The Legal and Political Context of UNESCO’s 2005 Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions – Will it be Good for Iran?



The Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions was adopted by the UNESCO General Conference in October 2005 and, by July 2010, 112 States plus the European Community had become Parties to this Convention. This is a relatively healthy number but, at approximately half of the Member States of the Organisation, reflects that there remains a degree of uncertainty among States as to the potential national and international policy and legal impact on Parties. Thus far, Iran has chosen not to ratify this Convention and there continues to be a national debate on this question with a wide range of views expressed. One important aim of this article, then, is to consider and address these concerns through examining both the international (Cultural) policy context of the Convention’s negotiation and the rights it grants to and the duties it places on Parties. The 2005 Convention shares an ancestry with the 2003 Convention on the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in that both of them reflect different aspects of the 2001 Declaration on Cultural Diversity. Understanding this fact can provide some guidance as to the orientation and purpose of this treaty in that it addresses the rights of States and their international duty to preserve the aspect of cultural diversity that relates to the cultural marketplace. At the same time, it is by no means a ‘pure’ human rights text in its character or its intention as this article will show. After having examined the history of the text’s development and adoption and the wider legal and political contexts within which this took place, the article will then consider the direct implications for Iran of ratification of this important international Convention.