Meeting of European National Commissions to reflect on UNESCO’s intellectual role
On 26 April, the European National Commissions for UNESCO met in the “Grand Béguinage” World Heritage site in Leuven, Belgium, to discuss the intellectual role of UNESCO. During this meeting, Presidents and the Secretaries-General of the National Commissions of Slovenia, Finland, Hungary, Austria, Croatia, Poland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany and Flanders gathered to evoke the strengthening of a network of European National Commissions that would promote international cooperation in the fields of science, education, culture and communication both at the level of the European Union and UNESCO.
The UNESCO Liaison Office in Brussels was associated with this initiative, considering the recent reinforcement of the relationship between UNESCO and the European Union after the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding in October 2012. Representatives from exterior relevant bodies such as the European Investment Bank, ICOMOS and the Raymond Lemaire International Centre for Conservation (RLICC) also attended this meeting.
Following to the opening presentations of Professor Marc Vervenne and Tijs d’Hoest, respectively President and Secretary-General of the Flemish Commission for UNESCO in Belgium, Dr Greetje van den Bergh, President of the Netherlands Commission for UNESCO and Dr Roland Bernecker, Secretary-General of the German Commission for UNESCO, Marie Paule Roudil, UNESCO Representative to the European Union and Head of the UNESCO Liaison Office in Brussels welcomed this initiative.
Ms Roudil highlighted to what extend this reflection would play a key role for supporting the action of UNESCO in Brussels and for promoting the Organization’s values toward the European Institutions, and also ensured that the Office would keep consulting National Commissions in order to orientate its action. She was accompanied during the meeting by Jan de Bisschop and Olivier van den Bossche.
During the morning session, the participants expressed their views on the need for a European think tank of National Commissions in light of UNESCO’s history and its current challenges. All participants agreed that National Commissions can serve as interface between UNESCO’s Secretariat and civil society thanks to their composition by members who are often renowned academics, scientists and artists.
In the afternoon session, experts from the National Commissions gave presentations on World Heritage and Open Access. They made concrete recommendations on how National Commissions, UNESCO’s Secretariat and the European Union could join hands on these two specific topics. The recommendations then fed into the plenary discussion.
The initiative was co-organized by the Flemish Commission and the Netherlands and German National Commissions for UNESCO. It was unanimously agreed that this meeting would serve as basis for further cooperation among the National Commissions, within a solid structure and with frequent follow-up meetings.
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