The negotiation of a draft UNESCO Convention on cultural diversity was concluded successfully in Paris on June 3 2005. The third negotiating session adopted a revised draft Convention and recommended to the next UNESCO General Conference (October 2005) to adopt it. As per the mandate given by the Council in November 2004, the European Commission negotiated on behalf of the European Community. The revised draft Convention legitimises cultural policies and promotes international cooperation. It reaffirms the respect of international obligations whilst obliging Parties to take into account cultural diversity objectives when applying and interpreting all their international obligations, and when negotiating new international commitments. This is a first in international law.
“The EU has become a major player in these UNESCO negotiations, said Ján Figel’, European commissioner in charge of Culture, and it has clearly demonstrated the strength of its single voice and its operative mode of negotiating in this organisation. We look forward for a successful conclusion of those negotiations in the autumn since it would be a unique opportunity to advance the international acceptance of the analysis of the reality and on the issues revolving around cultural diversity and cultural policies”.
In August 2003, the Commission produced a Communication entitled “Towards an international instrument on cultural diversity”, prior to the UNESCO General Conference, supporting the idea of an international normative instrument on cultural diversity. Beyond its contribution to intercultural dialogue, the Commission considers that an international instrument is important and necessary to establish a “cultural pillar” in international governance.
The European Community and it Member States issued in November 2004 a Communication to UNESCO stating their views on the future Convention. For the EU, the Convention should in particular affirm the specific and dual (cultural and economic) nature of cultural goods and services, recognize the role of public policies in the protection and promotion of cultural diversity and recognize the importance of international cooperation to respond to cultural vulnerabilities, in particular, but not exclusively, vis-à-vis developing countries. Such an instrument would be an opportunity to perpetuate and strengthen its actions and instruments of international co-operation in the cultural field, such as the ACP and the Euro-Mediterranean Partnerships.
The definition of cultural goods and services is adequately restrictive. This ensures that “cultural policies” concerns will not be used in trade negotiations on non-cultural goods and services.
Finally, the revised draft Convention includes a clause enabling the EC to ratify the Convention and to become a Party to it.
At their EC coordination meeting in Paris, the 25 Member States expressed their unanimous support for the result of the negotiations. EC unity was exemplary and enabled the EC to be one of the engines of the negotiations.
In November 2004 the “Culture” Council adopted the negotiating directives concerning the draft UNESCO Convention on the protection of the diversity of cultural contents and artistic expressions. The draft UNESCO Convention aims at the development and adoption at national level of cultural policies and appropriate measures for the access to and the protection of vulnerable cultural expressions as well as to encourage wider international cultural exchanges. It therefore covers both Member States’ and Community competences (e.g. customs union, development aid, intellectual property, media policy, trade policy).