International conference wants to protect cultural diversity

September 2003 -

Specialists from non-western countries will meet this month in Amsterdam for a conference entitled Reclaiming Cultural Diversity. Three public debates will be held simultaneously. The conference is geared to policy makers in the fields of culture, international economic collaboration and Development Collaboration. They will discuss the globalisation of the economy and artistic diversity world-wide. The international experts who attend the conference will make an important contribution to the debates. On 25, 26 and 27 September in the Balie.

The conference is a co-production of the Balie, Hivos and the School for the Arts (Hogeschool voor de Kunsten) in Utrecht (HKU). The immediate incentive for the conference is Joost Smiers’ book Arts Under Pressure – Promoting Cultural Diversity in the Age of Globalisation, which was published this spring. Smiers is director of the Centre for Research at the HKU.

During the conference the experts will discuss the possibilities for a world-wide convention to protect and stimulate local cultural production and local cultural life. According to the organisations this is needed because the World Trade Organisation (WTO) wants to restrict national authorities’ instruments for protecting this.

One of the objectives of the conference is to draw attention to the problem in the Netherlands because a trade treaty for culture can also have significant consequences for the Dutch cultural sector. Our system of art subsidies would then be subject to discussion, which is why the conference is being organised.

The public debate on Thursday 25 September will deal with the question of how we can prevent distribution channels for cultural products from falling into the hands of a few multinational publishing conglomerates. The instruments governments have for guaranteeing the diversity of the cultural offering will also be discussed.

On Friday 26 September the debate will center around the types of legislation for preventing cultural domination. During the closing debate on Saturday the most important conclusions and discussion points from the work conference will be presented. The discussion will then deal with the question of how measures for promoting cultural diversity can be translated into concrete policy.

The public debates will be in the Grote Zaal at the Balie and all start at 8:00 p.m.