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Nurturing the democratic debate.  
Closure of 169th session of UNESCO's Executive Board

28-04-2004 5:45 pm The 169th session of UNESCO’s Executive Board, chaired by Ambassador Hans-Heinrich Wrede (Germany), closed today after two weeks of debate focused notably on Education for All, cultural diversity and bioethics. “Over the course of this session, we made some tangible progress,” declared the Chairman in his closing speech.Exbd_insid.jpg

During this session, the 58 board members examined the implementation of the programme adopted by the General Conference, the Organization’s supreme decision-making body. Among the topics discussed, stressed the Chairman, “Education for All remains the top priority.” Despite progress, many delegates expressed concern that the goals set at the World Education Forum in Dakar, especially the reduction of adult illiteracy by 50 percent by 2015, would not be reached, particularly in Africa. “In the face of such obstacles all our joint effort is needed to accomplish these worthy goals,” said Ambassador Wrede.

On cultural diversity, delegates expressed satisfaction with the progress made towards the elaboration of a convention on the issue. Despite the complexity of the subject, a time table, qualified as “ambitious” by Ambassador Wrede, has now been set and should allow for a preliminary draft text to be submitted to the next General Conference in 2005. The Board also approved the calendar proposed for the preparation of a Declaration on universal norms on bioethics, and welcomed efforts to consult with all relevent partners on this issue. Concerning the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, adopted by General Conference in October 2003, several Member States announced that they had started, or intended to start, proceedings to ratify the new instrument.

The consensus established at the last General Conference concerning the cultural heritage of the Old City of Jerusalem and educational and cultural institutions in the occupied Arab Territories prevailed at the Executive Board. Delegates welcomed the progress achieved in these areas and invited UNESCO Director-General Ko´chiro Matsuura to pursue work underway in consultation with the parties concerned.

Similarly, the Board welcomed UNESCO’s action in favour of reconstruction in Iraq, where extremely difficult conditions demanded new and original working methods, which were able to be implemented thanks to a reinforced presence both in Baghdad, through local staff, and in Amman.

Mr Matsuura pointed out that some of UNESCO’s most visible actions today “are in post-conflict situations in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere, including Iraq and Afghanistan,” and added that “in these situations, our work - whether in the fields of education, culture or communication – is genuinely preventive in that it seeks to halt any backslide into violence, disorder and breakdown, precisely by addressing the injustices, inequalities and disparities which gave rise to the outbreak of conflict in the first place.”

The 170th session of the Executive Board will be held at UNESCO Headquarters from September 28 to October 14.

For more information on the Executive Board go to: http://www.unesco.org/exboard/index.shtml

Source Press Release No 2004 - 37

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