Cultural diversity

Frequently Asked Questions

This is a great place to find answers to questions you may have about the Convention.

General information

  • How does the International Fund for Cultural Diversity work?

    The International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD) was instituted under Article 18 of the Convention and promotes sustainable development and poverty reduction in developing countries. Projects selected must encourage the emergence of a thriving cultural sector, for example by implementing or developing cultural policy to promote diverse forms of cultural expressions or by strengthening the institutional structures underlying cultural industries. The IFCD does not however fund projects solely aimed at producing cultural expressions. Projects may receive up to $100,000 in funding.

    IFCD beneficiaries may be Parties to the Convention or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from developing countries, as well as international organizations that meet the definition of civil society NGOs.

    Eligible projects are first evaluated by a panel of international experts from the five UNESCO-defined regions. The panel’s recommendations are then sent on to the Intergovernmental Committee, which meets every year in December. The Committee is in charge of making final decisions regarding projects to fund. 

  • How can states ratify the Convention?

    Section VII of the Convention (Final clauses), articles 26 and 27, stipulate that states can deposit instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval, or accession, in accordance with their respective constitutional procedures, to the Secretary-General of UNESCO. To find out more about the steps involved in becoming a party to the Convention, visit the 2005 Convention website, where the ratification process is described in full.

  • Why is it important for governments to ratify the Convention?

    Ratifying the Convention is very important for a host of reasons, including the following:

    • The Convention is the result of a lengthy negotiation process and it reaffirms, in accordance with the UN Charter, international law, and other recognized human rights legislation, the sovereign rights of states to maintain, adopt, and implement policies to develop strong cultural sectors and to contribute to a true diversity of cultural expressions, nationally and internationally. The convention also stresses the importance of being open to other cultures from around the world and creating the conditions in which different cultures can grow, thrive, and mutually enrich one another. Further, the Convention serves as an international forum for discussing challenges to the diversity of cultural expressions and policy designed to support this key sector.
    • The Convention recognizes the distinctive nature of cultural activities, goods, and services as vehicles of identity, values, and meaning that transcend their commercial value. The Convention is an exemplary tool for governments facing pressure to loosen restrictions in the cultural sector, whether it comes from the World Trade Organization (WTO) or from other parties during bilateral or multilateral negotiations.
    • The Convention creates an innovative cooperation platform, notably through the International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD), with the objective of favoring the emergence of thriving cultural sectors in developing countries. It serves as a driver of cooperation for sustainable development and a tool to combat poverty.
    • The Convention reaffirms the importance of the connection between culture and development. In this sense, it supports actions carried out nationally and internationally and provides genuine recognition of this vital link. The Convention parties are encouraged to integrate culture in their policy, national development plans, and international cooperation strategies.

    It is critical that the Convention be ratified by as many parties as possible, from every region of the world. Currently, Asia-Pacific and Arab states are underrepresented. As more states become parties to the Convention, it will exert greater influence in international law. Therefore, states that are party to the Convention and civil society actors must continue their work to encourage the ratification of the Convention and boost visibility by promoting it in international forums.

  • Why do the Parties have to submit quadrennial periodic reports?

    Under Article 9, which deals with information sharing and transparency, the Parties to the Convention must submit a periodic report to the Convention Secretariat every four years on their territory’s implementation of the Convention.

    This report allows the Parties to share experiences and best practices in the diversity of cultural expressions. It also discusses how the Parties deal with certain cross-sector matters, such as digital issues, gender equality, and youth participation. Lastly, the Parties are encouraged to involve members of civil society in drafting the report—an important consideration given Article 11 of the Convention, which recognizes the fundamental role of civil society in the matter.

    Québec submitted its first quadrennial periodic report in 2012 as an appendix to the Canadian report tabled with the Convention Secretariat, and will submit a second report in the same way in 2016.

  • Why is there an Expert Facility?

    The Expert Facility was founded in 2011 as part of a European Union–funded project to strengthen the system of governance for culture in developing countries. At the beginning it comprised 30 high-level international experts on cultural policy, governance, and industry, drawn from 24 countries. The Facility exists to support developing countries through technical assistance missions to strengthen their human and institutional capacities as well as their cultural governance systems.

