Meaningful Engagement International

Development, Arts and Cultural Policy Consulting


A Magna Carta for Culture?

Posted on June 15, 2009 at 4:28 AM

The flight was delayed, minimal sleep en route, the bags were too heavy for the metro, a wheel broke on the luggage, the elevator was broken  and its hot and muggy, but when I arrived chez Mathilde on the top floor and threw open the windows to take a nap, I took a deep breath and let the smells of Paris and the view of the Louvre amidst the rose colored clouds overwhelm me and I felt home. It is wonderful to see my french family after 2.5 years and the years in Canada have greatly helped my French and so everyone has commented on my great progress and I find I can understand everything almost perfectly. 


I am sitting in the main conference room of UNESCO listening to the Director General of UNESCO make introductions as we begin to get down to business for the 2nd Conference of Parties on the Convention of Cultural Diversity. I am here courtesy of the Finnish delegation since the United States is only an observer as my country has chosen (for legitimate if not well understood reasons) not to sign the Convention.  This opportunity is available as part of the U-40 Vision Cultural Diversity 2030 Programme. Get ready...they are about to elect the Chair and rapporteur. Laos is the first state delegation to make a proposal for the nomination of Ambassador Lauren of Canada as the Chair.  He has chaired three previous intergovernmental meetings and due to the great support from the Chamber he has just graciously accepted.  Despite the incredibly procedural nature of this first day of conference (much coffee needed to make it through), none the less as a policy dork I am incredibly excited to be here.


Beginning on Friday, 50 young professionals from civil society and government gathered together to consider the potential impact of the Convention and how to improve international cooperation and promote the visibility of the Convention and its values.  As the only American (I still cannot believe my attendence here is somehow not a mistake) I find myself, as always, explaining our strange system of cultural policy and my belief that although the U.S. will never sign this document in its present form that there are many ways the U.S. could support the values of cultural diversity.


For myself, I am thrilled to be able to be in a room with 50 other people of my own generation that fully understand what cultural policy is and whom also are engaged in the same kinds of work.  We spent the last three days working in brainstorming groups and with exceptional collegial contributions some really brilliant ideas have emerged (more about that later). 


I will be writing all week but for now I am still thinking about a topic which emerged over and over this past weekend.  There was great group consensus that the idea of developed versus developing countries is a very limiting framework with which to consider cultural diversity especially since these definitions usually refer to an economic state. In fact, the question of what it means to be cultural developed is a very intriguing one and one that remains to be answered. In terms of the establishment, saliency and knowledge of the field of cultural policy, the United States could be considered to be not as developed as other nations. I would argue that in terms of culture we are all continually developing as culture is not a static state. It is from this perspective that I believe the U.S. has much it can both learn and contribute to conversations about the values of cultural diversity and international cooperation towards the goals of mutual understanding. 


Paris, France. UNESCO 10:55 am GST.

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1 Comment

Reply Very nice site!
3:23 PM on September 24, 2009 
Very nice site!