Getting it right for artists

The UNESCO 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions recognizes and protects creative and cultural expression globally

Cultural expressions breathe life and vibrancy into our world: from the TV shows we watch, the books we read, and the music we listen to. But diversity is critical for peace and understanding, and for the greatest springboard for economic opportunity.

Their effectiveness depends on a framework of democracy, tolerance, social justice and mutual respect between peoples and cultures. So the Member States of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) came together in 2005 to recognize and codify the importance of the diversity of cultural expressions in this  Convention.

Who does the Convention protect—and how?

If you’re an artist, cultural practitioner or cultural organization, the 2005 Convention calls on States to take the measures necessary to build an environment in their territory to protect you, whether you earn income from your work or not.

This international agreement acknowledges that freely expressing one’s culture helps people share knowledge, strengthens social cohesion, and builds community. It seeks to promote and protect the diversity of cultural expressions by creating conditions for cultures to thrive— for instance by supporting them financially, offering legal protection, and creating spaces for people from minority and Indigenous groups to express their cultural expressions.

In addition, the Convention encourages countries to:

  • Offer public funds to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expression
  • Foster public-private partnerships to promote the free exchange of ideas and to stimulate cultural practitioners’ creative and entrepreneurial spirit
  • Acknowledge and support the roles that artists and cultural communities play in nurturing diversity of cultural expressions

To date, 152 states and one regional organization, the European Union have ratified the Convention into domestic law. Canada was first to do so, in November 2005.

“The protection, promotion and maintenance of cultural diversity are an essential requirement for sustainable development for the benefit of present and future generations.”

—Guiding Principle 6, Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions

“The cultural aspects of development are as important as its economic aspects, which individuals and peoples have the fundamental right to participate in and enjoy.”

—Guiding Principle 5, Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions

The founding principles of the Convention

The Convention protects artists, cultural practitioners and cultural organizations through eight simple principles required of signatory countries:

  • Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms
  • Sovereignty for countries in the adoption of protective measures and policies
  • Equal dignity and respect for all cultures
  • International solidarity and cooperation
  • Complementarity of economic and cultural aspects of development
  • Sustainable development
  • Equitable access
  • Openness and balance

Here is a little more context on how these principles come to life.


The Convention aims to ensure equity in opportunity across cultures.

One way it does this is by calling for policies that protect and promote diversity of cultural expressions. For example, countries are expected to create opportunities for all cultural groups, no matter how small. The Convention instructs countries to protect the diversity of cultural expressions “especially in situations where cultural expressions may be threatened by the possibility of extinction or serious impairment.”

The Convention also asks signatories to give due regard to the special circumstances and needs of women, minorities and Indigenous groups.

“The 2005-UNESCO Convention has empowered global co-operation and civil society action in culture and contemporary creation in an unprecedented way. For the decades to come, political will, skill, and leadership will be crucial to enhance the diversity of cultural expressions in the digital environment, for gender justice, priority Africa 2063, resilience, and the cultural dimension of sustainable development and fair culture.”

Christine M Merkel, Germany
International Expert, Senior Adviser
Member, UNESCO_EU Expert Facility Cultural Governance and Creative Economy (2011-2026)
Co-Chair, EU OMC Group Cultural dimension of Sustainable Development (2020-2022)

Art for its own sake

Cultural expression—through art, story or song—can be an economic opportunity. But it doesn’t have to be.

According to the Convention, cultural activities must not be treated as having solely commercial value. Rather, countries are expected to protect and promote diversity of cultural expressions for its intrinsic value.

“Given that humanity is extraordinarily diverse, it is in the most complete diversity that this same humanity can nurture the hope of a sustainable future. This hope today empowers those who are perceived as being the weakest, who in turn can feel weak themselves, to assert their richness both for themselves and for the world; a richness, which in spite of everything makes them special, unique and important.”

Extract from the welcome address by Kodjo Cyriaque NOUSSOUGLO, IFCCD Vice President Africa, at the 6th Congress held in Lomé on October 9, 2019.

This is why the Convention offers ways for countries to exempt certain cultural products from free-trade agreements, for instance, film and TV products created in Canada are eligible for tax incentives that are not granted to their American-made counterparts, even though the two countries have negotiated trade agreements on other goods.

Before the Convention came into play, ‘the [World Trade Organization] viewed magazines through the same commercial lens that it used for the sale of pork bellies,’ former Deputy Prime Minister Sheila Copps wrote in a 2015 report on the Convention. The Convention has empowered countries to protect and promote the cultural industries within their borders from the growing pressures of cultural exports from their larger or more financially secure counterparts.

How does the Convention affect me as a cultural creator?

The Convention makes it clear that cultural activities, goods and services—from bead and canvas artwork to films, TV and media—have intrinsic value regardless of commercial worth. This means that each country is expected to protect and promote artistic creation and cultural exchange even if these activities are not commercial.