    It was reformed in 2015 to enhance its ability to support capacity-building initiatives in countries implementing the Convention. A call for expressions of interest was launched and a new, more geographically diverse, gender-balanced group of 43 experts selected, representing a broader range of fields.

    The Expert Facility can be sought out for various interventions, including workshops, advisory technical assistance, short- and long-term capacity building missions, monitoring, or coaching.

    Five Canadians are members of the Facility, including Véronique Guèvremont, a professor at Université Laval’s Faculty of Law, holder of the UNESCO Chair on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, and co-founder of the International Network of Lawyers for the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, and Charles Vallerand, former executive director of the Canadian Coalition for Cultural Diversity (to June 2016).

  • What are the roles of the Conference of Parties, the Intergovernmental Committee, and the Convention Secretariat? (New)

    Conference of Parties

    The Conference of Parties is made up of all Parties to the Convention. It is the plenary and supreme body of the Convention and meets in ordinary session every two years. Its functions include the following:

    • Electing the members of the Intergovernmental Committee
    • Receiving and examining reports from Parties to the Convention disseminated by the Intergovernmental Committee
    • Approving the operational guidelines prepared at its request by the Intergovernmental Committee
    • Taking any other measure it may deem necessary to further the objectives of the Convention

    Intergovernmental Committee

    The Intergovernmental Committee is made up of 24 Parties to the Convention elected for a term of four years. The Committee operates under the authority of the Conference of Parties and is accountable to it. It meets each year in December. The Committee’s main duties are the following:

    • Promote the objectives of the Convention and encourage and monitor its implementation
    • Prepare and submit for approval to the Conference of Parties, upon its request, operational guidelines for the implementation and application of Convention provisions
    • Submit reports from Parties to the Convention, together with its observations and a summary of their content, to the Conference of Parties
    • Make suitable recommendations for situations brought to the attention of the Parties to the Convention
    • Establish procedures and other consultation tools to promote Convention objectives and principles in other international forums
    • Perform any other task it may be assigned by the Conference of Parties

    Convention Secretariat

    The Secretariat assists the Convention bodies. It prepares the documentation of the Conference of Parties and the Intergovernmental Committee, as well as draft agendas of their meetings and helps with and reports on the implementation of their decisions.

Operational guidelines

  • What does the text of the Convention say about operational guidelines?

    There is no definition of operational guideline in the text of the Convention. However, Article 22.4(c) entrusts the Conference of Parties with responsibility for “approving the operational guidelines prepared by the Intergovernmental Committee.” In addition, Article 23.6(b) of the Convention entrusts the Intergovernmental Committee with the role of “preparing and submitting for approval by the Conference of Parties, upon its request, the operational guidelines for the implementation and application of the provisions of the Convention.”

    What does this mean in concrete terms?

    • When the Conference of Parties meets, it can adopt a resolution asking the Intergovernmental Committee to prepare an operational guideline on a given article or topic.
    • The Convention Secretariat then prepares a preliminary draft operational guideline in advance of the next session of the Intergovernmental Committee.
    • During the Committee session, the Committee examines the preliminary draft prepared by the Secretariat. It may then decide to adopt the draft operational guideline, which must be approved at the next session of the Conference of Parties.
    • The Conference of Parties may adopt a resolution approving the draft operational directive forwarded by the Committee. Once approved by the Conference of Parties, the draft becomes an operational guideline.
  • What is the purpose of an operational guideline?

    An operational guideline is a tool available to the State Parties to the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions to clarify, explain, supplement, and facilitate the understanding of an article or a provision of the Convention, especially when the text of the Convention is vague or not explicitly defined.

    Operational guidelines help guide the Parties in implementing articles or provisions of the Convention by defining the terms in a concrete manner. For example, the operational guideline on Article 9 provides a framework for the quadrennial periodic reports that Parties must submit to the UNESCO Secretariat four years after having deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, and every four years thereafter.

  • How many operational guidelines are there?

