Opening of the 174th Session of the Executive Board

On 3 April 2006, Mr Zhang Xinsheng, Chairman of the Executive Board, and Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, spoke at the opening of the plenary debate at the 174th Session of the Executive Board.

Introducing the debate, Mr Zhang first hailed “the high calibre, experience and professionalism” of the Board and expressed his willingness “to work in a spirit of ‘hexie’, which is the Chinese word for harmony, to optimize the synergy between the three organizational pillars of UNESCO”. He invited the 58 Members of the Board to keep in mind that the far-reaching reform plans of the United Nations presently in progress “will have an impact right across the life of [our] Organization. We need to give detailed consideration over the coming two years as to how this will affect UNESCO’s own planning and reforms, for affect them it assuredly will”, he stated. The Chairman of the Board also insisted on the necessity to develop an intensive interaction about the trends affecting the coming period of the preparation of the C/4.

Mr Zhang also urged the Board to address some critical issues. “Where will the right balance be between the normative and the operational, and which of our functions will be of particular importance in the coming 6 years? How can our specific value added be reasserted in certain fields? How will we adjust to the focus on development of unified country level strategies? What approach should we take to over-arching intersectoral activities? In which areas should we substantially accelerate our action in order to achieve 2015 targets?”, he asked.

Mr Matsuura, taking the floor, first thanked the Chairman of the Board for his analysis, saying that he shared his concern for achieving a balanced approach. Concerning the reform process within the UN system, the Director-General expressed the need for UNESCO to define its position in relation to the ongoing debates. In this regard, Mr Matsuura offered several thoughts for the consideration of the Board. He began by stressing that it is imperative that UNESCO strengthens “its action at regional, sub-regional and country levels, especially in key areas and in key countries, and this means strengthening our decentralization policy”. He also said that UNESCO must enhance its capacity for teamwork at country level to be increasingly “an integral and active member of coherent UN teams”. With regard to the management reform process envisaged by the UN Secretary-General, the Director-General noted that “while the reform that Member States, the Secretariat and I have been fashioning together for the past six and a half years is admittedly incomplete and we still have some way to go, we must stay true to our purpose, recognizing that much has been done which is in clear conformity with the direction of the wider UN reform process”.

Mr Matsuura proceeded to caution against any trend towards separating ‘operational activities’ from normative, analytical and policy matters: “This is a false dichotomy and is a recipe for incoherence, not coherence”, he said. In this regard, he reaffirmed his strong conviction that “UNESCO’s position must be that its own intellectual and ethical functions cannot be divorced from implementation and operational action. To be effective, the feedback loop between theory and practice needs to be direct, not mediated or second-hand. Policy development is not an abstract, academic process but one that engages with real-world problems and is informed by actual needs and concrete situations”.

The new High-Level Panel on UN System-wide Coherence set up in February by the UN Secretary-General will be considering the idea of reforming the UN system by creating “more tightly managed entities” in regard to development, humanitarian assistance and the environment. Mr Matsuura noted that UNESCO has contributed and is contributing to all three areas, illustrating his remark though examples in each.

The Director-General said that much had been achieved by the Organization in the last biennium, adding that the financial report (closure of accounts) for the 2004-2005 period had been sent to the External Auditor by the due date of 31 March 2006, an important achievement that has been attained for only the second time in UNESCO’s recent history.

Mr Matsuura noted that the new cycle of elaborating the next 6-year medium-term strategy and the programme and budget for the 20o8-2009 biennium would involve an extensive consultation process which would draw sustenance from and contribute to the ongoing reflection of the future role of UNESCO.

Mr Matsuura also mentioned that an important subject to be treated during the meeting of the Board is the question of the respect for freedom of expression and respect for sacred beliefs and values. He reaffirmed his readiness to launch new initiatives aimed to restore intercultural dialogue and to promote a better understanding among different civilisations and cultures.

The full text of the statements will be available on UNESCO’s Portal http://portal.unesco.org

  • Auteur(s):Office of the Spokesperson
  • Source:Flash Info n°54-2006
  • 03-04-2006
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