Redesigning cooperation between UNESCO and the National Commissions

Paris, 5 May - One of UNESCO’s operational specificities lies in the work of National Commissions, which are established by each Member State to bring together key stakeholders interested in educational, scientific and cultural matters. Foreseen since the creation of UNESCO in 1945, cooperation with National Commissions is an area where the Organization’s work has been fully transformed in recent years.

The revitalization of this cooperation began with a thorough and unprecedented examination conducted all throughout 2011 by the Internal Oversight Service (IOS). In January 2012, based on the results, the UNESCO Executive Board decided to establish a tripartite working group -- made up of representatives of National Commissions, Permanent Delegations and the UNESCO Secretariat – so as to implement the study’s main recommendations and strengthen joint work.

The tripartite working group brought together more than 110 Member States represented by their Permanent Delegations and National Commissions between October 2012 and February 2013, in the framework of direct talks and exchanges on electronic forums. The working group developed an action plan containing 14 concrete recommendations supported by the Executive Board and adopted by the General Conference during its 37th session (37 C/Resolution 97) .

This action plan sets out conditions for modernization and increased cooperation between UNESCO and the network of National Commissions. It defines guidelines for the most appropriate legal framework, general structure and concrete steps to be taken by each Member State and the Secretariat to improve the work and interactions.

New monthly newsletters and a systematic publication of activities on the website are among the innovations being introduced.  They allow for a more fluid and interactive communication between the Secretariat and the National Commissions.

Networking and cooperation between National Commissions have also been strengthened through sub-regional, regional and interregional initiatives, such as strengthening the capacities of National Commissions in Africa, Asia and the Pacific and UNESCO National Commissions for Euro-Arab dialogue in partnership with the MBI Al Jaber Foundation.

“Wider value of UNESCO”, a study conducted by the National Commission of the United Kingdom, is an example of such new initiatives that highlight the role and impact of UNESCO at the country level, and can inspire other National Commissions to do the same.

In 2014 an annual report on the activities of UNESCO National Commissions was published for the first time. This is the first-ever report in the history of the Organization taking stock of the main achievements of 120 National Commissions in their respective countries and beyond. It is yet another example of innovative tools developed in the framework of the reform meant to accelerate the sharing of best practices and build a common culture for the entire network of UNESCO.

A new mechanism made up of National Commissions’ meetings is also being put in place, involving more regular meetings and more concrete discussions of major issues and UNESCO priorities to which National Commissions can contribute.

Together these innovations have given a fresh impetus to this unique network within the United Nations system, aimed at a more interactive and dynamic cooperation. This reform is all the more important against a backdrop of a difficult financial environment, since it can identify the leveraging effects and the economies of scale in order to get closer to civil society, academia, private sector, and meet the needs of the Member States.

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