Cablegate: Unesco - Decentralization and the One Un


DE RUEHFR #0568/01 0861354
R 261354Z MAR 08





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: Briefing Member States on UNESCO's progress regarding
decentralization and the "One UN", D-G Matsuura indicated he is
pleased with the efforts made to date to integrate UNESCO into the
concept, and that he will work to improve issues of concern like
staff rotation and program coordination in order to ensure UNESCO's
"place at the UN table" in country. End summary.

2. Director General Matsuura held an information meeting on 19
March 2008 to bring Member States up to date on UNESCO's work
regarding the "One UN" reforms and UNESCO's decentralization
efforts. The meeting was well attended with many ambassadors and
the D-G's top level staff present.

3. Matsuura said that he was very pleased with the evolution of
UNESCO's role in connection with the "One UN" reforms, noting that
UNESCO has had a "positive influence" on UN reform in the
"delivering as one" process. He mentioned that the next high-level
meeting on the subject would be held in Bern at the end of April.

4. He noted that the eight pilot programs being carried out have
been very successful, though there has been some frustration, as
some believe the pilots take too long to reach conclusions, and that
informal stock taking permits all concerned to make early
identification of key issues, and draw some lessons for future use.

5. The main objective, according to Matsuura is finding best ways
for UN agencies to work together to design joint programming based
on joint reflection and joint prioritization. He added that it is
already clear from the pilot projects that "one size does not fit
all", though lessons learned from the initial projects will help
guide future rollout of new pilots.

6. Matsuura said that there are many issues that have yet to be
resolved, including how to best integrate civil society and NGO's,
Bretton-Woods institutions like the World Bank, and humanitarian
agencies into the program. Matsuura said that he has earmarked two
percent of regular program resources for country level programming

7. The Director-General said that while UNESCO has a physical
presence in 51 Member States and two liaison offices (New York and
Geneva), it is impossible to be present in all countries. He also
said that UNESCO is stretched thin as our mandate in five major
fields makes it difficult to cover everything, as we would like to.
He then mentioned that UNESCO's One UN task force had suggested the
use of "mobile teams" that would potentially intervene for a limited
time in a country.

8. Matsuura also spoke at length about the need for UNESCO to
maximize our use of "UNESCO's larger family", noting that Category
II centers, university chairs, National Commissions, Associated
schools, goodwill ambassadors, NGO's, etc. must be better used as
advocates for UNESCO's work overseas.

9. Matsuura raised concerns about increased costs associated with
UNESCO's new role in "One UN", noting that where in many cases we
had previously been housed free of charge by the member states, we
would now be obliged to share common costs in the UN country
headquarters. He said that security concerns would also raise
costs, as some UN sites have recently been the target of violent

10. During the question and answer session that followed, the
Tanzanian ambassador said that the development of civil society is
not level in all countries, and noted that in Tanzania,
foreign-based NGO's are a particular presence that must be
considered. He then asked whether the UN should participate in
capacity building for civil society, adding a second question as to
whether involving civil society will slow down "One UN" decision
making. The D-G responded by saying that international civil society
representatives have been actively participating in all of the
high-level meetings.

11. Several comments on UNESCO staff rotation came up, with
particular focus on the perception among Paris-based staff that
working in the field offices is still considered punishment. The
D-G replied that while there has been some progress made on
rotation, and that all new employees are obliged to sign contracts
indicating their worldwide availability, there is still a lot of
work to be done on the question of staff mobility.

12. Another question came up on the possibility of cost savings by
"outsourcing" back-office services to countries where costs are
cheaper. The D-G replied that he had not yet looked carefully at
the question, but said that it should be examined more closely,
noting that the Secretariat had been concentrating more on
developing and introducing new technologies like the SISTER database
to improve efficiency.

13. The Senegalese ambassador then spoke, saying that it is often
difficult to coordinate field office activities with the government
"line ministers" in country, leading to weaknesses in implementation
of programs. The D-G acknowledged that this is an area that will
require greater coordination.

14. In response to a question by the Czech ambassador, the D-G noted
that there are 30 UN specialized agencies, and that it is not
acceptable that they can act as "free radicals" in country. He
stressed that there must be coordination of the UN activities in

15. When asked about the chances of UNESCO staffers being named as
resident country coordinators, the D-G agreed that UNDP seemed to be
favored, but seemed hopeful that in the future, UNESCO staff could
lead the UN offices in country.

16. Overall, the D-G stressed that UNESCO must remain flexible as
the "One UN" program develops, and to see how UNESCO can best take
part, in order to raise its visibility, improve its effectiveness,
and make its place as a player seated at the UN table. OLIVER

© Scoop Media

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