Today, culture must also be linked to sustainability. As Michèle Stanton-Jean, Quebec’s representative on the Permanent Delegation of Canada to UNESCO, said at a 2012 conference in Paris, “The promotion of culture with a sustainability lens, notably through the preservation of cultural diversity, sustainable use of resources and support for creativity and innovation, resonates profoundly for Quebec society and its government.”
She continued: “Quebec is not alone in pursuing the objective of integrating culture and sustainable development. Indeed, it has relied on initiatives worldwide which have been expressed in different international documents, including UNESCO’s 2001 Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity and its 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. Article 13 of the Convention asks signatory states to integrate culture into their sustainability policy at every level, so as to create favourable conditions for sustainable development.”
Quebec’s Agenda 21 for culture (A21C), launched in 2011, is the Quebec government’s response to a commitment made at the time of the approval of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.
With the adoption of this Agenda, Quebec was recognized by UNESCO as a leader in the integration of culture and sustainable development. In 2012, jointly with France, Quebec organized an international symposium on culture and sustainable development; the City of Montreal also participated in a debate on culture and development at the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2013, and on the occasion of a meeting organized by the OIF and UNESCO in New York in 2014, the Government of Quebec presented A21C and its first outcomes.
In 2017, I launched a new international policy on behalf of Quebec, with three guidelines:
- Increase prosperity for Quebecers;
- Contribute to a more sustainable, fair and secure world;
- Promote Quebec’s creativity, culture, knowledge and specificity.
In introducing this policy, as in all my international meetings, I insisted on the importance of cultural links in our diplomacy. I wrote at the time: “Quebec’s actions will continue to be driven by its commitment on behalf of la Francophonie, international mobility and the promotion of its talents, as well as the affirmation of its convictions with regard to personal rights and freedoms and the respect of diversity.”
In support of this action, Quebec’s representatives around the world have a mandate to advise and organize appropriate activities for Quebec creators in each of their respective territories.
Thanks to this network, the Government of Quebec is able to support organizations, cultural enterprises, artists and writers in their international outreach projects, encouraging the exchange of expertise, technology transfers and interactions among Quebec and foreign players. This is cultural diplomacy in its most direct form.
This diplomacy may also appear in the form of concerted action based on a common cultural heritage. This is why Quebec created le Centre de la francophonie des Amériques, recognizing its responsibility towards francophone communities and its desire to mobilize and animate the vast community of francophones and francophiles in the Americas. It envisions a Francophonie on the move, supportive and inclusive, bringing together the Americas, with sustainable links that stimulate exchanges.
Cultural diplomacy can also be exercised through cities. The mayors of Quebec City, Moncton and Lafayette have launched a network of francophone and francophile cities as one example of cultural action supported by the Quebec government. Its objectives are, among others, to “showcase the richness and vitality of francophone heritage, to promote the francophone and francophile cultural environments and to develop economic and strategic alliances.”
The Franco-Route of New England, a concrete example of a project led by the network, is a tourist trail linking francophone towns between Rhode Island and Quebec, to be launched in the coming months.
Museums and libraries have an important role in the international dissemination of our culture. The UNESCO Public Library Manifesto, adopted in Paris in 1994, states that public libraries are “essential institutions for the promotion of peace and the spiritual well-being of humanity.”
The result of a merger between la Bibliothèque nationale du Québec and la Grande bibliothèque du Québec with les Archives nationales du Québec, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) plays an important role in the development and international reach of Québeécois expertise and heritage.
BAnQ’s international approach was honoured at the MetLib conference of the International Federation of Libraries Association (IFLA) held la Grande Bibliothèque in 2017, with the theme: Partnerships: Creating a new Vision for Libraries. MetLib is an information and exchange platform for public libraries in cities with populations of more than 400,000.
This conference allowed decision-makers from large metropolitan libraries to exchange best practices, but also to put forward expertise from libraries in Quebec and Canada, and showcase the declaration of Quebec libraries, which reaffirms the essential contribution of libraries to social vitality, economic prosperity and the cultural richness of Quebec society.