37th session of General Conference sets the compass for UNESCO from 2014 to 2021
UNESCO’s General Conference has set the direction for UNESCO’s work over the next eight years. The new Medium Term Strategy (2014-2021) adopted by the Conference positions UNESCO to play a leadership role in defining the development objectives that will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the areas of education, science, culture, communication and information.
“We have a little bit more than 2 years left before the deadline,” stated Director-General Irina Bokova. “In many areas, progress towards these goals is achievable. This is a development issue, but it is also a credibility issue. We must keep the promises we made in 2000 to be credible in setting the new ones that follow.”
The General Conference, which ended today, confirmed that Africa and gender equality will continue as the Organization’s top global priorities over the next eight years, and defined peace and sustainable development as the overarching objectives that will guide all of the Organization’s activities. It confirmed that addressing the problems of Youth will stay at the top of UNESCO’s agenda. Member States also stressed that priority will be given to achieving Education For All goals, and committed themselves to a new development goal for education based on access, equity and quality and lifelong learning.
The 37th session of the Conference approved an expenditure plan of $507 million for the next two years, a reduction of $146 million from the original budget after the withholding of contributions from major donors.
This year’s session took place in the context of major reform aimed at revitalizing UNESCO, making it more relevant, efficient and resilient. The General Conference endorsed the reform programme set by Director-General Irina Bokova and re-elected her for a second four-year term of office, with a clear mandate to continue the changes initiated under her leadership.
“In 2009, I pledged to reform UNESCO, to sharpen our focus, to deepen our impact, to raise our profile,” Ms Bokova said in her address to the General Conference after taking the oath of office. “Together, we have stood down a financial crisis, we are leading a root-and-branch reform, our delivery is improving and we are gaining in visibility.”
The General Conference, chaired by its new president, Hao Ping (China), mobilized more than 3,000 participants from UNESCO’s 195 Member States and nine Associate Members. Four Heads of State and one Head of Government took part: Laura Chinchilla, President of Costa Rica, Moncef Marzuki, President of Tunisia and Algirdas Butkevicius, Prime Minister of Lithuania, participated in the Leaders’ Forum at the opening of the Session.
President Rafael Correa (Ecuador) addressed a plenary session and Idriss Deby Itno, President of Chad, presented UNESCO with a replica of the Toumai fossil cranium, the oldest hominine remains found to date. The Conference was also addressed by Princess Marie of Denmark and the Grand Master of the Knights of Malta, Matthew Festing. More than 140 government ministers also participated.
During the General Conference, two major UNESCO reports were launched: the Creative Economy Report, “Widening local development pathways”, which makes the case for culture as a powerful driver of socio-economic development; and the World Social Science Report, which emphasizes the indispensable contribution of social science in responding to climate change.
The General Conference is UNESCO’s main governing body. It meets every two years, bringing together the Organization’s 195 Member States and nine Associate members to determine UNESCO’s policies and main lines of work and to set the budget.
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