United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

Director-General pays tribute to the UNESCO Staff

On Tuesday 3 November 2009, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, paid his tribute to the staff during his last meeting with the UNESCO Secretariat at the Organization’s Headquarters in Paris. The event was retransmitted live to all UNESCO Field Offices through webcast.

Mr Matsuura began his address by thanking the staff and congratulating them, for the work accomplished together these past ten years. Commenting on the recent 35th General Conference, the Director-General stated: “it was heartening to hear in the plenary statements by delegation leaders, unanimous recognition of the critical role that UNESCO continues to play in the world. Right from this podium, the Member States, our bosses, said that we have done well in the areas for which we are responsible, particularly in assisting those countries most in need. Again, that is a result of your hard work and dedication. I was also delighted to hear so many speakers commending the work of the UNESCO Field Offices around the world. This came at no surprise to me; because I have had the occasion to visit all Field Offices and to see for myself the devotion and sense of duty that each of our colleagues in the Field brings to their work. To all these colleagues who are the face of UNESCO on the country level, I direct my warmest gratitude for a job well done, often in very difficult circumstances. I am very proud of you all.” And added: “the success of the work depends on many players performing together, in harmony.”

Looking back at his ten years’ tenure, the Director-General recalled the programme of “participatory reform,” which he presented early on in his first term. “This concept”, he explained, “could only be achieved with a greater atmosphere of harmony - what I called ‘wa’. I explained then that Wa, when applied to the Secretariat, meant team play. I also introduced another, more complicated, Japanese concept: the important interaction between ‘fueki’ and ‘ryuko’, between permanency and change. As you now know, fueki means “what must not change, does not, and shall not”; ryuko means “what must change, does and shall”. Looking back at these ten years, I am gratified to see both fueki and ryuko at work. Fueki, in terms of the constancy and relevance of our mission, and ryuko in how we deliver it.”

Mr Matsuura highlighted the positive work environment that exists today at UNESCO and said that “the important advances of our work over the past ten years were only possible because each one of you, irrespective of rank or duty station, played your part.” He went on to pay tribute to the members of the senior management team, the Deputy Director-General, the ADGs and Directors, as well as his Cabinet “for accompanying me on this journey, and helping me to implement my vast reform programme.” And continued: “today, however, I wish to pay particular tribute to those of you who have served in the solitude of your offices, away from the limelight. My special thoughts go to the General Service staff, local staff in our Institutes and Field offices, supernumeraries, consultants, and interns. I want all of you to know how much I have depended on and appreciated your loyal and dedicated service.”

The Director-General noted the challenges he faced ten years ago in order to revitalize the Secretariat, “UNESCO’s most precious asset.” He emphasized some major achievements including rejuvenation of the staff, improved geographical diversity, gender parity, and the successful implementation of the renovation plan.

Mr Matsuura also related the Japanese concept of fueki and ryuko to decentralization. “The basic mandate of the Organization has not changed, but we do have greater decentralization of both programme and human resources, so that the ratio of staff in Headquarters to those in the Field has shifted from 3 to 1 in 1999, to 2 to 1 today. This means we are better placed to deliver country-level support to our Member States through the cluster strategy, while at the same time taking our place in the various UN Country Teams, as ‘Delivering as One’ unfolds further.”

Recalling that upon his arrival at UNESCO there was little in the way of personnel polices or attention to human resources practices, Mr Matsuura underlined the elaboration of human resource policies covering a range of needs including recruitment through competition, training and development, performance appraisal, merit promotion, geographical mobility. “I did this because you, the staff, hold the key to UNESCO’s success,” he said. Furthermore, the Director-General expressed his satisfaction for delivering a new consolidated Administrative Manual (see Flash Info N°224-2009*), and mentioned the progress made with regards to the introduction of new management tools that have reduced bureaucracy significantly. “I believe that my successor will inherit a better performing, more modern and more accountable UNESCO, dedicated to increasing trust and confidence between Member States and the Secretariat,” he observed.

In concluding his remarks, Mr Matsuura said that the ten years at UNESCO have been, and will remain, the honour of his life. “Thank you each and every one of you for your service to UNESCO and for supporting me in our collective mission.”

After the Director-General’s address, seven colleagues, drawn from a cross-section of staff (from Managers through to Professionals and General Service staff), took the floor and shared their personal and professional experiences working with or for Mr Matsuura. On behalf of the staff, they expressed their appreciation for all that he has done for the Organization. Both Presidents of UNESCO’s Staff Associations, ISAU and STU, were among them.

Following the speeches, a second, more convivial part of this tribute ceremony took place, which included grand performances from the UNESCO Choir, the Pantomime Group, and other musically talented colleagues. During this light-hearted occasion, the Director-General was presented with various recognitions from the staff body, including a UNESCO medal of music for his steady support of the UNESCO Choir throughout the years, an electric bicycle from the staff members as a sign of their appreciation, and finally HRM decorated Mr Matsuura with a 10-year medal of service to UNESCO, as he usually does to other colleagues every year.

Three children from the “UNESCO Jardin d’enfance” and “creche” presented Mrs Matsuura with a diploma of recognition for her support and close involvement with the children of UNESCO. She ended the ceremony with a speech thanking the entire UNESCO community for the past ten years of sincere and kind relationships, which have provided her with “a real treasure of memories”.

Immediately afterwards, the Director-General offered lunch to the entire staff at Headquarters.

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Author(s): Office of the Spokesperson - Source: Flash Info N° 225-2009 -  Publication Date: 09-11-2009

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