01.04.2007 - UNESCO Office in Venice

Interview with Michael Millward, former Director of the Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe

Article published in the first Issue of the UNESCO Venice Office's Newsletter (issue n°1 - 2007)

In what areas could UNESCO-BRESCE provide potential support in South East Europe?   

UNESCO's Office in Venice, BRESCE, by its very mandate, focuses the brunt of its resources on the South Eastern European countries and has been so doing for some time now, in compliance notably with a number of resolutions and decisions taken by the Member States of the region. The programmatic responsibilities of BRESCE are:  

FOR SCIENCES. Basic and Applied sciences including biotechnology, engineering and applied research including energy and new materials, environmental sciences, water resources, the fight against endemic disease, particularly HIV/AIDS and the transformation of science in Europe.  

FOR CULTURE. Safeguarding and restoring the cultural heritage damaged by conflicts in the Balkan sub-region and in the Mediterranean and the Restoration of Venice Monuments.   

The latest strategies it has been developing have sought to concentrate on UNESCO's main added value niches so that its limited resources - when compared to the extent of the needs - can have the greatest possible impact. Thus, environmental and sustainable development concerns are clearly of great importance to the SEE countries, alongside the provision of scientific policy advice, while in the area of culture, there is no doubt about the importance of cultural heritage and the value of intercultural dialogue as a factor in giving peace a chance in the region. The cross sectoral interest of looking at cultural and natural heritage  together through the prism of advancing human development is also an area into which the Office is expanding.   

Your comments on UNESCO-BRESCE's governance bodies  

In the case of BRESCE, these arrangements have been put in place in response to the wishes expressed by the Italian authorities without whose support, let us never forget, UNESCO's Office in Venice would never have seen the light of day. Second, it is never a bad thing to secure specialist advice in the building of the strategies of a UNESCO office, particularly in regard to a part of the world that has such particular complexities. The members of the governance bodies are also valuable additional "resources" for the enhancement of UNESCO's credibility and action in the sub region and in Europe more generally. Their recent meetings have, underlined their willingness to play this role more fully.   

What are the possible challenges UNESCO-BRESCE could encounter in the Balkans?   

UNESCO's challenges are BRESCE's challenges: always such a huge amount to do and never enough resources. It's gruelling when you have to make priority choices in the knowledge that so much is a priority. The current UN Reform is an opportunity to which UNESCO is very committed: not only will it help Member States to make better sense of the UN system as a whole and secure more benefit from it, but it will also help Organizations like UNESCO, whose span of expertise and range of mandate is not matched by the extent of its resources, to work better in the service of Member States in closer and more effective partnership with other organizations and bodies of the UN.  

BRESCE is moving into a new phase in its existence: as part of the newly-reforming UN system, at the onset of a new strategic direction for UNESCO as a whole, with the benefit of an office strategy that seeks to be more closely attuned to Member States' priorities, and with a new Director at the helm, the Office is ready for the new challenges. The team I had the privilege to work with for the short time of my interim directorship is an enthusiastic and motivated group of people and I wish them and the new Director every success.

Link: UNESCO Venice Newsletter - Issue N°1 2007 (January-March)

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