UNESCO makes rapid progress on the external evaluation’s recommendation to strengthen its participation in the United Nations
When a team of independent external evaluators presented recommendations to help UNESCO position itself for the challenges of the 21st century, one of the most important was to become more relevant to the UN system. As 2015 draws near - the reporting year for the Millennium Development Goals – and as the international community discusses what should come next, it is ever more important for the UN to achieve system-wide coherence. Two recent initiatives have placed UNESCO at the forefront of agencies that are “delivering as one.”
The first is the Secretary-General’s Global Initiative on Education, or “Education First.” Ban Ki-moon is using the convening power of his office to:
- Raise the political profile of education and rally together a broad spectrum of actors;
- Spur a global movement to achieve quality, relevant and inclusive education for all by 2015, with linked gains for the broad development agenda, including the MDGs; and
- Generate additional and sufficient funding through sustained advocacy efforts.
“Education First aims to ensure education is at the heart of the social, political and development agendas,” he said. “Without the knowledge and skills cultivated through learning, it will be difficult to achieve sustainable development.”
The Secretary-General has asked Irina Bokova, UNESCO’s Director-General, to serve as Executive Secretary of the High-level Steering Committee that supports Education First. The 15-member group she will lead will be drawn from heads of UN agencies and international organizations, representatives of teachers’ groups and youth associations, civil society, the private sector and foundations. Its first meeting is scheduled for 30 July.
“Working together, the High-level Steering Group can make enormous strides in three priority areas,” stated the Director-General. “We want to put every child in school, we want to improve the quality of education and we want to foster global citizenship. It is an honour both for me and for UNESCO to be given the task of coordinating the High-Level Group by the Secretary-General.
The second initiative is UNESCO’s lead role in implementing the science recommendations of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Global Sustainability. For Ban Ki-moon, the report of this panel is a “must read.” Entitled Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future worth Choosing, it presents a vision for a sustainable future by through poverty eradication and the reduction of inequality. At the same time it protects the environment by promoting sustainable production and consumption. During the recent Rio +20 conference in Brazil, the Secretary-General asked UNESCO to take the lead in creating a Scientific Advisory Board for the Panel and also to provide the secretariat for it.
“UNESCO commits itself to be fully engaged in taking forward the recommendations of the panel in close collaboration with other partners,” says Irina Bokova. “We will do our utmost to maximize the contribution of science to national governments and society at large. I will ensure that The Scientific Advisory Board draws on the wealth of expertise of the UN system and from major international scientific organizations to achieve this goal.”
Together, these two initiatives demonstrate the increased relevance of UNESCO to the UN system. They highlight the Organization’s strength in the sciences and education and underline its capacity to convene intergovernmental initiatives and develop capacity at a high level. As a package, they represent a rapid and effective response to the External Evaluation recommendation that UNESCO should strengthen its participation in the United Nations.
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