York hosts symposium on UN convention on cultural policy

Last October, UNESCO adopted a convention to protect and promote cultural diversity. It was a watershed moment in the campaign to recognize in international law the distinctive nature of cultural goods and services and to affirm the sovereign right of countries to have cultural policies.

But to take effect and have any legal and political weight, at least 30 countries must ratify the convention soon, because trade pressures to disallow cultural policies is intensifying. This year looms as a critical year, as World Trade Organization member states work to reach an agreement on services by the end of 2006 as part of the Doha Round of trade talks.

Tomorrow York is hosting a symposium, UNESCO’s Convention on Cultural Diversity: The Future of Cultural Policies, to examine the issues concerning the new convention. Jointly presented by Canada’s Coalition for Cultural Diversity and York’s John P. Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies, it brings together Canadian political leaders and officials, experts in international law, and leaders of cultural organizations around the world for an in-depth discussion of the work achieved to date, and of the challenges ahead.

Publisher Scott McIntyre, president of Stewart & McIntyre and co-Chair of Canada’s Coalition for Cultural Diversity (CCD), introduces the symposium. Ontario’s Minister of Culture Madeleine Meilleur gives the keynote address on why the convention matters to the province. And Toronto lawyer Peter Grant, author of Blockbusters & Trade Wars, delivers the concluding speech, The UNESCO Convention and the Cultural Policy Toolkit.

Presentations and panels

  • An Up-Close Look at the UNESCO Convention, a presentation by Yvon Charbonneau, Canada’s ambassador to UNESCO
  • Making the Most of the Convention: Maximizing Its Legal and Political Weight, a panel moderated by Robert Pilon of CCD Canada. Participants are Jacques Paquette, assistant deputy minister of International and Intergovernmental Affairs, Department of Canadian Heritage; Pamela Brand, national executive director and CEO of Directors Guild of Canada and CCD vice-president; Mane Nett, president of the Chilean Coalition for Cultural Diversity; and Ivan Bernier, professor emeritus of law, Laval University
  • Meanwhile at the WTO: The Continuing Pressure on Culture from Trade Negotiations, a panel moderated by Seth Feldman (right), director of York’s Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies. Participants are John Gero, assistant deputy minister, Trade Policy and Negotiations Branch, Department of International Trade; Daniel Drache, Global Cultural Flows project, Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies; Bernardo Jaramillo of CCD Colombia; Neffali El-Hassane, president, CCD Morocco; Gi-Hwan Yang, executive director, Centre for Diversity in Moving Images (CDMI) and executive director, CCD Korea.
  • The UNESCO Convention: Setting the Stage for New Cultural Policies?, a panel moderated by Jim McKee, CCD Canada external relations director. Participants are Pierre Curzi, president of Union des artistes and CCD Canada co-Chair; Bebe Kamin, vice-president, Directors Association of Argentina (DAC) and CCD Argentina representative; Rasmané Ouedraogo, secretary general, African Network for Cultural Diversity; Michel Gautherin, general delegate from SFA-CGT and CCD France treasurer.
  • North-South Exchange: The Convention as an Instrument to Foster International Cultural Cooperation, a panel moderated by Fred Fletcher, director of the joint York/Ryerson Graduate Program in Communications and Culture. Participants are Kodjo Cyriaque Noussouglo, CCD Togo president; Christine Merkel, head of culture and communication/information, German Commission for UNESCO and CCD Germany representative.

The symposium takes place at York’s Schulich School of Business.  For information, contact Seth Feldman at sfeldman@yorku.ca.