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Unesco

Volume 404: debated on Tuesday 6 May 2003

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The United Kingdom rejoined UNESCO in 1997, with the goal of helping UNESCO become a more effective organisation with clear, focused objectives and strategies. DFID's key objective is the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, of which the education goals are particularly relevant to UNESCO.The Constitution of UNESCO states that

"each Member State shall make such arrangements as suit its particular conditions for the purpose of associating its principal bodies interested in educational, scientific and cultural matters with the work of the Organisation, preferably by the formation of a National Commission broadly representative of the government and such bodies".

We re-established a National Commission three years ago. It soon became clear that it was not working effectively. Most of the resources were being drained by a bureaucratic committee structure at the expense of engaging effectively with UNESCO, particularly with regard to DFID's focus on education and the reduction of poverty. A review group established by the National Commission submitted a report which made recommendations for a reconfiguration of the National Commission. This report was made available to the public and I made clear I was ready to implement these recommendations, but after much contentious debate it was not possible to achieve agreement on how to move ahead.

I therefore decided that for DFID it would be best for us to consult and account to parliament and civil society on UNESCO in the same way that we do for all the UN and other multilateral agencies for which we are responsible. DFID has since its inception consulted closely with civil society on the formulation of international development policy and we shall continue to do so. Other Departments will make their own arrangements for consultation with UNESCO about matters which fall within their respective mandates.

My Department remains committed to working with UNESCO to fulfil its mandate within a well-defined poverty and sustainable development strategy, giving top priority to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. We seek to achieve this through the governing bodies of which we are a member, and by providing appropriate technical co-operation and financial assistance.