, Speeches, and Declarations

Recent Publications

Cultural Policies and Measures – Best Practices

Other News of Interest



Convention Update

Efforts to implement the Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions are underway!

At the first Conference of Parties to the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, the Intergovernmental Committee was tasked with developing operational directives for convention implementation. The Committee held a first meeting in Ottawa, Canada, from December 10 to 13, 2007. Other meetings will be held before the next Conference of Parties, slated for June 2009 in Paris, France.

At press time, 83 states had ratified the treaty. Efforts to implement the treaty are well underway, but 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.

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Press Releases, Speeches, and Declarations

Launch of the Chirac Foundation

Former French president Jacques Chirac launched his Foundation on Monday, June 9, 2008, at Musée du quai Branly (at the Claude Levi-Strauss Theater) in Paris. The Chirac Foundation is dedicated to promoting peace. Its goal is to encourage cultural respect and diversity and to promote a truly sustainable model for development.

According to the press materials, the Chirac Foundation will focus its first efforts on

  • Access to water
  • Access to quality medication
  • The fight against deforestation and desertification
  • Protecting threatened languages and cultures
  • Identifying innovative funding methods

In a speech given during the launch of his Foundation, Chirac stated that “as it becomes necessary to rethink the notion of progress to reconcile man with his environment, we must place culture and cultural diversity at the heart of the human adventure.”

Pursuing the theme of protecting threatened languages and cultures, Chirac expressed his conviction that “all peoples have their own unique message to share with the world.” He believes that “each people can enrich humanity through the beauty, creativity, and truth it contributes. . . . To pay heed to cultural diversity is to value the uniqueness of all creativity, it is to desire discovery, to refuse a single standard that would create an exclusively rational and perfectly aseptic—in other words inhuman—world,” stated Chirac.

“Cultural impoverishment is generally followed by social degeneration,” he continued. “The fight for diversity is a fight for dignity and for peace. When a culture is denied the right to contribute to the greater whole, violence is never far behind.”

Chirac went on to explain that his Foundation would pay particular attention to languages and cultures threatened with extinction. In this regard he mentioned that of the 6,000-odd languages spoken in the world today, 90% could disappear during this century. Chirac pondered, “Is that what we want? Do we want an impoverished world, one that only preserves what is profitable in the short term?”

“Personally, I reject that idea,” stated Chirac. He also called upon the UN and UNESCO—who have declared 2008 “the International Year of Languages”—to hold a Summit on the topic, “to devise ways of avoiding the disappearance of humanity’s priceless common linguistic heritage.” According to Chirac, new technologies hold the solution. “Let’s use them,” he declared. “With the launch of this program and the international meetings that will be held right here this afternoon as a first step, this foundation intends to do its part.”

To find out more, read the full text of Mr. Chirac’s speech and consult the Foundation’s press materials.

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Secretary General of La Francophonie appoints special envoys on the French language

In May and June 2008, Secretary General of La Francophonie Abdou Diouf appointed special envoys on the French language, one each of whom has visited Burundi, Greece, Laos, Mozambique, and Romania, and soon another will visit Lebanon. An OIF (Organisation internationale de la Francophonie) press release indicates that these individuals have been tasked with meeting with the senior officials in each state “to show recognition on the part of the Secretary General for their efforts at promoting the French language . . . and to discuss their intentions to promote the French language in their respective countries.”

Michèle Gendreau-Massaloux, former rector of France’s Agence universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF), visited Laos May 2 to 5. Canada’s Jean-Louis Roy, the former secretary general of Agence de Coopération culturelle et technique (ACCT) visited Burundi and Mozambique May 21 to 28. Henri Lopès, ambassador of Congo in Paris and writer was in Greece May 27 to 30. Ghassan Salamé, former Lebanese minister of culture, traveled to Romania June 8 to 10. In September, Quebec’s former minister of culture and former minister of international relations Louise Beaudoin will be carrying out a similar mission to Lebanon.

