9 May 2011
Opening Remarks by H. E. Ms Eleonora Valentinovna Mitrofanova, Chairperson of the Executive Board of UNESCO
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, good morning to you,
Before we start the work of this session, please allow me to welcome warmly the new Representatives on the Board of Cфte d’Ivoire, Egypt, El Salvador, France, Greece, Madagascar, Malaysia, Peru, Senegal, Spain, Syrian Arab Republic and Tunisia. I am sure that our new colleagues will, as we all do in our day-to-day duties, demonstrate their profound commitment to the ideals of UNESCO by taking an active part in the efforts of its governing bodies to pursue its important objectives and advance the Internationally Agreed Development Goals in a spirit of cooperation and consensus. I therefore welcome you all to the 186th session of the Executive Board, which I am pleased to declare open.
Between now and the 36th session of the General Conference, two important sessions await us, of which this 186th session is by far the heavier. Our commitments in UNESCO’s fields of competence are always many and varied. While these are set to last, we also constantly have to face new challenges in the world and show our ability as an organization to adapt constructively as we move forward with resolve into the future.
I wish to remind you that the 186th session of the Executive Board is starting on the day when Russia and the CIS countries – and yesterday it was the whole of Europe – are celebrating Victory Day, the day of the end of the Second World War. It is the day when we pay a tribute of memory to the veterans and to all those who perished in the fight against fascism. And it was indeed the bid to avoid such destructive wars in the future that led to the founding of the United Nations and of our Organization, whose main task is to construct the defences of peace in people’s minds.
I propose that we observe a minute of silence to honour the memory of all who perished during the Second World War.
Over recent years more than ever before, I have been hearing forceful comments from representatives of Member States, Secretariat staff, prominent world figures and many others about the role of UNESCO and about its necessity and importance. Today the underlying purpose of our Organization is no less relevant than it was 66 years ago. Since the time of our last Executive Board session, a number of major social, political, economic and cultural changes have taken place in the world, as a result of the manifestation of the will of the peoples of the world to proceed further upon the path of freedom and development. These changes often affect areas of human activity that are closely connected with the purposes of our Organization. In these circumstances, the peace process and the universal principles of human rights must of course prevail over the dangers or realities of violence in the course of any transitional period, even on the path to democracy, experienced by any people or nation. The repute of the past and the honour of the future of each State depend to a large extent on the level of humanism and dignity displayed by all parties concerned in resolving the tasks connected with the search for national reconciliation. I should therefore like to call on all to carry out gradual reforms in the process of establishing peaceful and stable societies availing themselves of broad participation and exclusively on a peaceful basis. This applies to any country and any region. I am confident that UNESCO, given its considerable experience and its numerous and extremely productive relations, will give all-round assistance for any processes of peaceful democratic development.
There can be no omitting mention of the growing role played by young people in our societies, and the fact that this has to do with the ever wider use throughout the world of the communication media. I wish to note with satisfaction that UNESCO has set about conducting a full-scale analysis of the issue of the development and significance of the Internet, with regard to the long-term strategic outlook within the mandate of the Organization when it comes to furthering the freedom of expression and universal access to information and knowledge, and the shaping of a culture of peace.
While the struggle against violence and “wars in the minds of peoples” is an incontestable and clearly stated constitutional obligation of UNESCO, we cannot forget, either, our collective response to the extremely unpredictable natural disasters, which is one of the most important elements of the multidisciplinary daily activity of the Organization. The surge of deep solidarity with Japan after the recent destructive earthquake, tsunami and serious nuclear incident, and with Pakistan, the United States of America and Thailand, in connection with unprecedented flooding, symbolizes the readiness of the world to mobilize its forces, ranging from individuals to international organizations. No single individual or single organization can in isolation surmount natural cataclysms. However, the United Nations system as a whole is capable of mobilizing the potential of the world community to forewarn of natural disasters and mitigate their effects. In this area UNESCO has a special role to play. And here we must give serious thought to the question of increasing the potential for effective activity of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Now, I would like to draw your attention to the complexity of the tasks entrusted to the Board at this session. Indeed, the Board’s agenda includes such decisive items as the consideration of the draft 36C/5 document concerning the programme and budget for 2012-2013, which indeed should enhance the Organization’s impact as a more responsive, proactive and effective institution. The recommendations of the Board on this will be transmitted to the General Conference at its forthcoming session for approval. It is natural that we all should be also very caring about the report by the Executive Board on the implementation of the 35 C/5 with results achieved so far in the current biennium as part of the Board’s own reporting responsibilities to the General Conference. The Board will also be considering various other important items relating to the organization of the coming session of the General Conference, as well as to the human resource management strategy of the Organization, to its field network reform, and to the Independent External Evaluation to mention just a few.
