13 Inter-organizational networking in the digital age: Lessons from international organizations’ purposes and practices in the cultural sector

Antonios Vlassis[1]

The Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (hereinafter CDCE) – adopted by UNESCO in 2005 and in effect since 2007 – is now a main international instrument within the global and multi-level governance of cultural industries. Recently, France, Belgium, and Canada have been attempting to promote the CDCE implementation in the digital era through operational guidelines on digital issues. The objective is to more explicitly align the CDCE with the development of new technologies and to ensure the existence of public cultural policies and the recognition of the dual nature of cultural goods and services within the digital environment (Vlassis 2011: 503).

In this context, in June 2015 the Conference of Parties to the CDCE “request[ed] the Secretariat to continue exchanging with the Communication sector as well as international organizations and civil society organizations whose work on digital issues may impact the implementation of the Convention” (UNESCO 2015a: 25). According to the report ‘For A Diversified Networked Culture’ and the results of a questionnaire (Rioux et al. 2015: 101-107), 43% of respondents estimate that existing cooperation among intergovernmental organizations (IOs) within the CDCE implementation is not developed enough. In order to facilitate production and distribution of digital cultural goods and services, the respondents estimate that UNESCO should promote collaboration with (in order of priority): the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), UN agencies such as the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), as well as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF). In respect of access and consumption of cultural goods and services, the respondents suggest that UNESCO should establish and enhance cooperation with (in order of priority) the following organizations: ITU, OECD, ICANN, UNCTAD and UNDP, WIPO, World Trade Organization (WTO), and the World Bank. In the same vein, the preliminary draft of Operational Guidelines on measures aimed at implementing the CDCE in the digital environment suggest, in light of Articles 9 and 19 of the CDCE, “the development of mapping and compilation of statistics on the uses, practices and markets of digital cultural expressions, in cooperation with international institutions already working in data collection, such as the UNESCO Institute for Statistics and the ITU”; as well as “dialogue and cooperation with other international actors concerned with digital issues, particularly those responsible for the trade, competition, intellectual property and telecommunications sectors” (UNESCO 2015b: 10-11). More specifically, the case of the CDCE is also interesting, insofar as a regional international organization, the European Union (EU), ratified the CDCE in 2007 and directly participated, as a single entity, in the CDCE negotiations, under an expanded observer status at UNESCO for the first time.

“There is potentially no issue of global or transnational dimension in which IOs are not involved” (Brosig 2011: 147). International and regional organizations play an increasing role in the distribution of ideas and resources within the global governance of cultural industries (Vlassis 2015a). The present contribution encourages an original view on the global governance of cultural industries and more concretely on the CDCE implementation – thematic, which remains widely law-oriented and thereby state-centric (Schorlemer & Stoll 2012; Kono & Van Uytsel 2012) – and it focuses on the networking among IOs. Few scientific research works focus either on an individual organization’s behaviour within the global governance of cultural industries (Loisen & De Ville 2011; Vlassis 2013, 2016) or on the dyadic links between IOs (Canedo & Crucafon 2014; Sarikakis & Granter 2014). Scholars have not yet taken up the inter-organizational networking as a serious topic of research and the present contribution aims at filling this gap. It intends to analyse IOs’ interactions, how international and regional organizations interact with each other within the context of the global governance of cultural industries, as well as the different purposes of the IOs’ networking. What are the objectives of such inter-organizational networking? What are the factors contributing to this novel form of cooperation? And what would be the role of networking among IOs in view of the CDCE implementation in a context of digital transition?

The next section briefly examines which IOs participate in the CDCE intergovernmental meetings. Subsequently, the article draws attention to four purposes of the inter-organizational networking within the global governance of cultural industries and sheds light on the role of digital technologies in recent cooperation among IOs. Finally, concluding remarks deal with the factors leading to IOs’ cooperative behaviour.

I – Intergovernmental organizations and the CDCE

Several IOs took part in the sessions of the CDCE Conference of Parties and Intergovernmental Committee as observers. At the 16 sessions taking place from 2007 to 2015, 12 IOs were present once or more. Perceived so far as the institutional partner of the CDCE, the OIF has taken part in 14 sessions. The OIF was indeed the first IO to adopt in 1999 in Moncton (Canada) a resolution on the necessity of an international instrument on cultural diversity, and also the first IO to adopt, in 2014, a resolution regarding the need to promote the CDCE in the digital era. Similarly, the Parliamentary Assembly of Francophonie, an inter-parliamentary organization of Francophonie countries also participated in 14 sessions.

