Today I have the great honour, as Chair of the Executive Board of UNESCO, to introduce the general policy debate of the General Conference.
As you know, it is a direct constitutional requirement for the Board to prepare the biennial Draft Programme and Budget of the Organization, to prepare the work of the ordinary session of the General Conference and to report to it on its own activities during the biennium. My statement thus takes the form of a report on the activities of the Board in 2010 and 2011.
This document 36 C/INF.9 constitutes a detailed addendum to document 36 С/9 Part I, which provides a short summary of the Executive Board’s main activities from the 183rd session to the 187th session.
I should also like to remind you that you have Board documents at your disposal which reflect all of the decisions adopted over the past two years (183 EX/Decisions, 184 EX/Decisions, 185 EX/Decisions, 186 EX/Decisions, 187 EX/Decisions), the written reports of the commissions and committees, and the summary records of each session of the Board (183 EX/SR, 184 EX/SR, 185 EX/SR, 186 EX/SR and 187 EX/SR) and its information meetings.
UNESCO and the world situation in 2010 and 2011
The Board’s work in the past two years has, without any exaggeration, been conducted in extremely difficult conditions.
First of all, there has been the global financial and economic crisis. There was the beginning and continuation of the process of social, political and cultural change in the Arab world. The driving force behind this process is young people, who make up the majority of the world’s population, living on the breadline. Natural disasters were many and frequent. Technological catastrophes were both frequent and massive, with critical consequences for the planet’s ecosystems, not to mention the large-scale human and financial losses connected with them. Some 50 countries in all regions of the world suffered from natural disasters, acts of terrorism, local conflicts, epidemics or ecological catastrophes. The most conservative statistics estimate the losses to amount to hundreds of billions of United States dollars. Such is today’s world.
Tomorrow will depend on the extent to which the global community – that is to say all of us – extensively and pragmatically demonstrates its solidarity and mobilizes efforts in order to overcome such crises.
The second feature of this period was the reform of the Secretariat’s operation, with new people joining the Organization’s senior management and the implementation of internal structural changes in a context of limited financial resources.
I can assure you that this difficult but essential stage in the reform of our Organization is proceeding successfully. There are still problems to be addressed, particularly as regards internal bureaucracy. Yet, on the whole, the Executive Board has noted improvements in this regard.
I particularly wish to emphasize that, in this complicated period, the Director-General has succeeded in forming a new team and reacted very promptly to numerous crises throughout the world, such as the earthquake in Haiti, and the floods in Pakistan and other countries. Thanks to the vigorous actions of the Director-General, the significance and visibility of our Organization has increased within the United Nations system and in the international arena in what has become a clear trend. The Executive Board welcomes the Director-General’s efforts to strengthen links with the Member States of UNESCO and with their National Commissions, in particular by means of her regular consultations, meetings and exchanges of information. The willingness of the Director-General to respond to the expectations of Member States was one regular feature of UNESCO’s action in 2010 and 2011.
UNESCO Draft Programme and Budget for 2012-2013 (36 С/5)
As you will recall, we did not start the current biennium from zero in financial terms but from zero nominal growth with certain adjustments for inflation plus statutory increases, on the basis of a budget envelope $653 million. The Executive Board is recommending to the General Conference that it adopt the same budget ceiling for the next period, 2012-2013. In adopting the recommendation in favour of zero nominal growth the Board based itself on the current world economic downturn and the efforts of the United Nations itself to reduce its own budget.
As you are aware, the General Conference of UNESCO, at its 35th session, asked the Executive Board, in 35 C/Resolution 82, “to submit to it proposals to accommodate the United Nations General Assembly’s request to specialized agencies to align their programme cycle with the new quadrennial cycle of policy review of operational activities for development of the United Nations system, starting in 2012”. This work has been completed and its results are presented to you for consideration.
Also at its 35th session, in 35 C/Resolution 102, the General Conference decided that an external and independent evaluation of UNESCO of a comprehensive, strategic and forward-looking character should take place. At its 185th session, the Board considered the final report on that evaluation and decided to set up an ad-hoc working group, open to all Member States, to develop proposals concerning the recommendations of the evaluation. The results of the working group were presented to the Board at its 186th session. The Board approved the recommendations of the ad-hoc working group and the results of its work are presented for consideration by the General Conference. We consider that the group’s conclusions are extremely useful and recommend the adoption of a similar form of action by the Executive Board in future for the examination of complex issues.
