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Cablegate: Unesco: Cultural Diversity Convention Advances

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

300526Z Sep 05




E.O. 12958: N/A

Refs: a) State 179138 and b) Paris 6534

1. (U) Summary. On September 29, 2005, in a lopsided vote
in which the U.S. again stood alone, the UNESCO Executive
Board meeting in plenary session adopted a decision
recommending that the General Conference consider and in
effect formally adopt as a UNESCO convention the preliminary
draft text of the cultural diversity convention. While the
Board's decision does not bind the General Conference to
adopt the convention when it meets between 3-21 October, it
nonetheless provides an unhelpful impulse towards such
adoption. The Board's action could also complicate high-
level USG efforts during the interim to persuade some UNESCO
member States to agree to postpone adoption of the
convention in October to allow further negotiations on key
provisions we consider still seriously flawed. The high
marks the U.S. received for the procedural skill and
reasonableness shown in pressing our case during the plenary
has been noted by some delegations as contrasting with the
boorish and inflexible performance of the UK and the EU. End

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2. (U) The Executive Board's September 29 plenary action on
the draft decision followed on the September 23rd
consideration of that draft in the Program and External
Relations Commission. At the Commission, as per
instructions, the U.S. called for an unprecedented roll-call
vote on paragraph 6 (ref B), seeking to remove it in its
entirety from the draft decision). (See the Ambassador's
intervention posted at the U.S. Mission's website). That
paragraph "recommends that the General Conference at its
33rd session consider the said preliminary draft as a draft
convention and adopt it as a UNESCO convention."

3. (U) At the Executive Board's plenary session, per Ref A
instructions, we moved that "no action" be taken on the
entire draft decision. However, the motion failed to carry
by a vote of 55 against and 1(the U.S.) for. (Australia
voted against our motion, explaining later that it did so
out of respect for decisions that have been adopted by the
Commission). We then sought to amend paragraph 6 so that
the final clause would read "consider adopting it as a
UNESCO convention" in an effort to weaken the text. Brazil
countered with a motion that "no action" be taken on the
U.S. proposed amendment. That fed into what became a
protracted, somewhat acrimonious debate about substance and
procedure. Several delegations (Afghanistan, Indonesia,
Japan, Australia) indicated in various ways that the U.S.
proposed amendment may not be all that bad. The debate,
however, ended only when the U.S. withdrew its amendment and
asked for an up or down vote on the draft decision. This
gesture drew spontaneous applause, later confirmed by
expressions of gratitude from a number of delegations. The
vote count was 53 in support of the draft decision, 1
opposed (the U.S.), two abstentions (Australia and Jamaica),
and two delegations absent (Bangladesh and Kenya).
(Jamaica's abstention was due largely to confusion and
should not be seen as a well-considered abstention).

4. (U) The Ambassador delivered an EOV drawing from the
Department's guidance. Before delivering the EOV, however,
the Ambassador rebuffed a comment from the Canadian
Ambassador who said the draft decision should send a
"political message" to the General Conference demonstrating
the need for prompt adoption of the convention. Our
rejoinder was that the true political message that we had
intended to send by our proposed amendment is that this
convention raises complex issues that deserve further
scrutiny by all concerned and should not be adopted

5. Comment. At the end of the procedural maneuvers and
debate, the mood in the room among other delegations was
surprisingly one of gratitude toward the U.S. but surprise
and disappointment at the UK and the EU for having shown
impolitic rigidity toward the U.S. proposed amendment. It
turns out that a number of delegations saw the amendment as
a possible way of achieving a consensus result on the draft
decision without either us or the convention's proponents
giving in to the other before the General Conference. In
any event, our persistence has helped to heighten awareness
that the U.S. is far from giving up, is prepared to leave no
stones unturned, and is not prepared to simply walk away
mildly from this fight. As we fast approach the General
Conference, very heavy lifting will be required if we are to
have any chance of securing a genuine opportunity for
further discussions that could cure major defects still
inherent in the cultural diversity convention text. End


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