UNESCO stands up

UNESCO member states have decided to recommend an international convention to protect cultural diversity and the right of member states to craft their own cultural policies. At a meeting in Paris in June, the 191 UNESCO members produced a strong draft treaty. The agreement includes a recognition of the distinct nature of cultural goods, the legal status on the convention will be equal in international law to other agreements including trade agreements. Some critics fear, however, that the non-binding nature of the treaty’s dispute settlement mechanism will de facto leave trade in cultural goods at the mercy of the free traders who control the World Trade Organization.

Following the pattern of militant unilateralism of the Bush Administration, the US delegation is lashing out in opposition. Robert S Martin, the head of the US delegation, described the convention as ‘deeply flawed and fundamentally incompatible with UNESCO’s constitutional obligation to promote the free flow of ideas by word and image’. The crux of their argument is given away in the claim that the convention will ‘set back progress toward economic liberalization that has done so much to increase prosperity... particularly in the developing world where culture plays such an important role in development.’ In other words – no free trade, no Hollywood movies, no development and no cultural freedom.

Coalition for Cultural Diversity (Ottawa) / Final Statement US Delegation

mag cover This article is from the September 2005 issue of New Internationalist. You can access the entire archive of over 500 issues with a digital subscription. Get a free trial now »

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