The Board again confirmed the Medium-Term Strategy for 2008-2013, contained in document 34 С/4, and its two global priorities – Africa and gender equality, its overarching and strategic programme objectives and its intersectoral thrust.
Thematic debate of the Executive Board, official visits to the Executive Board and information meetings with the Director-General
The impact of the Board’s action on the work of the Organization has brought into sharper relief the significance of UNESCO’s role as a laboratory of ideas in the service of international peace and security.
Throughout the biennium, the Board upheld the need to further refocus the Organization’s intellectual dimension. This was, for example, underlined by the choice and relevance of the thematic debate on the theme of “Intercultural dialogue in the 2010s: revisiting policies within the context of a culture of peace”, held at the 185th session, and which highlighted the importance of defining new approaches to the promotion of peace, dialogue, tolerance and universal reconciliation. Three prominent experts were invited to share their extensive professional experience and comprehensive knowledge of the topic: His Excellency Mr Hage Geingob, Minister of Trade and Industry, former Prime Minister of Namibia; His Excellency Mr Bensalem Himmich, Minister of Culture of Morocco, philosopher, novelist and scriptwriter; and His Excellency Mr Mintimer Shaimiyev from the Russian Federation, Former President of the Republic of Tatarstan. This was done in close relation to the celebration of the 2010 International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures, for which the Board formulated relevant recommendations in order to give an impulse going beyond the one-year timeframe. To many of us, rapprochement always has to be considered as a process and never as an accomplishment in itself.
It seems however sufficient to hold no more than one such debate in the course of a biennium on the most relevant topic selected in advance, both from organizational and logistical points of view. As 2012 is proclaimed by United Nations the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All, I would like to make a suggestion to my successor and to the Members of the Board to possibly devote a thematic debate of the next biennium to the field of “Science, Technology and Innovation for Future Development”, with possible special focus on the potential innovative applications of solar energy for the African continent.
During this biennium, the Board maintained four traditional intersessional information meetings, which were considered as most constructive and productive for the Board’s work interaction with the Director-General to check on progress made in programming and implementing UNESCO’s activities.
Also, the visits to the Board of high-level guests such as Her Royal Highness Princess Marie of Denmark, as well as Prince Faisal bin Abdullah bin Mohammad Al Saud, the Minister of Education of Saudi Arabia, and Sebastián Piñera, President of Chile – emphasized once again the leading role played by UNESCO in its fields of competence with regard to strengthening the principles of democracy, equality, security and stability in the world.
In addition, recalling the UNESCO mandate to create peace in the minds of people and thereby its intellectual thinking and reflection role, the Board welcomed the establishing of the High-Level Panel on Peace and Dialogue among Cultures.
Contribution of the Executive Board to the reinforcement of UNESCO’s leadership within its expanded mandate
During the biennium the Board demonstrated its profound commitment to the universal ideals and objectives of humanity, peace and sustainable development by taking an active part in UNESCO’s efforts in advancing the goals laid down in the United Nations Millennium Declaration. A wide range of events has furthered this cause, in which I have had occasion to participate in the performance of my duty as Chair of the Board.
I am referring among others to international conferences such as the UNESCO Future Forum on Gender Equality: The Missing Link? Rethinking the Internationally Agreed Development goals beyond 2015 (9-11 September 2010), which took place in Greece and the first ever World Conference on Early Childhood Care and Education: Building the Wealth of Nations, held in Moscow (27-29 September 2010). I am also thinking of the official launch of the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures, the International Year of Youth and the International Year of Chemistry, as proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly.
A number of events dedicated to the celebration of dates important for the whole of humanity have also required my and many Board Members’ direct participation. These have included among others the 65th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, the 65th anniversary of the foundation of UNESCO and the 50th anniversary of the first manned flight into space; also on 2 November, the 10th anniversary of the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity.
As we move collectively towards the Millennium Development Goals’ pressing deadline of 2015, I would like to emphasize our combined aspiration to revitalize UNESCO’s efforts in education, as it was evident at the recently concluded High-Level Segment of the Economic and Social Council Ministerial Review held in Geneva in July this year.
