1. A Global Movement?
On 21 October 2005, during the final plenary meeting of UNESCO’s General Conference in Paris, one-hundred-forty-six nations voted in favor of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. Two nations voted against it. During the negotiations leading to this vote the United Kingdom lead the European Union and a coalition of nations in favor of a new international treaty to protect and promote ‘cultural expressions’ while the United States steadfastly opposed it and essentially voted alone. (Appendix 1)
The vote on the Convention made news within the circles of international cultural policy. Two years after the declaration of war on Iraq in which the United Kingdom and the United States stood shoulder to shoulder in defense of democratic values a shift in the centuries old alliance became clear on that Autumn day.
UNESCO is the United Nations agency responsible for fostering mutual understanding among peoples of the world through the “free exchange of ideas and knowledge” in the fields of education, science and culture. (UNESCO Constitution, 1945) As the United Nations was being discussed in San Francisco, California in 1945 to provide a political mediation platform. The founding countries of UNESCO were meeting in London to create an organisation that viewed the wide diffusion of culture as a “sacred” and “indispensable” duty of all nations.
In order to avoid future conflict the founders of UNESCO recognized that wars of recent memory were due to a fundamental “ignorance of each other’s ways and lives.” By harnessing the power of mass communication technologies and promoting the “free flow of ideas by word and image” the founders envisioned a peaceful world based upon the “intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind.” (Appendix 2)
Sixty years later in October, 2005 the United Kingdom argued that a new Convention on the protection and promotion of cultural expressions would advance the organization’s noble goals of increasing the international exchange of words and images. It was on that day in that conference hall that my research began on the effects of international, regional, national and local cultural policy on individual creative institutions.