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Profile: UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions

UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions was a participant or observer in the following events:

The UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions is adopted at the 33rd UNESCO General Conference held in Paris, France. It is the first major international convention to be adopted that reaffirms the sovereign right of states to formulate and implement cultural policies. The convention’s approval is seen as a challenge to the legitimacy of the global regime of bilateral, regional and multilateral free trade agreements revolving around the World Trade Organization (WTO), in particular regarding international trade in cultural goods and services and the related cultural policies effected by governments. The approval of this international instrument is seen as a major culmination of years-long efforts led by Canada and the European Union, specifically France, to arrest liberalization commitments in various free trade agreements that tend to strengthen Hollywood’s overwhelming advantage in the global film, music, publishing, advertising, and other cultural industries. The convention is overwhelmingly approved despite a strong counter-lobby by the United States. A hundred and forty-eight vote in the convention’s favor, four countries (Australia, Honduras, Liberia, and Nicaragua) abstain, and only two countries—the United States and Israel—vote against its approval. ((editor) 10/2005)

Through a unanimous all-party vote at its National Assembly, Quebec becomes the first government worldwide to approve the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. The approval comes just three weeks after the landslide vote for the international convention at the UNESCO 33rd General Conference in Paris, France. The day’s favorable vote on the convention is marked as well by statements by leading officials of Quebec noting Quebec’s prime role in the formation of the UNESCO instrument, as well as how the convention boosts Quebec’s efforts to protect and promote its cultural industries. Deputy Premier and Minister of International Relations Monique Gagnon-Tremblay emphasizes Quebec’s important contribution to the “emergence of an international instrument of fundamental importance for the cultural sector, and over and beyond this, for the socio-economic development of all our peoples at the beginning of the 21st century.” Culture and Communications Minister Line Beauchamp ends her own statements by calling the adoption of the convention “a great day for Quebec culture,” adding: ”(T)he fundamental issue is the commitment of states to support their cultures through cultural policies that take the form of subsidies, tax credits, of regulatory policies.… We should be aware to what degree everyday life is shaped and affected by culture and artistic creations.… It is important to realize that the cultural policies I just described are behind the songs you hear on the radio, the television programs you watch, the books you read, your encounters with culture.” For his part, Claude B├ęchard, minister of economic development, innovation, and exports, stresses the convention “will serve as a tool of reference for states facing pressure to liberalize their cultural sectors by helping to legitimize at the international level their cultural policies.” Premier Jean Charest, meantime, highlights the close cooperation between Quebec and the federal government of Canada in building international support for the convention. Charest indicates again his government is determined to continue championing the convention internationally, and to continue supporting Canada’s Coalition for Cultural Diversity and Quebec’s leading cultural organizations in their work to mobilize cultural professionals around the world to support ratification. (McKee 11/2005)

Canada becomes the first country to ratify the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. Canada’s November 22 ratification comes just 33 days after the international instrument was adopted at the 33rd UNESCO General Conference in Paris, France. The prompt ratification meets a previous public commitment made by Minister of Canadian Heritage Liza Frulla, shortly after the November 22 adoption at the UNESCO Conference, that Canada would be the first to ratify the convention “ideally before Christmas [of 2005].” Frulla recalls at the signing ceremonies in Montreal on November 23, “some people gave me a very skeptical look [after I made that pronouncement], and thought I was dreaming in Technicolor.” But she points out that her resolve to make good the ratification commitment was matched by that of Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, who Frulla says “has always been a strong defender and promoter of this convention.” Frulla relates further: “[A]s soon as I got back, we triggered the process so that Canada could be in a position to ratify this convention.… And today we can say mission accomplished. Clearly, this is a great day for our artists, our culture, our cultural industries, and for our country.” Frulla, Martin, Quebec Minister of Culture and Communications Line Beauchamp, and Scott McIntyre and Pierre Curzi, co-chairs of Canada’s Coalition for Cultural Diversity, offer congratulations to each other at the Montreal ceremonies for the convention’s quick ratification in record time. (McKee 11/2005)

The UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions enters into force. In accordance with the ratification procedure, this happens three months after 30 countries deposited their instruments of ratification at UNESCO. UNESCO Director General Koichiro Matsuura notes, “None of UNESCO’s other cultural conventions has been adopted by so many states in so little time.” The 30 countries are Albania, Austria, Belarus, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Djibouti, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Guatemala, India, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Namibia, Peru, the Republic of Moldova, Romania, Senegal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Togo. By the time it comes into force, 22 more countries have deposited their ratification instruments at UNESCO. (UNESCO 3/2007)


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