In addition, several IOs have participated between 5 and 7 times: the Council of Europe, the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization, the Latin Union and the WIPO[2]. Particularly interesting is the case of WIPO, notably present during the early meetings of the Committee and the Conference of Parties throughout 2007-2010 and absent since then, in sessions on the CDCE implementation. The UNCTAD and the World Bank participated only at the beginning of the implementation process. By contrast, the ITU has become more and more active in recent sessions.

As a partial conclusion, it should firstly be noted that the CDCE has not generated a strong and permanent interest from IOs beyond the Francophone organizations. More concretely, whereas the linkage between culture and development remains at the core of the CDCE normative framework, IOs dealing with development issues such as the UNCTAD, the World Bank, the OECD or the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) are not involved in the CDCE debates. Secondly, several IOs maintaining a permanent office to the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris do not participate at all in the CDCE sessions, e.g. the African Union, the Interamerican Development Bank, and the Organization of Ibero-American States for Education, Science and Culture. Furthermore, IOs whose mandates revolve around culture, such as the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Organization of American States and the Organization of Ibero-American States have not shown a real interest for the CDCE implementation.

Intergovernmental organizations

Number of participations (2007-2015)

Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF)


Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie


Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization


World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)


Council of Europe


Latin Union


International Telecommunication Union (ITU)


Commonwealth Foundation


Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization


Organization of Islamic Cooperation


United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)


World Bank


Source: Author’s research, based on UNESCO, CDCE Conference of Parties and Intergovernmental Committee.

II – Inter-organizational cooperation since the CDCE: purposes unravelled

Despite the facts highlighted earlier, throughout the 2000s networking among IOs has been strengthened and the exchange of human and financial resources, the sharing of tasks, as well as the flow of information have been intensified. Even though all these partnerships are not strictly linked to the CDCE implementation, the 2005 Convention and cultural diversity have transformed into one of their references. In this section, we will show that inter-organizational cooperation can serve four analytically distinct purposes in order “to address collective action problems in a globalized world” (Zaum 2013: 13): technical assistance and policy-oriented analysis, financial assistance, conceptual frameworks building, as well as data collection (Barnett & Finnemore 2004: 16-44). Hereinafter, each purpose will be distinguished and a closer look will be taken at specific programs and activities. In other words, “what matters most in the end is what comes out of” the cooperation among IOs, that is, the policies that inter-organizational cooperation produces (Rittberger, Zangl & Kruck 2012: 119).

A – Technical assistance and policy-oriented analysis

Inter-organizational cooperation provides technical assistance and policy-oriented analysis to governments in order to help them build institutions and improve their capabilities and knowledge regarding, in the topic analysed here, the cultural sector. Through their direct assistance and capacity-building programs, IOs ultimately seek to shape the cultural policies of their host countries (Biermann & Siebenhüner 2013: 152). Four cases illustrate that technical assistance and policy-oriented analysis are a central function of inter-organizational cooperation in that sector.

1. Expert facility project

In 2010, UNESCO and the European Commission adopted the first international project to make the CDCE operational at the country level, highlighting the emergence of a supranational partnership for the implementation of international norms. As such, they created an expert facility project, funded by the EU in order to implement the CDCE through the strengthening of the system of governance for cultural industries in developing countries. In this respect, the UNESCO/EU project allocated 1.2 million euros for creating a pool of 30 experts in public policies for cultural industries. 13 technical assistance missions were put in place in order to transfer knowledge and know-how towards countries in Africa (Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Seychelles, Niger), Latin America (Argentina, Honduras), Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia) and the Caribbean (Barbados, Haiti).

2. “Culture and development” and the Millennium Development Goals

In relation to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Spanish Agency of International Cooperation for Development (AECID) has supported 18 joint programs[3] linked to the theme of ‘Culture and Development’ (Vlassis 2015b: 1656) with a financial allocation of 95.6 million USD[4], even though cultural aspects are not explicitly referred to within the MDGs (AECID 2013: 4-7). It is noteworthy that “this development assistance is grant aid, not loans; hence it does not create future burdens for recipient countries” (Karns & Mingst 2010: 407).

The 18 programs addressed a wide range of cultural policy fields such as cultural industries, cultural heritage and cultural tourism, and were implemented in five countries in Africa (Ethiopia, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal), two countries in Asia (Cambodia, China), three Arab States (Egypt, Morocco, Occupied Palestinian Authority), three countries in Europe (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Turkey), as well as five in Latin America (Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Uruguay). In addition, all the joint programs dealt with the MDG 1 (Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger) and MDG 3 (Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women).

