Cablegate: Unesco Reform: Secretariat and Experts Split On Way Forward

Lucia A Keegan 02/21/2007 09:25:09 AM From DB/Inbox: Lucia A Keegan






DE RUEHFR #0634/01 0471645
R 161645Z FEB 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: In recent weeks, there have been a number of meetings
relating to the ongoing review of the Natural Sciences and Social
and Human Sciences sectors. The panel itself met January 9-12.
During that week, the Indian Ambassador held a January 10 dinner
where guests included some panel experts and members of the
Secretariat. In addition, Ambassador Oliver organized a January 11

evening meeting to which she invited like-minded ambassadors and
panel experts to discuss the review process. Following the panel's
meeting, on January 18, the Geneva Group of donor countries met with
the ADGs for both the Natural Sciences and Social and Human Sciences
sectors; the sciences review was a topic of discussion. And, at the
January 19 Executive Board question and answer session, Director
General Matsuura and Deputy Director General Barbosa responded to
queries on this subject.

2. At the January 18 meeting of the Geneva Group, ADG for Social
Sciences Sane said that the panel was on a consensual track that
would enable it to conclude its report soon. (ADG Sane's remarks to
the Geneva Group were part of his campaign to maintain the status
quo and with it, his own position, an effort buttressed by the
January 10 dinner hosted by the Indian Ambassador.) At his January
19 question and answer session with the Executive Board, the
Director General and Deputy Director General Matsuura said that the
review panel is on its way to concluding a draft report; DDG Barbosa
outlined a number of recommendations that he said the panel had
endorsed. But in fact, this version of the state of play differs
from that described by four expert panel members at the January 11
meeting the Ambassador hosted. At this meeting, the experts said
that they need more time to consider recommendations to reform the
two sectors; they reported considerable pressure from the "internal"
(secretariat) members of the panel to complete their work in time
for findings to be integrated into the new Medium-Term Strategy, to
be adopted at the October 2007 General Conference. The experts
received needed encouragement to take an independent stance in favor
of reform from the ambassadors present. To allow the panel time to
finish its work, the ambassadors expressed a willingness to consider
the possibility of not adopting a new Medium-Term Strategy at the
2007 General Conference.

3. On January 12, the last day of the meeting of the experts'
panel, Deputy Director General Barbosa pressed the panel to work to
the deadline: a final report due in advance of the April Executive
Board, with conclusions to be folded into the new Medium Term
Strategy to be adopted at the October General Conference. However,
the outside experts expressed continuing frustration with the lack
of serious discussion of recommendations that had been proposed, and
at the lack of consensus. While the committee had come to agreement
on a vision for UNESCO science and on an overall strategic planning
approach, several members, except France and the UK, felt that the
draft C-4 and C-5 documents were not central to the charge of the
Committee and that too much time had been spent discussing them, and
not enough time discussing and debating the recommendations. Not
until 1400 on Friday (when only the external experts from France,
UK, Norway, Morocco, Panama, India, and the US remained), were
recommendations put on the table. The external experts also
expressed frustration at the overall process, and concern that they
lacked independence and were being pressed to endorse an agenda
developed by the Secretariat. The panel members decided to set up a
separate drafting team, led by the expert from Morocco and including
the experts from France and Norway, to develop their report. Only
after much discussion did the Committee agree to include Barbosa on
the writing team. However, they felt that a consensus report would
require additional deliberation, even recommending that there be at
least one more meeting of the full review panel. End Summary.

ADGs Say that the Review Process is on Track...

4. At the January 18 Geneva Group meeting, the ADGs for the Natural
Sciences and Social and Human Sciences sectors were the special
guests. (Note: Both of them are "internal" members of the review
panel, as are DDG Barbosa and IOC Executive Secretary Bernal. End
Note) On the sciences review, ADG Erdelen claimed that the panel had
reached tentative conclusions. Their report, still a work in
progress, will be ready in mid-February, Erdelen said. One of its
important elements will be a "vision going beyond the Medium-Term
Strategy time frame." This report will also address the issue of
the intergovernmental programs, and sunset clauses. According to
ADG Sane, the panel's most recent meeting finished on a note of
consensus; he said that DDG Barbosa would draft the panel's report,
with "certain recommendations going to the DG." Sane stressed that
as the Executive Board had already agreed on certain proposals for
the C4/C5, the DG will have to "balance" the recommendations of the
committee in order to present something "acceptable" to the April
2007 Executive Board. Sane reported that the panel had agreed on a
vision for the sciences, derived from UNESCO's constitution, that
promotes peace and poverty reduction, and as lesser priorities,
sustainable development and the dialogue among civilizations.
Future programs will be evaluated against these criteria. According
to Sane, panelists also stressed the role of scientists in capacity
building in developing countries to help emerging economies; they
also advocated that all sciences programs should aim at developing
educational materials for universities.

