Cablegate: Electoral Group One Meeting Raises Thorny Issues


DE RUEHFR #0231/01 0561258
R 251258Z FEB 10





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: The first Electoral Group I meeting of the year
raised several issues that have the potential to complicate
Director-General Bokova's agenda at UNESCO. Another unexpected
problem for the U.S. also popped up with Turkey announcing its
intention to run for the Executive Board. This could potentially
make getting a Group I "clean slate" difficult, and complicate U.S.
plans to retain our seat. End summary.

2. (SBU) Luxembourg's Ambassador Georges Santer took over the
Electoral Group I chairmanship for the first time at yesterday's
meeting, 24 February. He made several comments indicating his
intention to make the group more inclusive and to use the meetings
to disseminate information related to the Executive Board to all
Group I members, instead of limiting it to Group I Executive Board
members only. He pointed out that the discussions were not intended
to coordinate policy, but rather to exchange information.

Experts for Bangkok World Heritage Meeting

3. (SBU) Three countries, Israel, Sweden, and Switzerland expressed
interest in sending an expert to the Bangkok meeting. France said
that it may consider sending someone as well, but has not yet taken
a decision. Chairman Santer asked that the countries consult among
themselves in order to determine which countries would fill the two
slots for Group I. The deadline for relaying the decision to the
Secretariat is March 1.

Information for All Program

4. (SBU) Austria is the only candidate for the Vice-Chairmanship for
the Information for All Bureau. Electoral Group I confirmed its
support for Austria for this position.

Intangible Culture

5. (SBU) Spain indicated its interest in obtaining a seat on the
Intangible Culture intergovernmental committee. Norway confirmed
that it was not a candidate.

Executive Board Issues

Executive Board Candidates

6. (SBU) Turkey announced its intention to run for a seat on the
Executive Board next year. Six of the nine Group I seats are to be
filled. The six whose terms end in 2011 are: France, Germany,
Greece, Italy, Spain and the United States. At least three of the
27 Group I countries have already expressed interest: the United
States, Israel and Turkey. France has never gone off the Board, and
is unlikely to do so. While it is still very early in the game, it
is highly likely that Germany, Italy and Spain will wish to retain
their seats for the next term, forcing a squeeze-play even without
any other Group I countries adding their names to the list. On this
point, the new Swiss ambassador, Mr. Imhoff, suggested that the
Group reflect on improving ways to increase rotation for different

NGO Committee

7. (SBU) Egypt's Charge d'affaires, Mr. Mohammed El-Zahaby, was
invited to speak to Group I members, in Egypt's role as the new
Chair of the NGO Committee, to provide more information on its
proposal to dedicate one day to a forum on "Violence in Nowadays
Society Among Youth and Against Women". El-Zahaby asked that each
geographic group designate one or more experts. He said that at
least one of the experts from each group would be on the panel,
while others could contribute during the debate or could send in
their comments in written form, which could be annexed to the
Committee's report. The new Israeli ambassador, Nimrod Barkan, took
the opportunity to announce that Israel would like to nominate an
expert for the forum, an Arab-Israeli women, who is a specialist in
countering violence against women. Spain also indicated its
intention to nominate an expert. El-Zahaby said that Egypt would
select the experts in consultation with the geographic groups, and
that the decisions would, of course, be balanced in terms of
geographic representation.

Creation of an NGO Fund and Prize

8. (SBU) El-Zahaby also told the Group that it is Egypt's intention
to create a fund which would permit NGO's from the South and from
less developed countries to participate in the NGO committee's work.
He also said Egypt will introduce a proposal to develop a new
UNESCO Prize for NGO's.

Peace and Culture

9. (SBU) The Chairman told Group I members of his meeting with the
Ambassadors of Morocco and Guatemala, who are lobbying for their
Culture of Peace initiative. An "INF" (information) document is
being prepared by the two delegations, and is expected to be
available in the next week of so. The Secretariat is also preparing
a document on the subject.

External Evaluation of UNESCO

10. (SBU) The international team of auditors who are carrying out
the external evaluation of UNESCO will be meeting with all UNESCO
delegations on March 10, and have also asked to meet with Group I
members on March 24.

Thematic Debate

11. (SBU) Executive Board Chairman Mitrofanova has been discussing
possible subjects for the next Thematic Debate. Of the two
proposals that have been put forward: The Road to 2015:
Accelerating Equitable and Sustainable Progress Towards
Internationally Agreed Development Goals including the Millennium
Development Goals and the Role of UNESCO; and, Intercultural
Dialogue in the 2010's - Revisiting Policies Within a Context of a
Culture of Peace, the second on the Culture of Peace seems to have
the upper hand.

No to Longer Speeches

12. (SBU) Mitrofanova's suggestion that speaking time for the
Executive Board be extended to 10 minutes has been withdrawn. We
are back to the standard 8 minute interventions.


13. (SBU) In a discussion that continued after the meeting among
several ambassadors, the question of how to handle the draft
resolution regarding madrassas was raised. Germany said that during
a recent informal consultation with Mitrofanova and some of the
regional Vice-Chairs, there was "a growing uneasiness among all -
not on the substance, which was not discussed, but regarding the
fact that the draft resolution was not well prepared and lacks

14. (SBU) Despite Mitrofanova's attempts to get the resolution's
co-sponsors to agree to postpone the discussion until the 185th
Executive Board, it appeared unlikely they would agree to any delay.
Mitrofanova is continuing her efforts to consult with key players,
in hopes of finding a solution. The Spanish ambassador said that
requesting a report summarizing various "experiments" that have
taken place around the world regarding religious schools and
certification might be the way out of this dilemma. The French
ambassador strongly urged all delegations to consult with their
capitals, given what she called the important "political and
practical consequences" of any decision taken at UNESCO on this
subject. Canada noted that trying to push any action back to the
185th Executive Board would be difficult, and suggested that we try
to excise the word "madrassas" from the text, and make it about
certification of private schools, tying it to the Global Monitoring
Report. Overall there is a great deal of anxiety about how this
issue will play out, and how, once again, Bokova's agenda could be
side-tracked by the question of religion, particularly after the
unfortunate detour her High Level Panel on Intercultural Dialogue
took last week when religion took an overly prominent place in the
discussions which was not desired, nor intended.

Executive Board Consultations

15. (SBU) Some surprising tensions were revealed during the
discussions, indicating that several Member States were not happy
with their perception that the Vice-Chair for Group I on the
Executive Board, Germany's ambassador Martina Nibbeling-Wriessnig,
was moving too far in policy discussions with Chairman Mitrofanova
without having held proper consultations with other Group I members.
The German Deputy defended his ambassador, saying that these were
"informal" meetings with the Chairman, and were not formal

Israel's New Heritage Sites

16. (SBU) In an effort to pre-empt questions on the news stories
regarding Israel's decision to list two sites on its National
Heritage list, Ambassador Barkan took the floor, and said that these
were domestic sites, which will, given their new status, be
receiving more money for better upkeep and renovation. He stressed
that all decisions regarding the Hebron site, which is holy to both
Jews and Muslims, will be taken in full coordination with Muslim
leaders. There were no comments from delegations following Barkan's

17. (SBU) Comment: While the Electoral Group I meeting gave us a
glimpse of several potential problems looming ahead, Turkey's
unexpected announcement that it intends to run for the Executive
Board will make a Group I "clean slate" with the U.S. as one of the
chosen candidates much more complicated. End comment.

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