June 2007, Issue 89
to our bi-weekly
of Amsterdam Journal.
Join us for a special evening:
Diversity on Thursday,
June 28 is about creating greater awareness of cultural diversity
and strengthening, promoting and sharing of cultural wealth. The idea
of intercultural dialogue takes as its starting point the
recognition of difference and multiplicity of the world in which we live.
These differences of opinion, viewpoint, and values exist not only within
each individual culture but also between cultures. 'Dialogue seeks
to approach these multiple viewpoints with a desire to understand and
learn from those that do not see the world in the same way as ourselves.
An effective dialogue, therefore, is an enriching and opening
interaction which encourages the respectful sharing of ideas and an exploration
of the different thought-processes through which the world is perceived
In an increasingly globalised
and interdependent world, where encountering cultural difference can
scarcely be avoided, the ability to enter into a tolerant and respectful
dialogue is a vital skill for nations, communities, and individuals.
This evening has two parts:
The cultural industries continue to grow steadily apace. They include
publishing, music, audiovisual technology, electronics, video games
and the Internet.
Their international dimension gives them a determining
role for the future
in terms of freedom of expression, cultural diversity and economic
development. Although the globalization of exchange and new technologies
opens up exciting new prospects, it also creates new types of inequality.
The world map of cultural
industries reveals a yawning gap between North and South. This can
only be counteracted by strengthening local capacities and facilitating
access to global markets at national level by way of new partnerships,
know-how, control of piracy and increased international solidarity
of every kind.
Over the past 50 years, the general world economic trend has been
towards open markets: world exports increased from 8% to 27% of
world GDP between 1950 and 1998. Total trade in 1997 was 14-times
the level of 1950. This expansion of international trade has been
accompanied by comprehensive multilateral and bilateral trade agreements
establishing the conditions for eliminating tariff and nontariff
barriers to the circulation of goods, services and investments.
The end of the Uruguay Round in 1994 initiated a new era of global
economics, characterised by the emergence of trading blocks
from the highly integrated European Union to the less consolidated,
but still evolving, ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations),
NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) or MERCOSUR (the Southern
Cone Common Market). More recently, the evolution of telecommunications
and new technologies has dramatically reduced the cost of providing
commercial services. The World Wide Web is also transforming the
nature of products and services.
Market integration allows consumers to buy goods from all over the
world in their local shops and supermarkets. While local businesses
must compete with these foreign goods on their home turf, they also
have new opportunities to develop their export markets by selling
in a multitude of other countries.
Cultural goods and services are no exception to these new patterns
of production, consumption and trade. Cultural markets are increasingly
going global; trade in cultural goods has multiplied by five between
1980 and 1998. Cultural (content) industries are growing exponentially
and will continue to do so in the future; as we will see, they are
to become a central pillar of the information society, also referred
to as the knowledge society.
As consumption of cultural goods and services spreads all over the
world, production itself tends to concentrate. This results in an
oligopolistic market with a highly asymmetric structure. The effects
of this market profile are as yet unknown: while we are aware that
a large share of the cultural products circulating in most countries
are produced elsewhere, we know very little about the impact of
this global cultural market on citizens, audiences, businesses and
In this context, the following considerations arise:
- First, culture has
moved to the forefront. The past few years have seen the emergence
of a powerful interest in culture resulting from a combination
of diverse phenomena such as globalisation, regional integration
processes and cultures claiming their right to express themselves;
all this in a context where cultural industries are progressively
taking over traditional forms of creation and dissemination and
bringing about changes in cultural practices.
- Second, the issue
of culture and trade has now acquired prime strategic
significance. Cultural goods and services convey and construct
cultural values, produce and reproduce cultural identity and contribute
to social cohesion; at the same time they constitute a key free
factor of production in the new knowledge economy. This makes
negotiations in the cultural field extremely controversial and
difficult. As several experts point out, no other industry has
generated so much debate on the political economic and institutional
limits of the regional and global integration processes or their
legitimacy. When culture is put on the table, it often prompts
complex discussions on the relationship between the economic and
non-economic value of things, that is, the value attributed to
those things that do not have an assigned price (such as identity,
beauty or the meaning of life).
