Use UN convention on cultural diversity to conserve Uganda’s rich heritage?

Friday May 22 2015

By Fredrick Nsibambi

The present that the government of Uganda has given to Ugandans as we marked this year’s World Culture Day on May 21, is the ratification of the 2005 UN Convention on Cultural Diversity and Expression.

The Convention was adopted on October 20, 2005 at the 33rd session of the Unesco General Conference in France. Despite the objectives of the Convention to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions, it has taken the government of Uganda 10 years to ratify this Convention.

The Convention further recognises the distinctive nature of cultural goods and services, and affirms the right of countries to apply policies to support their cultural industries.

The instrument of ratification was signed by the State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Okello Oryem on March 23.

As members of the civil society, we have lobbied for the ratification of this Convention for so long and we would like to appreciate the government for taking an important step in promoting our cultural diversity.

The questions that might be raised are; what next after ratifying the Convention? What benefits are there for Uganda or Ugandans?
One of the immediate next steps for the government should be to domesticate the Convention, either by incorporating its provisions in our national legal instruments or by promulgating new pieces of legislation and adhere to them.

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Another step could involve deliberate efforts by the government and civil society to deepen awareness about the importance of the Convention and what it means for Ugandans.

After ratifying the Convention, Ugandans will benefit in many ways because it:
• Reaffirms the importance of the link between culture and development and supports action undertaken to secure the recognition of the true values of this link (Article 1 (f)).
• Makes provisions for cultural goods and services from developing countries to access the global markets (Article 14 a (ii)).
• Strengthens international cooperation and partnerships to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions (Article 12).
• Establishes an international fund (Article 18) for cultural diversity, open (after ratification) to public institutions, business enterprises, civil society organisations and individuals. The fund can be used to strengthen cultural industries, education and public awareness campaigns and infrastructure.
• Recognises the role of civil society. Article 11 of the Convention acknowledges the fundamental role of civil society in protecting and promoting the diversity of cultural expressions; and create opportunities for mainstreaming culture in sustainable economic development (Article 13).

Uganda has missed out on a number of opportunities, including funding. Countries such as Kenya (ratified the Convention in 2007) have had many projects funded under the framework of this Convention.

For Uganda, the Convention presents opportunities to initiate dialogue with the government regarding how the 2006 National Cultural Policy and other legal documents can be employed to ensure genuine diversity of cultural expressions within our borders.

The Convention reckons with the already on-going efforts of some organisations to support ethnic minority groups such as the Ik in Kaabong, Baamba, Babwisi and Bavonama in Bundibugyo and Basongora in Kasese to express and promote their cultures.

Therefore, the government of Uganda should expedite the processes of domesticating the Convention by developing a policy and plan to implement the Convention. This will unlock access to different types of support for the cultural sector and adequately promote and protect the diversity of cultural expressions and conserve Uganda’s heritage.

Mr Nsibambi works with the Cross – Cultural Foundation of Uganda. fredricknsibambi@yahoo.com

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