UNESCO must rise to meet its renewed leadership mandate in education, particularly through upscaling efforts to achieve education for all goals and leading the debate on the post-2015 EFA agenda. This should be made with specific focus on quality, equity and inclusion and in close linkage between education, culture and development.
Culture and development is an issue which will strongly enhance UNESCO’s ownership for actions at the multidimensional level. The concept of culture and development being new to the international community, UNESCO needs to strengthen its advocacy role at the international level to enhance understanding of this notion and the correlations between them, while delivering related programme activities intersectorally.
In our world of innovation and technological progress, and in the context of climate change, UNESCO must meet its leadership for advancing the issues of energy and other resources reducing consumption and production.
In terms of communication, UNESCO continues its reflection on the Internet, especially as it relates to promoting democratized access to information.
Among many other outstanding achievements, which without any doubt made UNESCO the global reference, are its World Heritage, Man and Biosphere Programme, Memory of the World, World Documentary Heritage, Global Network of Geoparks, International Oceanographic Commission with particular mention of its international tsunami alert system. In that connection, to respond and adapt to the pressures of change linked to the consequences of various natural tragedies, UNESCO’s efforts to build a culture of risk reduction, as a proactive way of quick reaction to disasters has an increasing impact in the societies.
At its last session of the biennium, the Board recommended to the General Conference to admit Palestine to full UNESCO membership by a majority vote: 40 in favour, four against and 14 abstentions. Member States which voted against or abstained advanced an argument that this issue has first to be subject of the decision at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Explaining their voting motivation the United States underlined that the admission of Palestine as UNESCO Member before the relevant United Nations resolution is adopted, can compromise its financial contribution to UNESCO. Nevertheless, the majority of Board Members supported Palestine’s request for admission to UNESCO and the subsequent recommendation is now before the General Conference.
Our Organization has been the first within the United Nations system to take this step, satisfying the request for admission first submitted in 1989. In doing so UNESCO is giving Palestine the right to work on an equal basis on various humanitarian and cultural projects, essential both with respect to a settlement in the Middle East and the achievement of international development goals in the region.
At this point I would like to note with satisfaction the wisdom, goodwill and openness to dialogue of both Board and non-Board Members, and in particular of the Chairs and Members of the working groups dealing with sensitive, so called “hot” topics. By our goal-oriented discussions and collaborative approach in the spirit of mutual respect we confirmed that what augurs well for greater effectiveness in the long term is that the Board will continue to seek consensus. It is indeed the traditional approach in this Organization since it is really only on the basis of consensual decisions on specific items that UNESCO is able to implement its programme effectively.
Each area of work accomplished demanded from us all a skilful combination of time, energy, flexibility, determination and cohesion in order to achieve tangible and mutually acceptable results. By doing this Members of the Board remained firmly committed to place UNESCO as a dynamic actor of the global governance and make it fully taking the advantages and benefits from such a position. For this UNESCO has to strengthen the existing – sometimes unique – cooperation channels among its entities, centres and institutes, National Commissions and many others.
UNESCO has also to develop new partnerships with private sector, foundations and civil society, mobilizing resources, good experiences and initiatives.
Work of the Commissions and Committees of the Executive Board
By informing you on the work of Board Commissions and Committees during the 2010-2011 biennium, I would like to rely on contributions to this report I received from my colleagues Members of the Bureau, whose judicious approach, invaluable support and friendship helped me in making the Board focus on results and efficiency.
Throughout the biennium, the Programme and External Relations (PX) Commission, chaired by Ms Shahnaz Wazir Ali (Pakistan) and then by Ms Attiya Inayatullah (Pakistan), examined a total of 71 agenda items. Over the reporting period, the Commission recommended 66 draft decisions. The vast majority of them were adopted by consensus, except on nine occasions when a vote was taken.
With regards to programmatic deliberations, the Commission stressed the importance of UNESCO’s actions in education, in particular concerning the education for all (EFA) programme. In this regard the Commission strongly urged UNESCO to be more ambitious and to start planning strategic actions beyond 2015. The Commission generally welcomed the new EFA coordination structure which will make education more visible on the global agenda by improving the coordination of the five EFA convening agencies and the efficiency of the High-Level Group for EFA.
