Monday, September 27, 2004

Conclusions of the Cultural Diversity Meeting

The following account is an edited version of a report by Steve Buckley from AMARC. The important points are that the crucial meeting to agree the text will be held in Paris in January and that interested groups and individuals should be lobbying their governements and making their positions clear between now and November 15th. Governements have to submit formal comments by that date.

"The intergovernmental conference finished early, at noon on Friday 24 September. Governments are invited to submit their formal comments by 15 November. It is not completely clear if NGO comments will also be accepted and included in the Secretariat report.

The next intergovernmental meeting will be in Paris, for two weeks, starting 31 January 2005. This meeting will be the critical meeting for negotiation on the text.

Governments have appointed a bureau and a drafting committee, including the USA, France, Switzerland, Finland, Japan, South Africa, India and others.

The main points were that the draft formed a good basis for discussion, that the preamble and the principles need to be fine tuned, the definitions section is rather wordy and there were differences of opinion on how this should be approached included the definitions of culture. Some delegations wanted greater attention to language and/or religion.

In the main issues of the draft there were different views on Options A and B and an aspiration to find a "third way" that would achieve greater consensus. The relevance of Annexes A and B were questioned, these could well be dropped entirely.

There was a tension between countries that see the convention as primarily asserting a right to defend their national culture in the face of globalisation and those that see the convention as
significantly about cultural diversity within countries.

Many delegations spoke positively about the importance of involving civil society. There
were several reservations about creating new institutions such as the proposed observatory however others noted that the absence of any dedicated monitoring mechanism would substantially reduce the efrfectiveness of the treaty.

A final list of participants was distributed and should be available electronically shortly. It has full contact details, including emails, for most delegates including government representatives. 132 governments were represented at the meeting. International organisations listed as present were UNESCO, WIPO, UNCTAD, WTO and UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples, plus 4 regional bodies. 20 NGOs were listed as participants.

NGOs are strongly encouraged to submit their own proposals to the UNESCO Secretariat by 15 November (although they should be published earlier if they are to influence government positions). The Secretariat will be asked to include NGO responses as an Annex to the compilation document for the next conference. . It was also agreed to call on the sponsoring governments (Canada is sponsoring the January/February 2005 meeting) to provide financial support for south participation."