Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Reflections on the Future Role of UNESCO: Some Key Issues, Trends and Challenges

This document was prepared by the Director-General for the global consultation on the long-term future role of UNESCO. It takes into account observations made during an international consultative process and reflects UNESCO’s latest proposals on the United Nations reform. The key discussion, contained for some reason in an Appendix, begins with a summary of the key international trends which will affect the future of UNESCO and the United Nations system in general.

It confirms the need for continued attention to:

  • reduction of global poverty
  • promotion of peace and dialog among nations
  • Promoting cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and multilingualism
  • Injecting ethical principles into globalization
  • Harnessing science for sustainable development and peace
  • Contributing to the fight against HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases
  • Promoting gender equality
  • Building knowledge societies
Recongnizing that the United Nations reform will have major implications for UNESCO, the report calls for continued efforts of UNESCO reengineer its processes and structure in order to improve efficiency and to concentrate its resource in those areas in which it has comparative advantage within in the UN system,

The report states that UNESCO has several clear advantages on which it can build its future strategic location and interventions:
  • its role as undisputed global specialized agency for education, natural sciences, human sciences, culture and communication, providing an indispensable link between normativeand technical/operational functions;
  • its designation and recognition as lead agency for complex, multi-stakeholder and longterm tasks (e.g. related to EFA through its Global Action Plan and the World Water Assessment Programme, the various decades for which UNESCO has been designated by the United Nations General Assembly as lead agency, and the promotion of freedom of expression and media and information development);
  • its ability to develop evidence-based policies drawing on the statistical and analytical work of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) and several flagship publications, such as the EFA Global Monitoring Report or the World Water Report;
  • its role as leader, manager and guardian of global lists of sites, inscribed upon request of Member States, such as for World Heritage, Biosphere Reserves or Intangible Cultural Heritage.
As UNESCO becomes more involved in capacity development, it will have to explore new modalities of cooperation and knowledge sharing. It will have to broaden its partnerships, extending beyond the traditional partners of government agencies and working more with civil society.

The discussion concludes:
The question may not be so much “what future for UNESCO”, but “what UNESCO for the future”. Faced with a complex, rapidly changing world, and a fiercely competitive environment, UNESCO needs to develop its responsiveness, flexibility and adaptability, advocacy, ability to build multi-stakeholders coalitions, and ability to mobilize and implement resources – at the global, regional and country levels.

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