Crucial support came through several IOs, which served as implementing agencies. Two UN agencies played a central role and received more than 60% of the total financial allocation: the UNDP – lead organization in the provision of technical assistance, whose agenda, compared to the World Bank institutions, is more “influenced by the interests of the developing countries” (Rittberger, Zangl & Kruck 2012: 62) – and the UNESCO. The latter was charged with implementing all the programs and the former 17 programs – excepting the joint program ‘Sustainable Cultural Tourism in Namibia’. On the other hand, a substantial number of UN agencies also had a key role in the implementation of these joint programs, according to their mandate and their special expertise: the Food and agriculture organization (FAO), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the UNICEF, the UNIDO, the UN Women, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the UN Habitat, as well as the World Health Organization (WHO). Whereas the programs in Albania and in Ethiopia were jointly implemented by two IOs, namely UNESCO and the UNDP, and the programs in Mauritania and in Bosnia by three IOs, in all the other programs four and more IOs have been involved.

3. Strengthening the creative industries

An interesting case of inter-organizational cooperation is the implementation of a pilot multiagency project aimed at ‘Strengthening the creative industries in five ACP countries through employment and trade expansion’[5]. Five IOs have been involved in the realization of the project. The latter was jointly implemented by three IOs, namely the UNCTAD, the ILO and UNESCO, with financing aid from the EU and the institutional support from the Secretariat of the ACP Groups. The beneficiary countries were Fiji, Mozambique, Senegal, Trinidad and Tobago and Zambia. The project intended to offer examples of effective ways of stimulating the creative economies of developing countries, through a variety of activities spread over 4 years (2008-2011). Regarding task-sharing among the IOs, UNCTAD offered policy advice and capacity-building activities seeking to enhance supply capacities, trade, and investment. ILO’s work focused on employment and cultural entrepreneurship. Finally, UNESCO work aimed to safeguard cultural diversity and enhance the linkages between culture and development. UNCTAD released, moreover, two policy-oriented reports for the cases of Mozambique and Zambia as an outcome of the multi-agency project.

4. Development of Clusters

In 2014, the EU funded the project ‘Development of Clusters in Cultural and Creative Industries in the Southern Mediterranean’, hosted by the Union for the Mediterranean. It was implemented by UNIDO, a specialized UN agency devoted to manpower in small industries of developing countries, which was ranked in 2004 by the British Department for International Development as the most effective agency in the UN system (Rittberger, Zangl & Kruck 2012: 63). The aim of the project was to strengthen selected clusters in cultural and creative industries in Southern Mediterranean that were identified as having the potential to develop into promising pilot cluster initiatives. Firstly, a team of UNIDO interviewed over 500 persons throughout the seven participating countries — Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia — and identified over 140 clusters and 70 other economic realities in cultural and creative industries. Then, 14 high-potential clusters were selected for receiving technical assistance over a period of three years. Most of the selected clusters are in the design-based industries. The project budget comes from the EU (5 million euros) and the Italian cooperation agency (600.000 euros).

B – Financial assistance: interregional funds and EU as a core actor

The EU has an extensive web of relationships in cultural affairs with other regional groups such as the ACP partnership and Mercosur, and provides significant non-reimbursable grants on a project-by-project basis.

1. ACP Cultures+

Undoubtedly, cooperation between the EU and the 78 African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries, many of which are former European colonies, is the cornerstone of EU development assistance programs (Karns & Mingst 2010: 175). The ACP Cultures+ Program is funded under the 10th European Development Fund for an amount of 30 million euros and is implemented by the Secretariat of the ACP Group of States[6], with account taken for the CDCE principles and objectives. In the Brussels resolution following the 3rd Meeting of ACP Ministers of Culture ‘No Future without Culture’, held in October 2012, the ministers of the ACP Group of States underscored explicitly “the commitments made by Member States by ratifying the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions” (ACP Ministers of Culture 2012: 2).

The ACP Cultures+ has three main objectives: a. boosting the creation/production of cultural goods and services in the ACP countries; b. promoting their access to markets at different levels – local, regional, intra-ACP, European and international; c. enhancing the technical and entrepreneurial capacities of the different players in the cultural sector in the ACP countries. The ACP Cultures+ Program is currently financing 55 projects: 33 regarding the audio-visual and cinema industries and 22 towards all the other cultural industries (music, theatre, dance, photography, etc.).

