The UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions came into effect in March 2007. It represents the first binding instrument of international law, recognising the sovereign right of each state to adopt measures and policies to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions within their territory. Against the background of possible threats to cultural policy measures by international trade laws, the legitimacy of regulatory and financial measures in support of national cultural goods and services is affirmed. Furthermore, state parties to the Convention commit themselves to creating an enabling environment that allows a diversity of cultural expressions to flourish. Thus, international cultural exchange should be encouraged in order to promote a diversity of cultural expressions within the national territory as well as within other countries of the world.
Austria was among the first states to ratify the Convention in December 2006. As an elected member of the Intergovernmental Committee for the period 2007-2009, Austria actively participated in the formulation of operative guidelines for the implementation and application of the provisions of the Convention. On a national level, several bodies have been set up at the Austrian Commission for UNESCO to accompany the process of implementation of the Convention:
The National Point of Contact, pursuant to Article 9 and 28 of the Convention, has been established at the Austrian Commission for UNESCO based on an agreement between the Federal Ministry of Education and Women’s Affairs and the Austrian Foreign Ministry. The point of contact functions as a coordinator between the different levels and parties affected by the Convention, provides a central point of information, gives advice and contributes to the awareness-raising process.
The point of contact is guided by an expert panel on cultural diversity that decides on priorities and the focus of activities. Consisting of representatives of the relevant ministries, the regional governments and independent experts, the expert panel is responsible for compromising on binding decisions.
To encourage the active participation of civil society, a working group on cultural diversity (ARGE) was set up in 2004. As the main platform to foster dialogue, all players on all levels (including experts, artists, cultural workers and their interest groups, as well as representatives of the federal and province governments) meet on a regular basis to work in a clear, collaborative manner on issues of interest in relation to the Convention. The ARGE is a member of the European Coalitions for Cultural Diversity.