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CRIS+ intervention on Article 19 of draft UNESCO convention

Delivered to the plenary of the II intergovernmental session; Monday, February 7th, 2005

Mr. chairman, delegates,

On Article 19 - Relationship to other instruments: all of the NGO signatories to the position of the Communication Rights campaign strongly support a modified version of Option A over Option B. Like Brazil, Andora, Vietnam, and others, our position is that Paragraph 2 of Option A should become the full text of Article 19, as follows:

"The provisions of this Convention shall not affect the rights and obligations of any State Party deriving from any existing international instrument, except where the exercise of those rights and obligations would cause serious damage or threat to the diversity of cultural expressions."

Our rationale:
First, it is imperative that option A be adopted over Option B. Option B fundamentally undermines the purpose of this instrument and is unacceptable. If states really care about protecting and promoting the diversity of cultural contents and artistic expressions, then they must be willing to support this convention, or at least take it into consideration, when and if it does conflict with other bodies of international law. For example, there is in the past few weeks a US firm challenging a Canadian program that gives arts subsidies only to Canadian nationals as a trade violation. In another example, speaking for our US constituents, US citizens spent the last two years mobilizing to successfully defeat the US Federal Communications Commission when it moved to allow even greater cross media consolidation in US markets. We're concerned that limits on cross ownership and consolidation are threatened by the current trade regime. We feel that if this Convention is to be meaningful, states must be able to refer to it in cases of this nature. That wouldn't be possible under option B or any similar variant that subordinates the Convention to all existing instruments.

Next, paragraph 1 of option A should be deleted because

- It fails to promote a balance between the rights of the public and the rights of copyright owners, as expressed in Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity,

- We've heard many interventions stating that the current IPR regime is working well to promote diversity, but in fact as we all know the impact of the current intellectual property rights regime, which favors the rights of broadcasters and rights holders over the rights of authors, creators, and the public, on cultural diversity, is in fact contested. For example, look at the current discussion within the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) where Brazil, Argentina, and other States, strongly supported by civil society, have proposed to review the effectiveness of present IP regimes in meeting the interests of developing countries. Such constructive moves could be reinforced by a more balanced treatment here of the relationship between intellectual property rights and cultural diversity. Certainly it would be better for the draft Convention to be neutral on the issue rather than to reinforce and strengthen the existing regime. This can be accomplished by deleting paragraph 1 of option A.

- In addition, there is strong precedent for the wording we support for the clause on relationship to other instruments, most notably Article 22.1 of the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which states:

“The provisions of this Convention shall not affect the rights and obligations of any Contracting Party deriving from any existing international agreement, except where the exercise of those rights and obligations would cause a serious damage or threat to biological diversity.”

For these reasons, we emphatically urge delegates and the drafting group to reject Option B, and adopt paragraph 2 of Option A as the full text of Article 19.

We therefore support the Brazilian position, which was also supported by Andora, Vietnam, and others.

Alternatively, we could support Argentina and Haiti on proposal 1 on page 88 of the English text.

Thank you.



Sasha Costanza-Chock
Filed Under: Academic | English | NGO | Social Movement | Testimony | View related documents



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