2. Mercosur Audio-visual

The RECAM (Reunión Especializada de Autoridades Cinematográficas y Audiovisuales del Mercosur) was created in 2003 in order to establish an institutional instrument for strengthening the integration process of cinema and audio-visual industries in the Mercosur region. In this sense, in the context of the 1995 Interregional Framework Cooperation Agreement between Mercosur and the EU, the latter provided the Mercosur Audio-visual Program with 1.5 million euros (within a total program budget of 1.86 million euros). The program, established in 2007, has four specific objectives: a. harmonization of the legislation in the audio-visual sector in Mercosur Member States; b. circulation of audio-visual content; c. support for the preservation and dissemination of the audio-visual heritage of Mercosur; d. professional and technical training in the audio-visual sector (European Commission 2008).

C – Building conceptual frameworks

In addition to technical and financial assistance, one of the best-known features of IOs is that “they classify knowledge and help to define pursuits” (Finnemore & Barnett 2004: 31). In 2004, immediately after the UNCTAD XI Conference in Brazil and its São Paulo Consensus for the introduction of creative industries into the international economic and development agenda[7], the Secretary General of UNCTAD – an IO traditionally “reflecting the aspirations and needs of least developed countries” (Davies & Woodward 2014: 348) – set up the UN multi-agency informal group on Creative Industries in an effort to build synergies with other relevant UN agencies[8]. The group brought together: UNCTAD, UNESCO, WIPO, ILO, International Trade Centre – a service operated jointly by UNCTAD and WTO; and the UNDP also joined in 2005. Obviously, the issue of creative industries was major and ambitious, requiring division of labor as well as shared responsibility and resources among IOs. The aim of the five UN bodies was to improve policy coherence and to provide knowledge-based activities in the sector of creative industries. In 2007, UNCTAD has convened two meetings of the multiagency informal group, the first in April and the second in July (UNCTAD 2006-2012).

Two concrete outcomes of the UN informal group should be noted: the first is the project “Strengthening the creative industries in five ACP countries” (see A3 earlier). The second is the launching during the UNCTAD XII Conference in Ghana of the Creative Economy Report, the first report to make an intellectual contribution of IOs to discussions about the creative economy. The aim of this policy-oriented analysis was to establish a conceptual framework, with a view to assist governments in formulating policies and to reshape the development agenda with creative industries in mind. UNCTAD took the lead in preparing the 2008 and 2010 reports, whereas the 2013 report was notably executed by UNESCO and the UNDP. The reports brought together contributions from UNCTAD, UNDP, UNESCO, WIPO and ITC.

As of July 2010, the 2008 Creative Economy Report was consulted more than 52.000 times on the Internet and was linked to from 1.080 websites all over the world (UNCTAD 2010: XIX). In addition, UNCTAD played an essential role in disseminating the results of the 2008 and 2010 Reports to stakeholders. In this regard, in October 2008, UNCTAD was invited by the German Commission for UNESCO to present the report at the fifth German annual conference on creative economy held in Berlin and it was also invited to open the session of the China International Cultural Industries Forum and to launch the Chinese version of the Report. In November 2008, UNCTAD presented the Report at the Creative Clusters Glasgow Conference and at the fourth Inter-American Meeting of Ministers of Culture of the Organization of American States Committee for Culture.

D – Collecting and analysing information

The final purpose of inter-organizational networking addressed in the present study is data collection. Cooperation among IOs also pursues its objectives through knowledge management, as well as through gathering, synthetizing and analysing data received from national governments and research institutes. The UN Interagency Technical Working Group on Cultural Industries Statistics was a working group convened by UNESCO comprising members from IOs including UNDP, UNESCO Institute of Statistics, UNIDO, and the WIPO. It was formed in February 2005 in the context of the Senior Experts Symposium “Asia-Pacific Creative Communities: A strategy for the 21th Century” convened in Jodhpur (India) by UNESCO. The purpose of the working group was to collaborate on the development and implementation of a strategy for the collection and analysis of cultural industries statistics and their impact on economic and social well-being at the global, regional, national and community levels. In 2007, the technical working group published the document “Statistics on Cultural Industries: Framework for the Elaboration of National Data Capacity Building Projects”.

