Québec-Canada agreement on UNESCO

The agreement between the Government of Québec and the Government of Canada concerning the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO) was an unprecedented step forward, placing it among the most decisive initiatives in Québec's international relations history.

Its historic nature is demonstrated by the text's explicit recognition “that the specificity of Québec leads it to play a special role internationally.” This recognition applies to all of Québec's international partners.

The agreement, signed on May 5th, 2006, established a formal role for Québec as part of the United Nations. Québec's presence as a full participating member of the Permanent Delegation of Canada to UNESCO is since an established fact: Québec can express its own voice.

Représentation du Québec au sein de la Délégation permanente du Canada auprès de l’UNESCO

The Représentation du Québec au sein de la Délégation permanente du Canada auprès de l’UNESCO (Reoresentative of the Government of Quebec in the Permanent Delegation of Canada to UNESCO) gives Québec a right to free speech in all UNESCO bodies. This representation is the centerpiece of Québec's involvement at UNESCO conferences, proceedings, and meetings. The agreement specifies that Québec is represented “in full and according to its wishes” in all Canadian delegations, in all UNESCO bodies. When it deems suitable and when circumstances warrant, the government can be represented by a member of the Cabinet authorized to deliver its message. Québec is guaranteed a voice during Canada's allotted time.

According to the rules of international law, a UNESCO-accredited national ambassador takes on the role of mission leader. Thus, the agreement evokes the “general direction of the Canadian mission as a whole” entrusted to the Canadian ambassador. Québec's position is developed according to the Ministère des Relations internationales et de la Francophonie in conjunction with the concerned sectoral departments.

A cooperation mechanism

The Government of Québec is consulted prior to Canadian interventions in multilateral fora. The agreement stipulates that the two governments “will work in concert on all votes, resolutions, negotiations and proposed international instruments at UNESCO.”

The agreement also addresses situations in which a consensus cannot be reached during a meeting. The federal government is responsible for ultimately justifying itself to Québec, not the inverse. In the event of an impasse, the Government of Québec “alone will decide if it proceeds with implementation in areas of its responsibility.” Québec's choice of whether to carry out an international commitment within its scope of responsibility is the crowning jewel of its international relations policy. The agreement solidifies this legal authority and formalizes the federal government's assent. Québec has always maintained that its approval remains key to implementation, and the agreement is careful to honor this point of view.

Lastly, the agreement gives Québec the responsibility to “initiate a mechanism for consulting Québec experts, both in government and civil society.” The result of these consultations is conveyed by the Government of Québec to the federal government and to the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, which then report to UNESCO. In addition, a representative of the Ministère des Relations internationales et de la Francophonie du Québec now sits on the Executive Committee to the Canadian Commission for UNESCO.

See Québec-Canada agreement on UNESCO (82 Ko)

Last update: 2019-04-18 10:12:01 AM