Tuesday, November 08, 2005

U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO Louise Oliver With Foreign Journalists

Read the transcript of Ambassador Oliver's videoconference of October 21, 2005.

QUESTION: Ambassador, I'm Jyri Raivio, Helsingin Sanomat of Finland. You mentioned that U.S. was not able to support the acceptance of the UNESCO budget but what's the practical consequence of this decision? And how big the part of this budget does the U.S. take?

AMBASSADOR OLIVER: The budget is -- we have program and budget for the next two years. UNESCO is on a two-year cycle so this is the $610 million program and budget for the next two years. In order to be adopted, two-thirds of UNESCO's member states need to support the program and budget. That did occur. So therefore, this program and budget will be used as a basis for UNESCO's work for the next two years.

The fact that we voted no on this budget, again, emphasizes the fact that we are unhappy with the budget in terms of the fact that it does support a Convention that we oppose. But as I said in my statement a few minutes ago, we also do not think that UNESCO has gone far enough in terms of focusing on activities, focusing on its priorities so that it can have quality programs that really make a difference around the world. Almost every country in UNESCO has stated over and over again, in the last two years since we've been part of this organization, that education is the priority of priorities. And so we are saying put resources in education, put resources in areas -- science and other areas, which are areas where UNESCO could really make a difference -- put funds, put resources in real natural and cultural preservation. And there are programs in UNESCO that do that.

Our question has been a broader question, which is, what is the role of UNESCO's programs versus its normative instruments -- a well thought out normative instrument, a well thought declaration or convention that achieves consensus, can perhaps do something real and positive.

But, I repeat, a convention that was negotiated quickly, that seemed to be more interested in being negotiated as quickly as possible so that it could be adopted at this General Conference, where speed seems to be something that people cared about more than quality -- well, that is something that we would -- we do have concerns about.

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