Vol. 8, no 5, Monday, February 18, 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, 78 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.
“The ninth celebration of International Mother Language Day on February 21 is of particular importance in this year of 2008, proclaimed International Year of Languages by the United Nations General Assembly, which has entrusted UNESCO with the task of coordinating it.”
UNESCO director general Koïchiro Matsuura thus began his address to the first edition of International Mother Language Day.
Matsuura stated that “far from being a field reserved for analysis by specialists, languages lie at the heart of all social, economic, and cultural life.” In this regard, he noted, “that is the meaning of the slogan launched by UNESCO for the International Year of Languages: ‘Languages Matter!’”
Continuing in the same vein, the director general recalled that languages matter, among other things, “when we want to promote cultural diversity and fight illiteracy, and they matter for quality education, including teaching in the mother language in the first years of schooling.”
Matsuura concluded, “On the occasion of this ninth International Mother Language Day, I am launching an appeal for the importance of linguistic diversity and multilingualism to be acknowledged everywhere: in education, administrative and legal systems, in cultural expressions and in the media, cyberspace, and trade. Let all the members of the United Nations family, all the Member States, and partners and friends of UNESCO join together to show that ‘Languages Matter!’”
We invite you to familiarize yourself with this important message from the UNESCO director general in full.
This year, notes UNESCO, International Mother Language Day will place special emphasis on international standard setting instruments related to multilingualism. According to UNESCO, a seminar—organized in conjunction with the Council of Europe—will be held at UNESCO headquarters on February 21, 2008. Legal instruments such as the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage will be examined. UNESCO indicates that linguistic policies put into effect on the African continent and in countries like Hungary and Paraguay are also on the agenda for discussion.
The January/February 2008 issue of Le Multilatéral magazine features an article by Bruno Maltais entitled “L’appareil diplomatique québécois dans le dossier de la diversité culturelle.”
Bruno Maltais is studying for a Master’s in international relations at UQAM (Université du Québec à Montréal) and writing a thesis on Québec and Belgium and cultural diversity. He is director general of APEM, the World Student Press Agency. APEM is a multilingual, not-for-profit organization dedicated to sharing information between student media. (http://www.studentpa.info/).
Read the article (in French) on the Le Multilatéral website.
In a February 1, 2008 release, the European Commission notes that in this year dedicated to intercultural dialog, “the EU is keen to learn how it can promote language learning.” To this end, it has commissioned a report from a group of leading experts. The report’s key recommendation, according to the release, is that “the EU should encourage all Europeans to learn a ‘personal adoptive language’ akin to a second mother tongue.”
“A good knowledge of other languages builds bridges and promotes understanding between cultures,” said multilingualism commissioner Leonard Orban. The European Commission press release added that the report’s findings should fuel discussions at the inaugural ministerial conference on multilingualism on February 15, which will be attended by education ministers from every EU country.
Entitled “A Rewarding Challenge—How the Multiplicity of Languages Could Strengthen Europe,” the report is available online at
On January 24, 2008, the European Commission announced the results of a study showing that participating in school partnerships under the E.U.’s Comenius program brings clear advantages to the pupils, teachers, and schools involved. According to the press release, “such school partnerships have been found to help pupils to learn better, they improve schools’ teaching and learning environments, motivate pupils and teachers to learn foreign languages, and improve intercultural awareness and competences.”
The E.C. commissioned a study in 2007 to assess the impact of these Comenius school partnerships on teachers, pupils, and the participating schools as a whole.
The press release states that Ján Figel', E.U. commissioner for education, training, culture, and youth, welcomed these findings and stressed the need to strengthen the European dimension in school education. “Comenius brings ‘ Europe’ into the classrooms and enriches school education. But it is not only about bringing young Europeans together. It also helps pupils and teachers to improve key competences and skills that are needed for a successful career in our increasingly advanced, knowledge-based society. This study shows how much pupils, teachers, and schools have to gain by taking part in Comenius. I encourage many more to join in, particularly in this European Year of Intercultural Dialog 2008.”
Among other things, the Commission adds that the survey showed that more than 80% of teachers noted that their pupils became more interested in other countries and cultures. “They improved considerably their knowledge of life in general and school life in particular in the partner countries, and also showed more tolerance towards other cultures and foreigners,” notes the press release.
For more information on the results of the European Commission study, visit http://ec.europa.eu/education/programmes/llp/impact_en.html.
Information on the Comenius program in particular is available from the following address: http://ec.europa.eu/education/programmes/llp/comenius/index_en.html.
The Prix des cinq continents was created by the International Organization of La Francophonie in 2001. It “honors a novel that describes a specific cultural experience that enriches the French language. It is open to French-language authors at all points in their careers and promotes the expression of cultural and literary diversity of the French language on all five continents.”
OIF explains on its website that the competition is open to novels published between March 1, 2007, and March 1, 2008. It adds that entries must be submitted by publishers no later than March 31, 2008. Suggestions from authors, bookstores, literary critics, and lovers of French-language literature are welcome.
The 2008 contest is now underway:
All information required to submit an entry can be requested from OIF (see contact details below) or consulted online (downloadable files).
Finally, OIF notes that the results of the 2008 edition will be announced in the week of October 13, when the award will be conferred during the 12th Francophonie Summit of Heads of State and Government.
International Organization of La Francophonie
13 quai André Citroën, 75015
Telephone: (33) 1 44 37 32 52
The European Commission has announced that an ad hoc meeting on cultural cooperation protocol in EU trade agreements will be held on February 19, 2008. The purpose of the meeting is to inform civil society on the progress made in implementing the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions by introducing the cultural cooperation protocol into trade agreements, including the initial CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement.
The meeting’s agenda will be as follows:
The meeting will be held in the Jean Monnet Room of the Berlaymont Building, 200 rue de la Loi, Brussels.
The European Commission invitation contains a hyperlink to a document on cultural cooperation protocol in future EU trade agreements. The document recalls that the European Commission elaborated in 2007 a model text for a cultural cooperation protocol to be used in future EU trade agreements. The protocol aims to implement the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, in the context of these agreements. To find out more, consult the document entitled “Followup Argumentaire On the Cultural Cooperation Protocol in Future EU Trade Agreements” by clicking on the link at the foot of the Commission’s invitation.
We invite you to visit Sudplanete.net, a cultural diversity portal entirely devoted to artists and cultural operators from the south. Southplanet.net aims to showcase southern contemporary artistic expression using a vast database that offers a highly specialized search engine and a host of links to other sites.
In an editorial entitled “Shared Cultures,” Virginie Andriamirado, editor in chief of Southplanet.net writes, “Backed in its creation stage by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and developed by Africultures, Southplanet.net currently concerns all the countries in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific, the countries of the Indochinese peninsula and several more; in other words, over 80 countries.”