Cultural diversity

The Diversity of Cultural Expressions

Vol. 5, no 36, Monday, December 5, 2005

UNESCO adopted Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions at its 33rd General Conference on October 20, 2005

The ratification phase is now underway!

UNESCO Convention approval ceremony by the Québec government at the Hôtel du Parlement -
November 10, 2005

Intervention de M. Jean Charest, premier ministre du Québec
Speech by Québec prime minister Jean Charest


UNESCO Convention ratification ceremony by Canada - November 23, 2005

Photo : Paul Ducharme

Délégation canadienne à la 8e Réunion ministérielle annuelle du RIPC
Canadian delegation at the 8th INCP Annual Ministerial Meeting – Dakar, Senegal, November 21, 2005
Dakar, Sénégal, 21 novembre

From left to right: Ms. Kirsten Mlacak & Ms. Judith Larocque, Canadian heritage ministry; Mr. Jean-Pierre Paquin, Québec representative.


Press Releases, Speeches, and Declarations

Recent Publications

Press Releases, Speeches, and Declarations

Le combat pour la diversité culturelle continue: "Nous pouvons tous nous réjouir de l’adoption de la Convention sur la diversité des expressions culturelles, mais les prochaines étapes sont toutes aussi cruciales"

Line Beauchamp, ministre de la Culture et des Communications du Québec, Lyon, le 5 décembre 2005 – 2005/12/05

This morning in Lyons, Québec minister of culture and communications Line Beauchamp officially opened the symposium entitled The Fight for Cultural Diversity in the presence of OIF secretary-general Abdou Diouf and the president of Conseil régional Rhône-Alpes, Jean-Jack Queyranne. This symposium, an initiative of Centre Jacques Cartier, is part of its 18th Entretiens, which are being held this year from December 2 to 7 in Lyons. Other sessions will be looking into different themes related to scientific research and social issues.

The symposium is divided into three major areas: The fight for cultural diversity, a response to globalization?; Cultural diversity challenges in the North and South; and The convention on the diversity of cultural expressions, prospects for the future. These will be divided into subthemes that will be discussed by speakers and participants from the academic, cultural, and economic communities in Québec, France, Europe, and the Americas.

The goals of the symposium are twofold: first, revisit the adoption of the convention at UNESCO on October 20, and second, encourage ratification of the convention and its vigorous implementation and monitoring by the largest possible number of states. Reviewing progress to date, Ms. Beauchamp declared, “With this symposium, which brings together many of the players who had key roles in the adoption of the UNESCO convention, we have taken one step further in our efforts to mobilize for the next steps, i.e., ratification and active implementation of the convention by the greatest possible number of states.”

In this respect, Minister Beauchamp “hailed the fruitful cooperation between Québec and France” and said it “augured well for future phases.” She also released a study on prospects for action related to convention implementation. The paper was written by Ivan Bernier, an emeritus professor at the Université Laval Faculty of Law in Québec City, and one of the independent experts appointed by the UNESCO Director-General to develop the preliminary draft of the convention, in conjunction with Hélène Ruiz-Fabri, a professor at Université Paris I-Panthéon Sorbonne. It included suggestions about the timetable of work in relation to the next UNESCO General Conference, the type of work that could be undertaken by the Conference of Parties, and specific issues that could be dealt with by the Intergovernmental Committee

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The 8th INCP Annual Ministerial Meeting wants the Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions to enter into force as soon as possible – Dakar, November 21, 2005

Representatives from 30 countries and 5 international organizations gathered in Dakar, Senegal, from November 21 to 23 for the 8th Annual Ministerial Meeting of the International Network on Cultural Policy (INCP), which was chaired by Mr. Mame Birame, Senegalese minister of culture and classified cultural heritage. Participants hailed INCP’s role in UNESCO’s adoption of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and expressed hopes for its rapid ratification and implementation. They also congratulated UNESCO for successfully overseeing the adoption of the convention within the two-year timeframe favored by the vast majority of members states. The Working Group on Cultural Diversity and Globalization, whose mandate was renewed, will identify strategies to stimulate and facilitate ratification of the convention and its implementation.

INCP ministers also met with representatives of civil society and agreed to a shared objective: rapid ratification by as many states as possible. The International Liaison Committee of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity (ILC)—which speaks for 31 coalitions for cultural diversity comprised of over 500 professional organizations representing writers, composers, directors, performing and visual artists, as well as independent publishers and producers and distributors of film, television and music—hailed INCP’s crucial role in the elaboration and adoption of the UNESCO convention. According to ILC, “the provisions of the convention will legitimize the position of states that refuse to make concessions on liberalizing trade in cultural goods and services under international trade agreements.” ILC affirmed that “our cultural policies were under threat from bilateral, regional and multilateral trade agreements, and there was a race on to limit the potential damage these agreements might cause. A crucial step in this process was the adoption of the UNESCO convention on the diversity of cultural expressions by fall 2005. The next step essential step is its rapid ratification by a large number of countries […] For the convention to achieve optimal effectiveness, it must be ratified by at least 50 or 60 states. They will have to resist U.S. pressure to abandon the document and will need the indefatigable support of the countries that helped make the Convention a reality in the first place. This is why we hope to see the states that you represent launch a major ratification and implementation campaign.”

