US, Japanese Calls For Cultural Treaty Change Meet With Resistance 17/10/2005 by William New, Intellectual Property Watch 1 Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)PARIS — Attempts by the United States and Japan to reopen negotiations on a UN draft treaty on cultural diversity today are meeting with firm resistance from developed and developing countries alike. While most nations’ ministers present at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s annual General Conference are not mentioning the United States by name, it was understood to whom they referred as they successively took the floor to urge the adoption of the draft text without changes. In the morning session, government after government called for passage of the text as it stands, with a few technical changes by the secretariat. They also specified the care taken to reach near consensus on the existing draft. It is expected that a vote on the treaty will come later today or tomorrow and that it will likely succeed 190 to 1 (United States). The United States, which appears to be a little bewildered at its inability to win support of any of its usual allies, exudes a tone of a lost opportunity, but continues to seek to delay adoption of the treaty. It argues the text was hastily drafted, is not inclusive, and could have a significant negative impact on the global flow of information. Japan’s delegate said its proposed changes were only for clarification and that it still seeks adoption of a treaty this week. Japan’s proposal is supported by Afghanistan. US Ambassador to UNESCO Louise Oliver told the plenary that the consolidated text up for a vote was only given to the US in April, with no negotiating opportunity since June. She said she was repeatedly told by others that the US was “too late” to make changes, but she decried the “desire for speed rather than a demand for a quality text.” She listed a series of concerns the US has with the treaty’s broad language. The door to conciliation “was slammed shut to the US and unfortunately it has stayed shut,” Oliver said. She said the United States is at the forefront of cultural diversity and “keeps knocking at the door” to no avail. There was time to discuss the list of changes it has proposed at the General Conference, she said, adding the US remains ready to discuss them in the afternoon. The consequences of passing the treaty are too serious to ignore, she said. A Treaty To Save Humanity Meanwhile, lofty language soared as delegations invoked the continuance of humanity, the spread of globalisation, hegemony and religious commitment. Turnout for the meeting was so great, firemen were on the scene blocking the entrance of any additional people leaving ministers and ambassadors outside the door. The meeting was then moved to the building’s largest plenary room. Algerian set the tone by opening the meeting by dubbing the treaty’s aim as “what humanity human.” Algeria gave a warning that the bleak monocultural world painted by British author George Orwell in his work 1984 could be happening. “There is a risk of this Orwellian universe becoming a reality,” the Algerian minister said. “What he described in 1984 may well come about.” Algeria also declared that it is not a choice between a market economy or a controlled economy. Instead, it is a choice between “cultural hegemony” and “liberty itself.” “This is a sacred duty,” the Algerian said. South Africa said the draft treaty text was agreed with compromise of all in June, the last meeting of the negotiating committee, and that “the current treaty will have no meaning to the developing world if it is weakened at the General Conference.” Brazilian minister Gilberto Gil said that while the draft treaty is not perfect, it is the “best common denominator for our aspirations.” He added that it was “very carefully negotiated” and that “there can be no going back on it.” “Without cultural pluralism, we choke,” Gil said. The European Union took the tack of stating that it “greatly values the US return to UNESCO” which took place in 2003, about the time talks on the treaty were heating up. Amid hallway chatter that the US might rethink its rejoining of the UN body, the EU said, “There is a great deal the United States can achieve in UNESCO” working with partners to address major global issues. It insisted that if there were any disagreements over this treaty, UNESCO was not to blame. Rather, the differences were between member states, it said. Additionally, the EU said this treaty “will give a lifeline to any communities who feel their cultural diversity is being threatened, particularly in developing countries.” Canada, one of the biggest proponents of the treaty, said all of its stakeholders support the current draft, that it is the result of lengthy negotiations, and is “very carefully balanced.” The Canadians further called it “a tool to protect our own identity,” and said it would protect freedom of expression. Cuba pronounced that “saving culture is tantamount to saving all of humanity,” and called the draft “one of the best prepared documents … ever to be drafted by UNESCO.” Cuba said supporting the treaty as is would show respect for UNESCO as an institution. There is only one remaining direct reference to intellectual property rights in the draft, located in the preamble, according to non-governmental sources. Item 17 of the preamble calls for recognition of “the importance of intellectual property rights in sustaining those involved in cultural creativity.” None of the proposed US changes appears to directly relate to intellectual property issues. The spirit of the meeting, which has taken on a symbolism of defiance of the wide availability of US cultural influences, was such that when the reporter accidentally asked a European delegate, “are you US?”, the reply was, “Not yet!” Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related "US, Japanese Calls For Cultural Treaty Change Meet With Resistance" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.