Summary of the recent meeting of the heads of UNESCO’s three governing organs
Following the decision to launch regular coordination meetings of the Heads of UNESCO’s three organs, the Director-General, Irina Bokova, the President of the General Conference, Katalin Bogyay and the Chairperson of the Executive Board, Alissandra Cummins, met, for the second time, on key issues related to the current situation of UNESCO, on 4 June 2012 at Headquarters. The list of topics scheduled for discussion is below.
1. The Director-General, referring to the ongoing financial situation/roadmap and fund-raising efforts, recalled the information she had already provided during the information meeting of the Executive Board on 7th May. She then commented on the current positive cash-flow situation of the Organization informing them that many assessed contributions for 2012 had been received, as well as advance payments for the 2013 assessed contributions. Information on this as well as on the status of voluntary advances to the Working Capital Fund and contributions to the Multi-Donor Emergency Fund, were available on the website (.int). The Director-General informed the President of the General Conference and the Chairperson of the Executive Board of the current status of programme implementation and follow-up by the Secretariat to the roadmap targets which were progressing satisfactorily.
2. Referring more specifically to the use of the Multi-Donor Emergency Fund, the Director-General confirmed that the fundamental criterion for allocating the funds was conformity with the C/5 priorities, and she was being very careful about respecting these priorities as set by the Member States in the 36 C/5 Approved. In this regard, some expectations of which she was aware for the allocation of resources from the Fund to non-priority activities or activities not foreseen under the C/5, could not be met. It was recalled that allocations were being made in a very transparent manner, and that related activities were monitored closely by the Senior Management Team with the Deputy Director-General and the Bureau of Strategic Planning. She would in the normal way report at the next session of the Executive Board.
3. The President of the General Conference underlined the need for Member States to be precisely and regularly informed on the use of the Emergency Fund, and the Chair of the Executive Board pointed out that statutory meetings could be financed with funds from the Emergency Fund, a fact which the Director-General confirmed was the case since these meetings were foreseen in the C/5.
4. The Director-General then went on to describe the fund-raising efforts which had been continuing unabated, indicating that she was receiving positive responses and support during her official visits in Member States and meetings with high-level officials.
5. Turning to developments within the Secretariat, she noted that long-term actions were underway in the overall context of reforms, aiming at greater administrative efficiency through such matters as the restructuring of the administrative offices, measures for decreasing administrative costs by 15%, and travel costs.
6. The Director-General then informed the President of the General Conference and the Chair of the Executive Board about two major new initiatives, both by the UN Secretary-General, in which UNESCO is already playing an active and prominent role. The first is his Initiative in Science and Policy, where recommendations are currently being prepared for him between 14 partner agencies and the scientific community. It was expected that the Initiative would be announced by the UNSG during Rio +20. The second was his Initiative in Education, due to be launched officially during the first week of the UNGA in September. She underlined that UNESCO and UNICEF were the main partners of the UNSG for the Initiative, UNESCO being called upon to work on the substance while UNICEF would be acting more in the communication field.
7. The Heads of the Three Organs then exchanged views concerning the preparation of the next Medium-Term Strategy (37 C/4) which they considered was one of the major tasks for the Organization in the coming months. The Director-General recalled that the strategic reflection leading to the preparation of this document was based on an extensive consultation process with Member States, starting with the Leaders’ Forum held during the last session of the General Conference on the theme ‘UNESCO’s contribution to building a culture of peace and sustainable development’ and a series of different mechanisms of dialogue and exchange, including the Thematic Debates of the Director-General, two of them having been held on the Culture of Peace and on Sustainable Development, as well as previously on Africa, Gender, and SIDS.
8. Concerning the consultation process, the Director-General referred to the five regional consultations of National Commissions, the format for which had been changed (and announced her participation in the first one scheduled to take place in Africa). She referred to the new format of the questionnaire, which was one of the important tools for the elaboration of the C/4 that was open and not exhaustive, designed in order to give Member States – their governments and national commissions alike – as well as intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, the opportunity to contribute as widely as possible on their vision for the next Medium-Term Strategy and the next Programme and Budget. She highlighted the unprecedented response rate (93 replies as of 4 June, undoubtedly more than one hundred by the end of the process).
