Thursday, September 23, 2004

Update on Draft Cultural Diversity Convention Meeting

The following report is based upon observations by Steve Buckley from AMARC, who is attending the intergovernmental meeting on the draft cultural diversity convention meeting in Paris.

Leading Civil Society groups at the meeting are the International Network for Cultural Diversity, (INCD) International Liaision Committee of Coalitions of Cultural Diversity, UNESCO NGO Liaision Committee, and the International Federation for Human Rights. All of these have prepared texts commenting on the draft. Others represented include the International Theatre Institute and the Independent Publishers Association.

Draft Article 19

The main issues for civil society are the wording of Article 19 and the absence of any sanctions mechanism. Article 19 (Relationship to other [legal] instruments)consists of two possible texts. There is broad consensus that the USA inspired Option B makes the convention useless or worse. It reads:

“Nothing in this convention shall affect the rights and obligations of the States Parties under any other existing international instruments.”

There is less agreement about modifying Option A., which reads:

“1. Nothing in this convention may be interpreted as affecting the rights and obligations of state parties under any existing international instrument relating to intellectual property rights to which they are parties.
2. The provisions of this convention shall not affect the rights and obligations of any state party deriving from any existing international
instrument, except where the exercise of those rights and obligations would cause serious damage or threat to the diversity of cultural expressions”

INCD has no failed to reach a consensus on the first paragraph (relating to intellectual property rights).

There seems to be broad consensus that paragraph 2 of Option A should be strengthened. Some alternative forms of words were tabled by INCD, the Coalition for Cultural Diversity and the UNESCO NGO Liaison Committee.

In an intervention on behalf of AMARC, Steve Buckley raised the issues of media pluralism and intellectual property rights. The matter of the effect of the existing world regime for property rights on Third World countries and the cultural rights of groups such as indigenous peoples were also raised.

Next Steps

According to Steve Buckley the general civil society assessment is that not much will be achieved this week. It is both two wide ranging and two specific in detail. Many governments have not yet determined their own positions. There is a deadline of 15 November for governments to make formal commentaries on the draft. This is the timeline within which civil society groups have a chance to lobby both governments and organizations like the INCD to improve the draft text.