As examples of the kind of cultural consolidation threatened by globalization, UNESCO notes that 50 per cent of the world languages are in danger of extinction and that 90 per cent of them are not represented on the Internet. In addition, five countries monopolize the world cultural industries. In the field of cinema, for instance, 88 countries have never had their own film productions. Besides promoting diversity in those areas, the Convention seeks to reaffirm the links between culture, development and dialogue and to create a platform for international cooperation, including the creation of an international fund for cultural diversity.
On 20 October 2005 the Unesco General Conference adopted the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (CCD). 148 countries approved it, while two countries -the United States and Israel- voted against it and four abstained. The approval of this important international treaty, which seeks to protect and promote cultural diversity, is considered to be a moral victory in the long-running fight to preserve the world's cultural richness.
The Convention enters into force in March 2007, following its ratification by a sufficient number of countries. The required number of 30 ratifications was reached on 18 December 2006 when the Community, joined by twelve Member States deposited their instruments of ratification at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.
The Unesco Convention sets out common rules, principles and points of reference for cultural diversity at global level. It is the first time the international community has been able to reach such a consensus on these questions. The text makes a considerable contribution to recognising the role and legitimacy of public policies in protecting and promoting cultural diversity, to recognising the importance of international cooperation and promoting this to deal with cultural vulnerabilities, especially in developing countries, and to defining appropriate links with other international instruments that enable the Convention to be implemented effectively. Moreover, the Convention represents a new platform for tackling culture in the wider context of sustainable development.
During the preparatory process, NGO networks like the International Network on Cultural Diversity (INCD) and the campaign for Communication Rights in the Information Society (CRIS) called for broad civil society support for the CCD, but warn that the Convention should not be subordinated to the WTO and should be written to support cultural and media diversity inside countries, not only between them. Otherwise, the Convention would only serve the interests of national media companies against the biggest transnationals, rather than true, bottom-up media diversity.
The role of communication in the struggle for protection of cultural diversity was also a matter of discussion in the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) held in Geneva in 2003 and Tunis in 2005. Unfortunately, many of the most crucial issues such as the importance of media pluralism or the concept of information as a global public good were left un-discussed at the UNESCO Convention. Lack of participation of civil society groups, especially from the south, weaken the possibility of a real plan of action to preserve cultural diversity, although the Convention helped to bring culture back to the international agenda and encourage national authorities to assume responsibility on the matter.
This 1980 UNESCO report expressed: "crucial decisions concerning
communication development need to be taken urgently at both national and
international levels. [...] The decision-making process has to involve
social participation at all levels. This calls for new attitudes for
overcoming stereotyped thinking and to promote more understanding of
diversity and plurality, with full respect for the dignity and equality of
peoples living in different ways".
Report launched by The World Comission on Culture and Development in 1995 in the hope to stimulate debate and spark off new initiatives. The issues raised by the Comission come squarely to the forefront internationally.
During its second phase in Tunis, a new institutional network was created by the African Academy of Languages (ACALAN, under the auspices of the African Union and NEPAD : the "World Network for Linguistic Diversity" (Maaya).
Since the concept was first proposed, INCD has been in the forefront of the discussions concerning the content of the Convention. INCD considers that the draft being considered by UNESCO falls short of the objectives in vital ways and proposes changes.
The members of the Coalition affirm that cultural diversity is a fundamental human right and that countries and governments be entirely free to adopt the policies necessary to support the diversity of cultural expression and the viability of enterprises that produce and disseminate this expression.
Understanding the encounter at the WSIS requires an inquiry spanning over thirty years, covering two main strands that converged in Geneva last December. One, theinformation societ debate, takes in the role of information, the internet and thedigital divid and can be traced to the 1970s. The other, thecommunication debat, encompasses broader issues of knowledge ownership and use, media diversity and communication. Its defining moment came in the early 1980s with the MacBride Report of UNESCO. Although each has its (uniquely compromised) history, only one, the latter, is likely to have a future.
