Opening of 36th session of UNESCO’s General Conference
UNESCO’s General Conference, the Organization’s highest ruling body, opened today with the admission of Curaçao and Sint Maartens as Associate Members and the election of the President of its 36th session, Katalina Bogyay of Hungary.
“The clock is ticking” Ms. Bogyay said, “only four years remain for us to meet the 2015 deadline for the internationally agreed Millennium Development Goals,” notably those concerning UNESCO’s fields of competence, in education.
Ms. Bogyay’s election took place in the presence of Pal Schmitt, President of the Republic of Hungary. She will remain in office for two years, succeeding Davidson Hepburn (Bahamas), who presided over the 35th session of the General Conference.
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, in her opening address to the Conference, stressed the need to reinforce cooperation in the face of the challenges confronting the world today. “The global economic crisis is hitting the poorest countries particularly badly”, she said. “It is not enough to connect, we must share”. As she further stated, “ the stakes of peace and sustainable development today, lie precisely in education, the sciences, culture, and knowledge sharing. All of this call for more and better UNESCO”.
During the opening, representatives of UNESCO’s 193 Member States adopted the agenda of the General Conference, whose main task will be to determine the Organization’s programme and budget for 2012 and 2013.
They also welcomed Curaçao and Sint Maarten as UNESCO’s 7th and 8th Associate Members. These two Caribbean territories were part of the Netherlands Antilles until October 2010, when they became autonomous countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Several Heads of State are expected to take part in the General Conference, including;; Georgi Parvanov, President of the Republic of Bulgaria; Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of Indonesia; Alassane Ouattara, President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire; Ali Bongo Ondimba, President of the Republic of Gabon; Tillman Thomas, Prime Minister of Grenada; Pascal Irenée Koupaki of Benin; and Raila Odinga, Prime Minister of Kenya.
Several of these statesmen will participate in the Leaders’ Forum (26 and 27 October), on the theme “How does UNESCO contribute to building a culture of peace and to sustainable development?”
Another highlight of the session will be a special plenary meeting on 2 November devoted to the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the adoption of UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity.
The draft programme and budget being considered by the General Conference gives priority to sustainable development, the development of a culture of peace and non-violence with a special emphasis on gender equality, Africa, youth, Education for All (EFA), Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) and the most vulnerable segments of society. The General Conference will also begin work on the Organization’s next Medium-Term Strategy for 2014-2019.
UNESCO today also inaugurated an exhibition entitled “Open UNESCO” promoting the work of the Organization. This interactive exhibition uses the latest audiovisual technology to explain and illustrate the work of the Organization through seven “islands” each focusing on a specific theme. It will be open to the public in December.