Cultural diversity fills conference agendas

July 2005 -

Three international conferences studied cultural diversity in June. The objective was one and the same: finding the anecdote to the negative consequences of globalization.

"Marginalization and exclusion are the direct effects of capitalism," said Mexican sociologist Pablo Gonzalez Casanova early in June to an audience of 836 artists, intellectuals, government officials and development organizations in Havana. His words reflected the general tone of the four-day conference on culture and development that has been organized by the Cuban Ministry of Culture once every two years since 1999. The West infiltrates developing countries with 'imperialistic means such as the media', threatening 'the retention of collective memories'.

The conference participants exchanged views on a scale of topics, including cultural policy, the relationship between culture and the economy, and the culture of new technologies. Costa Rican author Mario Solano also received the Think Against the Flow Award for his book Capitalism and Violence . The award was established by Cuban cultural institutions to stimulate alternatives to the hegemony of capitalism.

During the same period, in Paris the European and Asian ministers of culture discussed viewpoints on cultural diversity on 7 and 8 June. An important point was the role of culture in development: many countries are having difficulty finding the balance between cultural traditions and economic progress. Concrete results were seen from the meeting of 45 ministers of culture in Madrid on 11 and 12 June. They signed a statement announcing that the protection of cultural diversity is a collective objective. They also emphasized the importance of the Unesco Convention on the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions, which member states will be deciding on next October.