Thursday, November 10, 2005

Fears that the United States may withdraw from UNESCO over Convention on Cultural Diversity

Read the full story published by Embassy (Canada's Foreign Policy Newsweekly).

"UNESCO Cultural Treaty On the Rocks, Fearing U.S. Withdrawal"

"A new international pact to protect creative expression from the threat of globalization is so strongly opposed by the United States that a diplomat in Ottawa fears Washington may withdraw from UNESCO for the second time.

"'We are very worried that U.S. foreign policy is rowing against the current,' says Carlos Carrasco, Bolivia's Ambassador to Canada. 'There are rumours that the United States might drop out [of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization] or withhold funds.'

"For 18 years Mr. Carrasco was his country's representative to UNESCO in Paris, and then director for Latin America and the Caribbean. Last month in France he represented Bolivia at UNESCO's general meeting where 148 countries approved a new instrument that preserves the right of nations to promote and support their own audiovisual industries, such as film, music and literature. Two nations -- the United States and Israel -- voted against the treaty, four abstained, and dozens of other countries failed to attend the vote, which Mr. Carrasco describes as a move to appear neutral in a polarizing debate.

"The United States argues the treaty could be used to build trade barriers to cultural trade and services, and that trade agreements and World Trade Organization rules enjoy supremacy over UNESCO conventions. The U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO, Louise Oliver, also says it could be used to justify censorship. She stopped short of saying her objection to the treaty could cause the U.S. to quit the organization or withhold funding.

"'I would say that we're not currently considering any such possibilities, but obviously this process is going to raise some questions that will have to be discussed when I get back to Washington,' says Ms. Oliver, according to an Associated Press article."

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