39th session of the UNESCO General Conference

On 14 November 2017, the 39th session of the UNESCO General Conference was closed in Paris, France. The General Conference is the most important event in the UNESCO’s calendar. It meets every two years, and is attended by Member States and Associate Members. The Conference determines the policies and the main lines of work of UNESCO, sets the programmes and the budget of the Organization.

The 39th session of UNESCO’s General Conference appointed Audrey Azoulay(France) to the post of the 11th Director-General of UNESCO, taking the place of Irina Bokova (Bulgaria). During her investiture as Director-General, Ms Azoulay spoke of the pertinence of UNESCO’s mandate to foster solidarity and cooperation in education, the sciences, culture and communication: “It’s a very demanding agenda. We must be clear-sighted. The organisation needs to constantly renew its pact of confidence with the world, with the member states. It has to stay and remain in the avant-garde of all the challenges by being open: open to young people, open to artists, to scientists, to civil society.”

During the General Conference, a rich programme of events has taken place with presentations and debates on key issues in each of UNESCO’s fields of competence: education, science, and culture, as well as information and communication. As regards to education, the General Conference reaffirmed the UNESCO’s role in coordinating and monitoring progress towards the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda’s Goal for education, SDG 4. It also mandated UNESCO to pursue work on the development of a Global Convention on the Recognition of Higher Education Qualifications, to improve academic mobility, enhance international cooperation, and reinforce trust in higher education systems. The organization’s role in the implementation of SDG4-Education 2030, the Draft Programme and Budget for 2018-2021 and “Academic Mobility Convention” were approved.

The Director of the UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education (IITE) Mr Tao Zhan and the Chairperson of the IITE Governing Board Dr Mansoor Al Awar took part in all major events of the Education Sector within the General Conference. Dr Al Awar presented a Report by the Governing Board of the UNESCO IITE on the activities of the Institute for 2016-2017. The report provided an outline of the Institute’s activities in policy advocacy, capacity development, knowledge sharing and partnership building in 2016-2017 to foster the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in education in Member States. Dr. Al Awar highlighted a positive impact of appointment a new international Director of IITE Mr Tao Zhan in February 2017 and indicated that a new Medium-Term Strategy for 2018-2021 was adopted at the IITE’s Governing Board meeting in September 2017. With increasing support from the UNESCO HQs and its host country, the Governing Board is convinced that IITE, as UNESCO category 1 institute, has the necessary capacities to fulfill its tasks to support the implementation of Education 2030 agenda through innovative use ICT in education. The Resolution of the General Conference and IITE new Medium-Term Strategy will guide the Institute for further development.

Overall, the 39-th UNESCO General Conference adopted a series of programme and budget decisions, reaffirming the pertinence of the Organization to the challenges facing the world.