The UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions: Building a New World Information and Communication Order?

Rachael Craufurd Smith


The UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions was adopted in October 2005. This article explores the Convention’s objectives and the contribution that the Convention is likely to make to their realisation in the future. In its final form the Convention is considerably less ambitious than many of its promoters had wished: key provisions are expressed in aspirational terms, the Convention’s dispute resolution procedures are consensual and the Convention explicitly states that it does not modify the rights or obligations of its Parties under pre-existing international agreements. The extensive support that the Convention received from the international community at the time of its adoption, with one hundred and forty eight countries voting in its favour, nevertheless affords it considerable political weight. The Convention may consequently play a role in the interpretation of existing international agreements, including the WTO agreements, and in negotiations over their future development. The article also suggests that there may be more scope than is initially apparent for the Convention to be used as a basis for evaluating state measures, not only in relation to international trade, but also regarding the domestic treatment of cultural minorities. For such review to become meaningful, however, active support will be necessary not only from civil society organisations, which played a key role in the Convention’s initial development, but also from contracting states and the various Convention organs

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