UNESCO’s commitment to reform
Irina Bokova started down the path to reform as soon as she was elected Director-General in 2009. Her vision: to make UNESCO more relevant and more visible. She decided to implement the recommendations of an Independent External Evaluation (IEE) to stimulate fundamental reform along five major lines:
- Focus the work of the organization:
further focus efforts to address challenges consistent with its mandate.
- Deliver programmes more effectively in the field:
a more mobile and deconcentrated workforce able to move flexibly between field and Headquarters.
- Define UNESCO’s niche within the United Nations:
Intensifying engagement with United Nations.
- Develop partnerships:
develop a comprehensive strategy for partnership that looks outwards to civil society, expert communities and the private sector.
- Streamline governance:
clearer division of labor between UNESCO’s three organs (Executive Board, Secretariat and General Conference).
This exercise is driven by a fierce desire to position UNESCO more effectively in the world around it – to make it more relevant to the UN system and to deliver development assistance with more impact.
When the U.S. with-held its funding after UNESCO voted to admit Palestine in 2011, UNESCO lost 22 per cent of its budget: $160 million. It wasn’t easy; lots of people thought the cutbacks would derail reform. But somehow, the reform effort and the budgetary shortfall supported each other.
Now, UNESCO is a more focused Organization both at headquarters and in the field. It’s been given the lead on new initiatives in Education and Science by Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General.
Reform has become part of UNESCO’s organizational culture.