Two other areas in education which received a lot of attention from the Commission are the UNESCO strategy for the second half of the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD) and the progress achieved in the implementation of the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) strategy.
In the area of natural sciences, the Commission among others expressed its general support for the creation of a UNESCO engineering initiative and supported the creation of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
With regards to social and human sciences, the Commission highlighted the importance of the Organization’s actions on youth and took note of the UNESCO Strategy on African Youth. The Commission also supported the reorientation of the Management of Social Transformations (MOST) Programme. Furthermore, members of the Commission advocated for UNESCO to continue its actions on human rights, bioethics, philosophy and democracy.
Concerning UNESCO’s actions in culture, the Commission underlined the importance of its standard-setting function in this area, and called for strengthening of the implementation of existing normative instruments. The Commission also highlighted that priority should be given to support Member States in mainstreaming culture into their development policies, and underscored the importance of reinforcing programmes and activities in favour of languages and multilingualism, dialogue among cultures, and protection of cultural heritage in Post-Conflict Post-Disaster (PCPD) situations.
With regards to communication and information, the Commission generally supported the revised draft strategy on UNESCO’s contribution to the promotion of open access to scientific information and research. Within the framework of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), UNESCO should continue to play a lead role in open access to scientific information and collaborate with other United Nations agencies on the subject.
During the biennium, the PX Commission rallied in support of UNESCO’s post-earthquake response in Haiti in the area of disaster risk reduction, culture, governance and communication. It also reaffirmed UNESCO’s main area of post-conflict assistance to Iraq in education, with parallel assistance in the fields of culture, natural sciences and communication and information.
The Commission also welcomed UNESCO’s contribution to the global action on climate change. Through intersectoral platforms, this initiative seeks to employ key areas of UNESCO’s competences and focus on scientific, educational, environmental and ethical issues. It aims to strengthen the scientific, mitigation and adaptation capacities of countries and communities that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
The PX Commission emphasized that special attention should be given to the priorities on Africa and gender equality, as well as to the increased vulnerability of small island developing States (SIDS). As the knowledge management is to be considered one of UNESCO’s main priorities the Commission is increasingly supportive of the Memory of the World Programme. Finally, the recommendation of proclamation of the International Jazz Day to be celebrated annually on 30 April was welcomed unanimously.
During the course of the biennium, the Administrative and Financial (FA) Commission, chaired by Ms Alissandra Cummins (Barbados), examined a total of 68 items.
This includes the rate of budget implementation of regular and extrabudgetary funds, accountability and transparency in financial management, prompt implementation of all external and internal audit recommendations, requirements to improve compliance, cost effectiveness and efficiency, to do better with fewer resources in order to enhance the credibility and reputation of the Organization and its competitiveness and complementarity with other United Nations agencies.
The recurrent issues examined are the following: implementation of the Programme and Budget adopted by the General Conference (EX/4); follow-up to the decisions and resolutions adopted by the Governing Bodies (EX/5); financial statements (audited/unaudited); budgetary techniques for preparation of C/5 documents (use of constant dollar, lapse factor) and preparation of the draft C/5 document, including budget ceiling; cash flow, collection of contributions, payment plans; management of extrabudgetary resources and activities, as well as implementation of the cost-recovery policy; the implementation of international public sector accounting standards (IPSAS); the state and the governance of the Medical Benefits Fund (MBF); Human Resources Strategy; the geographical distribution and gender balance in the staff of the Secretariat; security, management of UNESCO complex, Capital Master Plan; audit reports of the External Auditor; follow-up of the Independent External Evaluation; reform of the field network; results-based management, preparation of C/4 and C/3 documents; establishment of category 2 institutes; and evaluation reports prepared by IOS.
The Commission encouraged the Director-General and the Secretariat to reinforce their commitment to reform by establishing UNESCO’s policies in the areas of human resources, rationalization and prioritization of programmes and relevant budget allocations, as well as commitment to increase programme activities and reduce staff and related programme support costs and decentralize the Organization’s resources.
