Reply of the Director-General to the general policy debate at the 181st session of UNESCO’s Executive Board

Reply of the Director-General to the general policy debate at the 181st session of UNESCO’s Executive Board
  • © UNESCO/A. Wheeler

On 22 April 2009, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, replied to the wide-ranging general policy debate at the 181st session of the Organization’s Executive Board, during which 57 Member States expressed their views, as did the President of the General Conference and two observers.

The Director-General first provided detailed responses to questions relating to the proposed programme and budget for 2010-2011 (35 C/5), and then addressed more specific programme and management issues. In both cases, his remarks were followed by question and answer sessions, which made it possible to clarify a certain number of points.

The Director-General expressed his satisfaction at the endorsement expressed by many States for a zero real growth budget, while regretting that certain members of the Executive Board had not given their approval. Mr Matsuura also acknowledged the Board’s appeal for the continuation of efforts towards greater rationalisation and concentration.

Returning to the absolute urgency of investing in different social sectors, especially education, which guarantees development, the Director-General once more pleaded forcefully for his proposed budget scenario. He expressed his surprise, however, that the clear trend of the G20 and all donor countries in favour of increased aid for development was not reflected at UNESCO, even though the organization contributed to development and the fight against poverty.

The Director-General explained to the members of the Executive Board that the 35 C/5 had been prepared in order to reinforce the priority fields of the programme sectors and reduce or eliminate activities considered as marginal, while respecting the guidelines given by the Board during its last session.

Concerning the balance between resources allocated to programmes and expenditure for programme support and administration, the Director-General replied that he had already reduced the proportion between the two by laying down a nominal zero growth budget for part III, and that it was not possible for him to go further. Stressing the fact that the programme is not implemented abstractly but that it depends on departments and on staff, the Director-General more precisely addressed the question of programme staff/cost ratios, while insisting once more on the role of staff in implementing programmes. “For a specialized agency like UNESCO engaged in policy advice and technical assistance, our staff in programme sectors are our programme (...) then it is vital that we have a critical mass of qualified and experienced permanent staff”, he declared.

Concerning security measures and their cost, the Director-General stated that his proposals were in response to the explicit request of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to pay attention to the increasing security threats towards the United Nations and devote the necessary resources to this. The Director-General announced to the Executive Board that a security plan was being drafted and that it would be presented at the Board’s next session.

Finally the Director-General thanked all members of the Board who supported his reform agenda and assured them that he would pursue his efforts vigorously until the very end of his mandate.

The Director-General then replied to specific points that had been raised during discussions concerning programme issues, and addressed a certain number of points concerning the practical details of programme implementation, such as Category 2 Centres, the role of National Commissions and private partners, recruitment policy and staff mobility, internal evaluation and the External Auditor’s Report about renovation.

Concerning programme issues, the Director-General addressed the key issues relating to every sector, such as the results of the recent Conference on Education for Sustainable Development, the role of UNESCO in the area of climate change and the importance of developing a green economy, the social effects of the current economic crisis, the role of culture in development and the defence of freedom of expression.

Replying to the many remarks about the role of UNESCO in promoting intercultural and interreligious dialogue, the Director-General reaffirmed that this was one of the Organization’s major priorities for action, and reminded his listeners of the decision of the General Assembly of the United Nations inviting UNESCO to play a major role in the preparation of the celebrations of 2010 as the ‘International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures’.

The Director-General concluded by renewing his commitment to the Board to respect the balance between the two working languages of the Organization.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokesperson
  • Source:Flash Info N° 068-2009
  • 24-04-2009
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