United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
Close of the 165th session of UNESCO's Executive Board

Paris - The 165th session of UNESCO's Executive Board, chaired by Aziza Bennani (Morocco), ended today after ten days of debate about the execution of the Organization's programme and its future orientations.

At the end of the session, the Board adopted unanimously a Decision welcoming the announced return of the United States to the Organization after an absence of 18 years. The Decision also encourages Singapore to contemplate its early return and "encourages also other States that are not yet Members of UNESCO to consider joining the Organization."

During the session, the 58 members of the Board debated the activities of the Organization and the preliminary proposals of Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura regarding the draft Programme and Budget for 2004-2005. The Board endorsed the two key principles of programme concentration and consolidation of an effective field presence.

The Board also requested that the main priorities of the Organization (basic education for all, water and ecosystems, ethics of science and technology, cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue, equitable access to information and knowledge) be maintained and that their funding be increased.

Several proposals were considered by the Board for the 2004-2005 budget: zero nominal growth (which represents a decline in real terms); reduced zero real growth, taking into account the economic difficulties of some Member States; and a new budgetary ceiling linked to United States' return to the Organization.

The Board also adopted two Decisions regarding the Old City of Jerusalem and the educational and cultural institutions in the occupied Arab territories. It requests UNESCO to take an active part in the reconstruction of Palestinian educational, cultural and information systems as well as in regional reconciliation and the establishment of relations of trust.

During the session, the Board also debated the follow-up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg, August 26 to September 4, 2002); preparations for the World Summit on the Information Society (2003); and the standard-setting work of UNESCO, particularly concerning intangible heritage, genetic data, the promotion and use of multilingualism and universal access to cyberspace.

At the opening of the plenary session, on October 7, the Chairperson of the Executive Board welcomed the US decision to return to UNESCO announced by President George W. Bush on September 12. She described the US administration's decision to return to UNESCO as a "decisive turning point for the future of the Organization" and said it represented "an unmistakable recognition of progress accomplished in the reform process and of its active international role in multilateral cooperation and in facing the new ethical, cultural and social challenges of our time."

The Head of the US Delegation to the Executive Board session, Beverly Zweiben, declared: "We are pleased with the reforms undertaken in recent years. They facilitated our decision to return. Indeed, as Director-General Matsuura said in his remarks earlier this week, the United State's return to UNESCO should give renewed momentum to the drive for change. We will work to support continuation of reform and effective budget discipline."

In her closing address, Ms Bennani spoke of the international political situation and of "the violence which has once again made news in recent days." She pointed out that "UNESCO's role in the process of reconstruction and consolidation of peace in coordination with the other United Nations agencies is becoming ever more pressing. The concrete initiatives undertaken in Afghanistan have proved the Organization's ability to act in post conflict situations and should be extended to other regions, particularly to the Palestinian Territories where needs and expectations are enormous."

The 166th session of the Executive Board will be held at UNESCO Headquarters from April 4 to 16, 2003.

Source Press Release No.2002-80
Publication Date 16 Oct 2002
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