    To date, twelve articles of the Convention have been the subject of operational guidelines:

    • Articles 7, 8, 17: Measures to Promote and Protect Cultural Expressions;
    • Article 9: Information Sharing and Transparency;
    • Article 10: Education and Public Awareness;
    • Article 11: Participation of Civil Society;
    • Article 13: Integration of Culture in Sustainable Development;
    • Article 14: Cooperation for Development;
    • Article 15: Collaborative Arrangements;
    • Article 16: Preferential Treatment for Developing Countries;
    • Article 18: International Fund for Cultural Diversity;
    • Article 19: Exchange, Analysis, and Dissemination of Information.

    There are also operational guidelines on the following topics:

    • Measures to ensure the visibility and the promotion of the Convention;
    • Use of the emblem of the Convention.

    These operational guidelines are available on the UNESCO website in English, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, and Serbian.

  • Can an operational guideline be revised?

    At the request of the Conference of Parties, an operational guideline may be revised by the Intergovernmental Committee, which then must obtain the approval of the Conference of Parties.

    To date, two operational guidelines have been revised:

    • The guidelines governing the use of the International Fund for Cultural Diversity was revised by the Intergovernmental Committee in December 2012 and approved by the Conference of Parties in June 2013.
    • The guidelines concerning the periodic reports (Article 9, Information sharing and transparency): The revised guidelines were adopted by the Intergovernmental Committee at its eighth session in December 2014 and must be approved by the Conference of Parties at its regular session in June 2015.
  • Are any operational guidelines in the process of being drafted?

    At the eighth session of the Intergovernmental Committee in December 2014, the Committee decided to submit, at the fifth session of the Conference of Parties, “the proposal to mandate the Committee, in consultation with the Parties, to prepare, at its ninth ordinary session, draft operational guidelines on digital issues and the diversity of cultural expressions that will take into account, in particular, international cooperation” (Decision 8.IGC.12).

    During its 5th ordinary session in June 2015, the Conference of Parties (CP) requested the Intergovernmental Committee (IC) to submit draft operational guidelines on digital issues for its approval at its next session (June 2017). At its 9th session in December 2015, the IC was invited to launch an initial debate on the preparation of the draft operational guidelines on digital issues. A draft was adopted by the IC at its 10th meeting in December 2016 and will be submitted to the CP for its approval in June 2017.

UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity

  • When and in what context was the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity adopted?

    The Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity was adopted by UNESCO on November 2, 2001, following the events of September 11, 2001. This statement was an opportunity

    In December 2002, the UN General Assembly declared May 21 World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. The purpose of this day is to deepen understanding of the values of cultural diversity to learn how to better “live together.” Every year UNESCO invites Member States and civil society to celebrate this day.

  • What are the links between the Declaration and the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions?

    The Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity is made up of twelve articles proclaiming various principles grouped under the following headings: Identity, Diversity and Pluralism; Cultural Diversity and Human Rights; Cultural Diversity and Creativity, and Cultural Diversity and International Solidarity.

    The first principle addressed by the Declaration, in Article 1, asserts that cultural diversity is part of the "common heritage of humanity" and notes that “cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature." In Article 3 the Declaration states that cultural diversity is “one of the roots of development, understood not simply in terms of economic growth, but also as a means to achieve a more satisfactory intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual existence."

    Whereas the Declaration addresses cultural diversity in its broadest sense, the Convention refers to a specific field of cultural diversity: the diversity of cultural expressions, defined as expressions which "result from the creativity of individuals, groups, and societies, and that have cultural content” (Article 4.3 of the Convention).

    The Declaration served as the basis of the Convention, which reaffirms many of its principles including the following:

    • The specificity of cultural goods and services which, as vectors of identity, values and meaning, must not be treated as mere commodities or consumer goods.
    • The right of each State, with due regard to its international obligations, to define its cultural policy and to implement it through the means it considers fit, whether by operational support or appropriate regulations.
    • The importance of promoting cultural diversity, which is the key to sustainable human development. From this perspective, the pre-eminence of public policy, in partnership with the private sector and civil society, must be reaffirmed.
    • The need to reinforce international cooperation and solidarity aimed at enabling all countries, especially developing countries and countries in transition, to establish cultural industries that are viable and competitive at national and international level.

    The Action Plan appended to the Declaration sets several objectives, including "deepening the international debate on […] the advisability of an international legal instrument on cultural diversity." This objective was achieved with the successful drafting of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, adopted in October 2005.