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Cablegate: Unesco - Education As a Public Good

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Lucia A Keegan 11/07/2006 02:59:16 PM From DB/Inbox: Lucia A Keegan

Cable
Text:


UNCLAS PARIS 07210

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

DISSEMINATION: UNESCOX
CHARGE: PROG

APPROVED: AMB: LOLIVER
DRAFTED: DCM: AKOSS
CLEARED: LEG: TMPEAY

VZCZCFRI529
RR RUEHC RUCNSCO RUEHBS
DE RUEHFR #7210 3071604
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 031604Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2837
INFO RUCNSCO/UNESCO COLLECTIVE
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS 1801

UNCLAS PARIS 007210

SIPDIS

FROM USMISSION UNESCO PARIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: UNESCO SCUL ETRD
SUBJECT: UNESCO - EDUCATION AS A PUBLIC GOOD


1. Summary. Mission has picked up some murmurs about the desire of
a few UNESCO member states to have UNESCO draft a convention that
would treat education as a public good and attempt to remove
education from the purview of the WTO, much along the lines of what
was attempted during the drafting of the cultural diversity
convention. End summary.

2. Mission first became aware of this issue from a story put out by
the Belgian broadcaster RBTF about the September Francophonie summit
in Bucharest reporting that "the French community (in Belgium)
represented at the Francophonie by Minister President Maria Arena
wants to make education the top priority of the Francophonie ...
Education is not a commercial good like the others and should be
protected. ...The final communiqu of the Franophonie makes a
reference to this, but it is rather cautious." Language asserting
that education is not like other traded goods and services, is
identical to language used by France and other Francophonie members
to describe cultural goods and services in the run-up to the
cultural diversity convention.

3. The impetus for the cultural diversity convention came from the
Francophonie with France and Canada in the lead. The Canadian
delegation at UNESCO, however, tells us that they opposed the
Belgians' attempt in Bucharest and would likely oppose attempts to
use the Francophonie in the same manner as before. (Comment:
Canadian opposition likely stems from that country's federal system
of education.)

4. During the last Executive Board, the representative of
Luxembourg intervened on this issue. He said, "We have successfully
removed cultural goods and services from the WTO, now we must do
this with education." He was supported by the Harvard-educated
South African representative. (Comment: The Luxembourger's comment
is revealing about the types of problems the cultural diversity
convention will face when it goes into effect because the Mexican
"understanding" submitted with its ratification shows it is not a
view shared by all signatories of the convention.) We heard
subsequently that the Belgian ambassador to UNESCO has raised this
topic with the secretariat but also said, "The Bush Administration
is against all normative instruments at UNESCO, so we will have to
wait until after the next Presidential elections."

5. This issue was raised during A/S Dina Powell's October 23
meeting with the Director-General. At the time the DG said that he
personally was against such an instrument, but that the decision
would ultimately be up to member states. He did not say he would
try to stop it.

6. When discussing higher education, UNESCO tends toward the
Francophile and statist view of the world. During negotiations last
year over UNESCO-OECD cross-border higher education guidelines, the
U.S., Australia and the UK pushed back successfully to prevent them
from becoming binding. The Mission and other like-minded countries
ultimately succeeded in the establishment of a portal to share best
practices. This came about despite attempts by several states
during the spring 2005 Executive Board to see UNESCO create and
control a database that could potentially supersede national
authorities in determining quality standards for higher education
and would have been very expensive.

6. Comment: While the effort to have education considered as a
public good is still far from gathering any traction, Mission will
track this issue closely and work to prevent it from gaining
momentum. At the same time, the Mission will proceed cautiously
because we do not want to give the idea legs it does not yet have.
Moreover, as reported last week by "The Economist," European higher
education is seriously under funded and in trouble and is clearly
not the model that developing countries should aspire to.

7. Comment continued: The cultural diversity mischief can be laid
squarely in the lap of the Francophonie organization. With the U.S.
on the outside of both UNESCO and the Francophonie when the
convention was being cooked up, we had no idea what was coming at
us. Washington may want to consider paying closer attention to the
Francophonie, and based on the larger Francophone population in the
U.S., eventually consider becoming observers to that organization.
OLIVER

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