Summary on the 36th session of the General Conference of UNESCO

The 36th session of the General Conference of UNESCO opened at the HQ in Paris on Tuesday, 25 October 2011 at 10 a.m. It will conclude its work on Thursday, 10 November 2011.
One day before this opening, the Interregional Meeting of National Commissions for UNESCO was opened by Mrs Irina BOKOVA, Director-General of UNESCO. Major topics discussed included: a review of the UNESCO Secretariat’s cooperation with National Commissions, the consultation process on the C/4 and C/5, the reform of the field network and the management of the Participation Programme. More than 180 representatives from over 130 National Commissions attended the meeting.

The General Conference consists of the representatives of the States Members of the Organization. It meets every two years, and is attended by Member States and Associate Members, together with observers for non-Member States, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Each country has one vote, irrespective of its size or the extent of its contribution to the budget.

The General Conference determines the policies and the main lines of work of the Organization. Its duty is to set the programmes and the budget of UNESCO. It also elects the Members of the Executive Board and appoints, every four years, the Director-General. The working languages of the General Conference are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.

Rwanda delegation to this 36th session is leaded by His Excellence Ambassador KABARE Jacques, Ambassador of Rwanda in France and Permanent delegate to UNESCO. Mr BAHIZI, Eliphaz, the Secretary General of Rwanda National Commission for UNESCO, was member of the delegation. H.E.Ambassador Kabare, delivered the Rwanda Statement to the Assembly during the general policy debate on Monday, 31 October 2011.

25th October 2011, the General Conference, unanimously elected H. E. Ms Katalin Bogyay, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of the Republic of Hungary to UNESCO, as its 36th President.

Leaders’ Forum

From 26th to 27th October 2011, UNESCO holds a Leaders’ Forum to debate how the Organization can contribute towards building a culture of peace and sustainable development. Four Heads of State, three Prime Ministers and two First Ladies addressed the Plenary, and more than thirty Ministers and Delegates participated in a rich and vivid debate, moderated by Ms Zeinab Badawi, on the importance of building a culture of peace and sustainable development and the contribution of UNESCO in that regard.

South Sudan was admitted to the UNESCO family of nations as its 194th Member State in a moving and colourful ceremony which saw H.E. Dr. Cirino Hiteng Ofuho, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, wave his country’s flag before finally placing it among those of the other Member States.

Good practices and lessons learnt through UNESCO’s Capacity Development for Education for All (CapEFA) Programme were the focus of a two-hour Ministerial Breakfast Meeting, at which 18 Ministers, Heads of Delegation and representatives from UNESCO Education Sector’s priority countries as well as from donor countries were in attendance. The 68 participants engaged in an informal dialogue on the achievements of the CapEFA Programme and reflected on its future orientations.

More than one hundred Ministers and Secretaries Generals of National
Commissions for UNESCO attended the Information Meeting with African
Ministers on the “Operational Strategy of Priority Africa”.

The 36th session of the General Conference admitted Palestine into the UNESCO family of Member States in a vote by roll-call. In welcoming Palestine, the UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, underscored the call for a two-state solution consistently made by the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon.

Results of the vote:

194 Member States, 185 with voting rights at the 36th session;
173 Present, 12 Member States were not in the room at the time of voting;
Majority required: 81;
121 Present and voting: 107 yes; 14 no 52 abstentions.

UNESCO’s Member States attending the 36th session of the General Conference, the Organization’s highest governing body, have elected 31 new members to the 58-member Executive Board, the Organization’s other governing body.
Below is a list of elected countries, by electoral group:
Group I: Austria, France, Spain, Italy, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, United States of America.
Group II: Russian Federation, Czech Republic, Montenegro, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Group III: Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico.
Group IV: Republic of Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea.
Group V (a): Nigeria, Namibia, Ethiopia, Mali, Gabon, Malawi, Angola, Gambia.
Group V (b): United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia.

States are elected to the Executive Board for a term of four years. The new Executive Board members join 27 others elected during the previous session of the General Conference, in 2009, and whose mandate will expire in 2013:

Debates on the structure of Medium-Term Strategy and Programme and Budget are organized through seven programme commissions (General questions, programme support and external relations; Education; Natural Sciences; Social and human sciences; Culture; Communication and Information; Finance and administration).
The Heads of delegations attend the plenary meetings and take part in the general policy debate. All decisions of the General Conference are taken in plenary meetings.

Eliphaz BAHIZI.

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