Regular meetings of the Heads of UNESCO’s three Organs (3rd meeting)
The Heads of the three constitutional organs of UNESCO, the Director-General, Ms Irina Bokova, the President of the General Conference, Ms Katalin Bogyay and the Chairperson of the Executive Board, Ms Alissandra Cummins, met for the third of their henceforth regular meetings on Tuesday 11 December last. Scheduled for discussion were a wide range of topics relating to the current situation of the Organization, its financial status and questions concerning the implementation of the roadmap, ongoing preparations for the next Medium Term Strategy and Programme and Budget, the current moves to reorganize certain corporate services and matters relating to the scheduling of meetings during sessions of the Governing Bodies.
On the financial situation, the Director-General gave extensive details about action being taken by the Secretariat and herself, singling out certain points that were the main focus of current endeavours, including implementation and monitoring of the programme and Emergency Fund allocations, associated human resource shortages resulting from the funding cutback, efforts to implement fuller cost recovery on extrabudgetary programmes which, although improving, was still inadequate, and more accurate assessments of the financial impact of current reforms. During the discussions, the Chair expressed appreciation for the improvements in clarity concerning both UNESCO’s role in relation to the UN Secretary-General’s Education First Initiative, as well as in information on the pursuit of the roadmap targets. The President for her part underlined how much the Organization’s external profile was improving thanks in particular to the Director-General’s own actions, and took the example of the Monday 10 December Human Rights Day high level event in support of Malala and girls’ right to education. She believed that this encouraged Member States to support the Director-General’s overall reform efforts. She also referred to uncertainties over the sustainability of current fund-raising efforts to fill the funding shortfall and inquired about prospects for future developments in this regard. The Director-General took advantage of the discussion to provide certain details about her imminent visit to the United States and also to announce that the decision had just been taken in New York that UNESCO would be responsible for the secretariat of the Education First initiative, which both the President and the Chair welcomed. In response to the Chair’s query regarding the financial implications of UNESCO’s taking up such a responsibility, the Director-General informed that the UN New York Office would have to be strengthened. However, she reassured that the ensuing expenses would be accommodated within the existing budgetary envelope and, if need be, through extra-budgetary resources.
Turning to the question of the development of the C/4 and C/5 proposals, the Director-General underlined how much she had found the debates at the autumn session of the Executive Board, and the consultations she had been pursuing since then, at once useful and stimulating, expressing particular appreciation for the Chairperson’s support for her efforts to present innovative and focused proposals. Her current consultations were deliberately focusing on the main programme issues – particularly those strongly emphasized by Member States such as freedom of expression and social inclusion – rather than on questions with implications concerning structure. Once the C/4 directions had been consolidated, the complex construction of the C/5 could begin in earnest, with some of the details remaining for a slightly later stage.
The Chair turned to the question of the reorganization of corporate services and, stressing that her point related not to the substance of the Director-General’s proposals as presented to the Board at its autumn session but rather to the procedure by which these should be introduced, noted that there should be a consultation process directly with the Board Chair and underlined that the Board Members had clearly expressed their desire to receive written proposals ahead of the formal consultations with the Executive Board. It seemed to her to be the best way in which to achieve positive progress on these important issues, which is what everyone wanted. The Director-General said that she understood these concerns and believed that part of the issue was due to some misunderstandings: she had indeed been consulting the Board on some of her thinking in regard particularly to reorganizations involving GBS, which is why nothing had been presented in writing. She reaffirmed the fact that all Secretariat staff owed loyalty to the Organization and were duty bound to serve Member States and the Governing Bodies wherever they worked. Appreciating the support received from the Board for most of her reorganization proposals, she informed the Chairperson and the President that other ideas were being explored concerning the phased introduction of a new conference and facilities management platform but that, for the moment, GBS would not be involved. She would not fail to consult the Board and the Chairperson, as she always did. The President opined that it was always important for the Chair and the Director-General to consult before such matters were taken up in the Board, in order to ensure that the discussions taking place enabled Member States to have a better understanding. The Chair reiterated that she had herself expressed the value and importance of more regular communications between the Director-General and herself, and that it was necessary to recall that these meetings of the three Heads could (and should) be triggered immediately on matters of such critical importance.
Finally, the Chair turned to the matter of the scheduling of meetings during sessions of the Governing Bodies and pointed out that this was a simple matter of good coordination in order to avoid complaints from Delegations that are split between participation in the Governing Body sessions and other important meetings which should not, if at all possible, be scheduled in parallel. She underlined that this had been raised in the Bureau of the Executive Board. The Director-General pointed out that the Secretariat was often under pressure from Delegations to organize events during Governing Body sessions to profit from the presence at Headquarters of Board members but that she took careful note of the Chair’s concerns and would see to it that this did not occur in the future.