Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions

Canada is very pleased that the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions entered into force on March 18, 2007, three months after the deposit of the 30th instrument of ratification

The Convention was adopted by an overwhelming majority of Member States at the 33rd Session ofUNESCO General Conference on October 20, 2005.

Canada will continue to play a leadership role internationally to promote the Convention and its implementation.

News Release, December 18, 2006 - Canada's New Government Welcomes the Entering Into Force ofUNESCOConvention on Protection and Promotion of Diversity of Cultural Expressions

News Release, November 23, 2005 - Canada is the first country to accept theUNESCOConvention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions

News Release, October 20, 2005 - Convention on cultural diversity is adopted atUNESCOGeneral Conference


"…develop a new approach internationally to support the diversity of cultural expression in countries around the world."
(Speech from the Throne, October 1999)

The Government of Canada committed, in October 1999, to pursuing a new international instrument on cultural diversity that would set out clear ground rules to enable Canada and other countries to maintain policies that promote their culture, while respecting the rules governing the international trading system and securing markets for cultural exports. It would also recognize the importance of cultural diversity to international social and economic development.

Since the late nineties, Canada has been at the forefront of promoting the need for an international instrument on cultural diversity. In 2003, Canada played an important role with other key partners in advocating for the development of such an instrument, in the form of an international Convention, at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Canada has subsequently contributed actively, over the course of several negotiation sessions at UNESCO, in shaping the text of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.

In June 2005, a draft Convention was finalized and presented for adoption at the 33rd Session of UNESCO's General Conference in October 2005.

Canada, promoting the Convention Internationally

Since 1999, Canada has been actively engaged with other countries and in various international fora in encouraging international dialogue on the importance of cultural diversity, as well as the need for an international instrument (i.e. Convention) that would protect and promote cultural diversity. Canada has also contributed to declarations and action plans from the following multilateral fora, which include reference to the social and economic importance of cultural diversity and, in some cases, the need for a Convention.

Canada was also instrumental in establishing in 1998 the International Network on Cultural Policy (INCP), the only existing informal international venue for national ministers responsible for culture to meet on a regular basis. Canada continues to be engaged in the Network's activities. Canadian Heritage supports and contributes to the INCP by: housing the organization's Secretariat - the Liaison Bureau; chairing the INCP's Working Group on Cultural Diversity and Globalization; and participating in the INCP's Contact Group nine member countries who provide direction and leadership to the Network.

In addition to working through various international fora, Canada also works closely with civil society, particularly:

  • The Coalition for Cultural Diversity (CCD), which consists of 38 Canadian national associations in the cultural milieu calling for a Convention on cultural diversity, and encourages the regrouping of sister coalitions in other countries to support a Convention.
  • The Canadian Commission for UNESCO (CCU), an arm's-length organization operating under the aegis of the Canada Council for the Arts. TheCCU has served as a key forum for dialogue between government and civil society. The CCU has a network of approximately 400 members across the country which includes federal departments and agencies, intergovernmental bodies which represent provinces and territories, NGOs, institutions and individual members. TheCCU's mission is much like those outlined by UNESCO for all National Commissions. These bodies form a network within the United Nations system and ensure outreach to and mobilization of civil society partners, as well as relations with parliamentarians and municipalities in support of UNESCO's visibility and programme priorities across all regions.

Negotiating a Convention at UNESCO

In early 2003, a representative group of Ministers of Culture from INCP member countries, including Canada, met with the Director General of UNESCO, who indicated his willingness to launch the process of elaborating a Convention on cultural diversity at UNESCO. In October 2003, the 32nd Session of the General Conference of UNESCO called upon the organization's Director General to submit a preliminary report and a draft Convention on cultural diversity at the next General Conference, in October 2005.

The subsequent development of a Convention text occurred in several stages. First, independent experts met three times, between December 2003 and May 2004, resulting in the completion of a preliminary draft text, which formed the basis for the Director General's preliminary report and draft Convention issued in July 2004. Second, intergovernmental experts met three times, between September 2004 and June 2005, to further develop and refine this preliminary draft Convention.

Canada was an active participant throughout the intergovernmental negotiating process. At the First Session of the Intergovernmental Meeting of Experts, in September 2004, a Canadian was elected as Rapporteur for the intergovernmental process. Following deliberations at the first session, participating UNESCO Member States were invited to submit written comments on the preliminary draft Convention by November 2004. Canada's submission was the product of extensive consultations across federal departments, with provinces and territories, and with civil society. The drafting committee of the intergovernmental experts subsequently prepared a revised draft Convention text in view of comments provided by Member States.

Canada's Written Comments on the Preliminary Report and Preliminary Draft of the Convention on the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions.

At the Second Session of the Intergovernmental Meeting of Experts, in January and February 2005, the Chair of the session was given the mandate to prepare, in partnership with the Rapporteur and the Chair of the Drafting Committee, a further revised draft text reflecting the evolving views of intergovernmental experts. This text was then used as the basis for subsequent negotiations during a Third Session of the Intergovernmental Meeting of Experts which was held in May and June 2005. During deliberations at the third session, Canada played an important role by chairing several informal working groups with a view to achieving consensus on several key articles of the draft Convention. In the end, a broad consensus emerged on a final draft text, with the recommendation that it be presented for adoption at the UNESCO 33rd General Conference in October 2005. To read this final draft text, please click on the link below:

The text of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions meets Canada's core objectives: it recognizes the dual nature of cultural goods and services as having both an economic and social value; re-affirms the right of governments to adopt policies to support cultural expression; places this agreement on an equal footing with other treaties while respecting existing obligations. It also recognizes the link between culture and development.