UNESCO’s General Conference, which meets every two years, is holding its 36th session from 25 October to 10 November at the Organization’s Headquarters in Paris. Delegations from 193 Member States, Associate Members, as well as observers for non-Member States, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are attending the session. The General Conference will decide on UNESCO’s proposed programme and budget for the 2012-2013 biennium, which gives priority to sustainable development, culture of peace and non-violence, with a special emphasis on gender equality, Africa, youth, Education for All (EFA), Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) and the most vulnerable segments of society. It will also pave the way for early work on the Organization’s next Medium-Term Strategy for 2014-2019.
This session of the General Conference is the first since Irina Bokova was elected Director-General on 15 October 2009. Irina Bokova, in her opening address to the Conference, stressed the need to reinforce cooperation in the face of the challenges confronting the world today. “The global economic crisis is hitting the poorest countries particularly badly”, she said. “It is not enough to connect, we must share”. As she further stated, “the stakes of peace and sustainable development today, lie precisely in education, the sciences, culture, and knowledge sharing. All of this calls for more and better UNESCO”.
During the opening, representatives of UNESCO’s 193 Member States adopted the agenda of the General Conference. They also welcomed Curaçao and Sint Maarten as UNESCO’s 7th and 8th Associate Members and elected the President of its 36th session, Katalina Bogyay of Hungary.
One of the highlights of the 36th session of the UNESCO General Conference is the Leaders’ Forum being held at UNESCO Headquarters on 26 and 27 October. Discussions at the Forum are focused on “How does UNESCO contribute to building a culture of peace and to sustainable development”. It provides an opportunity to explore bold and innovative ideas and ways of promoting peace and prosperity in a globalized world, through UNESCO’s fields of competence. These ideas will feed into the current session of General Conference as it considers UNESCO’s programme and priorities for the next two years.
Other highlights of the session will be the launch of the UNESCO Open Educational Resources (OER) Platform at UNESCO Headquarters on 1 November and a special plenary meeting on 2 November devoted to the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the adoption of UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity.