Sunday, March 01, 2009

Meeting of National Commissions

Image © UNESCO/ M. Ravassard
The Director General, National Commissions and
UNESCO Staff Members . París, France, february 2007

A meeting was held in January of representatives of the National Commissions for UNESCO of developed nations. Fourteen developed nations sent representatives, and three developing nations sent observers. Unfortunately, the U.S. National Commission did not send a representative.

Kelly Seikman, of the State Department's Office of UNESCO Affairs, was queried about the meeting, and responded:
I wish that the U.S. could have attended the meeting, but unfortunately it was on a day that the U.S. was not able to attend.
The conclusion of the report of the meeting stated:
National Commissions are a modern instrument of governance, truly reflecting the participatory approach of UNESCO as laid down in its Constitution, and creating a strong link between governments, civil society and multilateral cooperation. They especially support the intellectual function of the Organization by mobilizing national expertise and they create awareness and advocacy for UNESCO in its Member States. We have to find more intelligent ways to maximize this resource for the Organization.
The participants in the meeting, noting that National Commissions differ from country to country, there are some general standards that should be maintained for all to assure their efficient functioning. Their examples of such standards were:
  1. National Commissions should be well structured and equipped with (at least) minimum financial resources.
  2. A well trained Secretary-General with a mandate of at least 5 years and one
    professional staff for each of UNESCO’s major programmes
  3. Experience is one of the main assets of National Commissions’ staff. Therefore, frequent changes of professional staff in National Commissions are to be seen as a main impediment to their effectiveness; there is clear evidence of a close relation between the quality of work of a National Commission and the number of years of tenure of its professional staff, especially with regard to the Secretary-General. Effective mechanisms should be developed to ensure stability in the Secretariats of National Commissions.
  4. Inter-sectoral outreach of National Commissions is essential. A however limited autonomy in the administrative linkage to a national ministry allows National Commissions to establish good relations to all ministries concerned by UNESCO’s large mandate. A National Commission should not, through the attachment to a particular ministry, be limited to work exclusively in one of the Organization’s major programs
  5. Experience shows that it is necessary to address governments in order to enhance the status of National Commissions.

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