For example, the Convention asserts that because music is a source of intangible and material wealth, each country must protect and promote copyright holders, practitioners and exchange systems of this art form.

“The Asia-Pacific is extremely rich in cultural diversity and the ‘hotspot’ of the global cultural and creative industries (CCI) and yet the region remains the lowest in the ratification rate of the UNESCO 2005 Convention.   Raising awareness of the Convention should go hand in hand with the acceleration of culture, cultural rights and talks on sustainability’

Hiroko Tsuboi-Friedman, EU/UNESCO Expert Facility member
2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions


“The Convention views culture as a cornerstone of sustainable development, not simply another tradable good. In a fractious world, we need an enabling environment where artists and cultural professionals can create and exchange…with access to diversified markets.”

Sheila Copps, former deputy prime minister of Canada,Re|shaping Cultural Policies

Is the Convention subject to regulation or international law? 

The simple answer yes. As a legally binding international treaty, the Convention outlines a set of principles and guidelines aimed at protecting and promoting the diversity of cultural expressions worldwide. Countries that have ratified the Convention are legally bound to implement its provisions within their domestic legal frameworks. This could involve:

  • Enacting laws and regulations that align with the Convention’s goals
  • Promoting cultural policies
  • Supporting initiatives to protect and foster cultural expressions

Although the Convention is legally binding on signatories, the specific mechanisms for implementing and enforcing it can vary from country to country.

How can the Convention protect the cultural expressions of minority communities and indigenous people?  

Three different articles in the Convention protect these expressions in different ways:

  • Article 6 focuses on the rights of parties at the national level. It emphasizes the need for measures aimed at protecting and promoting diversity of cultural expressions and providing opportunities for domestic cultural activities, including public financial support.
  •  Article 7 lists measures to promote cultural expressions and states that all signatories must try to create an environment that encourages individuals to create, produce, share, distribute and have access to their own cultural expressions, with particular attention to the special circumstances of women, minorities and Indigenous Peoples.
  • Article 8 contains measures to protect cultural expressions in special situations where such expressions are at risk of extinction, under serious threat, or otherwise in need of urgent safeguarding.

It is important to note that the sovereignty principles set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) emphasise  that Indigenous peoples have the right to decide on measures and policies to protect and promote their diversity of cultural expressions.

How does the Convention support cultural expressions at risk?

The Convention provides principles, guidelines and mechanisms that countries can use to safeguard and promote cultural expressions, especially those under threat. For example, countries can:

  • Develop and implement cultural policies that prioritize the protection and promotion of diverse cultural expressions—such as strategies to support artists, creators and cultural industries. They can also address the challenges faced by minority and marginalized communities.
  • Create legal and regulatory frameworks that support diversity of cultural expressions—such as by enacting laws that protect the rights of artists and creators, ensuring equitable access to cultural resources, and preventing the dominance of a single cultural expression.
  • Cooperate internationally, share experiences, and exchange inspirational practices to address common challenges and protect cultural expressions that may be at risk across borders.
  • Increase education and public awareness of the value and of the diversity of cultural expressions —such as through educational programs, campaigns and cultural events—to convey the value of cultural expressions in shaping identities and societies.
  •  Offer funding and other resources to support cultural expressions (particularly those at risk)—such as financial support for artists, cultural organizations, and projects that focus on preserving endangered cultural expressions.
  • Encourage Indigenous and local communities to participate in decisions that may affect their cultural expressions and work with them to develop policies and initiatives that respect their traditional knowledge and practices.
  •  Improve accountability and periodically report on their efforts to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions. The Convention requires signatory states to report on their progress every four years. This can help hold governments accountable for their commitments, monitor the implementation of various provisions of the 2005 Convention in national legislative systems, and share examples of best practices with other Parties.

By applying the principles and mechanisms outlined in the Convention, countries can support cultural expressions at risk, help diverse cultural heritage to thrive, and contribute to the richness of the global cultural landscape.

Examples of the Convention at work

In this section, you will find examples of concrete projects that illustrate the actions that can be taken by Parties to the Convention. Three members of the Federation, the Codec in Camaroun, the Paraguayan Coalition and the French Coalition, present actions taken in their countries and the role played by civil society in these projects.

Supporting Central African cultural entrepreneurs and promoters through training, coaching and networking

From September 2021 to November 2022, the Program for Reenforcing the cultural and Creative Industries of Central Africa-Priccac was implemented by three civil society organizations, namely:

  • Le Réseau Culturel et Artistique pour la Formation et la Francophonie, RECAF, in Chad
  • L’association Masséka théâtre in the Central African Republic
  • The Collectif Des Experts et Entrepreneurs Culturels, CODEC, in Cameroon

30 young entrepreneurs and cultural promoters (including 10 from each of the countries covered by the program) were selected following a call for applications to take part in a series of training workshops via webinars, workshops and café-réseaux. The aim was capacity building in the creation of sustainable cultural and creative industries, based on the reappropriation of African culture and creativity, and the establishment of a sub-regional professional network.