Similarly, in 2014, the Organization of American States, the Inter-American Development Bank and the British Council, were jointly charged with elaborating a report entitled ‘The economic impact of the creative industries in the Americas’ to show the important contribution to growth, jobs and trade in the Americas by creative and cultural activities, such as the arts, design, music and advertising, amongst others. The report surveys 44 countries – including 34 countries in the Americas and 10 benchmark countries from other regions around the world.

As a partial conclusion, the strengthening of the themes of “creative economy” and “diversity of cultural expressions” became a catalyst for inter-organizational cooperation. Clearly, in a globalizing world, the multifaceted and transnational nature of these issues calls for closer coordination among IOs, even though “guarding institutional autonomy has an almost intuitive appeal for international organizations” (Biermann 2008: 158). In this regard, since the CDCE adoption, the flow of resources and the sharing of information among IOs have been intensified and projects with shared responsibility have been established.

III – Digital technologies in inter-organizational cooperation

Several projects addressed by inter-organizational cooperation relate to the development of digital technologies. Three cases are worth mentioning: the ACP Cultures+, the expert facility project, and the Mercosur audio-visual program.

Six projects financed by ACP Cultures+ deal with new technologies with a total budget of 2.5 million euros (ACP Secretariat 2015):

  • The “3D Distribution Project” will acquire rights to a catalogue of 400 Caribbean-themed films and monetize them to audiences in the region and internationally by creating and implementing three integrated platforms enhancing digital, domestic and diaspora distribution. One of the objectives is the implementation of a Video on Demand (VOD) platform, as well as the establishment of deals with regional broadcasting networks. The EU grant amounts to 274.096 euros and the main coordinator is the Caribbean Tales Worldwide Distribution (Barbados).
  • The “Capital numérique” seeks to boost audio-visual productions in ACP countries by enhancing the value of works and digital image banks in 20 African countries. Its objective is, through digitization, to allow for ACP author works that are available on analogue supports to be broadcasted on television, in cinema or on the internet (via VOD). The project is coordinated by the OIF, together with the West African Economic and Monetary Union and other partners. The total budget of the project amounts to 685.000 euros and the EU grant represents 73 % of the budget.
  • The “Digital United ACP”, through leading African VOD platforms Buni.tv and Africafilms.tv, will develop a fair and common contract, which will simplify the digital distribution process for filmmakers. The project aims to federate 300 to 400 rights owners into building a collectively stronger and more diversified catalogue of ACP content through fairer deals with distribution channel operators, and to empower the digital presence of the ACP film sector through several actions, such as fight against online piracy, better digital pipeline management, etc. The EU grant is of 500.000 euros and the project is managed by Buni Media Ltd (Kenya).
  • The “Caribbean Film Mart and Virtual Marketplace”, promoted by the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival, provides a virtual platform for Caribbean filmmakers and organizations in order to promote networking among filmmakers and film industry professionals from the region, establishing also an itinerant Caribbean Film Mart held annually at different festivals throughout the region. The aid from the EU is of 339,301 euros.
  • The project “Culture Works Connections”, promoted by Visiting Arts (United Kingdom), aims to create an online interactive platform for the cultural and creative sector in the partner countries (Pacific islands, Southern Africa, Trinidad and Tobago) offering the ability to promote the work of artists and cultural operators on major international markets. The project includes the mapping and surveying of creative businesses and provides the sector with access and training to be in position to self-promote through the World Cultures Connect (WCC) online platform. The EU aid amounts to 444.120 euros.
  • The “Afrique en Doc TV” seeks to make African documentaries available through a DVD collection and a web platform. Its goals are to constitute an annual collection of 60 original documentary films directed in their majority by Africans, to implement a subscription internet consulting and downloading platform intended for African broadcasters, and to strengthen partnerships between distributors and broadcasters. The coordinator is Doc Net (France) and the EU grant for this project is of 380.000 euros.

The expert facility project between the EU and UNESCO also included four projects dealing with digital aspects (UNESCO 2013):

  • In Honduras, the technical mission aimed to accompany the government to develop an operational strategy in order to encourage private and public actors to work together to support different cultural sectors, and increase access to different cultural expressions. One of the activities was the creation of a digital communication platform that would promote and market cultural products, and also connect individuals, groups and institutions involved in its implementation.
  • In Kenya, the role of the technical assistance mission was to support the government in developing modern marketing skills for artists. The national team and the experts developed a training program for marketing visual arts and music using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools.
  • In Mauritius, the government sought technical assistance to elaborate a strategy for the development of cultural entrepreneurship and cultural industries and an action plan to implement it. One of the objectives of the draft Strategy and Action Plan was to reflect on the impact and challenges brought by digital technologies on production, distribution and consumption across all cultural industries.
  • In Seychelles, technical assistance aimed to advise the national government in building a cultural policy for its creative industries based on the Culture Department Strategic Plan 2011-2015. In order to foster creative industries, public intervention is also envisaged in the ICT use.