The Commission resolved by consensus a number of important issues: the Organization’s first financial statements prepared under IPSAS received the External Auditor’s approval; the first phase of the reform of the field network was approved; and the Human Resources Strategy for 2012-2017 was endorsed. In addition Members found that the examination of 14 audit reports of the External Auditor provided useful evidence-based information which assisted the Executive Board in exercising oversight over the implementation of the Programme.
The Commission supported within the alternative 36 C/5 zero nominal growth scenario, the reinforcement of the Africa Department by $1.1 million; and of the Division for Gender Equality by $0.7 million; as well as the allocation of $9 million under a separate budget line for funding of Phase I of the Field Network Reform.
Over the course of the 2010-2011 biennium, among the most debated items, have been the questions related to the state and governance of the Medical Benefits Fund, the management of UNESCO’s complex and security, in particular the Capital Master Plan, construction of the forward security post, renovation of the Bonvin/Miollis site and installation of the new communication systems, as well as the use of constant dollar and its impact on Member States’ contributions.
While recognizing the achievements with respect to the Human Resources Strategy, geographical distribution of staff and gender balance, including the under-representation of GRULAC and ASPAC countries, as well as lack of transparency in the recruitment process, still remained contentious issues for the Commission.
Pointing out the need of further sustained dialogue between the Secretariat and Members of the Board in order to find long-term solutions to these problems and to ensure efficient decision-making in the FA Commission, its Members also made the following observations which should be taken into account when preparing future sessions of the Executive Board: inconsistency in the application of Rule 16.2 of the Rules of Procedure regarding the election of a temporary Chair, this potentially affecting the efficiency of the Commission; and repeated requests to ensure that draft decisions be included in the reports of the External Auditor to facilitate the introduction of amendments to the draft resolutions (DR).
A clear tendency has been observed to increase the number of Board items to be examined by the Joint Meeting of the FA and PX plenary Commissions which proved its positive role as an efficient and time-saving mechanism. During the 2010-2011 biennium, the Joint Meeting recommended 68 draft decisions to the Executive Board for adoption. All were adopted by consensus, except one when a vote was taken.
The Joint Meeting confirmed the increased understanding among Members of the Executive Board and the Secretariat of the inseparable link between programmatic and financial aspects and the increased attention paid by them to the efforts to further streamline and rationalize the Organization’s resources. However, the examination of items in the Joint Meeting, though recognizing the importance of financial and administrative issues, has a tendency to give “preference” to the examination of substance or programmatic issues which is quite understandable, given that UNESCO’s mission and aims in serving its Member States are to advance intellectual cooperation and strengthen solidarity. This tendency may become even more pronounced in the 2012-2013 biennium, considering that there will no longer be meetings of the group of experts on financial and administrative matters. Due consideration therefore needs to be given to the fact that the mandate of the ad hoc working group which will replace the group of experts as from the 189th session does not absorb entirely the mandate of the group of experts. If the tendency to examine a large number (or even the majority) of items on the agenda of the Joint Meeting persists in the forthcoming biennium, the Secretariat should be invited to fully respect certain procedures when preparing Executive Board documents and introducing items to the Joint Meeting, such as:
- clearly identifying the financial and administrative aspects of the item, with indications of the measurable financial impact for the Organization, cost-effectiveness, sustainability, etc. in the EX documents and during the introduction of items by the representatives of the Director-General;
- more rigorously presenting actions undertaken by the Secretariat to implement previous decisions of the Board with the requisite identification of improvements/results achieved;
- engaging in pre-session dialogue with members of the FA Commission, particularly on the most controversial, delicate items and better explaining the proposed measures/decisions by the Secretariat;
- establishing dialogue with representatives of Member States well in advance of the Board sessions on more complex issues which is needed in order to understand the constraints of Member States and is intended to facilitate elaboration of realistic, cost-effective and mutually accepted decisions;
- improving the synergies between the Headquarters Committee and the FA Commission by ensuring that the Headquarters Committee reviews the documents well in advance and that the comments of the Committee are identified clearly in the document;
- better planning of the distribution of time between meetings of the Joint Meeting and for the separate meetings of each Commission.
