UNESCO-fundur í París

2000-2010 Cultural Diversity:
Challenges of the Marketplace
Round Table of Ministers of Culture
UNESCO, Paris 11.-12. December 2000.

At this Round Table we have listened to different views on how to reach our common aim, that is to support cultural diversity at the local and international level.

Some of us consider it necessary to introduce new international legal instruments in order to sustain diversity. Others want to leave it to the marketplace to regulate cultural trade and trends.

We have been told that it is not up to the WTO but each and every country to define the status of culture within the GATT framework.

This task begins at home as we know that the limits between culture on the one hand and industry and services on the other are more unclear than ever before.

Both at the local and international level we are dealing with culture in a different context than we did few years ago.

Globalisation makes it harder to distinguish between local and international cultural activity, for instance it is much easier than ever before for local culture to get global attention. It should also be noted that in order to be strong globally we have to cultivate our home field with local reference.

We have been informed that copyright industries are accounting for an ever bigger share of the economic activity of the industrial nations. On the other hand it is of special concern how to channel copyright income to the developing countries when their cultural creativity or heritage becomes a part of the global market.

In my opinion this is not only a problem for the developing countries but for all that come from small nations with a culture which can be exploited and brought into the marketplace on such a scale that we are in reality unable to cope with it due to the megasize of the globalized cultural activity, especially in film and music.

In my country, Iceland, we can easily define our national identity on the basis of our culture and our language. We know from our history that isolation is a greater threat to cultural creativity than opening up to international trends and cooperation with others.

Due to this fact I can not support protectionism in the cultural field if that means to exclude other cultural activity than our own – and let me stress that such a policy would contradict the aim of UNESCO and the aim of our Round Table. We are here to reiterate our commitment to diversity at the same time as we recognise that culture is more and more regarded as an industry or service where the rules of trade and the market will play a still greater role.

Cultural goods are not only a commodity and therefore they cannot be treated as if the law of the market alone decides their emergence and circulation.

Our challenge is to find how to reconcile this view and at the same time welcome fact that culture is becoming an ever growing part of our national and international economic activity.