Cablegate Vanuatu | UNESCO: Countering the Cultural Diversity Convention

For a country like Vanuatu that prides itself on its policy of supporting our numerous cultures, languages and traditions, this 2005 cable is significant because it shows the USA attempting to use its political and diplomatic might to quash support from small nations, including Vanuatu, for an international convention established specifically to protect this cultural diversity.

The UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions was conceived to protect national cultural policy from free trade agreements like the WTO/GATS or bilateral trade negotiations, and the US opposed it because they believed that it would hinder free trade (in other words, serve as a hindrance to US economic interests in cultural industries such as motion pictures and music).

Fortunately, US opposition to the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions did not prevent it from being adopted by the UNESCO General Conference in Paris in October 2005.

To date, 117 member states have ratified the Convention; however Vanuatu has signed but not yet ratified the Convention.

Key quote from this cable:

If we are to slow down the convention it will take pressure at the highest levels in Washington and around the world to convince governments that they are supporting a non-democratic piece of international law that has been cloaked in the language of culture.

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05PARIS6376 2005-09-20 06:21 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Paris
This record is a partial extract of the original cable.
The full text of the original cable is not available.

200621Z Sep 05
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 006376 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/19/2015 

REF: PARIS 4145 

Classified by USUNESCO DCM Andrew Koss, for reasons 1.4 
(b) and (d). 

1.  (C) Summary.  With the UNESCO general conference 
starting on October 3 and the General Conference Legal 
Committee scheduled to meet that first week, things are 
rapidly coming to a head.  Several delegates have 
indicated that strong pressure in their capitals may 
help us to build a ground swell of support to slow the 
convention and prevent it from being adopted at this 
General Conference.  Canada has put forward a draft 
resolution at the current Executive Board to remove the 
word "preliminary" from the draft convention and to 
recommend that it be adopted by the General Conference. 
Italy has approached us with a "compromise." End 

Countering the Canadian resolution 

2.  (C) As reported septel, Canada is floating a draft 
resolution at the Executive Board that will move the 
preliminary draft convention to the General Conference 
without the word preliminary.  This is an attempt to 
circumvent General Conference rules of procedure that 
stipulate a draft convention must be prepared seven 
months before the General Conference.  It also is 
designed to circumvent the resolution of the previous 
General Conference in 2003 that only called for a 
report on a preliminary draft convention on cultural 

3. (C) The Canadians are working with Senegal to get 
support.  We know that Tanzania and Ukraine have 
already signed and can assume that Brazil, the EU 
members of the board (UK, France, Germany, Slovenia, 
Hungary, Czech republic, Slovakia and Italy) as well as 
EU-aspirant turkey have already signed.  We of course 
cannot work with Belarus or Cuba and assume Venezuela 
will not join us.  We also have doubts about 

4. (C) The following executive board members must be 
convinced to remove their signature or not sign the 
draft resolution: 

Afghanistan, Algeria, Australia, Bahamas, Bahrain, 
Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape 
Verde, Congo, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, 
Ghana, Guatemala, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, 
Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Mali, Mauritius, Morocco, 
Mozambique, Namibia, Pakistan, the Russian Federation, 
Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Turkey, Ukraine, Tanzania, 
Uruguay, Vanuatu, Vietnam and Yemen. 

Building a groundswell of support at the General 

5. (C) We need to build a groundswell of support to 
slow things down at the General Conference.  It would 
be very difficult to get enough votes to stop passage 
of the convention but if there is enough rumbling that 
the process has moved too fast, we may build support 
for delaying the convention. 

