Vol. 8, no 22, Monday, June 30, 2008
Efforts to implement the Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions are underway!
IN THIS ISSUE :
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.
UNESCO director general Koïchiro Matsuura opened the first extraordinary session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions on June 24, 2008, at UNESCO headquarters. Executive Board chairman Olabiyi Babalola Joseph Yaï attended the opening ceremony.
In his address, Mr. Matsuura outlined the “considerable interest” and expectations the international community had placed in the 2005 convention, as witnessed by its “sustained” pace of ratification, now at 84 states parties. He stressed the importance of coming up with directives to enable “the Convention to deliver on all of its promises.”
The extraordinary meeting sought to examine five substantive documents, four of which concerned operational directives to be submitted in finalized form to the Committee’s second ordinary session next December.
The first document concerns measures to promote and protect cultural expressions and international cooperation in situations where cultural expressions are under severe threat. The second document explores partnerships, and the third the role and participation of civil society, the importance of which is expressly noted in the Convention. The fourth document examines the International Fund for Cultural Diversity. The UNESCO press release notes that the latter document is an interim report on party contributions, priorities, and use of Fund resources. Mr. Matsuura stated that for 2007–2008, contributions to the Fund from Andorra, Brazil, Finland, France, Monaco, Québec, and Saint Lucia amounted to approximately $440,000 with more than a million dollars pledged from Cameroon, Canada, China, Germany, India, Italy, Jamaica, Mexico, South Africa, Spain, and Uruguay. The press release concludes by noting that the Committee also sought to examine an interim report on the selection of experts and terms of reference for preferential treatment reports.
In conclusion, the director general declared himself “convinced that all Parties to the Convention will work hard to make the principles become reality and encourage intercultural dialog to ensure wider and balanced cultural exchanges throughout the world,” as stipulated in the Convention’s first article. “This Convention is an innovative tool, which will require lots of imagination and creativity if its implementation is to bring real benefits to all. . . . You will therefore have the challenging but uplifting task of developing common understanding of these principles and providing the Convention with guidelines that all can adhere to,” he said.
On June 23, 2008, French Minister of Culture and Communication Christine Albanel outlined the cultural and audiovisual priorities for France’s presidency of the Council of the European Union.
The program will have three main thrusts:
Over the course of France’s presidency, adds the press release from France’s ministry of culture and communication, Christine Albanel “plans to advance European culture through the emergence of concrete projects.”
With regard to showcasing and promoting access to European heritage, Ms. Albanel will launch the European digital library featuring the Europeana prototype at the Council of Ministers “Education, Youth, and Culture” November 20 meeting in Brussels. This prototype will first provide access to 2 million archived, library, and museum items, as well as audiovisual content. The minister will work with European counterparts to ensure the project’s long term success.
The release goes on to note that Ms. Albanel “will also invite all 27 European culture ministers to jointly create a ‘European heritage label’ to distinguish cultural goods from sites of remembrance, which have borne witness to European history and heritage” in order to help “European citizens identify with their common heritage.”
Ms. Albanel also mentioned the European Cultural Season, “which will bear witness to European creations, both past and present.” The season “will provide many opportunities for rich, creative encounters between artists and the general public and will be a unique occasion to discover Europe and its cultures.”
To learn more about the cultural and audiovisual priorities for France’s presidency of the European Union and various related projects, we invite you to view the press materials available on the website of France’s Culture and Communication Ministry.
On June 19, 2008, Switzerland’s Federal Office of Culture (FOC) outlined its main areas of action for 2008–2009 at its annual press conference. The implementation of two UNESCO conventions to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions and to safeguard intangible cultural heritage are among the FOC’s top concerns for this period.
In a document prepared for the June 19 press conference, FOC writes, “The ratification of the UNESCO conventions for cultural diversity and intangible cultural heritage mark a milestone in Switzerland’s cultural policy!” FOC notes that on March 20, 2008, the country’s federal chambers “opened the door to ratifying the two UNESCO conventions, the first to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions and the second to safeguard intangible cultural heritage.”
Switzerland now has a framework within which to broadly promote cultural diversity and bolster cooperation with the international community,” FOC added.
Once the referendum period expires on July 10, 2008, Switzerland will submit ratification instruments to UNESCO and become a full-fledged Member State three months later. “Preliminary work to implement both conventions may now begin,” declared FOC.
