The Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, adopted by UNESCO’s General Conference in October 2005, will enter into force on 18 March 2007, three months after the deposit of the 30th instrument of ratification on 18 December at UNESCO. As of 15 December, 22 instruments of ratification had been registered*. On the 18th, another 13 countries**, as well as the European Community, deposited their instrument at the Organization’s Headquarters, bringing the total number of ratifications received to 35. The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, welcomed the high-level of interest shown by Member States for this new legal instrument. “The rapidity of the ratification process is unprecedented. None of UNESCO’s other cultural conventions has been adopted by so many States in so little time,” Mr Matsuura said. “The ratification by the European Union, made possible by Article 27 of the text allowing “accession by any regional economic integration organization” is a first, and will celebrated at a special ceremony on December 19 in Brussels.
The result of a long process of maturation and two years of intense negotiations, marked by numerous meetings of independent and then governmental experts, the text seeks to reaffirm the links between culture, development and dialogue, and to create an innovative platform for international cultural cooperation. To this end, it reaffirms the sovereign rights of States to elaborate cultural policies with a view both “to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions” and “to create the conditions for cultures to flourish and to freely interact in a mutually beneficial manner” (Article 1).
It also consecrates the role of culture as an a actor in development (Article 13), mobilizes civil society to achieve its goals (article 11), and places international solidarity at the heart of its mechanism (articles 12 to 19), by including the creation of an international fund for cultural diversity (article 18). It also highlights “the importance of intellectual property rights in sustaining those involved in cultural creativity” and reaffirms that “freedom of thought, expression and information, as well as diversity of the media, enable cultural expressions to flourish within societies.”
With the adoption of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, UNESCO now disposes of a comprehensive set of standard-setting instruments in the cultural domain, comprising seven conventions covering cultural diversity in all of its manifestations, and especially, the two pillars of culture: heritage -immovable, movable and intangible, including traditional cultural expressions - and contemporary creativity. Three conventions – the 1972 World Heritage Convention; the 2003 convention on intangible cultural heritage; and the 2005 convention on cultural diversity – will provide a particularly favourable framework for UNESCO’s action in defense of cultural diversity.
With this extensive legal coverage, UNESCO is now better equipped for accomplish the mission attributed by its Constitution to respect the “fruitful diversity of the cultures” and to “facilitate the free flow of ideas by word and image.”
*Albania, Belarus, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Croatia, Djibouti, Ecuador, Guatemala, India, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Namibia, Peru, the Republic of Moldova, Romania, Senegal and Togo.
** Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.