Cultural diversity

Interview with Danielle Cliche


Biographical notes
Danielle Cliche joined UNESCO in 2009 as Secretary of the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and Chief of Section on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. She is responsible for implementation of the Convention worldwide, supports the work of governing bodies, and manages a team responsible for related operational programs providing technical expertise to strengthen cultural governance in developing countries or financial support through the International Fund for Cultural Diversity.

Ms. Cliche was previously research manager at the European Institute for Comparative Cultural Research (ERICarts Institute) and founding co-editor of the Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe. Since the early 1990s, she has carried out a wide range of international comparative research studies in the field of culture. Ms. Cliche graduated from the University of Ottawa with a degree in communication theory, culture, and international comparative politics. She earned her PhD from Vrije Universitat Amsterdam in 2009.

Source : UNESCO

Question - Can you describe for us the path (academic, professional, etc.) that led you to the post of Secretary of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions?

Answer – When I was appointed Secretary of the 2005 UNESCO Convention and Chief of Section on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions in 2009, I took on a position that draws on both my civil society experience and my cultural policy research. Before I came to UNESCO, I was a research fellow at the European Institute for Comparative Cultural Research (ERICarts Institute) and founding co-editor of the Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe.

In the 1990s I had the opportunity to conduct a number of international comparative research studies in the field of culture. My academic path set the course for me in a way because I studied communication theory, culture, and international comparative politics at the University of Ottawa. I also earned my PhD from Vrije Universitat Amsterdam in 2009, and my thesis dealt with the Convention.

Question - As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Convention, to what extent do you believe it has been implemented worldwide?

Answer – First I’d like to point out that operational implementation of the Convention has been ongoing for over five years thanks to a number of different mechanisms. Take the International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD). It’s proving its worth, and we’re already on our fifth funding appeal. Thanks to the fund, about US$5.3 million in grants has been awarded to 78 projects in 48 developing countries, nearly half of which are in Africa and half are projects spearheaded by civil society organizations.

Then you have the Parties’ quadrennial periodical reports, which are another Convention implementation mechanism. The information, best practices, and data gathered will be featured in the first edition of the Convention Monitoring Report to be published and presented at the next session of the Intergovernmental Committee in December 2015. The Parties are actively involved in this exercise to share information about the measures taken to ensure the diversity of cultural expressions. Seventy-six reports were submitted between 2012 and 2015, and another 103 will be coming in in 2016. These reports highlight major shifts in cultural governance, including new legislation, policies, and institutions in the areas of culture, development, employment, and social affairs, including those promoting the status of artists.

The Convention aspires to a new form of international cooperation rooted in international consultation and cooperation and preferential treatment, so in 2011 the Parties decided they wanted information on the impacts implementation is having. The consultations held since then with Convention stakeholders, particularly members of civil society, are a testament to the attention paid to trade, international cooperation, culture, and development. One important outcome of this effort: Since Convention adoption in 2005, seven trade agreements binding over 50 Parties have been reached that specifically refer to the Convention.

Another positive indicator is the inclusion of culture in development policy as the Convention has been at the heart of many international debates on the subject. This has bolstered UNESCO’s case to put culture on the post-2015 agenda.

And lastly, ten years after its adoption, the Convention has taken up the issue of digital technology for the first time.

I’m happy to report that Canada and Québec have played a pivotal role in all these areas as well as in implementation.

Question - At the 5th session of the Conference of Parties, the Intergovernmental Committee was charged with drafting operational guidelines on digital technology. What prompted this in your view?

Answer – There’s no doubt that digital technology is having an impact on cultural industries today. The digital revolution is underway, and it’s transforming the way we create, produce, deliver, and access cultural goods and services. In today’s interconnected societies where tablets and mobile phones are ubiquitous, new business models are emerging to deliver cultural content differently, and new online businesses are posing new regulatory and taxation challenges.

So while digital technology presents a whole host of opportunities, there are many obstacles to overcome, and serious threats must be addressed in order to implement the Convention in the digital age. I think that’s why the Convention governing bodies have discussed these issues so extensively over the past three years. The next step will be to promote the diversity of cultural expressions in the digital age. New operational guidelines will be issued to help the Parties implement the Convention in today’s innovative, creative, attractive, yet complex environment.

Question - In addition to digital technology, what do you think are the main roadblocks to Convention implementation?

Answer – I could list a lot of things, but I’d say there are three main challenges, one being digital technology. Like I said, the diversity of cultural expressions in the digital age is a challenge the Parties must address because the Convention calls for a more balanced exchange of cultural goods and services, regardless of the environment in which they are produced and delivered because it is tech neutral. Next, the Parties to the IFCD have to contribute more.

You’ll recall that the Fund relies exclusively on voluntary contributions, which is a serious problem since it can no longer meet the growing demand of developing countries. Take last year, for example. The Committee was able to support just 13 of the nearly 200 eligible projects due to limited resources. As I explained, the IFCD is a very important operational mechanism for Convention implementation for developing countries and civil society, which are its primary benefactors. Finally, the Convention is at a crossroads when it comes to international cooperation and trade, so implementation of articles 16 and 21 is essential.

Question - What do you think the next 10 years hold for the Convention (e.g., to what degree will the Convention be implemented, will the main challenges facing Parties today be addressed, etc.)?

Answer  I think we have to be optimistic. This Convention has surprised us before. It was negotiated and adopted quickly, and 140 Parties have ratified it to date (139 Member States and the European Union), making it universal just 10 years after taking effect.

And the mechanisms have been in place and tested for a few years now, so the frameworks have been tweaked as needed, such as for the Parties’ quadrennial periodic reports and the IFCD. I truly believe that the next few years will be as exciting as the past few.

Given the spirit of consensus and camaraderie that runs through the Convention, both in the governing bodies and civil society representatives, I’m confident we’ll overcome the challenges we face.

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