UNESCO convention on cultural diversity approved

November 2005 -

At the end of October, with 148 yeas, 2 nays and 4 abstained votes, UNESCO approved the convention on cultural diversity: the 'Convention on the protection and promotion of diversity of cultural contents and artistic expressions'. The convention is intended to protect local culture. Its approval was preceded by years of meetings and negotiations.

Economic interests played an important part in the negotiations. Smaller countries benefit from the protection of their culture, while countries with a large market, such as the United States, benefit from the liberalisation of trade.

Canada and France in particular took care to ensure that certain goods would be considered cultural expressions: books, movies, and even the French foie gras (goose liver spread).

The United States and Israel opposed the convention. Its opponents believe that the convention treats culture too much as a type of economic goods and as something that takes place within a country's borders. The US claimed that the convention is an obstruction to cultural exchange.

The actual consequences of the convention are unclear. Will there be less Halloween on Dutch television and more Sint Maarten?

UNESCO is currently celebrating the organisation's 60th anniversary. Sixty themes are highlighted during a period of sixty weeks. Sixteen of these weeks are devoted to culture.