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UNESCO Intergovernmental: Conclusions

The intergovernmental conference finished early, at noon on Friday 24 September, with the rapporteur's summary of the debate. Governments are invited to submit their formal comments by 15 November. It is not fully clear whether NGO comments will also be accepted and included in the Secretariat report. The next intergovernmental will be two weeks long, commencing 31 January 2005. Clearly this will be the critical meeting for negotiation on the text and the one around which CRIS should mobilise.

Governments have appointed a bureau and a drafting committee, the latter will be an important focus for lobbying. It includes USA, France, Switzerland, Finland, Japan, South Africa, India and others. The oral report of the rapporteur was a rather bland summary and seemed to ignore all of the NGO interventions. Main points were that the draft formed a good basis for discussion, that the preamble and the principles need to be fine tuned, the definitions section is rather wordy and there were differences of opinion on how this should be approached included the definitions of culture. Some delegations wanted greater attention to language and/or religion. In the main issues of the draft there were different views on Options A and B and an aspiration to find a "third way" that would achieve greater consensus. The relevance of Annexes A and B were questioned, these could well be dropped entirely. There was a tension between countries that see the convention as primarily asserting a right to defend their national culture in the face of globalisation and those that see the convention as significantly about cultural diversity within countries. Many delegations spoke positively about the importance of involving civil society. There were several reservations about creating new institutions such as the proposed observatory however others noted that the absence of any dedicated monitoring mechanism would substantially reduce the efrfectiveness of the treaty.

A final list of participants was distributed and should be available electronically shortly. It has full contact details, including emails, for most delegates including government representatives. This will be important for lobbying. 132 governments were represented at the meeting. International organisations listed as present were UNESCO, WIPO, UNCTAD, WTO and UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples, plus 4 regional bodies. 20 NGOs were listed although a smaller number took part in the daily NGO meetings convened by the UNESCO-NGO Liaison Committee.

The UNESCO-NGO Liaison Committee took the lead role in convening NGO meetings. In addition to focusing on issues of procedure the Liaison Committee see itself as having a role in developing substantive common position statements. It issued two sets of amendments during the week and will revise and refine these before submitting formally to the UNESCO Secretariat. The UNESCO-NGO Liaison Committee is elected from the 300 or so NGOs with consultative status at UNESCO although it seems to have consulted with a smaller selected list in developing its preconference position. Its position was rather closely based on INCD drafting.

At the final meeting of the NGOs we agreed a number of issues around process and tactics. NGOs are strongly encouraged to submit their own proposals to the UNESCO Secretariat by 15 November (although they should be published earlier if they are to influence government positions). The Secretariat will be asked to include NGO responses as an Annex to the compilation document for the next conference. There is a need for an open list for NGOs to share papers and proposals. I offered to assist with getting this set up. Decision to be taken by the Liaison Committee next week. It was also agreed to call on the sponsoring governments (Canada is sponsoring the January/February 2005 meeting) to provide financial support for south participation.

As a general conclusion I would say civil society participation was rather weak and rather narrow - few participants, lack of experience among many, predominance of artist/producer groups, almost complete absence of south participation. Even INCD were not sure they would get into the meeting since they don't have formal consultative status with UNESCO. The UNESCO-NGO Liaison Committee has a very broad constituency including business perspectives such as that of the Independent Publishers Association. INCD is also trying to bridge civil society interests with the small producer end of the private sector. There is certainly an opening for CRIS to play at least an equal role with groups like INCD and the Coalitions and I am sure a communication rights perspective will broaden the basis of debate.

On the substance of the convention it seems to me the outcome will be significant but it could as easily be negative as positive. A weak convention, subsidiary to other treaties, with no powers of sanction and no monitoring and enforcement bodies could still provide the diplomatic fig leaf to bring culture into GATS. This, as the International League on Human Rights state, would be worse than no convention.


Steve Buckley, CRIS Working Group on Media Diversity

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Indian Government Response

You mention India in the drafting committee. Can you please summarize the position of the Indian government on this matter? Also, would you happen to have the contact address (preferably email) of the Indian representative?

Thank you for an informative report.


A Giridhar RAO

D-ro A Giridhar RAO ( kaj
Ghenerala Sekretario
Federacio Esperanto de Barato (
Hejmadreso: 'Sudarshan' 1st Floor, 3-5-819 Hyderguda, Hyderabad 500 029, Barato/India. Tel +91-40-23232989.