Finally, the Mercosur audio-visual program also includes the creation of a network of 30 digital cinema theatres in order to exhibit regional audio-visual content. This axis towards the circulation of audio-visual content benefits from the contribution by the EU mentioned above (635.000 euros).

As discussed above, the projects dealing with digital technologies address two purposes: technical and financial assistance. Undoubtedly, digital revolution has strong connections with the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions, illustrating unique challenges. Digital issues have become an intrinsic part of the public agenda in the past two decades, as shown by the EU “Digital Agenda for Europe”, elaborated in 2010 by the European Commission. However, one has to recognize that existing inter-organizational cooperation regarding the link “digital technologies and cultural industries” seems to be still poorly developed in terms of resources, new norms, information activities, and programs of action.

IV – In closing: factors for inter-organizational networking in the digital age

Overall, inter-organizational networking in the digital age is supposed to perform four functions as pointed out earlier: technical assistance activities and policy-oriented analysis; the provision of financial assistance; the building of conceptual frameworks; and data collection. Admittedly, IOs frequently avoid cooperation and shared operations, because it entails a certain loss of autonomy and control on their own policy agenda (Biermann 2008: 158). Each organization establishes its own priorities and working with others may mean restricting its authority. However, the cases of inter-organizational cooperation regarding cultural industries are numerous, as examined above.

Six main factors seem to contribute to IOs’ cooperative behaviour (Biermann 2008; Brosig 2011) and cooperation among IOs in the digital age could also be motivated by these factors, which include both cost-benefit and intangible considerations:

Domain similarity and common interests of IOs on a specific issue. For instance, the creative industries became a shared issue with significant exchanged competences among UNCTAD, UNESCO, WIPO, and UNDP. “Without domain similarity, the sine qua non for cooperation is lacking” (Biermann 2008: 156). More specifically, since creative industries moved to the top of UNCTAD’s agenda, all organizations strove to demonstrate their specific expertise on the matter and better position themselves in this new issue. However, this factor cannot automatically generate inter-organizational cooperation.

The scarcity of human, epistemic or economic resources of an IO or the mutual dependence of resources among IOs to address a major issue. In this sense, the IOs prefer to pursue their preferences through policy coordination and not unilaterally. In this case, are worth mentioning both the Creative Economy Report and the majority of projects funded by the EU.

The multidimensional, multifaceted and transnational nature of an issue, which requires the exchange of resources among IOs. The issue of creative economy is an illustration thereof, revealing the necessity of inter-organizational networking, insofar as the nature of the issue overcomes the mandate and the resources of one IO. In other words, no organization was capable to address this issue on its own and the handling of such issue was not achievable without access to other IOs’ resources. For instance, UNCTAD had very little experience regarding cultural or intellectual property matters. Initiating cooperation with relevant institutions helped, therefore, to reduce uncertainty about a complex and multifaceted issue.

The external pressure from national governments or civil society for IOs to enhance their inter-organizational cooperation. Here again, the Creative Economy Report, the UN Interagency Technical Working Group on Cultural Industries Statistics or the program on “Culture and development” from the Spanish Agency of International Cooperation for Development are some relevant examples.

Political leadership from an IO to create policy synergies for enhancing its own position and stimulating its credibility within an international debate and thereby its attractiveness. Several initiatives of UNESCO and UNCTAD could be included in this case. For instance, UNESCO intended to cooperate with EU – which was perceived to have a stronger reputation – to improve its own image within the development topic. The central position of the EU in the international development aid area made the EU a highly attractive partner.

A trigger event, such as the adoption of the Convention on the diversity of cultural expressions, proved capable of inducing a profound change of preferences and introducing a new political and economic theme, such as the one regarding cultural goods and services, into the international agenda, while stimulating the rise of inter-organizational networking. Undoubtedly, inter-organizational networking on that matter before the CDCE adoption was practically inexistent.


ACP-European Union (2010) The Cotonou Agreement. <https://goo.gl/TJPg4O> (accessed 06 October 2016).

ACP Ministers of Culture (2012) Brussels resolutions No Future without Culture, 3rd meeting of ACP Ministers of Culture, 17-18 October.