- Third, some governments
understand that international trade law is exercising growing
pressure on their ability to influence the production and distribution
of cultural goods and services within their borders. This has
increasingly polarised positions in trade negotiations whenever
they deal directly or indirectly with cultural issues. This mounting
tension was revealed in the final discussions of the Uruguay Round
in 1994, acquired momentum during the negotiations on the Multilateral
Agreement on Investments (OCDE 1995-1998), and was crystallised
in the preparations for the WTO Ministerial Meeting in Seattle
(USA) in 1999.
- Fourth, and as
stated in the 1999 UNDP Human Development Report, twothirds
of humanity do not benefit from the new model of economic growth
based on the expansion of international trade and the development
of new technologies, and are excluded from the construction of
the information society. This situation reveals gaps in terms
of individual countries capacities and resources to produce
cultural goods and services. In many developing or small countries,
these capabilities are actually shrinking. As a consequence, trade
flows of cultural goods are unbalanced, heavily weighted in one
direction, and cultural industries show great disparities in their
structures, both within and between the various regional trade
However, world trade
rules are still in the making. Just like in any major social, cultural
and political change, rules are gradually established. For
instance, trade partners have been unable to agree on how far investment
should be liberalised, or on the necessity (or lack thereof) of
creating legal frameworks to regulate new industries such as electronic
commerce. In short, trade rules are evolving and being transformed;
there is still work to be done.
It is generally admitted that part of the problem is the lack
of shared concepts and definitions. This might be explained
by the fact that actors in trade negotiations tend to read and interpret
the same facts and situations in opposite ways. Not only their economic
interests may differ, but their views, values and priorities also
tend to diverge.
Therefore, a better understanding of the nature of the current
changes is crucial for all countries, but particularly for developing
ones. They must look forward and identify areas of strategic
interest for their cultural sectors, and, overall, help shape more
forcefully the global trade structure of cultural goods and services.
Event: Taste of Diversity - Thursday, June 28
Thursday, June 28,
Thomas R. Malthusstraat 5, 1066 JR Amsterdam
Near metro stop
Henk Sneevlietweg. Free parking.
This evening has
18:30-19:00, Conference: 19:00-21:15
€ 30, 20
H.E. Gábor Szentiványi, Ambassador of Hungary to
Central Europe: Values and traditions
Humberto Schwab, Director, Club of Amsterdam, Innovation Philosopher,
Owner, Humberto Schwab Filosofia
Cultures as methods of realizing the radical human challenge
Iclal Akcay, Journalist, Turkey
Lives of muslim women, different perspectives
Florangel Maritza Russel, Chairwoman of the Association of Black
Business Women in the Netherlands (ZZVN )
The diversity of black women in The Netherlands
Consul General Marjorie A. Ames, U.S. Consulate General in Amsterdam
Moderated by Peter C. van Gorsel, Director of the Institute for
Media and Information Management, Hogeschool van Amsterdam
market is outdoors or - depending on the weather - indoors.
food, drinks, music, dance etc from different Cultures and Continents.
Live music, Brazilian dance, yoga, wines from Hungary and Switzerland,
caipirinha, raclette, Indian dishes, goulash, art workshops and
about the future of Cultural Diversity
2007: 27 members, but no clear perspective
"The current situation in the European affairs consists in
a real deadlock; either Europe will advance united and strong in
its multicultural variety, as we suggest, or a very bad European
experience will strike us again: around a reunified German fatherland,
an exacerbated nationalism would help a new political elite fanaticize
the masses against what will be depicted as Other. "
- Prof. Dr. Muhammad Shamsaddin Megalommatis
in Europe The Exception to the Rule?
"The development of Islam in Europe is taking place at the
grassroots level, not in books or resolutions. Instead of fighting,
we need to accompany the autonomizing of religions, which means
that political forces must not interfere with theology (that would
mark the end of the separation of the State and the Church). On
the contrary, we should support the religious independence of European
Islam from the cultures of the relevant countries of origin."
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