The OIF indicates that the findings of the special envoys will compiled in a report to heads of state and government at their meeting in Québec City in October during the 12th Summit of La Francophonie. The Secretary General, the press release adds, “wished to take the opportunity to salute efforts by some of our Member States and governments to promote the use of French.”

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Secretary General of La Francophonie meets with the Prime Minister of the Central African Republic

On Friday, June 13, Secretary General of La Francophonie Abdou Diouf met in Paris with His Excellency Faustin-Archange Touadéra, Prime Minister of the Central African Republic.

According to an Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) press release, the Prime Minister began by thanking the Secretary General for the support provided by La Francophonie to Central Africa since its political transition and said he looked forward to the upcoming inclusive Central African political dialog, to be co-facilitated by OIF special envoy Djovi Gally.

Among the topics discussed by the Secretary General and the Prime Minister were francophone cooperation in CAR, particularly the extension of the Centre de Lecture et d’Animation Culturelle (CLAC) project and the project in support of international trade negotiations.

The press release also stated that the Secretary General of La Francophonie urged the Prime Minister to have CAR complete ratification of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, adopted by UNESCO in 2005, before the meeting in Québec City, Canada, October 17 to 19, 2008, of the 12th Conference of Heads of State and Government Having the French Language in Common.

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Recent Publications

Number 169 of the magazine Cultures Sud: “Maghreb–Black Africa: a commonality of cultures?”

CulturesFrance has announced the publication of issue number 169 of the magazine Cultures Sud featuring the theme “Maghreb–Black Africa: a commonality of cultures?” Cultures Sud is a quarterly magazine of literature from Africa, the Caribbean, and the Indian Ocean published by CulturesFrance.

In its introduction to the issue, CulturesFrance notes that “These pages spotlight ties and tensions between differing sides of the Sahara, between two geographical entities that share a continent but make up two distinct worlds—the Maghreb and Black Africa.”

After a review of certain historic facts, the magazine addresses cultural relations between the Maghreb and Black Africa and the challenges they share. CulturesFrance notes that “major voices of the literary world contribute to these reflections, attempting to build bridges between these two cultural poles, whether concerning the ‘inability to imagine Africa’ to borrow the words of Algerian novelist Yasmina Khadra or the commitment of Nobel Prize–winning Nigerian author Wole Soyinka.”

Further in its introduction of Cultures Sud, CulturesFrances writes, “Today, while it is widely recognized that there is a certain vitality to economic trade between the Maghreb and Black Africa, the list of cultural initiatives remains fairly short. In the name of cultural diversity, these pages call for a renewed panafricanism reminiscent of Algiers in the summer of 1969, when the first, and unfortunately the last, panafrican festival was held.”

CulturesFrance is the agency of the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Culture and Communications responsible for international cultural exchanges.

To find our more, please visit the CulturesFrance website.

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Cultural Policies and Measures – Best Practices

MEDIA MUNDUS: European Commission considers global film cooperation program

On June 10, 2008, the European Commission announced that it was currently exploring the benefits of expanding the EU’s MEDIA program—which was created in 1991 to promote the development and the distribution of European films across borders—with a new MEDIA MUNDUS program to strengthen cultural and commercial relations between Europe’s film industry and film-makers of non-European countries. According to the press release, this could help audiovisual professionals from Europe and equivalent film-makers outside the EU to reciprocally improve their competitiveness by better exploiting the potential for joint projects such as the development, distribution, and promotion of audiovisual works. The Commission indicates that such a MEDIA MUNDUS program would follow the model of the ERASMUS MUNDUS student exchange program that had been added in 2001 to the existing ERASMUS program in order to make exchanges between European universities and universities in non-European countries possible.

An online public consultation on the main features and priorities of a possible MEDIA MUNDUS program is open until June 15, 2008, and a public hearing will be held in Brussels on June 25.