This document is based on the research paper "Threats and Opportunities for Cultural Diversity: WSIS between WTO and UNESCO" As Plans of Action - both global and regional - have become defined within the process of the WSIS, commitments to respect and foster cultural diversity have faded. Therefore, the future of cultural diversity depends on other multilateral processes that may turn both the general principles agreed at the WSIS - as well as the debates and definitions within countries - pointless or unfeasible. This paper argues that negotiations within the World Trade Organization and the Free Trade Agreements are a new threat to cultural diversity, while UNESCO's Convention on Cultural Diversity represents a major opportunity for developing countries. One of the main conclusions of this paper is that it is not enough to acknowledge cultural diversity for it to exist. Cultural diversity must be defended, promoted and ensured through active public policies and appropriate regulatory frameworks. To this end, the author recommends specific policy actions at regional, subregional and national level.
The projection of cultural diversity through the media has contributed to the enrichment of the human community, and to the promotion of peace and communal harmony amongst the diverse civilizations of the world. But in many parts of the world there still remain significant concerns about one single global culture expanding to dominate media content. With the so-called Information Society, and the rapid development of multi-media and convergent technology, will the cultural gap widen along with that of the information, knowledge and digital divide?
The International Network on Cultural Policy (INCP) is an informal, international venue where national ministers responsible for culture can explore and exchange views on new and emerging cultural policy issues and to develop strategies to promote cultural diversity. The site includes information, news and documents on INCP activities and initiatives.
The elaboration of this new instrument, which is consistent with the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, comprises two stages: firstly, three meetings of independent experts took place between December 2003 and May 2004 for preliminary deliberations with a view to producing a first preliminary draft convention along with a preliminary report. Secondly, starting in September 2004, a series of intergovernmental meetings will be organized in order to finalize the preliminary draft Convention and report.
The Global Alliance for Cultural Diversity looks to provide new opportunities for cultural stakeholders to combine efforts towards ensuring a more diversified and equitable array of cultural goods and services worldwide. The Global Alliance will build on two strategic pillars: the development of local cultural industries and the prevention of piracy. Activities in these areas will be supported through newly established partnerships and a UNESCO special extra-budgetary fund.
This Convention was originally designed to ensure that culture, in the age
of globalized culture industries, is not reduced to a commodity. Its aim is
to allow each country to implement cultural, media, and communications
policies that foster cultural diversity. However, some governments have
proposed dangerous revisions that would transform the draft Convention into
an instrument that expands corporate ownership of culture.
At the Intergovernmental Meeting of Experts (22 September 2004), during a short meeting organised for civil society delegates, Steve Buckley, on behalf of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), presented a proposal to the draft of the cultural diversity convention.
A new international treaty to preserve the rich diversity of the world’s means of cultural expression from the dangers of globalization topped the needed total of 30 ratifications and enters into force on 18 March 2007. The new Convention reaffirms the sovereign right of States to elaborate cultural policies with a view “to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions and reinforce international cooperation” while respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.
After more than three years of sometimes cantankerous debates, the General Conference of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation), meeting at the Paris headquarters, adopted by overwhelming majority the Convention on the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions. October 2005
The campaign for Communication Rights in the Information Society (CRIS)welcomes UNESCO's near-unanimous approval of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions. The Convention is a clear demonstration that governments recognize that culture cannot be reduced to a mere commodity. By endorsing the Convention, governments have shown that they are prepared to take positive steps to support cultural diversity in the age of global cultural industries.
A crucial battle is on concerning the future of cultural identities at the UNESCO General Conference held 3-21 october 2005 in Paris. In fact, the UN body is about to adopt a "Convention on the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions" but not without the fierce oppositon of the United States that has threatened with withdrawal if the text is approved in its current version. October 2005.
Not for the first time, the United States has found itself in almost total isolation in an international body, as the rest of the world adopts a convention which supporters say could help stop the "steamroller" of Hollywood globalisation.