UNESCO intergovernmental session II, Day 9: Tuesday, February 8, 2005

Submitted by Sasha Costanza-Chock on February 8, 2005.English

Summary: The entire morning was taken up by largely unsubstantive questions and procedural discussion regarding the final clauses of the convention, 25 through 29, on ratification and so forth. There was some back and forth on the number of states required for the convention to entry into force, and some discussion of the special clause referring to countries that have a federal system. In broad strokes, it seems at this point impossible for them to finish the week with a final revised text. What will most likely happen (though this is subject to debate) is the following: this week will end with recommendations from the plenary to the drafting committee on most or all of the draft text. The drafting committee won't have time to incorporate all of these and report back to plenary, so the drafting committee will either be held over several more days or called back to work in a few weeks. Some version of a revised text will be submitted on March 3rd, which is required in order to meet the 7 month deadline before the General Assembly in the fall. Then, there will have to be another intergovernmental, probably in May. On the US side, the State Department is willing to organize a briefing for public interest groups sometime before this May meeting.

The drafting committee will meet late tonight to try and bring suggestions on 12-18 (rights and responsibilities) to the plenary.

Blow by blow:
This morning, CPTech and Free Press (also representing the CRIS+ position) met with Jane Cowley of the US delegation (from Bureau of International Organization Affaris, Office of Technical and Specialized Agencies) to discuss transparency and the US delegation positions. She was very generous with her time and met with us for over an hour.

It sounds like they're not going to finish here this week, and UNESCO is going to have to call another intergovernmental, probably for May.

We'll try to organize some kind of briefing by state department in washington before May, for public interest groups to be updated and present our positions.

Theoretically there's a March 3rd deadline for the final draft, which would give member states 7 months to look at it before the General Conference in the fall, at which they hope to pass it. At this rate, there's no way they'll have a final draft by March 3rd, but it sounds like UNESCO will submit whatever version is ready by then as a way to formally follow the process while continuing to negotiate on the actual text.

It's unclear exactly why there is such a rush to make it happen by this fall general conference, but probably it's because of the upcoming WTO ministerial in Hong Kong in December (November?) Some states probably want the convention done by then so they can refer to it in negotiations over keeping audiovisual out of GATS commitments.

The entire morning was taken up by questions and procedural discussion regarding the final clauses of the convention. Very little substance. Discussion was on technical details of 25, 26, 27, 28, 29.

China proposed deleting the clause that non-states that are becoming self governing could become signatories to the convention. No one opposed this statement.

US and Australia are supporting a position that ratification requires 40 member states, while every other delegation so far is supporting 30 member states as the number for ratification.

Morocco supports 30, it's traditional within UNESCO, and says let's move on, we're wasting time on this point.

Russian Federation is also in favor of 40.

Jordan agrees that time is being wasted, and asks chair for a vote. Chair responds that it's not done that way in UNESCO.

Brazil and Vietnam added their voices to those in favor of 30.

Four states spoke in favor of 40. The chair says that the consensus of the plenary is that the number of states for ratification is 30. He made a big point that this was not a head count or a vote, but that following procedure, the clear will of the plenary was for the number to be 30 states.

Chair announced that there would be no debate on article 28, entry into force.

Article 29, Federal or non-unitary constitutional systems.

The chair asked the legal advisor about whether this clause would have to be included in the convention. Legal advice was that it is true that such a clause exists in several UNESCO conventions, but there is no requirement for such a clause. It depends on what the member states want. The chair therefore asked the member states to first intervene on whether the clause is necessary, or should be deleted.

Luxembourg (EU): wants deletion of article 29, because a federal clause can be seen as an agreement to make an exception to the implementation of the convention. In other words, if the clause is included, it could allow certain federated states to avoid the commitments.

Canada: For us, this clause enables us to better manage implementation of the convention. We prefer option 1 because we think its wording is more comprehensive.

USA: We would strongly associate ourselves with the views of Canada, coming also from a federal state jurisdiction. This article is important for us because the nature of the US constitution leaves some powers to the states, where the federal government has no power over the state jurisdiction. We have to be clear in communicating the limits of our ability, as a federation, in the commitments we make in international agreements. For example, we would not be in a position to mandate that states take action, although we could encourage them to do so, in the absence of a ruling by our supreme court.

Chair clarifies that no one has argued with 29a, which says that it is States that become parties to this convention. Chair recommends that the drafting committee supports 29a and option 1 on page 100. Chair suggests that articles 30 through 34 are all technical matters, and unless he gets a note saying otherwise, we won't debate them in plenary. The only outstanding matter for plenary is the discussion of ratification clause.

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Contact:

Sasha Costanza-Chock
global@mediatrademonitor.org
www.mediatrademonitor.org