United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

Opening of the 177th session of UNESCO’s Executive Board

On 1 October 2007 the president of UNESCO’s Executive Board, Mr Zhang Xinsheng (China), opened the Board’s 177th session.

This is the Board’s last session before the Organization’s General Conference (16 October to 3 November), which will define UNESCO’s priorities and budget for the next biennium (2008-2009).

Taking the floor after President Zhang, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, focused his intervention on two issues included in this session’s agenda: the Draft Programmes and Budget for 2008-2009, and the main highlights of the 34th session of the General Conference, on one hand, and the latest developments of the United Nations Reform and UNESCO’s participation on this process, on the other.

Concerning the elaboration of the draft budget, the Director-General recalled, first of all, the course of events that had led him to present a new budget scenario of $631 million, in place of the preceding $648,3 million scenario. In this regard, he stated that: “As the present session approaches, which should present its recommendations to the General Conference on the budget ceiling, and after reaching the conviction that my preceding proposals would never gain the necessary consensus, I decided to present a new budget scenario, which was proposed to you in the form of a corrigendum to the 2nd version of the 34 C/5. It was established on the basis of a budget envelope of $631 million.” “In spite of this,” he added, “I made sure that the intersectorial and interdisciplinary approach be reinforced, and that both Africa and gender equality receive priority treatment. I also ensured the elaboration of a framework adapted to the new challenges facing the Sciences programmes, accentuating decentralization and facilitating, at all levels, the systematic follow up of programmes and the establishment of reports about their execution.”

Mr Matsuura explained that he was “conscious that this new proposal had surprised a number of you, and may not have facilitated your preliminary examination of the documents,” but he accounted for his decision on the grounds that it was “essential for the Organization to approach the new biennial cycle with the full and total support of all its Member States. This has led me (…) to submit a new budget ceiling proposal, based on our Organisation’s minimum needs, and capable of achieving the necessary consensus within the Executive Board, and subsequently the General Conference.” However, in order to reach this new scenario, “inevitable cuts in programmes and posts, as well as strategic readjustments,” have had to be made.

On this occasion, the Director-General recalled that: “In the past, the different savings that I’ve carried out have mostly been through the suppression of posts, essentially at Headquarters. Allow me to recall that between the 30 C/5 and the 33 C/5, I abolished 319 posts at Headquarters, while creating 80 posts in the field, that is, a net cut of 239 permanent posts. Even if I believe that the limit was reached in terms of staff cuts, in the new scenario that I am proposing to you, I have, once again, reduced the staff at Headquarters in less prioritized areas, while still creating some posts for functions that I value as essential at Headquarters. These correspond to the five programme priorities as well as to the five areas that I have identified as having to be reinforced, like the Ethics Office and decentralization. In total, under this new scenario, I have pursued the effort to reduce staff at Headquarters (with the net abolishment of 16 posts) and reinforce the Field (with the creation of 62 posts). I really cannot go any further,” he said. “And it is for this reason that 90% of the cuts from this latest budget proposal of $631 million are taken from programme costs, that is to say 15,5 million, compared to the 17,3 million of total cuts relative to the 648,3 million scenario,” he added.

Furthermore, while keeping in line with the five main programme objectives defined by the new medium term strategy, Mr Matsuura underlined that he had identified five key areas in which he did not wish to reduce the level of resources when passing from the core scenario of $648,3 million to the $631 million scenario. These key areas are: modernization of management tools, strengthening of personnel policies, closer collaboration with the organizations of the UN system, strengthening of the decentralization system, and more attention to Africa – which constitutes one of two global priorities for the 34 C/4 and the 34 C/11.

The Director-General also addressed the United Nations reform process, to which UNESCO is closely associated. He reported on the proposals put forward at the meeting he organized with the heads of other specialized agencies, and of UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA and WFP last week in New York, right before the UN General Assembly. These proposals concern various aspects of the cooperation between different agencies, funds and programmes of the UN system, notably the role of the Resident Coordinator, and the possible integration of the Executive Committee for humanitarian Affairs (ECHA) in the CEB.

Mr Matsuura underscored his determination to pursue UNESCO’s active role in the UN reform process, especially in the “Delivering as One” pilot countries, and asked for the support of Member States in this regard.

Author(s): Office of the Spokeswoman - Source: Flash Info N°126-2007 -  Publication Date: 02-10-2007

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