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Culturelink review, no.26/November 1998 - contents - imprint - archive

Putting Culture on the World Stage

On June 29 and 30, 1998 an International Meeting on Cultural Policy was held in Ottawa. It was organized by the Department of Canadian Heritage. Ministers of culture from over 40 countries, from all regions of the world, were invited. 19 ministers and secretaries of state responsible for culture attended the meeting. This meeting can be seen as an example of the type of concrete follow-up to the UNESCO Intergovernmental Conference on Cultural Policies for Development which took place in Stockholm, Sweden in March, 1998. (See Culturelink no. 25/August 1998, pp. 45-51.) This conference underlined that cultural policies 'need to encompass new challenges in the arts and heritage, yet go beyond these areas to embrace development, the promotion of pluralism, as well as the fostering of social cohesion and creativity.'

The Ottawa meeting Putting Culture on the World Stage marks the first time a globally representative ministerial-level group has come together to discuss international cooperation on cultural policy outside of a formal institutional context. This meeting is an important first step in a broader process of building awareness and support for cultural diversity in an era of globalization and technological change. The objective of the meeting was to ensure that cultural and linguistic diversity is embraced as a priority on the international agenda, and to demonstrate that culture is central in global thinking on development, access and identity. The meeting was aimed at promoting international cooperation for enhancing both cultural sovereignty and diversity in the face of globalization.

The meeting focussed on three key themes linking cultural policy objectives and the international agenda: Cultural Diversity and Development; The Role of Culture in Global Relations; and Culture and Trade.

Canadian ministers, Lloyd Axworthy and Diane Marleau, supported the meeting and chaired two of the three sessions that were held. Their participation demonstrates the importance of culture on the broader Canadian governmental agenda.

On June 29, the Canadian Conference of the Arts held a non-governmental organization (NGO) forum which reinforced the objectives of the ministerial meeting with civil society. The ministers at the Ottawa meeting agreed to forge new partnerships with NGOs from around the globe.

There were a number of outcomes from the meeting; the main one was announcements of follow-up meetings that will be held in Mexico in 1999 and in Greece in the year 2000. As well, an informal international network of cultural ministers was launched to promote and protect culture. A 'contact group' was formed to coordinate the activities of this network whose initial members include Sweden, Mexico, Greece and Canada. The Department of Canadian Heritage will provide the group secretariat for the first year.


We are grateful to the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Canadian Conference of the Arts, for offering these documents to the Culturelink network members.


  • Putting Culture on the World Stage -
    International Meeting on Cultural Policy
  • At Home in the World -
    An International Forum on Culture and Cooperation