“The cultural diversity of Europe’s cinema and the attractiveness of our MEDIA program have led to repeated requests from film-makers from South America, Asia, Russia and other continents to build bridges with Europe’s audiovisual markets in order to mutually boost their potential. In the same way that MEDIA pushes for fully exploiting the opportunity of Europe’s single market, a MEDIA MUNDUS program would facilitate the circulation of our films worldwide and vice versa the distribution in Europe of films from partner countries all over the world. This means more choice for citizens and more culturally diverse films—all in the spirit of the UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity,” said EU Media Commissioner Viviane Reding.

The public consultation now launched by the Commission on a possible MEDIA MUNDUS program seeks feedback from stakeholders on the idea of complementing the MEDIA program for the promotion, development, and distribution of European films (annual budget around €100 million) with a new international program. Stakeholders are being consulted on specific issues, including

  • The conclusion of agreements between distributors/exporters/rights-holders of EU and non-European countries (notably via events like coproduction markets) to promote the exclusive first release of their respective films on the territory/territories of their partner(s)
  • The screening of European and non-European films in respective cinema networks and ways to raise public awareness about the release of films from European and non-European countries covered by mutual distribution agreements
  • The organization of joint training sessions between European and non-European country film training facilities

On the basis of public input, the Commission will decide before the end of 2008 about a possible MEDIA MUNDUS program proposal. The Commission press release states that this idea found strong support among the culture ministers attending Europe Day 2008 during the Cannes Film Festival on May 19.

For more information, please consult the relevant pages on the MEDIA program website.

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Promoting African music in regional and international markets

This is an ongoing project launched with the support of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation.

The Global Alliance for Cultural Diversity has announced that over the course of 2008, the African Music Export Office (Bureau export de la musique africaine or BEMA) is running a series of training sessions for its members in Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, and Guinea, as well as coaches’ workshops in Burkina Faso. The Global Alliance is sponsoring several of these workshops that were “specially conceived to help producers from the region hone their skills in promoting and managing artists as well as marketing and exporting music.”

According to the press release, during the 2008 edition of the World Music Expo (WOMEX) to be held in Seville, Spain from October 29 to November 2, the Global Alliance will also support a mentoring scheme for a selected group of producers from the BEMA network. International experts will offer them individual on-site training and advice before, during, and after the event “so that they can make the most of this unique opportunity to showcase their work.”

The press release adds that the initiative has every intension of reaching its objectives, and that the main challenges facing BEMA will be presented in the framework of the WOMEX Conference session. Global Alliance states that “an incentive will therefore be given to the construction of new synergies between public, private, and civil society stakeholders around BEMA, in order to help foster the emergence of a structured music sector in the region while promoting the circulation of African cultural goods and services in the international arena.”

Global Alliance adds that to this end, a number of partners, including the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Organisation internationale de la francophonie, African and European professional associations, West African governmental institutions, and WOMEX, have already joined forces.

Officially set up in September 2007, BEMA is a network of professional music organizations that aims to help promote and export African music on a regional and international scale.

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Other News of Interest

Call for Contribution and Participation: U40-Capacity Building Program entitled “Cultural Diversity 2030” – The deadline is June 30, 2008

The German Commission for UNESCO has launched a call for Contribution and Participation as part of the U40-Capacity Building Program entitled “Cultural Diversity 2030.” The program was initiated by the German Commission for UNESCO in 2007 as part of the German EU Council presidency.

The U40-process offers young Europeans under 40 (postgraduates, PhD students, young professionals, and similarly qualified young experts) the opportunity to participate in the international debate on Cultural Diversity and the implementation of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expression (2005). The next stage of this U40-process aims to bring future decision makers into the debate.

The German Commission for UNESCO is looking for up to 20 young specialists from Europe with proven skills and interest in the area of the relevant aspects of the Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. They are invited to apply by submitting a short paper (max. 800 words) and a CV by June 30, 2008.

Papers should address objectives of the UNESCO Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. Relevant areas include

  • Diversity of Cultural Expressions and Sustainable Development
  • Implementation of the Convention through and within the European Community
  • Public awareness raising: Communication strategies for the Diversity of Cultural Expressions

Submit by June 30, 2008 to Anna Steinkamp, steinkamp@unesco.de, reference “U 40”.

For more information, see the German Commission for UNESCO press release.

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