UNESCO Director-General launches Emergency Fund at close of General Conference
The Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova today launched an Emergency Multi-Donor Fund to help fill a shortfall resulting from dues withheld by the United States. The Director-General made the announcement at the closing session of the General Conference.
The U.S withheld its contributions following the admission of Palestine to UNESCO on 31 October. They were required to do so by U.S. laws dating from the 1990s. This leaves UNESCO with an immediate shortfall of US$65m to the end of 2011, and a further gap of 22 percent in its US$653m budget for 2012-2013. Israel has now followed suit and withheld its contribution of US$1.5m (0.3 percent of UNESCO’s budget) for 2012-2013.
The U.S announcement stimulated an unprecedented outpouring of support for UNESCO from individuals, associations and private corporations from all corners of the globe. “I see these expressions of support as clear recognition of the good that UNESCO does in the world. These are very concrete indicators of success,” noted the Director-General.
The Fund will be open to all donors, from Member States to public institutions, foundations and individuals. The Government of Gabon immediately announced a donation of US$2m. The general public can now make donations online at <a jquery1322128310930="44" target="_blank" href="http://www.unesco.org/donate">www.unesco.org/donate</a>
It is one of four emergency measures proposed by Irina Bokova to address the shortfall. The Director-General also:
· Urged member States to support an immediate increase in the Organization’s Working Capital Fund for 2012-2013 from $30m to $65m.
· Appealed to all Governments to provide their assessed contributions as early as possible in 2012.
· Proposed to defer the system by which those Member States that pay their dues on time benefit from a reduction.
To cover the funding gap to the end of 2011, the Director-General told the General Conference that UNESCO had already begun a thorough review of all of the Organization’s activities planned for November and December. “I have temporarily interrupted certain activities to revise their costs,” Irina Bokova said. .
“I am well aware that this situation is also an opportunity to accelerate reform,” she continued. “I am absolutely ready to completely revise our action, working methods and structures within the Secretariat.”
The Director-General’s address was made during the final plenary of the 36th session of the General Conference, which closed today.
Other highlights from the General Conference:
South Sudan and Palestine were admitted to UNESCO as Member States and Curacao and Sint Maarten as Associate Members. This brings the total number of Member States to 195, with eight Associate Members.
Several Heads of State took part in the General Conference, including; Georgi Parvanov, President of the Republic of Bulgaria; Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of Indonesia; Alassane Ouattara, President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire; Ali Bongo Ondimba, President of the Republic of Gabon; Tillman Thomas, Prime Minister of Grenada; Pascal Irenée Koupaki, Prime Minister of Benin; Raila Odinga, Prime Minister of Kenya and Johnson Toribiong, President of the Republic of Palau.
Several of these statesmen participated in the Leaders’ Forum (26 and 27 October), on the theme “How does UNESCO contribute to building a culture of peace and to sustainable development?”
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff visited the Director-General on Saturday 5 November.
Other notable events included the presentation of a Blueprint for Ocean and Coastal Sustainability on 1 November and a special plenary on 2 November to celebrate the 10th anniversary of UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity. Immediately before the Conference began, a Youth Forum drew young people from around the world to engage in dialogue and debate on the theme “How Youth Drive Change.”
The General Conference also declared two new international days; World Radio Day on 13 February and International Jazz Day on 30 April.
In closing, the Director-General drew three conclusions for UNESCO from the General Conference: to assume greater leadership across its entire mandate, to focus on innovation by tackling new issues in new ways with new partners, and to keep up the pace of change and build on the first results of reform.
“Our mandate is ambitious, so must be our action. Expectations are high. I am determined we must meet them…Uncertain times call for more UNESCO. They call for a better UNESCO.”
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