New UN treaty to preserve world’s rich cultural diversity to come into force in March

19 December 2006 –

A United Nations-backed international treaty to preserve the rich diversity of the world’s means of cultural expression from the dangers of globalization, including its many languages, will enter into force on 18 March after it topped the needed total of 30 ratifications yesterday.

“The rapidity of the ratification process is unprecedented,” UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General. Koïchiro Matsuura said today of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, adopted by UNESCO’s General Conference in October 2005.

“None of UNESCO’s other cultural conventions has been adopted by so many States in so little time,” Mr Matsuura added. Another 13 countries, as well as the European Community, yesterday deposited their instrument of ratification at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters, bringing the total to 35.

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.

It 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.”

It also supports UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity adopted in 2001, which recognized cultural diversity as “a source of exchange, innovation and creativity,” a common heritage of humanity that “should be recognized and affirmed for the benefit of present and future generations.”

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.

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