6. (C) When asked by Ambassador Oliver recently if 
Afghanistan could support the US in its efforts to 
delay the cultural diversity convention, Ambassador 
Mohammad Aziz (protect) indicated that pressure on 
small countries like his is so intense that he would 
need the "cover" of a group of 30 countries before he 
could ask.  This sentiment was echoed by the Costa 
Rican deputy who has already gone back to San Jose for 

7. We have already reported that France and others have 
intensely lobbied for this convention at the highest 
levels.  As an example of the pressure being applied, 
the new Israeli ambassador to UNESCO recounted that 
when meeting with French Ambassador Jean Guigenou to 
seek support for Israel's run for the World Heritage 
Committee, his French counterpart told him flat out 
"no" because Israel had supported the US during the 
last round of negotiations.  Guigenou indicated France 
might support Israel if Israel abstains during voting 
at the General Conference.  The Israeli indicated he 
does not intend to give in to this kind of bullying. 

8. Besides Afghanistan, we also have indications that 
Kenya, Kuwait and the CAFTA countries would join a 
group if given enough political cover.  Colombia is 
also likely to support our position as they tentatively 
supported us during the last negotiations.  Pressure 
also needs to be applied to Chile, Argentina and Mexico 
where it appears the culture ministers have won for the 
moment.  We also need to get the support of smaller 
states that are usually forgotten in these matters. 
Small Pacific and Caribbean states might well support 
us as well as Anglophone African countries.   We should 
not overlook Suriname or Guyana.  We would also 
recommend approaching India which has been a vocal 
supporter of the convention but may respond to appeals 
from Washington about the trade aspects of the 
convention as well as Pakistan, Thailand, Bangladesh, 
Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Brunei.  The Gulf 
States are also possible supporters along with Jordan, 
Egypt, Libya, Algeria, and Morocco.  Australia and New 
Zealand need some steel in their spines, as well as the 
Japanese.  EU aspirant countries will be tough but we 
certainly should talk to all the Balkan countries, 
especially Macedonia, Serbia and Albania.  We tend to 
think that francophone states are a lost cause but it's 
still worth an effort. 

Breaking the EU Lock 

9. (C) It will be tough but we still believe that the 
EU coalition is not that strong and could be broken 
apart.  Clearly the UK has chosen this convention to 
show its Euro credentials, but Greece has continually 
told us privately they think the process is a sham, and 
Italy has said that it does not yet have instructions. 
Free traders the Netherlands and Ireland may also be 
open to appeals.  The new Central European and Baltic 
state members seem embarrassed that they support a 
document that takes them back 15 years to state control 
of culture and may well listen to high level 
approaches.  It's a long shot but it is worth a try. 

10. Some of the EU members have already indicated 
unease with the process. The new Austrian ambassador 
(who arrived after the contentious June negotiations) 
indicated that he wants a consensus document.  The new 
Belgian ambassador has also asked to meet to discuss 
the convention.  Probably most telling, the just- 
departed Italian ambassador Francesco Caruso approached 
Ambassador Oliver quietly to suggest that the US take a 
reservation on the whole convention and allow it to go 
through with the understanding that a working group 
would be formed to work on convention problems and 
produce an interpretative document.  It appears that 
Japan has received a similar approach.  (Comment: 
while we appreciate Caruso's attempt to mediate, we do 
not know if he was acting alone or on behalf of other 
EU members.  Still, we view this formula as unworkable 
and also doubt that France would ever accept it. End 
Comment) 11.  Comment.  If we are to slow down the convention it 
will take pressure at the highest levels in Washington 
and around the world to convince governments that they 
are supporting a non-democratic piece of international 
law that has been cloaked in the language of culture. 
End Comment. 

This is the latest in the Cablegate Vanuatu series. The Cablegate leak, a.k.a. the United States diplomatic cables leak, began in February 2010 when WikiLeaks—a non-profit organization that publishes submissions from anonymous whistleblowers—began releasing 251,287 classified cables that had been sent to the U.S. State Department by 274 of its consulates, embassies, and diplomatic missions around the world. Dated between December 1966 and February 2010, the cables contain diplomatic analysis from world leaders, and the diplomats’ assessment of host countries and their officials. As a service to the Vanuatu public, we will publish selected cables of interest about Vanuatu and its leaders.