Education International
Education International

Teachers for Cultural Diversity!

published 22 November 2005 updated 22 November 2005

A Convention on the Protection and Promotion of Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions (CCD) has been adopted by the UNESCO General Assembly (October 20, 2005). The Convention reaffirms the link between culture, development and dialogue and creates an innovative platform for international cultural cooperation. The new international normative instrument will enter into force three months after the ratification of 30 states.

The Convention was approved by 148 votes. This is an historic consensus never reached before recognising that cultural goods produced around the world are rich expressions of the mosaic of cultures built by the human species along its history. Therefore, cultural goods can not be treated like “commodities” or services and ruled by the “free market” and negotiated under the framework of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which includes education, health and culture in its concepts of services. The CCD adoption is just a first step forward. We must be aware that CCD does not establish sanctions in case of infringement, nor is it clear how disputes will be settled. According to some critics, the CCD omits provisions to put an end to the robbery and illegitimate appropriation of Indigenous expressions and traditional knowledge by transnational copyrights and patent industries. The CCD doesn’t pay enough attention to the protection and promotion of cultural diversity within countries, especially in relation to the Indigenous cultures. The application of free market rules among unequal countries, which condemns some of them to consume pre-processed cultures, undoubtedly affects cultural diversity. Therefore, it is better to have established rules, with principles and common references in cultural diversity issues at the global level, than not to have an instrument at all. Education International (EI) calls upon its affiliates to support the Convention for Cultural Diversity. Teachers’ unions all over the world have a privileged role to play to promote equality, diversity and non-discrimination among cultures that inhabit all our countries. Let’s take action to ratify the Convention now! What can teacher unions do?

  • Lobby individual governments in order to have the Convention ratified by as many States as possible. This will enable its enforcement;
  • Write a letter to your government calling for ratification of the convention without reservations;
  • Disseminate information about the Convention and its principles, making sure your union joins the organisation of local and national awareness campaigns supporting the Convention;
  • Encourage intercultural dialogue and respect for cultural diversity in programmes and educational trade union activities;
  • Assist affiliates in the development of policies and actions seeking to promote peace and respect for all cultures;
  • Democratise trade union structures seekingthe full integration of teachers with different backgrounds (ethnic minorities, Indigenous peoples, coloured people, migrants, etc).

Why is the convention so important?

  • The CCD guarantees the preservation of culture in the current changing times;
  • The CCD elevates the promotion and protection of cultural rights to the same levels as other rights;
  • Culture can not be reduced to a mere commodity, without taking account its quality or values, without increasing the risks of its extinction;
  • The international community needs to give cultural rights the attention that they deserve;
  • The CCD seeks to promote a major balance in the international exchange of products and cultural services


  • Cultural rights form an integral part of human rights and as such are universal, indivisible and interdependent;
  • States have primary responsibility for the promotion of and respect for cultural rights;
  • The CCD was approved by historic consensus. Its ratification will make it more difficult to keep regulation of audiovisual and cultural services on the agenda of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the General Agreement on Trade Services (GATS);
  • States will be allowed by international law to subsidise their cultural goods and impose quotas to preserve their national cultures;
  • The Convention on Cultural Diversity is filling a gap in legislation on the world governance, with the provision of a series of national and international rights and obligations which protect and promote cultural diversity.

Guiding principles

  • Respect for human rights
  • Equal dignity of all cultures
  • International solidarity and co-operation
  • Complementarity of economic and cultural aspects of developments
  • Sustainable development
  • Openness, balance and proportionality

Background In 2003, 180 countries started negotiating on a draft Convention on Cultural Diversity (CCD) to be submitted in October 2005. A Preliminary Report was submitted to the member States by the Director-General (July 2004). Three Intergovernmental meetings took place for exchange of views on the Preliminary Draft of the Convention prepared by the group of Independent experts. The third session which marked the last phase of intergovernmental negotiations enabled the experts to finalise the text of the preliminary draft Convention that was submitted to the members States at the Conference. In the past some states, including France, introduced exception clauses in favour of culture to the General Agreements on Tariff and Trade (GATT, Uruguay Round, 1993). Canada did something similar with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA, 1994). The Convention’s adoption is just a first step. Some challenges remains to be addressed at the 6 th Ministerial Conference of World Trade Organisation (WTO) to be held in Hong Kong (December 13-18, 2005). Unions’ responses need to be loud!