Profile: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was a participant or observer in the following events:
UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity is adopted at its 31st General Conference, the international agency’s governing body, in Paris, France. It is the highlight of the first ministerial-level meeting held by the international body after 9/11. The landmark international instrument brings cultural diversity to the unprecedented level of being defined “the common heritage of humanity” and deemed “as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature.” In a statement marking the adoption, UNESCO Director General Koïchiro Matsuura says the declaration is “an opportunity for states to reaffirm their conviction that intercultural dialogue is the best guarantee of peace and to reject outright the theory of the inevitable clash of cultures and civilizations.” Matsuura adds that the declaration “can be an outstanding tool for development, capable of humanizing globalization.” The declaration is adopted just less than a year after “preliminary items” for a draft declaration on cultural diversity were first submitted at the second round table of culture ministers held on December 11-12, 2000 in Paris, France. The “preliminary items” were proposed alongside the presentation by a UNESCO Experts Committee of its conclusions on “strengthening UNESCO’s role in promoting cultural diversity in the context of globalization.” [UNESCO, 11/2001]
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. [Coalition Currents, 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 Béchard, 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. [Coalition Update, 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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