ACP Secretariat (2015) Presentation of the projects supported by the ACP Cultures+ Programme, ACP-European Union. <https://goo.gl/rcpvQI> (accessed 06 October 2016).

Biermann, F. & Siebenhüner, B. (2013) ‘Problem solving by international bureaucracies: the influence of international secretariats on world politics’, in B. Reinalda (ed.), Routledge Handbook of International Organizations, London: Routledge, 149-161.

Biermann, R. (2008) ‘Towards a theory of interorganisational networking: the Euroatlantic security institutions interacting’, The Review of International Organizations, 3: 151-177.

Brosig, M. (2011) ‘Overlap and interplay between international organizations: theories and approaches’, South African Journal of International Affairs, 18(2): 147-167.

Canedo, D. & Crusafon, C. (2014) ‘The European Audiovisual Policy Goes Abroad: the Case of Inter-regional Cooperation with Mercosur’, in K. Donders, C. Pauwels, & J. Loisen (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of European Media Policy, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 526-540.

Davies, M. & Woodward, R. (2014) International Organizations: A Companion, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

European Commission (2008), Preparatory Action Mercosur Audiovisual Program, DCI/ALA/2008/020297, Brussels.

Finnemore, M. & Barnett, M. (2004) Rules for the world: International organizations in global politics, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Galloway, S. & Dunlop, S. (2007) ‘A critique of definitions of the cultural and creative industries in public policy’, International Journal of Cultural Policy, 13(1): 17-31.

Karns, M. & Mingst, K. (2010) International Organizations: The Politics and Processes of Global Governance, London: Lynne Rienner.

Kono, T. & Van Uytsel, S. (eds.) (2012) The UNESCO Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions: A Tale of Fragmentation in International Law, Helsinki: Intersentia.

Loisen, J. & De Ville, F. (2011) ‘The EU-Korea Protocol on Cultural Cooperation: Toward Cultural Diversity or Cultural Deficit?’ International Journal of Communication, 5: 254-271.

Rioux, M., Deblock, C. Gagné, G., Tchéhouali, D., Fontaine-Skronski, K. & Vlassis, A. (2015) Pour une culture en réseaux diversifiée : appliquer la Convention sur la protection et la promotion de la diversité des expressions culturelles à l’ère du numérique, Montréal: Centre d’études sur l’intégration et la mondialisation. <http://www.ieim.uqam.ca/IMG/pdf/rapportcdecvfinale.pdf> (accessed 06 October 2016).

Rittberger, V., Zangl, B. & Kruck, A. (2012) International Organization, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2nd edition.

Sarikakis, K. & Ganter, S. (2014) ‘Priorities in global media policy transfer: audiovisual and digital policy mutations in the EU, Mercosur and US triangle’, European Journal of Communication, 29(1): 17-33.

Schorlemer, S. & Stoll, P.-T. (eds.) (2011) The UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions – Explanatory Notes, Berlin: Heidelberg, Springer-Verlag.

Spanish Agency of International Cooperation for development (2013) Culture and development. Review of MDG-F Joint Programmes Key Findings and Achievements, MDG Achievement Fund.

UNCTAD (2011) Strengthening the creative industries for development in Mozambique, Geneva, United Nations.

UNCTAD (2011) Strengthening the creative industries for development in Zambia, Geneva, United Nations.

UNCTAD (2010) Creative economy report: a feasible development option, PNUD-CNUCED. <http://CNUCED.org/en/Docs/ditctab20103_en.pdf> (accessed 06 October 2016).

UNCTAD (2008) Creative economy report: the challenge of assessing the creative economy, towards informed policy-making, PNUD-CNUCED. <http://CNUCED.org/fr/docs/ditc20082cer_en.pdf> (accessed 06 October 2016).

UNCTAD (2006-2012) Creative Economy Programme: E-Newsletter, n°1-18. <http://CNUCED.org/en/Pages/DITC/CreativeEconomy/Creative-Economy-Programme-Newsletters.aspx> (accessed 06 October 2016).

UNCTAD (2004a) São Paulo Consensus, TD/410, CNUCED, 25 June. <http://CNUCED.org/fr/Docs/td410_en.pdf> (accessed 06 October 2016).

UNCTAD (2004b) Creative industries and development, CNUCED XI, High-Level Panel on Creative Industries and Development, TD(XI)/BP/13, 13-18 June 2004. <http://unctad.org/en/docs/tdxibpd13_en.pdf> (accessed 06 October 2016).

