Dialogue platform for the involvement of civil society
The Working Group on Cultural Diversity (ARGE) is the central dialogue platform of the Austrian Commission for UNESCO aiming at actively involving civil society in the process of implementing the “UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions” within Austria as well as in the name of Austria.
Through ARGE, which was established when the Austrian Commission for UNESCO began drafting the Convention, Austria is able to contribute towards actively involving civil society in accordance with Article 11 of the Convention.
Article 11 – Involving civil society: Parties acknowledge the fundamental role of civil society in protecting and promoting the diversity of cultural expressions. Parties shall encourage the active participation of civil society in their efforts to achieve the objectives of this Convention.
In terms of content, the ARGE focuses particularly on the matters deemed currently relevant and necessary in order to be able to implement the Convention by representatives of civil society. Furthermore, the ARGE guides the discussion process at an international level and prepares statements on UNESCO negotiation files that are then incorporated into the Austria’s position during UNESCO negotiations, in consultation with the responsible ministries.
The members of the ARGE are researchers, artists and cultural workers and their advocacy groups as well as representatives of the country and its federal states, which participate as observers. Thus, ARGE allows regular discussions between the parts of civil society affected and the authorities responsible for implementation in Austria.
The ARGE usually meets twice a year. The chair of the ARGE is Yvonne Gimpel (IG Kultur Österreich) [Austrian Interest Group for Cultural Affairs], vice-chair is Veronika Ratzenböck (österreichische kulturdokumentation).
In addition to the ARGE meetings, the Austrian Commission for UNESCO invites representatives of the Austrian art and culture sector to the closed-doors conference on cultural diversity every one to two years.
Coalitions for cultural diversity
Making use of the momentum of the UNESCO Convention, artists and creators have come together in various countries in a similar way to the ARGE, creating “Coalitions for cultural diversity”. The defence of cultural diversity as well as the interests of artists and creators – specifically in the context of the EU – is a key concern for the “European Coalitions for Cultural Diversity” (ECCD)”. In 2006, the ARGE joined the network, thereby strengthening its position and role at a national and international level.
The ARGE is also a member of the International Federations of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity. This organisation, founded in 2007, is based in Montreal, Canada, and unites around 30 members under one umbrella.