UNESCO concludes 187th session of its Executive Board

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UNESCO’s Executive Board ended its 187th session on 6 October marked by the request for membership to UNESCO by Palestine, an endorsement of the Director-General’s “reform to perform” programme, and the Organization’s reinforced focus on Africa

The Board voted on the request for Palestinian membership on October 5. Forty members voted in favour of admission, four against and there were 14 abstentions. The Board’s recommendation for admission will now be submitted to UNESCO’s General Conference (26 October to 10 November), where it requires a two-thirds majority vote to become effective.

The 58 Board Members also approved proposals to reform and reinforce UNESCO’s action in Africa through a strengthened network of field offices, which the Director-General stressed on several occasions as an absolute priority for the Organization.

“UNESCO is moving ahead very strongly with African priorities,” Irina Bokova said. ‘I am determined to focus on the Priority Africa programme so that it becomes an effective instrument for developing education, for giving young people the tools with which to find jobs, and for giving recognition to African culture.”

The Board also considered the issue of the UNESCO-Obiang Nguema Mbasogo International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences. After extensive debate it decided by consensus to establish a working group to undertake further consultations with a view to achieving a conclusion on the issue by the Board’s meeting in the spring of 2012.

The Board also examined proposals for the Organization’s programme and budget for 2012-2013, and recommended a budget ceiling of US$653 million. If this proposal is adopted by the General Conference, it would represent zero nominal growth from the current biennium.

In the area of UNESCO’s financial management, the Board welcomed a report from the External Auditor, who gave the Organization a clean bill of health and praised its financial management and transparency. UNESCO is among the first United Nations agencies to implement new global public accounting standards.

Other decisions adopted by the Board include the proclamation of a World Radio Day and an International Jazz Day to be celebrated on 13 February and 30 April respectively. World Radio day recognizes the critical role of radio in development, through its contribution to media pluralism and democratic governance. International Jazz Day will provide the opportunity to celebrate jazz as a “unifying force” for the rapprochement of cultures.

Finally, the Board proposed Katalin Bogyay, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Hungary to UNESCO, as the Chairperson of the 36th session of the General Conference. Katalin Bogyay has enjoyed a long career in the arts, during which she also served as Secretary of State for International Affairs at the Hungarian Ministry of Education and Culture.

The Executive Board, comprised of 58 of UNESCO’s 193 member States, meets twice a year and assures the overall management of UNESCO. It also prepares the work of the General Conference and sees that its decisions are carried out.