On October 30, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has begun its 39th Conference in Paris, France. The focus of the group is promoting a world of peace and tolerance based on cooperation and multilateralism, with the cooperation of the member nations.
“In light of the boom of extremism in the world that stirs up hatred, UNESCO has solutions to offer (…) When new forms of racism and intolerance emerge, UNESCO is there to act,” said Director General Irina Bokova. The Bulgarian politician is finishing her eight-year term. During this conference, the next Director General of this organization will be appointed. On the agenda for the conference, the group will determine its budget and also the direction of its programs and activities for the next two years.
Bokova launched the 39th session of UNESCO’s General Conference with a speech, where she praised the UAE’s support for the organization’s programs and initiatives in the areas of education, culture, research and the protection of heritage in many regions.
Part of the conference included a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the organization. During this event on October 31, members recognized the achievements of the group and its efforts going forward. There are also multiple meetings scheduled, where leaders can discuss the initiatives already in place and how to move forward.
Since 2015, UNESCO has been acting across the board to support its Member States in implementing the new global development agenda through new approaches and partnerships. Global leaders are invited to take part in the Leaders’ Forum of the 39th Session of the General Conference to share their views, share best practices, and policy approaches.
UNESCO is responsible for coordinating international cooperation in education, science, culture, and communication. There is also a focus on strengthening ties between nations and societies, as well as mobilizing resources to give every citizen and child access to quality education, diversity, and fully benefit scientific advances.
One of the main themes of the organization is the fostering of freedom of expression. Part of this theme is promoting foster free, independent and pluralistic media in print, broadcast, and online. Media development in this mode enhances freedom of expression, and it contributes to peace, sustainability, poverty eradication and human rights. Part of this effort includes supporting independent journalism based on professional ethnics and self-regulatory principles.
For nations without a rich media and journalistic foundation, the leadership and governments can suppress ideas and political dialogue that could mean the people of that nation are taking the inventory of their leaders. Freedom of expression is a basic human right, but is often denied by dictatorships and governments that oppress their people and limit their freedom of expression.
The reality is that lasting peace rests on a complex and fragile web of daily practices embedded within the local settings and the daily encounters between humans within their communities. There are increasing global challenges that make peace more difficult to obtain, but not impossible. Still, as a global community, individuals and nations need to address the inequality, exclusion, violence, and sectarianism.
“It is not enough to be connected to each other. We also share our solutions, our experiences and dreams in one great community supported by human rights and fundamental freedoms,” said Bokova during the UNESCO conference in 2012.
There are also initiatives that focus on democracy and global citizenship, intercultural dialogue, and education for peace and human rights. Part of this process is helping individuals to recognize their global citizenship. Another aspect of the organization is its ability to be a place of democratic debate and an exchange of ideas, as well as promoting tolerance, pluralism, and respect for human rights.
The reality is that all the members of UNESCO are not perfectly addressing all these issues, but the focus of the group seems to be taking steps to address the issues impeding peace and security for the international community.
The General Conference meets every two years and including representatives of the States Members of the Organization, both Members and Associate Members. There are also non-Member observers who are present that come from intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, and foundations.
The conference opened with a ceremony and the approval of the agenda for the meeting. There is also a preparation of the Executive Board, the election of the President and Vice-Presidents, on the proposal of the Nominations Committee. Then the general policy debate is begun by addressing the report on the activities of UNESCO, as well as its draft program and budget.
There are five statutory committees, which make up UNESCO, include the Credentials Committee, Legal Committee, Nominations Committee, General Committee, and Headquarters Committee. Each of the committees report to the General Conference and also submit proposals for the next set of initiatives for the organization.