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Cablegate: Unesco -- Education Issues at the 175th Executive Board

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Lucia A Keegan 11/08/2006 10:09:09 AM From DB/Inbox: Lucia A Keegan

Cable
Text:


UNCLAS SENSITIVE PARIS 07094

SIPDIS
cxparis:
ACTION: UNESCO
INFO: SCI POL ECON AMBU AMB AMBO DCM

DISSEMINATION: UNESCOX
CHARGE: PROG

APPROVED: AMB:LVOLIVER
DRAFTED: POL:DROSTROFF
CLEARED: EDU:SLOVEJOY, DCM:AKOSS

VZCZCFRI007
RR RUEHC RUCNSCO
DE RUEHFR #7094/01 3001650
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 271650Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2646
INFO RUCNSCO/UNESCO COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 007094

SIPDIS

FROM USMISSION UNESCO PARIS

SENSITIVE

STATE PASS TO DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION FOR ROBIN GILCHRIST AND
STEPHANIE WHELPLEY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: UNESCO SCUL KPAO
SUBJECT: UNESCO -- EDUCATION ISSUES AT THE 175TH EXECUTIVE BOARD
(FALL 2006)

1. (SBU) EDUCATION SECTOR REFORMS In September, the First Lady
hosted her highly successful Literacy Conference in New York City,
attended by the President and UNESCO's Director General Matsuura.
Despite the goodwill generated by the conference and interventions
by most members of the Executive Board (EB) about UNESCO's next
budget and mid-term strategy that stressed the primacy of education
in the Organization's work, some delegations still seemed determined
to impede the Education Sector's management plan due to their
concerns about issues such as staffing and restructuring.

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2. (SBU) Over the summer, the Chairman of UNESCO's Finance and
Administration (FA) Commission, the Beninese ambassador, Olabiyi
Yai, had signaled his unhappiness with the restructuring and reform
of UNESCO's Education Sector proposed by the Assistant Director
General Peter Smith (US). At that time, Yai, very publicly and very
clearly told Smith that he would be called to task in front of the
EB's FA Commission this fall; Yai kept his promise.

3. (SBU) In an opening intervention at the Board plenary, Yai,
speaking for the Africa Group, raised specific questions regarding
the perceived lack of consultations with the African states by ADG
Smith prior to the DG's approval of the reform plan. (Note: We've
been told by the Education Sector that they had offered times and
dates that had been rejected by the African Group, though other
delegations, including the Liberia, felt they had been appropriately
consulted on the matter.) (Comment: Yai, though a former professor
at Florida State, often seems more intent on thwarting US interests
than promoting Benin's. End comment.) He also indicated that there
is a lack of knowledge regarding Africa-specific education needs,
questioned the hiring of Navigant, an American consulting firm, at
what Yai believed to be at an exorbitant cost, and complained about
the lack of proper planning regarding personnel, including a lack of
third-world candidates among Paris-based employees for reassignment
to African posts, and the failure to recognize the need for an
employee dedicated to the issue of South/South coordination. (Note:
There have also been noises among some delegations and the Education
Sector secretariat about the overly strong influence of the US in
the Education Sector as a whole.) Yai also obliged both UNESCO
employee unions by giving them ample time to attack the Education
Sector reform plans with guns blazing during the FA Commission
meeting. (Note: the employee unions have been particularly vocal
and hostile to the proposed reforms. There was also a anonymous
letter circulating around UNESCO filled with rumors in a vicious and
personal attack on ADG Smith and his immediate staff).

4. (SBU) ADG Smith's overall plan for reform of the Education Sector
has already been given the green light for implementation by the
Director General and is not in danger. However, disgruntled
delegations, led by South African and India (comment: likely in
revenge for U.S. questions about Brazil-see septel) tried to force
through an EB decision that was critical of Smith. The U.S. working
with Canada and the United Kingdom, managed to craft a resolution
that called for an investigation into the consultancy contract and
requested a report at the next EB meeting, while removing language
that was implicitly critical of Smith and the DG. (Note: Smith has
said on several occasions that he is confident that his actions will
withstand scrutiny and that he welcomes an inquiry. We also have
heard rumors in recent days that the new French external auditor is
being encouraged to make investigation of this contract a priority
over investigation of the UNESCO Brasilia Office.)

5. (SBU) YO SI PUEDO. Cuba has been using UNESCO to vigorously
promote its literacy training method, "Yo si puedo" (YSP),
throughout the developing world to demonstrate their claims of its
superiority as an effective teaching method. They have managed to
keep YSP in the limelight, over the years, through clever linkages
to literacy conferences, literacy prizes, etc. For this Board, the
Education Sector had been asked to conduct an independent evaluation
on the effectiveness of YSP, compared to other literacy training
programs. The report gave YSP a lukewarm assessment overall. ADG
Peter Smith, whose sector is responsible for literacy education in
the context of the UN Literacy Decade, Education for All (EFA) and
the Millennium Development Goals, indicated that he would ensure
that YSP, no matter what the result of the Executive Board's
decision on its utility, would end up being "one pea in a giant bowl
of pea soup".

6. (SBU) Several GRULAC members of the EB were not happy with the
Secretariat's report and proposed an amended draft resolution that

SIPDIS
gave more praise to YSP. The Mission's Education Attach,
successfully negotiated language to the amended text to blunt the
final resolution adopted by the Board. These changes made it clear
that YSP was one of many existing literacy methods that countries
can use, if they choose. (Executive Board document reference 175
EX/9).

7. (SBU) EFA GLOBAL ACTION PLAN. The Board adopted changes to the
draft resolution on the EFA Global Action Plan that noted that the
directions outlined in the plan would have implications on the
future work and organization of the Education Sector and
specifically requested the DG to consult with the EB on all future
reorganizations of UNESCO. This was included to address concerns
raised by numerous Member States who opposed the way the education
management reforms had been implemented. The language expresses
concerns about how the process was handled but does not delay the
implementation of the Education Sector management reforms. The
resolution also asks the DG to consider the views that Member States
expressed during this EB meeting on the education reforms and
continue to update the Board on how the reforms are evolving. In
addition, the EFA resolution recognized the progress being made on
the Global Action Plan with the five convening agencies and requests
that the DG present a revised version of the plan at the EFA High
Level Working group in Cairo in November.
OLIVER

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