19 May 2011

Closing Remarks by H. E. Ms Eleonora Valentinovna Mitrofanova, Chair of the Executive Board of UNESCO


Distinguished representatives of States Members of the Executive Board,

President of the General Conference,

Director-General,

Dear colleagues and friends,

Allow me to congratulate you as the 186th session of the Executive Board draws to a close, and to thank you for your flexibility and effectiveness in our work. This was an important and consequential session involving as it did preparations for the 36th session of the General Conference and, of course, a significant stage in evaluating the implementation of previously adopted Board decisions. This was all reflected in detail in your statements and in the reports of the Chairpersons of the Commissions and Committees. I am sincerely grateful to them for their unfailing work and cooperation, as I am to all the members of the Bureau for their appreciable support for the initiatives I proposed in my capacity as Chair of the Executive Board.

I should like to note with satisfaction the wisdom, goodwill and openness to dialogue of the colleagues who took part in formulating the decision acceptable to all concerning the five agenda items associated with the Middle East which enabled us to carry over consideration of the matter to the next session of the Board. I must say in all sincerity that it was difficult to reach consensus on postponement. We understand, though, and do not expect the discussions at the next session to be any simpler. Nevertheless, I should like to assure you that in the future we will continue to seek consensus, which is indeed the traditional approach in this Organization, since it is really only on the basis of consensual decisions on the aforementioned items that UNESCO is able to implement its programme effectively in the region.

We all worked together throughout this highly productive session in a very constructive spirit and an atmosphere of mutual understanding and respect. I consider that, on the whole, judging by the outcomes of the three previous sessions of the Board we have made essential progress in our shared desire to reform UNESCO and the work of its governing bodies. I should like at this point to express once more my gratitude and esteem regarding the contribution of all the representatives of the States Members on the Board’s Ad Hoc Working Group on the Independent External Evaluation of UNESCO.

In this connection, I suggest to the Member States that they give some thought to this way of working between sessions of the Board. I think that we are justified in using all the means at our disposal for the future organization of informal groups. We must meet more often as that would enable us to discuss more purposefully all the serious issues and in the process we would save valuable time at Board sessions. At the same time, we must also strive, as far as possible, and except in case of particular need, not to overburden the Secretariat, and not distract it from its normal, established work routine.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

One has to accept that life today and the state of the contemporary world present an uninterrupted kaleidoscope of events. Everything around us is changing so quickly that the process of any reforms, and in particular at UNESCO, is becoming more entrenched than ever before. Our Organization must constantly adapt itself and, as a finely tuned mechanism, react rapidly, accurately and flexibly to the challenges of our times. To that end, with a view to improving UNESCO’s working methods and increasing efficiency, what is needed is not just comprehensive structural reform but also qualitative changes, so to speak, to the mindset of members of the Secretariat.

Dear colleagues,

We currently have in our line of sight the 187th session of the Board, the last of this biennium, and the 36th session of the General Conference, for which we now have the provisional list of Chairpersons of its Commissions and Committees. We will also have our next information meeting with the Director-General, scheduled on 7 July 2011. As we look forward to our autumn session, and encouraged by the Bureau members with whom I have discussed this, I again invite you to pursue consultations among yourselves as Member States and with the Secretariat during this intersessional period, in order to ensure that we begin our official meetings with more business-oriented attitudes and less time-consuming exercises, such as duplication between the debates and drafting.

I feel I should also convey to the Director-General the Board Members’ willingness to pursue the dialogue with her, both in terms of time and quality of interaction. I am thinking inter alia of the communication in advance of a document containing the salient points of the Director-General’s statement to the Board plenary debate. This would without doubt facilitate Member States’ preparation for a quality exchange. Last but not least, concerning communication with the Secretariat in the intersessional period, I should underline the amount of time Member States often have to wait for responses from the Secretariat because of its routine bureaucratic visa procedures. Thus, I hope that this practice of bureaucratic overload will be reconsidered with a sense of urgency, also taking into account the possibility of using the existing online infrastructure.

Dear colleagues,

Let me also inform you on one practical issue in connection with all sorts of administrative or logistic problems and questions that you have in the exercise of your duties as Members of the Board. The Administrative Officer in the Governing Bodies Secretariat, Ms Milena Pounkin, is leaving for other responsibilities as of June. I would like to thank her for her valuable work and wish her well. She will be replaced by Mr Alain Haziza, currently Administrative Officer in our Rabat Office.

Dear friends,

We all have reason to express our mutual thanks to each of us for the work we have accomplished in the spirit of mutual beneficial cooperation, and to everyone within the Secretariat for their dedicated efforts, their skills and the helpfulness they have shown to us, not forgetting the work of translators, interpreters and revisers, of room clerks and technicians, of all members of the Board Secretariat and of my personal assistant.

Now, Ladies and Gentlemen, I declare the 186th session of the Executive Board closed!