Senior Expert Group on Reforms

UNESCO is currently at a crucial point in the history of the Organization. While its mission as set out in its Constitution remains as relevant as it was 65 years ago, its focus on the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, the promotion of sustainable development and intercultural dialogue is currently affected by rapid and fundamental economic, social and environmental transformations.


Since taking up her functions in late 2009, the Director-General of UNESCO has put forward an ambitious reform agenda at all levels to strengthen the Organization’s relevance, impact, visibility, efficiency and accountability. With the assistance of a new senior management team, she is reviewing how best to optimize the work of the Organization, to improve its strategic orientations as well as to streamline administrative procedures and processes, so as to allow the Organization meet today’s challenges.


In order to help the Organization to best position itself, an Independent External Evaluation (IEE), which was requested by the General Conference, was commissioned in early 2010.  


In order to obtain advice from senior expert sources, the Director-General has decided to establish a Senior Expert Group on Reforms to advise her on the implementation of the recommendations made by the Independent External Evaluation as well as on other broad relevant strategic issues, also taking into account UN reform processes.


Overall role of the Senior Expert Group on Reforms:

It is to assist the Director-General by providing an independent view on how to tackle strategic actions and recommendations emanating from the Independent External Evaluation and other related policy-relevant reports. In its deliberations, the Expert Group will take into account the need for UNESCO to:

  • best position itself in the framework of the multilateral system, effectively play its role as a specialized agency of the UN and deliver on the relevant internationally agreed development goals as a leader in its fields of competence;
  • consolidate and concentrate both its work on fewer, more strategic and inter- and cross-disciplinary activities where it possesses a comparative advantage, and its field presence at various levels;
  • bring to bear the strengths of its networks and its role as “honest broker” in policy advice, capacity-building, benchmarking, normative efforts and as a force of reconciliation between parties;
  • improve its working methods to best address these challenges and expectations.


Composition of the Senior Expert Group on Reforms

The Group will include a small number of experts of international renown in areas related to UNESCO’s mandate. (see attached document)


First meeting of the Senior Expert Group on Reforms

On 17 March 2011, the Director-General convened and chaired the first meeting of the Senior Expert Group on Reforms at UNESCO Headquarters. The following independent international experts, recognized in multilateral affairs and organizational change, participated:

Jacques Attali (France), Amina Az-Zubair (Nigeria), Musa Bin Jaafar Bin Hassan (Oman), Michel Camdessus (France), Ahmad Jalali (Islamic Republic of Iran), Carlos Perez del Castillo (Uruguay), Jo Ritzen (Netherlands), Adama Samassekou (Mali), Ghassan Salame (Lebanon), and Zhang Xingsheng (China).

The Senior Expert Group emphasized the need for UNESCO to focus its activities more in areas of our comparative advantage. The experts underscored the role of UNESCO in maintaining a dialogue and shift the emphasis more towards international cooperation involving all countries. They considered that UNESCO’s uniqueness lies in its policy advisory and normative role and that UNESCO should not see itself as a doer of everything. The Organization’s intellectual watch function deserves to be reinvigorated, including the ethical dimension of UNESCO’s mandate. UNESCO should concentrate on a few flagships per sector. In particular, the profile of UNESCO’s central role in education could be heightened. For a number of activities, the Organization should work with partners to allow doing more with less.


Back to top