The Philippines re-elected as a member of the UNESCO Executive Board

by Ricky Rillera

| Photo by UNESCO via Flickr

NEW YORK – The Philippines scored anew an Executive Board seat to one of the six seats for the Asia Pacific Region at the ongoing 41st General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris, France.

On Nov. 17, the Philippines obtained 165 votes next to Japan, which had 166 out of the 178 members at the conference. The Philippines will serve for the 2021-25 term along with India, Viet Nam, Cook Islands, and China.

Likewise, delegates also elected the Philippines to the Legal Committee for the 42nd Session of the General Conference together with the Cook Islands, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Japan.

For this term, the Philippine Embassy in France said the Philippines shall continue its efforts to:

1) Address the growing digital divide, especially in the developing and least developing countries;
2) Develop open science in the wake of climate change and natural disasters;
3) Develop synergies and cooperation between UNESCO cultural conventions;
4) Support the work of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), particularly ocean science, ocean-climate nexus, and biodiversity;
5) Strengthen the Information for All Program (IFAP), including reaping the benefits of artificial intelligence (AI);
6) Support UNESCO global priorities on Africa, gender equality, Small Island Developing States (SIDS), youth and indigenous peoples; and; and
7) Promote inclusive and effective governance in the Organization.

Amb. Junever M. Mahilum-West | Photo via PH Embassy in France

The Department of Education (DepEd) thanked the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), particularly the Philippine National Commission for UNESCO (UNACOM), and Ambassador Junever M. Mahilum-West, Philippine Ambassador to France and Monaco and concurrently Philippine Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, for the successful campaign for the country.

“Awarded a second four-year term, the UNESCO seat will be one of the legacies of Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones and will boost the initiatives of the next administration’s Education Chief,” DepEd said.

With this development and UNICEF’s five-star rating recognizing the Philippines’ readiness to deliver remote learning in response to school closures, DepEd said that it is determined to continue “our thrust in collaborating with international and local partners to deliver quality education to all Filipino learners.”

Members of the Philippine Delegation to the 41st UNESCO General Conference led by Permanent Delegate to UNESCO and Ambassador to France Junever Mahilum-West (center)

The UNESCO Executive Board is one of the three constitutional organs of the UN agency (the others being the General Conference and the Secretariat), and the General Conference elects it.

The board consists of 58 member states, each serving a four-year term of office, prepares the agenda of the General Conference, and examines the program of work for UNESCO and corresponding budget estimates submitted to it by the director-general, according to the UNESCO website. It is responsible for the execution of the programs adopted by the General Conference and, in this connection, considers the reports on activities of the Organization submitted by the director-general.

The board also makes recommendations for admission of new states that are not members of the United Nations and for the appointment of the Organization’s director-general, among other duties.

Meanwhile, the General Conference also re-elected Audrey Azoulay to the post of Director-General of UNESCO with the overwhelming backing of UNESCO Member States, obtaining 155 votes out of a total of 169 ballots cast.

Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General | UNESCO Photo

“I see this result as a sign of regained unity within our Organization. Over the last four years, we have been able to restore confidence in UNESCO, and in some respects this has also been about restoring UNESCO’s confidence in itself,” Azoulay said. “We regained serenity by reducing the political tensions that stood in our way and by looking for common positions on subjects that were divisive in the past. We were then able to develop a shared ambition, notably by reconnecting with the tradition of leading major operations in the field.”

Over the past four years, UNESCO has undergone a significant modernization process to improve the efficiency of its actions. The Organization notably embarked on the reconstruction of the old city of Mosul (Iraq), launched in 2018 and currently underway. During the COVID-19 pandemic, which deprived hundreds of millions of children and adolescents of their right to learn, UNESCO once again proved its ability to establish the Global Education Coalition, which made it possible to ensure educational continuity in 112 countries.

This new momentum has led to a consolidation of UNESCO’s budget. On the twin pillars of national and voluntary contributions, funding for 2020-21 totaled US$1.4 billion. Compared to the previous four years, voluntary contributions increased by 50% over the 2017-2021 period.

UNESCO’s General Conference takes place in Paris from 9 to 24 Nov., marking its 75th anniversary. During the Conference, UNESCO’s 193 Member States expect to take landmark decisions, including adopting global recommendations: one on the ethics of artificial intelligence, another on open science. UNESCO also released the new World Futures of Education Report and hosted a Global Education Meeting on Nov. 10. The World Futures of Education Report is a global initiative to reimage how knowledge and learning can shape the future of humanity and the planet.

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