Dialogue with UK on UNESCO Reform

In December 2016, the U.K. published its recent Multilateral Development Review (MDR) which included analysis of UNESCO. In this light, the UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, invited the UK Department for International Development (DFID) to visit UNESCO to take forward a new dialogue on the points raised in the MDR and to strengthen the work of the Organization as a whole.

To this end, on 11 January, Ms. Gwen Hines, Director of International Relations at DFID accompanied by the U.K. chargé d’affaires, UK Permanent Delegation to UNESCO, took part at UNESCO in an exchange with the Director-General and her Senior Management Team on the MDR – this was followed by an interactive dialogue with UNESCO Member States.

For many Member States and the Director-General, this dialogue presented an important opportunity to highlight the specificity of UNESCO, its universality and its character as a UN specialized agency and a membership organization, with a strong normative mandate and a role in international cooperation beyond ‘classic’ development.

This dialogue also underlined that reform in the Organization has been continuous and far-reaching -- and that its many achievements have permitted the Organization to strengthen the delivery of its mandate as approved by its Governing Bodies, despite serious financial difficulties due to non-payment of contributions by some Member States since 2011. Reform measures have covered the full spectrum, from management to programme, including on strengthening transparency in line with the IATI principles, bolstering ethics policy, launching a new evaluation policy as well as sharpening the focus on risk management across the Organization.

Ms. Hines, on her side, took this opportunity to present the report's findings and methodology and she responded to numerous questions raised by the representatives of UNESCO Member States. While noting UK’s own ‘subjective’ assessment in the report, she expressed the UK's attachment to UNESCO's mandate and its determination to remain within UNESCO as a ‘critical friend’ of the Organization.

It was announced that the Secretariat and the U.K. had agreed to a continued constructive dialogue and way forward to address specific areas of mutual concern.