UNESCO (2015a) Conference of Parties to the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions: Resolutions, CE/15/5.CP/Res., Paris: UNESCO, 12 June.

UNESCO (2015b) Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions: Towards Operation Guidelines on digital issues, CE/15/9.IGC/7, Paris: UNESCO, 20 October. <https://goo.gl/uBlYJZ> (accessed 06 October 2016).

UNESCO (2013) Strengthening the Governance of Culture to Unlock Development Opportunities, results of the UNESCO-EU expert facility project, Paris: UNESCO.

Vlassis, A. (2016) ‘European Commission, trade agreements and diversity of cultural expressions’, European Journal of Communication (forthcoming).

Vlassis, A. (2015a) Gouvernance mondiale et culture : de l’exception à la diversité, Liège: Presses universitaires de Liège.

Vlassis, A. (2015b) ‘Culture in the post-2015 development agenda: the anatomy of an international mobilisation’, Third World Quarterly, 36(9): 1649-1662.

Vlassis, A. (2013) ‘L’UNESCO face à l’enjeu “commerce-culture”. Quelle action politique pour une organisation internationale ?’, Politique et sociétés, 32(3): 81-101.

Vlassis, A. (2011) ‘La mise en œuvre de la Convention sur la diversité des expressions culturelles : portée et enjeux de l’interface “commerce-culture”’. Études internationales, 42(4): 493-510.

Zaum, D. (2013) ‘International Organizations, Legitimacy, and Legitimation’, in D. Zaum (ed.), Legitimating international organizations, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 3-25.

  1. Researcher and Lecturer, Fonds national de la Recherche Scientifique (FNRS) – Centre for International Relations Studies (CEFIR), University of Liege, Belgium.
  2. The Council of Europe, the Latin Union, the Islamic Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization have a Permanent Observer mission to UNESCO.
  3. In the UN context, a “Joint Program” is a program involving two or more agencies.
  4. The MDG Fund is the result of a major partnership signed in December 2006 by the Government of Spain and the UNDP. It was provided with 831 million USD in order to contribute to progress on the MDGs.
  5. The concept ‘Creative industries’ has emerged in Australia in the early 1990s with the project by Paul Keating’s Labour Government ‘Creative nation’. It was given wider exposure with the election of ‘New Labour’ in the United Kingdom in 1997 when the Blair government set up the Creative Industries Task Force. Noteworthy is that, as Galloway and Dunlop (2007: 18) argue, culture is abandoned as elitist and exclusive, whereas ‘creativity’ is embraced as democratic and inclusive. In 2001, the term ‘the creative economy’ was the title of J. Howkins’s book, published in London.
  6. Article 27 of the Cotonou Agreement, entitled ‘Culture and development’, provides that: “Cooperation in the area of culture shall aim at: a. Integrating the cultural dimension at all levels of development cooperation; b. Recognizing, preserving and promoting cultural values and identities to enable inter-cultural dialogue; c. Recognizing, preserving and promoting the value of cultural heritage; supporting the development of capacity in this sector; and d. Developing cultural industries and enhancing market access opportunities for cultural goods and services” (ACP-European Union 2000: 40). The Cotonou Agreement, signed in 2000, entered into force in 2003 and revised in 2010, represents a new stage in cooperation between ACP and EU, which began with the signing of the Yaoundé Convention in 1963 and the Lomé Convention in 1975.
  7. “The international community should support national efforts of developing countries to increase their participation in and benefit from dynamic sectors and to foster, protect and promote their creative industries” (São Paulo Consensus, paragraph 91) (UNCTAD 2004a: 19). “Creative industries can help foster positive externalities while preserving and promoting cultural heritages and diversity (…)” (paragraph 65) (UNCTAD 2004a: 14).
  8. “At UNCTAD X, the Bangkok Plan of Action identified audio-visual services, informatics and software development for particular attention in UNCTAD’s analytical work (…) UNCTAD convened an Expert Meeting on Audio-visual Services in November 2002. On the basis of the final report of the Expert Meeting, the Commission on Trade in Goods, Services and Commodities recommended that UNCTAD examine issues involved in trade in audio-visual services and continue its analytical work on related issues. In undertaking this work, UNCTAD has sought to build closer collaboration with other international organizations, notably the ILO, WIPO, the International Trade Centre and UNESCO” (UNCTAD, 2004b: 2).

Leave a comment