9. The Director-General referred to the series of special meetings she would hold with regional groups on this subject in mid-July. She also briefed the President of the General Conference and the Chair of the Executive Board on the on-going internal process being coordinated by the Bureau of Strategic Planning (BSP) involving all programme sectors, institutes and field units. She further informed them that the Deputy Director-General had been entrusted with the task of organizing an internal working group with a view to reflecting more specifically on the challenges facing the Organization.
10. Moving on to the question of preparations for Rio + 20, the Chair of the Executive Board indicated the importance the Summit was likely to have for the Organization, given that its outputs and recommendations would likely provide signals for the priorities of Members States in the preparation of the C/4 and the C/5, and asked the Director-General to provide up-to-date information on the state of preparations. The Director-General commented on several major events to be held just before or during the Conference itself, such as a scientific conference to be held jointly with ICSU and the Brazilian authorities, the Brazil Joint Press conference launching the Code REDD Campaign; the side events on water, an event organized with Finland; on Education for Sustainable Development; a thematic Day on the Ocean; a conference on gender with the participation of Ms Bachelet, and an event on social science support to policies promoting the social dimension of sustainable development in a changing climate. She emphasized that all Heads of UN agencies and programmes were mobilized across the UN system together with the UNSG to work towards a successful outcome for Rio + 20.
11. Taking up the matter of the way the Secretariat communicated its activities to Member States, the President of the General Conference conveyed the outcomes of a working meeting she had hosted of the heads of the electoral groups of UNESCO to facilitate sharing of thoughts and ideas and to hear their views in preparation for this trilateral meeting. She explained that the discussion had focused on the prevailing financial situation at UNESCO and its impact on human resources, programmes, and priorities of the Organization. In this light, the President of the General Conference underlined, among several key issues, the need to convey to Member States and broader external audiences regular and clear information about the work of UNESCO in its spheres of competence, focusing on results and “success stories”. The President suggested that even if information were available on the websites, it might be a good idea to signal the availability of this information to Member States, by means of a newsletter, an e-mail alert or a circular letter. All three Heads acknowledged that sharing information with Member States was crucial, as was the need for the Secretariat to communicate in a more timely fashion on results achieved.
12. Discussions then moved on to the question of interactions with the Staff Associations. The Chair of the Executive Board raised questions about the organization of the meeting she had had with the Staff Associations on 7 March and about 189 EX/Decision 15 part II which the Associations were claiming was illegal, an opinion which the Legal Adviser of the Organization had clarified, both during the Financial and Administrative Commission and then prior to the holding of the meeting under discussion, was not in fact correct. The Chair also emphasized that the meeting she agreed to have with the Staff Associations on 7 March should not be seen as creating a precedent and an established practice, and sought information about Secretariat representation in such meetings, given that it related solely to the decision-making processes of the Board.
13. The Director-General responded to the Chair’s queries, indicating the role of the Bureau for Human Resources Management (HRM) as the interlocutor and link between the Director-General and the Staff Associations. She also referred to the Staff Associations’ concerns about the overall situation of staff across the UN system and the erosion of the status of the international civil service. The Chair however reiterated the fact that given the meeting had been convened to address Executive Board procedures, and not human resource issues, the legality of which had been questioned, representation of the Secretariat at the meeting should have been from the Legal Adviser’s Office, and not from HRM. She requested that this matter be addressed and confirmed for future reference, so that misinformation on this issue does not continue to be communicated among UNESCO Member States, the staff and beyond.
14. Before closing the meeting, the Director-General informed the President of the General Conference and the Chairperson of the Executive Board of the steps taken in order to implement the Board’s decision on the UNESCO-Equatorial Guinea Prize on Research in the Life Sciences, saying that she had forwarded to the Chair, for the information of Board Members, the latest information and documentation received from the authorities of Equatorial Guinea, at her request, concerning the Prize. She also told them about the meeting she had with the Africa Group and other Member States in this regard. She concluded by saying that a date for the prize-giving ceremony was being sought, probably in mid-July.
Regular Meetings of the Heads of the 3 Organs of UNESCO
Second Meeting, Paris, 4 June 2012
1. Ongoing financial situation/Roadmap and fund-raising efforts
2. New initiatives
3. Preparations for the new Medium-Term Strategy (C/4)
4. Preparations for RIO+20
5. Communication on Secretariat activities to Member States
6. Interactions with the Staff Associations
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