The New Unesco Convention on Cultural Diversity: A Counterbalance to the WTO?

22 Pages Posted: 29 Feb 2008 Last revised: 28 Aug 2010

Date Written: September 1, 2006


On 20 October 2005, the 33rd UNESCO General Conference adopted by a majority of 148 votes to two the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (CCD). The major objectives of the CCD are the recognition of the dual nature of cultural expressions as objects of trade and artefacts of cultural value and the recognition of the sovereign right of governments to formulate and implement cultural policies and measures for the protection and promotion of cultural diversity. The ambitious role assigned to the CCD by its proponents is to fill an existing lacuna for cultural objectives in public international law and to serve as a cultural counterbalance to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in future conflicts between trade and culture. Opponents, however, have criticized the CCD as an instrument of disguised protectionism and claimed that it violates freedom of expression and information. This article endeavours to explain how cultural diversity has become an issue of international law and provides a critical assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the CCD. It explores in particular the possible linkages between the CCD and the WTO.

Keywords: UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity, WTO, International Trade, Culture, Cultural Diversity

Suggested Citation

Graber, Christoph B., The New Unesco Convention on Cultural Diversity: A Counterbalance to the WTO? (September 1, 2006). Journal of International Economic Law, Vol. 9, Issue 3, pp. 553-574, 2006, Available at SSRN: or

Christoph B. Graber (Contact Author)

University of Zurich, Faculty of Law ( email )

Treichlerstrasse 10
Zurich, 8032