5. Queried by Ambassador Oliver on whether there is consensus
within the panel, Assistant Director General for Social Sciences
Sane portrayed the review process as on track. Pressed by
Ambassador Oliver on his comment that DDG Barbosa would draft the
report, Sane said that in fact the Secretariat would provide a draft
to panel members, reporting that the experts had formed a drafting
group. The report must be ready by mid-February, in time for the
Executive Board. Then there will be a "back and forth between the
Executive Board and the review committee to get it right before the
General Conference."

6. One Geneva Group member noted that Erdelen seemed much more
forward leaning than Sane with regard to the review process.
Erdelen stressed that he had already taken steps to address some of
the panel's concerns, for example those regarding the lack of
visibility of UNESCO's natural sciences programs. Sane, on the
other hand, indicated that he could not be responsible for reporting
the actual impact of his sector's programs, saying that this lay
beyond his control. And, Sane - evoking an absurdly long list of
new programs that he claimed the panelists had endorsed -- took care
to lay down a marker that the member states would have the last say
on the panel's report.

...While Building Support for the Status Quo

7. Sane's presentation to the Geneva Group was part of a campaign
that he has launched to preserve his position within UNESCO. This
was apparent at a dinner organized by the Indian Ambassador,
ostensibly in honor of the Indian member of the sciences review
panel. In fact, it was a chance for the influential ambassador to
stress her support for Sane - and for the continued independence of
his sector -- to the other guests, who included DDG Barbosa, and the
UK, U.S., and French experts on the review panel. Ambassador Oliver
was the only other Ambassador included in the event.

8. In a disturbing aside, the Indian Ambassador remarked that the
experts would submit their report to delegations, and amend it based
on their comments. Ambassador Oliver stressed that the role of the
experts was to give member states their best ideas; although member
states would of course react to these ideas, the experts should not
change them in response to the opinions of the delegations.

DG Matsuura and DDG Barbosa Also Say Review On Track

9. Queried by member states at the January 19 question and answer
session, DG Matsuura said that the sciences review panel had
endorsed key elements of the draft Medium-Term Strategy for the
sectors, notably the need for more intersectoral work. In his
response, DDG Barbosa indicated that the panel had finished Phase 2,
where it had "provided the DG with recommendations to be taken into
consideration for the C4 and C5 (Medium Term Strategy and Draft
Program and Budget)." He said that the panel would prepare a report
that would be submitted to the April Executive Board. But he said
that the panel's work may need to be extended to include a third
phase, lasting from the April Executive Board to the October General
Conference, in order to "prepare the organization to implement the
new C4 and C5." Barbosa highlighted new ideas that he said had been
endorsed by the experts. In addition to intersectorality, these
"new avenues" included: increased focus on the interfaces between
science and culture and between science and education; dialogue
between knowledge systems; more focus on higher education; and
energy. The goal is to ensure that all programs contribute to the
fight against poverty. The panel's other recommendations include
reorientation of the intergovernmental programs, and the adoption of
a road map for the next 20 years in science. Barbosa declared that
adopting the panel's recommendations would enable UNESCO to assume
its role as "the leading organization for science within the UN
system." Barbosa said that he did not want to go into more detail
so as to preserve some suspense for the April Executive Board.

U.S. Mission Rallies Support for Reform

10. But in fact, this account of the panel's work differs from
information revealed by expert panel members at the January 11
meeting the Ambassador hosted. This meeting was attended by the
ambassadors of the UK, Canada, and Japan and by the deputy permanent
delegate of Norway, as well as by the review panel experts from the
UK, Norway, the U.S. and Morocco (US Mission science officer, note
taker). Ambassador Oliver began by briefing the ambassadors, the UK
and Canadian ambassadors having only recently arrived at UNESCO.
She highlighted a series of questions: What is the role of this
expert panel, and how can its independence be guaranteed? Is the
October 2007 deadline for adoption of the Medium-Term strategy still
feasible, given that the panel had reportedly not completed its
task, and there is an ongoing current of other UNESCO reform
initiatives? Given the growing continuum between the social
sciences and the natural sciences, does it make sense to maintain
two separate sectors at UNESCO? The Norwegian permanent delegate
suggested that the General Conference could simply adopt a concise
road map to guide the work of the secretariat as it continued its
work on the Medium-Term Strategy until 2009. He said he thought
that a merger of the two sectors would make sense, given increased
synergies between the two disciplines. The Canadian ambassador
posited that a weak report supporting the status quo would be worse
than no report. And, if the panel could not present a strong set of
recommendations in time for integration into the Medium-Term
Strategy, the General Conference would not be an appropriate
last-minute negotiating venue. He opined that, based on his past UN
experience, the General Conference was not in fact obliged to adopt
a new medium-term strategy at its next meeting.