Concerning the Special Committee (SP), chaired by Ms Irène Rabenoro (Madagascar) and then by Mr Ngwabi Mulunge Bhebe (Zimbabwe), it considered several important items on the Board’s agenda with a view to providing reports and recommendations to the Commissions and Plenary on questions pertaining to the running costs of the governing bodies. It also considered the follow-up of the Independent External Evaluation of UNESCO and the United Nations General Assembly proposal to align planning cycles with the quadrennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the United Nations system.
Pursuant to the two aspects of the terms of reference set out in 183 EX/Decision 12, the Committee on Conventions and Recommendations (CR), chaired by Mr Maurizio Serra of Italy, pursued its main objective of monitoring the application of the 14 standard-setting instruments adopted by UNESCO.
During the biennium, the Committee accordingly considered a number of reports from Member States, transmitted with its commentaries to the General Conference at this session. The reports focus on the implementation of the 2003 Recommendation concerning the Promotion and Use of Multilingualism and Universal Access to Cyberspace, the 1993 Recommendation on the Recognition of Studies and Qualifications in Higher Education, the 1980 Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist, the 1976 Recommendation on the Development of Adult Education and the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.
In this connection, it is already planned that during the next biennium the Committee will examine the reports on the implementation of the following instruments: the 1974 Recommendation concerning education for international understanding, cooperation and peace and education relating to human rights and fundamental freedoms; the 1974 Recommendation on the Status of Scientific Researchers and the 1960 Convention and Recommendation against Discrimination in Education.
The response rate on some consultations on Member States’ periodic reports on action taken on conventions and recommendations was rather low. The Committee therefore reminded Member States of their legal obligations under Article VIII of the Constitution of UNESCO.
The Committee also considered the Director-General’s report on the tenth session of the Joint ILO/UNESCO Committee of Experts on the Application of the Recommendations concerning Teaching Personnel (CEART). The Committee further considered the reports of the tenth and eleventh meetings of the Joint Expert Group UNESCO (CR)/ECOSOC (CESCR) on the Monitoring of the Right to Education. The Board recommended that UNESCO’s participation in the work of the Group be suspended and requested the Director-General to engage jointly with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in reflection on the Group’s future.
Secondly, in 2010-2011, the Committee examined the communications received by UNESCO on cases of human rights violation in its areas of competence. Thirty-four communications concerning 14 countries were examined in private meetings. Eight of them have been settled.
The Committee endeavoured to remedy situations concerning the right to education. As part of its humanitarian mission, the Committee spared no effort to improve the state of health and the conditions of detention of several people.
Pursuant to 182 EX/Decision 30, the Committee reviewed its own working methods and adopted measures to improve its procedural practices. It invited the Director-General to use her good offices to facilitate the emergence of solutions to cases already under examination by the Committee, and to strengthen the visibility of the 104 procedure. This procedure, laid down in 104 EX/Decision 3.3 of the Executive Board, is followed in the examination of communications received by UNESCO concerning alleged human rights violations in its fields of competence.
In short, during the biennium, the Committee constantly reinforced the two aspects of its terms of reference. The Executive Board Members therefore stressed that it was important for the Committee on Conventions and Recommendations to continue its activities linked to this objective.
With regard to the work of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO), chaired by Mr Hany Helal (Egypt), succeeded by Mr Ezzat Salama (Egypt), and then by Mr Moataz Khorsheid (Egypt), its revitalization process, decided by the General Conference at its 34th session, was pursued and strengthened.
It was possible thanks to the thematic round tables held on topics of common interest to UNESCO and NGOs, namely: Culture and development: the role of Culture for sustainable development and economic prosperity; Social and human impact of international migrations and Violence in the contemporary world. They involved the participation of Member States, international experts, NGOs and the broader civil society alike, and the UNESCO Secretariat. These round tables provided a forum for the roles of partners to be better understood and for a lively exchange by all. Since it seems to be important that the partners involved in this exercise all feel on an equal footing, this experience could possibly benefit from a different organizational framework. Such events of international scope could meaningfully be convened once a year furthermore, outside the strict confines of the Board’s proceedings, but naturally under its auspices and with its full participation.
The work of the Committee was also highlighted by the drafting of the new directives concerning UNESCO’s partnership with NGOs, recommended to the General Conference for adoption, and the revision of terms of reference of the Committee.
Finally, the Committee decided to submit to the Executive Board for examination at its 188th session a proposed change of its name from Committee on International Non-Governmental Organizations to Committee on Non-Governmental Partners.