Jean-Pierre Paquin, a member of the Canadian delegation, noted that the Québec National Assembly had already unanimously approved the convention on November 10. He assured that the Québec government would collaborate with the governments of Canada and France as well as the International Organization of the Francophonie and the European Union to lead a sustained campaign encouraging as many states as possible to diligently proceed with ratification. Mr. Paquin also added that the intense focus on ratification did not preclude taking a closer look at convention implementation. Pointing out that the challenge of ensuring vigorous and “inspired” implementation will have to be met as soon as the convention comes into force, he stressed that it is not just a matter of ensuring ratification, but of giving the convention the impetus for implementation that only the states parties can provide.

The 9th Annual Ministerial Meeting of the International Network on Cultural Policy (INCP) will be held in Brazil from November 27 to 29, 2006, with an invitation from the Brazilian's minister of Culture, Mr. Gilberto Gil.

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Germany: The new government puts accent on promoting culture

Angela Merkel, Chancelière allemande, le 2 novembre 2005 – 2005/12/02

The latest edition of Relatio – l’Europe en revue reports on comments by Germany’s new chancellor Angela Merkel, who declared that despite budget constraints, culture should not be the poor cousin of the new German government. “Our culture is the cornerstone of [social] cohesion, which is why my government doesn’t see cultural promotion as a subsidy [….] but rather as an investment that helps make Germany a pleasant place to live.” Echoing the chancellor’s words, Germany’s new minister of culture Bernd Neumann emphasized the importance of promoting culture. “We need the cultural specialists in all the parliamentary groups to spell out the importance of culture and its promotion. An all-party cultural coalition would be a strong signal in this regard.”

In its first cultural initiative, the Merkel government also announced plans to encourage private investor support for the film industry in order to improve production conditions and enjoyment of culture. And at the European and international levels, the government expressed its hopes for “agreements that protect cultural diversity, prevent culture from being reduced to a simple commodity, and leave the nation—including the communes and Lander—the freedom and the space for action so crucial to sustaining cultural diversity.”

Germany’s initiative follows closely on the adoption of the UNESCO Convention on the diversity of cultural expressions and coincides with the debut of a vast campaign to push for its ratification. Alongside France and the European Union, Germany has been a consistent advocate of the convention.

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Cuba speaks out for the preservation of cultural diversity

Abel Prieto, ministre cubain de la Culture, le 26 novembre 2005 – 2005/11/26

Speaking at the 8th Annual Ministerial Meeting of the International Network on Cultural Policy (INCP) in Dakar, Cuban culture minister Abel Pietro hailed the recent adoption of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions as a “moral victory." He declared that opponents who had fought the convention at UNESCO “underestimate and ignore the cultures of the Third World as well the spiritual wealth of humanity.” He also said the future of the convention would require vigilance “because its enemies will try to use the WTO to cancel out its real-life impact.”

The next WTO Ministerial Conference, described as "a major turning point in the Doha Round of negotiations to be completed in 2006," will be held in Hong Kong from December 13 to 18.

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Morocco: A International Convention to protect cultural diversity

Nabil Benabdellah, ministre marocain de la Communication et porte-parole du gouvernement, le 2 novembre 2005 – 2005/12/02

Speaking at the opening of the international conference organized by the Faculty of Legal Sciences in Mohammedia, the Moroccan Coalition for Culture and the Arts, and Mohammedia City Council under the theme Cultural diversity in a globalizing world: The Challenges, Morocco’s minister of communication and government spokesman, Nabil Benabdellah, noted that Morocco had actively supported the international draft Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions adopted at UNESCO on October 20. “The Moroccan delegation had absolutely no hesitations about supporting the Convention and speaking out in favor of UNESCO efforts to develop an international legal instrument to protect cultural and artistic diversity.” He added that the convention now deserves the attention of Moroccan academics, civil society, and media, urging them to fulfill their role in discussing and promoting awareness of the convention.

ISESCO director general Abdelaziz Ben Othman Altwaijri warned that “globalization as defined today aims, by its very nature, to impose a single way of life upon human culture. In doing so, it violates the principles of international law that are supposed to govern relations between states, peoples, and nations on the basis of mutual respect, law, equality, and international cooperation and in the interest of ensuring security, peace, and human dignity.” He stressed that “world stability depends on the establishment of a new world order that takes its strength from international legality, humanitarian principles, cultural values, and a heritage of human civilization. In this era of rampant globalization, respect for cultural pluralism is a responsibility all members of the international family share. Intellectuals, academics, and artists must be active at every level, promoting cultural diversity and its significance for humanity, and explaining the values of tolerance, cohabitation, and dialog, as well as the principles of human rights, citizenship, respect for diversity, and openness to other cultures.” All of these objectives are shared by the Moroccan Coalition for Culture and the Arts.

