“ Cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature.”
One must always return to one’s roots and perhaps even more so on the day of a birth. So it was only natural that with the creation of the European Coalitions for Cultural Diversity website, we should not forget who we are, where we come from and what we stand for above all else. Article 1 of the UNESCO Convention for the protection and promotion of Cultural Diversity of Expressions is a perfect synthesis of this.
I am proud to have played a small part in campaigning for the UNESCO Convention which recognises that Culture cannot be assessed solely from the point of view of competition, trade and internal market policies. On the contrary, cultural creation expresses values, helps to shape our identities and can create social cohesion and mutual understanding between citizens. It is a pillar of our democracy.
This sits in stark contrast to the imperatives of free trade rules where their universal application in the film and television sector for example could have the effect of wiping out most national audio-visual industries. Therefore it is crucial to have an international agreement which establishes the right for sovereign states to adopt regulatory measures aimed at protecting and promoting the diversity of cultural expressions (UNESCO, 2005: preamble and Article 6).
Civil society organisations comprising coalitions of diverse creators and their representative organisations, sprang up to support the Convention and to be an ongoing part of it, making sure that it would be implemented by nation states across the world. Thanks to that, we now have an International Federation of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity composed of 31 members.
As of 2014, I am honoured to chair the network of European Coalitions for Cultural Diversity (ECCD). This alliance, composed today of 11 European national coalitions, campaigns to ensure that culture is not considered a commodity like the others, especially in the context of trade negotiations. We have, for example, called for the exclusion of audiovisual works from all EU trade agreements with third countries. Such an exclusion preserves the right of nation states to subsidise public service broadcasting and have special measures to support local film, drama and documentary production, for example.
The European Union has ratified the 2005 UNESCO Convention. Therefore, the integration of culture and cultural diversity into European policies should be paramount.
The ECCD campaigns at a European level for EU policies and measures to support:
- The development of dynamic cultural and creative sectors
- Diversity of content in all media
- The diversity of cultural expressions in the digital environment
- The discoverability of diverse works online across all cultural sectors for all citizens.
- Outward and inward mobility of artists and cultural professionals
- Better remuneration for our creators, especially online
In the era of near monopolisation of the means of online distribution and the internet economy by an oligopoly of owners, whose platforms direct us towards cultural and creative content according to their algorithmic choices, the fight for cultural diversity has taken on a new meaning. Thus, the ECCD monitors and acts to ensure the visibility and enhancement of the works of European creators in the name of cultural diversity.
As African director Alain Gomis once pointed out, “there is surely something wrong when only 10% of the world’s population appears on screen. It is important we and our stories are also seen.”
In the name of our identities, our values and our social cohesion, cultural diversity must be a vital and integral part of our society. Our long term well being and democracy depends upon it. The ECCD encourages European States to implement the necessary public policy measures to ensure diversity within our cultural and creative industries so that our citizens have access to and can discover the full diversity of European works across all genres in the digital world.
Since 2014, Carole Tongue, former MEP and coordinator of the Socialist Group for Culture, Media, Sport, Education and Youth, has been President of the European Coalitions for Cultural Diversity. She also founded and chairs the UK Coalition for the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.