Progress and challenges of the Paper-Smart reform of the work of UNESCO governing bodies
Since taking office my first and foremost concern, as Chair of the Board, was to avoid the repetition of the budgetary over-spend experienced by the Board in the 2008-2009 biennium. Therefore, I tried to exercise vigilant control of the budget execution over the present biennium.
I am sincerely thankful to the Members of the Board and its Bureau Members – Vice-Chairs and Chairs of Commissions and Committees – for their sustained cooperation in considering the Board’s efforts towards the optimization of its work. This was also possible only in close coordination with the Board’s Secretariat. This involved rationalization of the agenda, careful forward planning of translation and document production schedules, control of hospitality expenses, limitation of overtime and recourse to temporary assistance, etc.
During my mandate I have launched a special pilot project to ensure that Members of the Board could participate on a voluntary basis in an experimental process to replace paper documents by accessing their respective online versions through a specially created, user-friendly website. This process, which entailed no additional cost whatsoever to the Board’s overall budget, is of course subject to review and further improvement.
I must say, that as a preliminary, broad-brush result, the projected budget situation at the close of the current biennium shows expenditure in line with targets. Certain additional expenses and investments have been possible thanks to such tight budget management. For example, I think about the optimization of sound and electrical equipment in the Board’s meeting rooms and six-language interpretation during all information meetings of the Executive Board.
Now, as we are close to the end of the biennium, it is a matter of fact that during this stage the Executive Board has managed to adjust towards greater economy in its activities. I think you will agree that reducing a 30% overrun to almost nil in the biennium is already a considerable achievement.
I shall also note that although this is just the beginning, the Board’s sessions kept to the agenda and within the time limit for the first time in recent years, finishing their work on time.
I consider that, on the whole, judging by the outcomes of the four sessions of the Board, we have made essential progress in our shared desire to reform UNESCO and the work of its governing bodies.
The Board’s work was not, however, without challenges. For instance, the challenge of adopting a more business-oriented approach involving regular informal consultations by Board Members on all or most key issues in the period between sessions has not been met. This attitude would allow Member States to make use of less time-consuming procedures at Board sessions by avoiding duplication between the debates and the preparation of draft documents.
I fervently hope that the Board will also be able to pragmatically continue to be concerned by the ever-increasing number of items on its agenda and by the rising expectations to deliver more programme activities with limited resources.
I would invite Member States to constantly pursue reflections on how to improve our methods of work in order to ensure that we begin and close our official meetings as good managers of our own time, energies, health and money. Moving UNESCO into the twenty-first century is not something just for the Secretariat.
The governing bodies simply cannot continue with working methods elaborated in the 1950s. Much still has to be done, and I lay great hope on the follow-up to the Independent External Evaluation to move this matter forward. Its conclusions and recommendations on UNESCO’s current work were most helpful for the Board’s reflections and actions towards capitalizing on the power and value of the Organization’s programme for its stakeholders.
Improved coordination of the three organs of UNESCO
UNESCO has an unfinished agenda. And you all know well that the whole action of our Organization requires the three organs’ full attention, but in particular that of the Executive Board.
Here I must say that closer communication and cooperation between the Chair of the Board with both the President of the General Conference and the Director-General ensured that the three organs worked as one, while being mindful of each other’s role. I must once more pay special tribute to Dr Davidson Hepburn, former President of the General Conference, for his wise and inspiring advice and observations on the Board’s work over the past two years. His vigorous action gave particularly great visibility to the item related to the small island developing States (SIDS).
In concluding I should like to say the following. From the day it was founded and up to the present, UNESCO has fully justified its existence.
The current process of reform in our Organization shows that UNESCO can adjust to changing circumstances and react swiftly, appropriately and flexibly to changes in the world. In its fields of competence it must continue in future to contribute to the effective and visible, as far as possible, accomplishment of the challenging tasks before the global community.
The sessions of the Board play a key link role in this regard as, basing themselves on the experience of past years, Member States of the Organization endeavour jointly, through consensus and constructive dialogue, to build a better future for all humanity.
I should like to wish the delegates to the General Conference every success in their work in support of the noble mission of UNESCO. May it be fruitful.