Ratification of the UNESCO Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions

30 August 2006

The mobilization campaign to ratify the UNESCO Convention by the Member States is building growing momentum: To the 5 States that have already formally deposited their instrument of ratification with UNESCO (Canada, Mauritius, Mexico, Romania, Monaco), 2 other States have been added: Bolivia (August 4) and Djibouti(August 9). And it is possible to think that this number will increase during the next months to obtain the 23 ratifications remaining. Based on available information (source: Diversity of Cultural Expressions News, August 21, 2006), 10 other States have concluded their internal ratification processes and are expected to file their instruments with the Director General of UNESCO in short order: Togo, Peru, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Croatia, France, Finland and Austria. Concerning Austria, it must be underlined that Austrian Parliament has already ratified the UNESCO Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions: The National Council (Lower House) ratified the Convention on 12 July and the Federal Council (Upper House) on last 27 July. And, just like France and Finland, Austria is waiting for the other Member States of the European Union to have ratified the aforementioned Convention before depositing simultaneously their Instruments of Ratification with the Director General of UNESCO, at the same time as the European Community. In addition, it should be stressed that several other countries have their ratification processes well underway such as Belgium, Moldavia, the Popular Republic of Congo, Norway, Spain, Brazil, Madagascar, Chile, among other. For further information on this subject, you may consult the current edition of the Bulletin published by the Coalitions for Cultural Diversity. I take this opportunity to share with you also an argumentation in favour of the ratification provided by the Secrétariat gouvernemental à la diversité culturelle in its on-line newsletter Diversity of Cultural Expressions News (see below). In our next commmunication on the subject, you will receive a model advocacy letter along with some tools that should help you optimise your efforts and actions in view of your country's ratification. Best regards, Silja Fischer Executive Officer International Music Council Why must States ratify this Convention? Several national and international promoters as well commonly agree in recognizing that pressures regarding the diversity of cultural expressions become more and more numerous in the present context of free trade exchanges and technological developments. They indeed underline that trade agreements have been placing increasing pressure on countries to give up their right to have cultural policies to ensure their citizens have access to their own culture, as well as culture from other countries around the world. This is why the UNESCO Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions is so important: The result of a long process of maturation, including numerous meetings of independent and then governmental experts, as emphasized by l’UNESCO, the Convention establishes internationally the recognition of the sovereign right for States and Governments to draw up and implement cultural policies allowing the development of strong cultural sectors which may contribute to a genuine cultural diversity nationally and internationally. It further emphasizes the importance of overture to other world cultures, in the same manner as it reaffirms the links binding culture, development and dialogue, and creates an innovative platform for international cooperation. It recognizes the distinctive nature of cultural goods and services as transmitters of value, identity, and meaning that transcend their commercial dimension. Therefore, as soon as it takes effect, it will become possible to use it as a reference instrument for those States undergoing pressures to liberalize their cultural sectors, be it at the World Trade Organization (WTO) or during bilateral or multilateral negotiations. The Convention will also be used as an international forum to debate the challenges set to the diversity of cultural expressions and to the sensitive sector of cultural policies that support it . Through the follow up and implementation instruments that it sets up, it will thus create an appropriate momentum for solving the problems encountered by the States who would wish to embrace cultural policies. The Convention will furthermore become a cooperation lever with developing countries that strive at creating durable cultural industries on their territory. The Convention will enter into force three months after the registering date of the thirtieth ratification instrument. In order for the first Conference of the Parties to meet as quickly as possible, that is within the next UNESCO General Conference as soon as Fall 2007, the thirtieth ratification instrument should be registered on June 30, 2007 at the latest, thus allowing the Convention to become effective on September 30. If this deadline could not be met, the first Conference of the Parties could only be held by Fall 2009, upon the following UNESCO General Conference. Consequently, for the Convention to have a real scope, ratifications should rapidly come from a large number of States and from all regions of the world: Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas. On one hand, the larger the number of Parties to the Convention the more the Convention shall take its due place into the international law system, and the more its objectives and the means to attain them shall become recognized, on the other hand .