The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, opened on Monday, 31 January the second session of the intergovernmental meeting of experts on the Preliminary Draft Convention on the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions which is being held at UNESCO from 31 January to 12 February, under the chairmanship of Professor Kader Asmal (South Africa).
In his address, to some 600 experts representing the Member States of UNESCO, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, Mr Matsuura invited them “never to lose sight, during the debates,” the terms of reference entrusted in them mandate in October 2003 by the General Conference, which stated that the “that the question of cultural diversity as regards the protection of the diversity of cultural contents and artistic expressions shall be the subject of an international convention.” “The nature of the instrument and its scope are thus precisely defined, and I think it would be hazardous, at this stage, to envisage modifying the terms,” he added.
The first intergovernmental meeting had allowed participants to become acquainted with the preliminary draft text, to express their general impressions and compare them with others, often, from a complementary viewpoint. For the Director-General, “it was, without a doubt an important and necessary step in the maturing process before the drafting of written comments and amendments that I requested you to make vi-a-vis the preliminary draft convention before mid-November 2004.”
Thereafter, from 14 to 17 December 2004, the Drafting Committee met, under the chairmanship of Mr Jukka Liede (Finland), to examine the draft text. The Drafting Committee, in view of the allotted time, was not able to integrate comments received from certain intergovernmental organizations, notably the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), nor those from non governmental organizations. “The Drafting Committee had real difficulties. Owing to it deadlines, it was compelled to begin working on comments and amendments, even though it had received no directives from Plenary about them, and understandably so, since the latter had met well before the comments reached UNESCO. Thus, the work of this second session of the meeting of experts is like to be tough,” declared Mr Matsuura.
The Drafting Committee proposed, for articles 1 to 11 of the preliminary draft text, a new document, which presents for each article its original version and a series of optional formulations drafted on the basis of the amendments and comments of the Member States, specifying each time, in a box, the main lines of emphasis of the Committee’s discussions thereon. “This document has been made available to you this session as a working tool. The options it contains could certainly be run together in order to reach, in the majority of cases, a single text on which you could all agree on. Of course, I am aware that in certain cases, when there are options that are substantially divergent, several options will have to be kept. I sincerely hope that there will be as few of these as possible, and that they will be on the essentials, in order to not slow the progress of our work with details,” he went on.
In concluding, Mr Matsuura expressed the hope that “you will make the most of the months of effort put into the success of this project, which has, as I have already pointed out, aroused considerable interest in the international community in its entirety. Cultural diversity is now a part of each individual’s consciousness. After the success of the conventions relating to the preservation of tangible and intangible cultural heritage, let us give this project every chance, so that it can complete the set of instruments in place, by finding the ways and means to guarantee the diversity of cultural contents and artistic expressions, which constitutes a vital challenge for the future of our societies.”