Thursday, June 30, 2005

UNESCO meeting on Cultural Diversity Convention ends with broad agreement

The Third and final session of the Intergovernmental Meeting on the draft UNESCO Convention on Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions finished its work on June 3rd. The result was widely seen as a defeat for the United States which opposed acceptance of the final draft text. The text, which was approved by representatives of 130 States will be presented at the UNESCO General Conference for discussion and possible approval in October 2005.

According to the Canadian culture minister, “The Convention recognizes the dual nature of cultural goods and services as having both an economic and social value; the Convention reaffirms the right of states to take measures in support of cultural expression; and the Convention is supportive and on equal footing with other international agreements and not subordinated by these agreements.”

These views were supported by the French Coalition for Cultural Diversity which was pleased that “In article 20 on the convention’s relationship with other international instruments—the item that sparked the liveliest debate with the American delegation—the draft reaffirms the principle of non-subordination to other treaties and obliges parties to take into account the requirements of cultural diversity when interpreting or enforcing their international obligations or entering into new commitments.”

The European Broadcasting Union, (EBU), representing European public broadcasters, was observed that the text “will become a reference text for public broadcasters throughout the world” and highlighted that among the most important changes to the original draft was “the recognition of the importance of pluralism of the media (Preamble) as well as the crucial role that public services play in this respect (art. -6.2.h).”

A Swiss sponsored amendment also recognized the important role played by civil society organizations in strengthening cultural diversity.

However, the battle is not yet over, as the US delegation issued a Press Release which asserted that “The draft convention produced by this Working Group is deeply flawed and fundamentally incompatible with UNESCO’s constitutional obligation to promote the free flow of ideas by word and image.” The US has said that it will continue to work to have the text amended by October.

A summary of press and other comment on the draft text can be found at

Future convention sur la protection et la promotion de la diversité des expressions culturelles: « Première victoire pour l'exception culturelle à l'UNESCO »

Revue de presse du 7 au 13 juin 2005