UNESCO has announced that Lyon has become the first city in France to join UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network. It is also the first city to be declared a City of Media Arts. The nomination was decided and announced by UNESCO director general Koïchiro Matsuura.
The press release issued on the occasion notes that the Creative Cities Network, launched by UNESCO in October 2004, is designed to promote the economic, social, and cultural development of cities in both developed and developing countries. “By providing a world platform that presents cities’ local cultural assets, the Network helps member cities access a wealth of know-how, information, and experience in order to further the development of local cultural industries and the recognition of its member cities at world level.”
Cities applying to the Network seek to promote local creativity and share common interests like cultural diversity with UNESCO. The Network focuses on launching public and private partnerships that encourage creativity through municipal policies.
Lyon’s application was examined by a panel of experts from various nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) specialized in cooperation between cities and media arts. “Famous for its Nuits Sonores and Fête de la Lumière, Lyon was selected for its special profile and its longstanding experience with digital tools in the field of culture. Lyon is home to companies that are particularly innovative in the area of digital games. Its public sector devotes up to 20% of its funds for culture to media arts. Its project based on new initiatives and cooperation with other cities of UNESCO’s Network was particularly appreciated within the framework of the evaluation.”
UNESCO’s network connects creative cities in the fields of literature, cinema, music, crafts and folk art, design, media arts, and fine dining. Nine other cities already belong to the Network: Assuan (Egypt) and Santa Fe (United States) in the field of crafts and folk art; Montréal (Canada), Buenos Aires (Argentina), and Berlin (Germany) in design; Popayan (Colombia) for fine dining; Edinburgh (United Kingdom) for literature; Bologna (Italy) and Seville (Spain) for music. Some twenty other cities in the world have already applied and are being evaluated.
Cultural Expressions and Creative Industries
The European Audiovisual Observatory has announced the publication of a new IRIS plus, entitled The Promotion of Cultural Diversity via New Media Technologies: An Introduction to the Challenges of Operationalization, written by Tarlach McGonagle.
In an editorial, Susanne Nikoltchev, IRIS coordinator and head of the department for legal information at the Observatory writes, “Cultural diversity is one of those terms that manage to accommodate different meanings and varying concepts. In addition, the term cultural diversity is often deployed together with other concepts as important as social tolerance, freedom of expression, and democracy. At the same time, it is held out in defense against perceived threats from a global market and serves as justification for concrete state action in support of the creative industry.
“This IRIS plus presupposes that it is important to clarify potential meanings of cultural diversity and arising concepts if we wish to experience cultural diversity in the form of concrete results. The need for clarification becomes more pressing with a view to technological advances which already by themselves, and all the more in tandem with vague concepts, challenge existing legal frameworks. This IRIS plus is a first and very useful step on a long way to go.”
IRIS plus is a supplement to IRIS, a European Audiovisual Observatory newsletter.
The latest news section of the Centre d’études sur l’intégration et la mondialisation (CEIM) website of Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) currently offers a collection of documents addressing trade agreements and international trade.
Among other things, we would like to draw your attention to a special section prepared by Christian Deblock and Sylvain Zini on free trade agreements with Peru and Colombia: the United States–Peru Free Trade Agreement, the Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement, the United States–Colombia Free Trade Agreement, and the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. The authors provide hyperlinks to the texts of these agreements as well as a range of documents issued by government bodies, think tanks, research centers, associations, and more. You will also find a list of CEIM texts regarding the agreements.
CEIM also has a section prepared and directed by Mehdi Abbas, entitled “L’Organisation mondiale du commerce et la gouvernance du système commercial multilatéral” (Global organization of trade and governance of the multilateral trade system). As well as providing key CEIM texts on the matter, the section also suggests a series of websites from government bodies, think tanks, international institutions, and more.
We would also like to invite you to read the last two issues of the CEIM newsletter (available in French only), “Accords bilatéraux et diversité culturelle.” The headlines for the June 1, 2008 edition:
And here are the headlines for the May 1, 2008 edition:
The fifth International Conference on Cultural Policy Research (ICCPR 2008) will run from August 20–24, 2008, in Istanbul, Turkey. ICCPR 2008 aims to provide an outlet for an interdisciplinary and international exploration of the meaning, function, and impact of cultural policies.
Organizers note that ICCPR 2008 is aimed at all those with a serious intellectual interest in how and why different agencies attempt to work on the cultural practices and values of individuals and societies.
To learn more, visit the ICCPR 2008 website.