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UNESCO to Stop US Cultural Imperialism

There are 6,000 languages in the world; however, 96 percent of the world's population speaks just four percent of these languages. Even worse is that 50 percent of these languages are endangered. Ninety percent of these are not used on Internet, which has become the communication platform of our era. Today, global culture industries are directed by just five countries. Based on these grave figures, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) two years ago initiated studies to preserve cultural diversity in the world. UNESCO has been preparing to take steps to protect endangered cultural diversity with the introduction of an international convention. Experts gathering at UNESCO's head office in Paris have been discussing details of the final draft of the Convention for the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expression. The Convention is planned to be approved before the end of the year and its main goal is to say 'stop' to the cultural imperialism brought about by globalization that favors rich and powerful countries. The Convention draft foresees franchising of legal rights to countries in order to protect their own cultures and languages against the domination of foreign cultures and languages. The draft also aims to end the categorization of cultural products as commodities. For example, a country will have the right to assign a quota over Hollywood films in order to preserve its own domestic film industry and cinema culture, or it could enforce local content quotas to local radio stations. Entry of foreign cultural goods into a country may also be restricted with the introduction higher taxes. UNESCO's 190 members are now in split over the discussions about the Convention draft. Countries led by France and Canada who make up the majority demand a regulation enshrining cultural diversity in a legally binding convention to be given to governments in order to protect their national culture against free-trade competition and, if required, to adopt a protectionist approach. The US, on the other hand, claims along with a few other countries that cultures can best develop in a free-market context and objects to crucial parts of the draft. Japan, which has a great share of the world's cartoon market, and India, which promotes its HBollywood made films to the world, support the US, while Latin American and African countries are in agreement with France and Canada. Speaking to Zaman regarding the draft, Turkey's UNESCO representative Ambassador Numan Hazar noted yesterday that Turkey also adopts theFrench and Canadian line, which is supported by the European Commission, and favors, if necessary, the implementation of protectionist policies in order to preserve cultural values. 15.02.2005 Ali Ihsan Aydin Paris

Ali Ihsan Aydin
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