Réunion informelle des Ministres de la culture: «Le nouveau rôle et les nouvelles responsabilités des ministres de la culture pour initier le dialogue interculturel» - Strasbourg, les 17 et 18 février 2003 

(version anglaise seulement)

Speech by Karistas H. Gunnarsdottir, Director of Cultural Office – Ministry of Education, Science and Culture of Iceland

Ministers, Ladies and gentlemen.

The task ahead of us to come up with a standard setting instrument for intercultural dialoge and conflict prevention is not an easy one. That it is called for, I believe, we all agree on, which once more shows that the more urgent or obvious our duties are, does not to coincide with the smplest or easiest ways and means to tackle them. Before commenting on the envisaged action plan and the draft resolution, I would like to make some remarks on the background and the description of tasks: I quote: " The cultural Policy an Action Department intends not only to analyse the sources of intercultural and inter-religious conflicts and mechanisms leading to them, in order to prevent such conflicts, but also to consider reconciliation measures to be taken into the post-conflict phase. Co-operations between towns and regions will be set up in member states, and a s far as possible, and as far as possible, in the wider context of the Meditarranian." End of quote.

The last sentence in this text is somewhat confusing. Are we not talking about the whole of Europe with the past in mind and the future in sight, and not only those areas wher now there ar existing conflicts, grave as they are? This leads us to once more emphasize the importance of definitions at the outset of every envisaged action in international collaboration. This goes not only for the three definitions mentioned in the annex of our draft document. More are needed.

And by the way who is supposed to arrange the collaboration between towns and regions and on what conditions? This question of definitions is also valid for the aims of the action plan. I qoute again: ¨The project action plan covers four areas: developing concepts and establishing standards, setting up co-operation networks, developing the European dimension of cultural projects and setting up flagship initiatives." Here it seems to be in its place to discern the share of roles: who sets up such networks and on what mandate and how is such a collaboration managed, what is the domain and field of competence of the Council of Europe, and what lies within the jurisdiction of each individual member state etc. Of course we have to look into the European dimension, even if that notion sometimes is a little bit diffuse, but in the world to-day no one is an island and conflict prevention is definitely an international affair.

At the same time as we would like to commend the list of shared values on page 5 of the Draft declaration, we would, in view of the the scope of documents referred to, like to remind us of the UNESCO convention for the protection of Cultural Property in the event of armed conflict (The Hague 1954) and that for the moment being the INCP, which is the International Network for Cultural Policy and the UNESCO are working intensively on questions of cultural policies, which may lead up to a legally binding convention on Cultural diveristy.

That obviously has a bearing on our task. Sometime we are ahead of what UNESCO is doing, sometimes they take the lead. But from time to time one feels that a closer collaboration would be fruitful, to avoid that the left hand is only doing its job and the right hand only its own, and no hand consulting the other.

I would like to make two more points on the draft declaration where there are definite potentials for sustainable results. I para 4.1 the ministers are encouraged to , I quote " resolve to give thought, with their ministerial colleagues responsible for othe public policies ( education, health, social affairs, communication, science, national security, foreign relations, the economy, finance, defense and so on) to the introduction of intersectoral public policies which foster cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue," ( end of quote). This I mention firstly in the light of what is stated in para 2.1 regarding setting up legal and material structures in member states and no less in the light of the new comprehension that is gaining impact that culture is no ornament on other activities of society called upon at festivities and when money allows, but an intergrated and substantial part of all social and political move in all societies, in fact of all human development.

I thank you for your attention.