11. The Norwegian expert arrived first, and expressed concerns that
he said had led him to attempt to withdraw twice from the panel; the
other experts echoed these concerns as they joined the conversation.
The panel had only recently began to consider possible
recommendations, having devoted much time in the first months on
"hearings" meant to familiarize the experts with UNESCO. This
exercise precluded real interchange among the experts, who had only
recently learned to work together. All of the experts expressed
surprise at the inclusion of members of the secretariat on the
review panel, saying that this contradicted established principles
of independence. In practice, these "internal" members, with the
exception of IOC Executive Secretary Patricio Bernal, tended to be
resistant to change. The experts from Norway and Morocco stressed
that they believed that the experts should not have devoted so much
time to reviewing the draft C-4 and C-5 (medium-term strategies and
program and budgets) documents, with the UK expert demurring,
seconded by the UK ambassador; they and the Japanese ambassador
stressed the need for specific recommendations from the panel.
Despite these concerns, the experts present agreed that they had
made a breakthrough at that day's meeting, when Norway and Morocco
had commandeered the chair to outline a "matrix" of criteria to
evaluate programs. But more time was needed to complete the task.

12. In light of the concerns voiced by the experts, the Japanese
ambassador expressed the view that the panel needed to continue its
work, perhaps with reconfigured leadership. When queried, he said
that he would need to seek guidance on whether he could support
postponing adoption of a new Medium-Term Strategy. But he also
stressed the importance of reaching out to other member states in
support of these ideas. The Moroccan expert struck an upbeat note,
saying that with more time and sharpened working methods, the panel
could make substantial progress.

13. Heartened by the support expressed by the ambassadors, the
experts concluded the evening by strategizing for the final day of
the review panel's meeting. The Norwegian deputy permanent delegate
stressed that the ambassador's meeting had been "crucial" in
plotting the way forward for the review process. (Comment: Still,
one question raised earlier by the Norwegian expert remained
pertinent -- would other experts on the panel be willing to take a
stand in favor of a serious effort at reform, or might they succumb
to pressure from their delegations favoring the status quo? End

Experts Panel Asserts Need for Consensus on Recommendations

14. Although initially hopeful to complete their review in the
schedule outlined by the Secretariat, by this meeting the outside
experts had only recently begun to work well together and make real
progress. Although not all the outside experts continue to be
actively engaged in the process (some have not participated, even
via email, for several months), those that are expressed hope that
they are on-track to make a significant and lasting contribution to
UNESCO science, if allowed adequate time to complete their work.
They cited detailed findings, an agreed upon vision, and well
thought out framework for strategic planning, but no detailed
discussion of the recommendations. The US representative put back
on the table several recommendations that had not been discussed at
all. Other recommendations had been discussed, but no consensus had
been reached. The committee established a separate and independent
(consisting of external experts, and led by the Moroccan member)
drafting group to begin work on a consensus report, but after much
discussion agreed that Barbosa should also work with the writing
group. Allowing for time to discuss the issues and reach consensus,
this report should be completed in the April/May timeframe - any
less time would not be adequate to deliver a substantive report.

15. Comment: The expert panelists were clearly frustrated by the
timetable imposed by the secretariat, and by the secretariat's role
in the review. Of course, in pressing for closure, the secretariat
is implementing the timetable endorsed by the 2005 General
Conference; participation of the secretariat in the panel's work
might also be viewed as a means of getting "buy-in" from the sectors
under review. But it is clear now that the timetable for the
panel's work is not realistic. We are pleased that the experts
refused to be rushed along, and that we gained agreement from some
like-minded ambassadors that the experts should be given time to
complete the job, including possibly by reconsidering the deadline
for adoption of the medium-term strategy. This was just a start.
The question of postponing adoption of the new Medium-Term Strategy
was pressed further at the DG's question and answer session,
reported septel. End Comment.

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


New IPCC Report: ‘Unprecedented Changes’ Needed To Limit Global Warming

Limiting global warming to 1.5°C will require “far-reaching and unprecedented changes,” such as ditching coal for electricity to slash carbon emissions, says a special report that finds some of the actions needed are already under way, but the world must move faster… More>>


Jamal Khashoggi: UK, France, Germany Join Calls For Credible Investigation

Germany, the United Kingdom and France share the grave concern expressed by others including HRVP Mogherini and UNSG Guterres, and are treating this incident with the utmost seriousness. More>>


MSF Not Wanted: Nauru Government Shows Continued Callousness

The Nauruan Government’s decision to ask Doctors Without Borders to immediately leave shows continued callousness towards asylum seekers desperately seeking a safe place to call home, Green MP Golriz Ghahraman said today. More>>


Sulawesi Quake, Tsunami: Aid Response Begins

Oxfam and its local partners are standing by to deploy emergency staff and resources to the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, as an estimated 1.5 million people are thought to be affected by the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit on Friday. More>>


Decriminalising Same-Sex Relationships: UN Rights Chief Applauds Indian Decision

“This is a great day for India and for all those who believe in the universality of human rights," Bachelet said. "With this landmark decision, the Indian Supreme Court has taken a big step forward for freedom and equality...” More>>


  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC