The 35th session of UNESCO´s General Conference concluded on October 23. Capping off three weeks of activities, the Conference´s 193 member states set out UNESCO´s strategic goals and action plan, in addition to reviewing and adopting the organization´s 2010-2011 program and budget. During the session, the Conference also ratified the proposal submitted by UNESCO´s Executive Council, which nominated Irina Bokova to succeed Director-General Koichiro Matsuura.
The session also featured a general policy debate, a plenary ministerial forum, two ministerial round tables and five UNESCO commission meetings in the areas of education, culture, natural/ exact sciences, social/human sciences and communications.
The Government of Québec began preparing for the Conference back in July, when it undertook a large-scale consultation with the various departments involved. This led to the development of various policy positions and rationales relating to the topics of discussion and other items on the agendas of the five Commissions. These positions were incorporated into the official presentations made by the members of the Québec and Canadian delegations.
Michelle Courchesne, Québec´s Minister of Education, Recreation and Sports, addressed the Education Ministers´ Round Table and played an active role in the debate over the conclusions drawn from the series of international education conferences held in 2008 and 2009 under the auspices of UNESCO. During the Education Commission meeting, the Government of Québec noted that student success hinges on fostering adult learning and skills development, as well as on developing relevant and adapted programs of study.
In remarks to the Culture Commission, Michel Audet, Québec´s Representative in the Permanent Delegation of Canada to UNESCO, expressed support for the proposed Recommendation on the Conservation of Historic Urban Landscapes. He also underscored the importance of taking into account not only the advances made by the international community in defining the term “landscape”, but also heritage´s intangible aspects and local communities´ sense of identity and cultural diversity. The meeting provided an opportunity to promote the essential role that should be assigned to the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions within UNESCO´s program and budget. A request was made for a more accurate determination of the efforts and resources that will be allocated to the 2005 Convention.
Communications and science
During the meeting of the Communications Commission, considerable emphasis was placed on the lack of francophone content in the new World Digital Library. To remedy this situation, it was suggested that permanent cooperation be established between the Library and the portal of the Francophone Network of National Digital Libraries (RFBNN). This suggestion was adopted by UNESCO. During the meetings of the Natural and Exact Sciences Commission and the Social and Human Sciences Commission, Québec closely monitored the development of a proposed declaration of ethical principles in the area of climate change.
The general policy debate provided an opportunity to showcase the Government of Québec´s active contribution to UNESCO´s projects and activities over the past three years—a clear illustration of the Government of Canada´s commitment to open federalism.
UNESCO´s new Director-General
The 35th session of the General Conference concluded with the inauguration ceremony for UNESCO´s new Director-General, Irina Bokova. After paying tribute to her predecessor, Ms. Bokova stressed the importance of refocusing UNESCO´s mandate in times of crisis and of developing alliances with a view to enhancing the organization´s visibility. She also outlined her management principles, including transparency and accountability, and her results-oriented approach.
In her inaugural address, Ms. Bokova laid out a comprehensive vision of multilateralism, demonstrating an acute awareness of the realities facing the southern and northern hemispheres, sensitivity to cultural diversity and in-depth knowledge of UNESCO´s programs. The Government of Québec is very pleased that the international community has elected the first woman to lead this prestigious organization. Michel Audet, Québec´s Representative in Canada´s Permanent Delegation to UNESCO, attended the inauguration ceremony and personally wished Ms. Bokova the best of luck in her new position.
Québec Representation in the Permanent Delegation of Canada to UNESCO