At the end of the program, three business projects from Cameroon, Chad and The Central African Republic  received financial support worth 2,500 euros each, including that of WANSO TISSALA Bienvenu, a young Cameroonian producer, for a series of animated films (12×26 min) inspired by African myths and legends.

The Priccac project was financed under the first call for projects of the Create in Central Africa program, and co-financed by the European Union to the tune of 68,000 Euros, or 44,561,760 F Cfa.

Lake Ypacarai Meeting (Paraguay) – Exploring Cultures through Community and Indigenous Cinema in the Americas

The Lake Ypacarai Meeting, which took place from August 11 to 13, 2010 in San Bernardino, in the Cordillera region of Paraguay, was a joint initiative of UNESCO Montevideo – MERCOSUR Cluster, the Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean of UNESCO in Havana, Cuba, and the Paraguayan Coalition for Cultural Diversity, under the general direction of Alejandra Dias Lanz.

The aim of this meeting was to promote cultural integration through community and indigenous cinema, bringing together participants from different countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Canada, and Paraguay. It gathered approximately 80 participants, including representatives from various indigenous communities in Paraguay, border areas of Argentina, and indigenous communities from Canada, each contributing their linguistic and cultural diversities.

It also aimed to strengthen the communities’ ability to convey their cultural values and expressions through creative media such as audiovisual media. It provided an opportunity to reflect on best practice in this field by encouraging constructive dialogue with professionals in production, directing, and audiovisual broadcasting.

Cultural industries were highlighted as an essential tool for the construction and promotion of cultural identity, and this meeting aimed to foster this approach through community and indigenous cinema.

Financing Obligations for Content Platforms in France

In 2018, the European Union revised its directive on Audiovisual Media Services to adapt to changes in the audiovisual sector, particularly the significant use of Video on Demand (SVOD) services in Europe, such as Netflix, Disney+, and Prime Video.

Article 13 of the directive introduced the possibility for EU member states to impose financing obligations on Video on Demand services in the form of direct investments in the production of European audiovisual and cinematic works or indirectly through a levy system allocated to the national agency supporting audiovisual and cinema in the country. These obligations aim to restore balance with those already imposed on traditional broadcasters (television) introduced in the 2010 Audiovisual Media Services Directive.

To date, the majority of European countries, specifically 14, have taken advantage of the opportunity to introduce financing obligations in accordance with the Audiovisual Media Services Directive. France has introduced the highest level of investment in Europe, with a direct obligation for platforms, whether or not based in France, to invest 20 to 25% of their revenue in original French and European works of expression. This investment is divided between cinema and audiovisual works, with cinema’s share not being allowed to fall below 20% of the total obligation. Only works that adhere to provisions regarding moral rights and author’s remuneration (as defined in articles L. 121-1, L. 121-5, L. 131-4, and L. 132-25 of the French Intellectual Property Code) can be considered under these obligations. In parallel, production grants issued by the CNC (National Center for Cinema and the Moving Image) are also conditional on compliance with French copyright rules. With such a system, France has taken strong measures to prevent the development of contractual practices that are contrary to and detrimental to authors’ rights (buyout contracts, rights transfer).

France is the only country to align SVOD obligations with those of linear services. French public broadcasters invest 20% of their revenue in audiovisual works and 3.5% in cinematic works, while private linear services, whether based in France or not, invest approximately 16% of their revenue generated in France in content creation.

In addition, France has harmonized regulations governing support for creation applicable to both terrestrial and cable/satellite television channels and Video on Demand services. France has also introduced a single contribution rate of 5.15% of the revenue generated in France by all audiovisual service providers (established in France or not), allocated to the National Center for Cinema (CNC).

During the transposition of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, France reinforced investment obligations in audiovisual creation, focusing solely on heritage works (fiction, animation, creative documentaries, and live performance recording). Initiated in 2007 for television channels to prevent abuses that could include non-heritage programs within investment obligations, the commitment of broadcasters to heritage works has been further emphasized through the decree establishing obligations for SVOD services. It stipulates that 100% of mandatory investments must be dedicated to heritage works.

Get involved

The International Federation of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity is the voice of cultural professionals around the world and protects the diversity of cultural expression in the digital environment. To find out more about how it does this, or how to build a coalition visit the federation’s website.

Countries’ progress

Signatory states report to UNESCO every four years on the measures they’ve taken to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions. To read more about countries’ progress, visit this website.