[Documents/Docheader.htm]

The OECD and the world economy

Doc. 10315
5 October 2004

Contribution[1]
Committee on Culture, Science and Education
Rapporteur: Mr Jacques Legendre, France, Group of the European People’s Party


1.                   The Committee on Culture, Science and Education congratulates the Rapporteur, Mr Ates, for its report and supports the draft resolution on the OECD and the world economy presented by the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development.

2.                   The Committee wished to add the following amendment:

In the draft resolution, after paragraph 11, add a new paragraph worded as follows:

“The Enlarged Assembly wishes to underline the particular importance of culture to sustainable development.  The economic significance and employment potential of the cultural sector and cultural activities are growing steadily.  Above all, however, culture embodies the values that form the very personality of a society.  The OECD therefore has a duty to participate in discussion on reconciling the economic potential of the cultural sector with the specific role of culture and with the concern to preserve the diversity of the cultural content and artistic expression that individuals and societies contribute to it.  Such discussions would establish the necessary link between the negotiations on the liberalisation of world trade and the work of the European Union, Council of Europe and UNESCO in supporting cultural diversity.”

Explanatory memorandum

3.                   The old reflex that some politicians and business leaders have of regarding culture as something distinct from politics and business is a mistaken approach.

4.                   It is becoming increasingly clear that some of the scourges of modern society such as exclusion, racism and xenophobia and violence and terrorism are closely linked with a lack of tolerance and pluralism in attitudes and inadequate dialogue between different cultures and religions.  Cultivating this spirit of pluralism and mutual respect must therefore be a crucial concern of culture and education.  The sustainable development of our increasingly multicultural and multi-faith societies is inconceivable without genuine respect and harmonious coexistence between all the cultures and religions that make them up.

5.                   Against the background of globalisation and the media society, the industries in the cultural sector are becoming increasingly important. It suffices to look at the income Hollywood generates for the United States.  Cultural products, which are being made more accessible by information technology, and cultural tourism could be key vectors for economic growth, including for developing countries.

6.                   Some serious problems remain, however.

7.                   A large proportion of the population and their policymakers are not culturally prepared for an approach that respects the various cultures and religions.  Culture, education and the media therefore have a key role to play in changing attitudes.

8.                   In most European countries, the education system is still not suited to the needs of a multicultural, multi-faith society.  In the coming years, over one million teachers in our member states will retire.  A whole new generation of teachers will have to be trained in these new challenges of multiculturalism and dialogue.  Any failure in this area would have disastrous consequences for society and also for the economy.  In this connection, we only need to consider the speed at which government expenditure on preventing and dealing with the consequences of terrorism and violence is rising.  The Committee on Culture, Science and Education is currently preparing a report on culture’s role in combating terrorism.

9.                   If they are to play their roles as vectors of pluralism, tolerance and respect, culture and education need targeted investments that cannot necessarily be provided by the market.  Hence the importance of each state defining cultural policies that are in harmony with democratic values and, at the same time, take account of the specific situation of individual countries and enable all cultures in them to express themselves freely and fully, while respecting other cultures.

10.               This brings us to the second challenge, which involves the future of culture against the background of globalisation.  Free trade should offer all parties equal opportunities.  In practice, however, there are great inequalities in the cultural sector in favour of big players, especially American ones.

11.               The United States has a rich culture.  However, the country’s political, economic and military power means that its culture is so strong that it could destroy other cultures if globalisation proceeds without any checks and balances.  Culture must not be regarded as a commodity and marketed like any other goods or services.

12.               Yet there is a risk of just that happening in the trade negotiations on goods and services at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), in particular in connection with the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).  As no sector is excluded from the negotiations, the United States has called for the liberalisation of audiovisual services.  For its part, the European Union is defending the imperatives of public audiovisual policy and the right to preserve and develop the ability of the EU and the individual member countries to devise and implement cultural and audiovisual policies with a view to safeguarding cultural diversity. 

13.               The question of the relations between culture and commerce arises in a whole series of other areas of international trade law, including trade in goods (GATT), trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS), the protection of investments (MAI) and the regulation of subsidies (Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures).  National cultural policies could therefore be of importance in areas other than the GATS[2].

14.               Although the WTO does not advocate unconditional priority for commercial interests, its decisions are binding.  At the same time, the two main international documents protecting cultural diversity – the declarations on cultural diversity by the Council of Europe and by UNESCO – are only declaratory in nature and are not able to counterbalance the international trade system.

15.               Following France’s insistence on “cultural exception” within the WTO and the initiative by Quebec and the International Network on Cultural Policy (INCP) involving informal meetings of culture ministers from 20 countries, the international community is therefore gradually coming to support the idea of drawing up an international instrument to promote and protect cultural diversity.

16.               A fundamental principle that must be upheld in this connection is that “protection does not mean protectionism”.

17.               In October 2003, on the basis of a recommendation by the Executive Board (166EX/28), the 32nd session of the UNESCO General Conference (32C/52) asked the Director-General to submit a preliminary report accompanied by a Draft International Convention on the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions (Res 32C/24) at its next session in October 2005.  Outstanding work is being done on the draft text and the Council of Europe is closely involved in the process, both through the presence of experts from its Directorate General of Education, Culture and Heritage, Youth and Sport (DG IV) at the intergovernmental meetings and through very intensive follow-up by the Committee on Culture, Science and Education.

18.               On 9 September, the committee had a meeting with Mr Bernier (Laval University, Quebec, Canada), representing the International Network on Cultural Policy (INCP), Ms Stenou, Director of the Division of Cultural Policies and Intercultural Dialogue at UNESCO, and DG IV, which confirmed the complementarity of the approaches of the Council of Europe and UNESCO.  The French Minister for Culture, Mr Donnedieu de Vabres, who took part in the discussions, also underlined that respect for all individual cultural identities is a fundamental political principle and the protection of cultural diversity is an important part of international life that affects peaceful coexistence between states.

19.               The participants noted that other international institutions are beginning to notice the link between cultural development and sustainable development (for instance, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2004 World Human Development Report is entitled “Cultural Liberty in Today’s Diverse World”).  They hoped that economic and financial institutions would move in the same direction.

20.               Unfortunately, the OECD was not represented at the hearing.  Yet the committee believes that it is precisely the OECD that should make a major contribution to discussion of how the economic potential of the cultural sector can be reconciled with the specific role of culture and with the concern to preserve the diversity of the cultural content and artistic expression that individuals and societies contribute to it.

21.               The Assembly already expressed this wish in Resolution 1350 (2003) on the OECD and the world economy, which recommended that “greater attention should be paid by economic bodies such as the OECD to the integration of the cultural dimension and its diversity, in economic development, thus enhancing sustainable development.”  The OECD’s response essentially concerns the tourism sector and covers certain very technical aspects of other service industries such as music and the audiovisual media.  The Assembly should therefore once again stress the need to take account of and protect the specific value of culture in the economic sphere.


Reporting committee : Committee on Economic Affairs and Development (Doc. 10254)

Committee for contribution : Committee on Culture, Science and Education

Reference to committee : Standing mandate

Contribution adopted by the committee on 4 October 2004

Head of Secretariat: Mr Grayson

Secretaries to the committee : Mr Ary, Mrs Theophilova-Permaul


[1] Approved by the committee on 4 October 2004.

[2] See “European Public Film Support within the WTO Framework”, by Anna Herold, IRIS Plus, Legal Observations of the European Audiovisual Observatory, Issue 2003-6.