Concerning the report on the Independent External Evaluation, you will recall that through a specific decision of the last session we decided to establish an ad hoc working group to examine the recommendations contained in the report, and to formulate recommendations thereon to the Board at the present session. I am aware that the group has been working very hard between the sessions, and would like to thank all its members and praise their hard work, as well as that of many observer representatives who have made very valuable contributions to the work of the group. We shall examine the results of the work of the group, contained in document 186 EX/17, which includes a series of very interesting and important recommendations. Furthermore, we shall also have the pleasure to receive the oral report of its Chairperson, Ms Vera Lacoeuilhe from St Lucia, who has led this difficult and arduous task in an outstanding way for which we warmly thank her.
I am also glad that the Executive Board will examine in detail the report on the activities carried out to celebrate the 2010 International Year of Rapprochement of Cultures and will formulate some relevant recommendations in order to give an impulse going beyond the one-year timeframe, because rapprochement to me always has to be considered as a process and never as an accomplishment in itself.
As far as the Middle East issues are concerned, as more generally with all substantive agenda items, my first and foremost responsibility as Chairperson of the Board is to preserve consensus and find the common ground that can guarantee good implementable decisions.
I am sure that you will show the same spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation as at the previous two Board sessions so that we can successfully carry out all crucial tasks during this important session.
By the same token, I have sought over past months to follow-up our decision taken at the last session concerning the UNESCO-Obiang Nguema Mbasogo International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences, paying particular attention to the over-riding requirement to pursue the search for consensus and respect for all parties concerned. As agreed during the Bureau, and as was my intention, I wish to report to you that, immediately after the close of the last session, I wrote to the President of Equatorial Guinea informing him of the decision we adopted and indicating to him that I remained fully open to learn of his thinking and expectations in this regard. I received an Envoy from the President in late December 2010 and my discussions with him gave me to believe that there was indeed a willingness to search for an acceptable solution. Other discussions were held with the Equatorial Guinean authorities in the country. I received a written response from the President of Equatorial Guinea last month, handed over to me by another Envoy from the President. The contacts and consultations I have had lead me to express the hope that, with time, we should be able to find a solution in accordance with our Board’s last decision, and I certainly remain determined to continue my efforts to that end.
In the current global context, marked by a growing awareness of various environmental issues, we must all bear in mind the importance of using environment-friendly working methods which substantially reduce paper consumption and, in particular, the related administrative costs of the Executive Board. Since taking office I have aimed to do everything in my power to make headway in this regard and I have therefore launched the paper-light pilot project. At previous sessions steps were taken to ensure that, from this session onwards, Members of the Board could participate on a voluntary basis in an experimental process to replace paper documents by accessing their respective online versions through a specially created, user-friendly website. On this website can be found all the Board documents organized by session, subsidiary body, meeting and agenda item. During the session, IT support will be available in Rooms X and XI for all the plenary meetings and the meetings of the Programme and External Relations (PX) and Finance and Administrative (FA) Commissions. This process, which entails no additional cost whatsoever to the Board’s budget, is of course subject to review and I would therefore like to thank you in advance for your impressions and feedback about the implementation of this initiative and for any ideas about how to improve it.
Thank you very much.