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China: Cultural diversity is the cornerstone of a harmonious world

Le Quotidien du Peuple, 11 novembre 2005 – 2005/11/11

Participants attending the 3rd Globalization Forum organized by the People’s Daily and the Foundation for Globalization Cooperation in China on November 8 and 9 touted cultural diversity as the answer to the challenges of globalization. They see economic globalization as representing an unprecedented challenge to cultural diversity. In recent years, the promotion and protection of cultural diversity have become major concerns for the international community. The adoption of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions “shows that the convention enjoys wide international support.”

Participants also stressed that the most important dimension of cultural diversity is the crucial role it plays in building a harmonious world. “Human history and reality show that cultural diversity is essential to harmony. Stressing cultural diversity is a way to appeal for the diversity of civilization. There has been much talk about ‘conflicts of civilizations’ in recent years. This involves nothing less than substituting one culture or civilization for another.” It is for this reason that forum participants see cultural diversity “as beneficial for both developing and developed countries. If developed countries regularly produce fresh new films, music, and novels that appeal to peoples worldwide, it is because they assimilate a variety of cultural influences. Cultural diversity is a constant source of renewal for individual cultures. It is beneficial at home and abroad. When we understand this, we cannot help but be aware of the importance of cultural diversity in building a harmonious world.”

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Recent Publications

"Culture, integration and African renaissance"

African Union (AU), Nairobi, Kenya, December 4, 2005 – 2005/12/04

The African Union Commission (AUC), in collaboration with the government of the Republic of Kenya, is organizing the first edition of the Pan-African Cultural Congress and the fifth session of the Conference of African Ministers of Culture from December 4 to 14, 2005 in Nairobi, Kenya. The general theme of both the Pan-African Cultural Congress and the ministerial conference is Culture, integration and African renaissance. Subthemes include cultural development; cultural dimensions of development, economic stakes of culture; Inter-African and international cultural cooperation; cultural policies in Africa; African culture and new information technologies.

The anticipated objectives and results of the congress are as follows: bring together experts, professionals, and government decision makers so that they can critically review the principal sectors that have been mobilizing cultural development actors for over fifty years, share their experiences, give new direction, and make recommendations; take stock of the major cultural issues and challenges that confront Africa as a result of globalization, and define strategies for the way forward; generate summary documents on a sector-by-sector basis and give creators and producers at the center of the action a relatively complete reference framework that extends beyond their respective sectoral horizons; contribute to the meaningful development of quality African cultural productions in order to conquer new markets; revisit the theme of cultural development, so that the contribution of culture to global development becomes more meaningful in the context of NEPAD; explore the possibilities and advantages that ICTs offer for sectorial and global initiatives; contribute to the renewal of African studies, some of which have been neglected to the almost exclusive benefit of productions with economic value; generate elements for a reorientation of African cultural policies on the basis of proposed studies and shared experiences; propose an outline of cultural policies and programs for AU decision makers.

The outcomes of theses meetings will be presented to the special session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government scheduled to take place in January 2006 in Khartoum, Sudan.

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EU Competition Policy and the audiovisual sector: The double nature of audiovisual goods and services and its impact on supranational regulation

IRIS plus – Legal Observations of the European Audiovisual Observatory, Strasbourg, November 2005 – 2005/11

The European Audiovisual Observatory has just published its latest IRIS plus entitled Application of EC Competition Policy regarding Agreements and State Aid in the Audiovisual Field. This report analyses the legal status of agreements and state aid concerning the audiovisual sector in EC law in accordance with the principle of free competition. The report starts by explaining in detail how EC competition rules are applied to business agreements between audiovisual undertakings, and also examines state aid to national audiovisual undertakings with regards to EC competition law. Secondly, the report looks at the exemption of certain types of audiovisual business agreements or forms of state aid from competition law restrictions, and provides an in-depth analysis of the developments which have opened the door to undisputed state funding of public broadcasting.

Finally, the report reminds us that the European Commission has announced that it will undertake consultations with a view to reforming State aid for film and television production, and concludes by highlighting the importance of the EC provision which aims at preserving the cultural diversity of European member states in any such reform. The author of the report, Laurence Mayer-Robitaille, comes to the conclusion that these agreements and state aid are treated with ambivalence—although they are subject to the principle of free competition, they receive special treatment under certain provisions of the Treaty establishing the European Community.

Moreover, this IRIS plus ties in to an earlier IRIS plus 2003-6 entitled European Public Film Support within the WTO Framework in that both articles examine the dual nature of audiovisual goods and services and its impact on supranational regulation. It is in this perspective that the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, which was adopted by an overwhelming majority of UNESCO member states at the 33rd General Conference plenary in October 2005 in Paris, is evoked. The Convention underscores that “cultural activities, goods and services have both an economic and a cultural nature, because they convey identities, values and meanings, and must therefore not be treated as solely having commercial value” (Recital 18). In this respect, the author asserts that the adoption of the UNESCO convention underlines the desire to support cultural values, yet EC competition rules remain an important yardstick for how much support seems acceptable in a free market.

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