Close of a very positive session of Executive BoardThe 174 session of UNESCO’s Executive Board ended yesterday - after more than two weeks of debates qualified by its Chairman, Vice Minister of Education Zhang Xinsheng (China), as particularly enriching – with the adoption of a decision urging mutual respect for cultural diversity, religious beliefs and religious symbols.
In his closing remarks, Mr Zhang welcomed the outcome of the session saying it had met his hopes for work marked by harmony, hexie in Chinese, and teamwork.
Among the items on the agenda of the session, the issue of freedom of expression and sacred beliefs was the subject of extensive debates leading to the adoption by consensus of a decision that was welcomed by the Chairman of the Executive Board and by the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura. In a communiqué, the Director-General notably welcomed the fact that: “For the first time in many weeks, a consensus has been achieved within an intergovernmental forum on an issue that has seriously troubled efforts of dialogue and rapprochement among cultures and civilizations.”
In his closing remarks, Mr Zhang for his part stressed that the Board has sent out a clear signal, “a signal that says: here in UNESCO is where such sensitive problems must be addressed, and can be addressed.” He added: “Our future on this planet cannot be anything other than a shared future, and we have no other building blocks except respect and more respect; understanding and yet better understanding of each other and our diversity.”
All aspects of education, the main priority of the Organization, were considered by the Board. Numerous work sessions, both in commission and in plenary, focused on Education for All (EFA), especially on the examination of the draft global action plan for achieving EFA by 2015. The draft plan aims to improve commitment to education; coherence of policies; convergence of strategies; and coordination to achieve the Dakar goals. The plan follows a request by members of the Board who asked the Director-General to intensify consultations and high-level dialogue with key international stakeholders, particularly the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UNICEF and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), to agree on the roles, responsibilities and contributions of each stakeholder.
The Executive Board, which meets twice a year, brings together 58 of UNESCO’s 191 Member States. It is responsible for the execution of the programme adopted by the General Conference of the Organization. The Secretariat, headed by the Director-General, has the task of implementing the programme.