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Culturelink review, no.41/November 2003 - contents - imprint - archive

Conference Omnibus in Opatija: Why Does Cultural Diversity Matter?

This October the tourist resort of Opatija hosted three international conferences focusing on issues of cultural diversity.

From October 13-15, the International Network on Cultural Diversity (INCD), in partnership with the Institute for International Relations and the Culturelink Network, held its Fourth Annual Meeting entitled Advancing Cultural Diversity Globally: The Role of Civil Society Movements. The conference gathered one hundred and ten delegates from 37 countries and all continents, who examined the progress of the movement to protect and promote cultural diversity.

This year's meeting occurred in the context of a growing international acceptance of the need for a legal instrument on cultural diversity confirmed with UNESCO's decision to officially launch negotiations on the convention on cultural diversity and the failure of the World Trade Organization's Fifth Ministerial Meeting in CancLn. The conference had three main objectives:

  • To discuss challenges to cultural diversity that arise from technology, human conflict, absence of cultural industry capacity in many countries, media concentration and other issues;
  • To analyze the INCD's relationships, with other civil society groups working for cultural diversity, with governments and intergovernmental institutions and with broader social activist movements;
  • To determine the INCD's priorities and strategies for the coming period.

The Convention on cultural diversity alone will be insufficient to meet the needs of all cultural communities. Accordingly, while working to ensure that the Convention is established and that it contains measures capable of protecting cultural diversity, the INCD focused its discussions more broadly on civil society and looked to address these concerns as well, in collaboration with other groups and in other international fora.

Following the practice of four previous years, when the two networks were meeting in parallel to each other, the International Network on Cultural Policy (INCP), a network of ministers of culture, met in their annual meeting from 16-18 October. Sixteen Ministers of Culture, fifteen observing members, UNESCO, representatives from l'Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, and the Council of Europe participated at the Conference.

The ministers congratulated UNESCO on the position it adopted at its 32nd General Conference, where the member states gave it the mandate to elaborate a draft international convention on the protection of the diversity of cultural contents and artistic expression and committed themselves to support UNESCO in every way possible over the next two years.

The focus of the INCP meeting was on three main themes:

  • Models of financing culture,
  • International Convention on Cultural Diversity: Revised text and next steps, and
  • Building the future - Emerging cultural policy trends and issues.

They were also presented with an inventory of financial and legal instruments available at the regional and international levels to support intangible heritage, undertaken by South Africa and Senegal, and with a short report of best practices with respect to cultural industries, produced by Mexico, Canada and Senegal. At the end of their conference, the ministers invited the International Network on Cultural Diversity (INCD) to present the conclusions of their Fourth Annual Meeting, as well as the representatives of the International Liaison Committee of the Coalition for Cultural Diversity, who reported on their actions to promote cultural diversity.

This year, the Croatian Minister of Culture decided to add a third event to the annual gathering of the two networks. He thus hosted the ministerial conference of the Council of Europe on the new role and new responsibilities of ministers of culture in initiating intercultural dialogue, with due regard for cultural diversity that took place from 20-22 October.

This conference adopted the draft Declaration on Intercultural Dialogue and Prevention of Conflicts, which represented the first concrete attempt to offer a common political response to the challenges posed by cultural, ethnic and religious divides, which were a constant threat to peace and development. At the closing of their meeting in Opatija, the European Culture Ministers pledged to safeguard and celebrate the many different cultures and traditions on the European continent as an essential precondition for tolerance and mutual understanding. They committed themselves to support projects that allowed communities from different cultures to flourish and reach out to others, and they condemned attempts to assimilate minority cultures into the mainstream.

While the three conferences were in a way focused on different topics, this conference omnibus provided a unique opportunity for the interaction between civil society and government representatives. Moreover, it proved that there was a growing consensus on the need to take decisive, proactive steps for the protection and promotion of cultural diversity internationally, and that governments and civil society were creating new forms of partnerships and synergies which will strengthen the process.

This Dossier contains two declarations adopted at the end of the INCD and INCP conferences. We have also selected four texts presented at the INCD conference that illustrate the interesting debates that took place in Opatija. We invite you to read other texts on the INCD web page (www.incd.net).

At the end, we take this opportunity to thank our colleagues Ludwig Laher, Mike van Graan, Ken Wiwa and Aleksandra Uzelac for the permission to publish their texts.

Nina Obuljen
Culturelink Network


  • Conference Omnibus in Opatija: Why Does Cultural Diversity Matter?
    by Nina Obuljen
  • Art for Sale?
    by Ludwig Laher
  • Cultural Diversity - North/South Perspectives
    by Mike van Graan
  • Technology as a Tool for Diversity
    by Aleksandra Uzelac
  • God, Camels, Horses and the Trouble with Interpreters
    by Ken Wiwa
  • Biographical Notes on Contributors
  • The Fourth INCD Annual Meeting - Opatija Declaration
  • The Sixth INCP Annual Ministerial Meeting - Opatija Statement