THE EARTH TIMES
NOVEMBER 30 – DECEMBER 15, 1995
Bill Clinton offers dash of cheery news for Unesco at Anniversary
By Ashali Varma
President Bill Clinton offered some cheery news to Unesco on the occasion of its 50th
Anniversary. He told the Paris based agency that a return to its fold by the United States
remained high on his list of priorities-although such a development was not imminent.
Clinton lauded Unesco’s Director General, Federico Mayor, for his leadership.
Clinton’s message also cited “Unesco’s unique contributions to international human rights.” The president said that he regretted that the US was unable to join Unesco due to budget constraints. He did not say that considerable opposition to such rejoining still exists in Congress, especially among Republicans. The US left Unesco 11 years ago charging mismanagement by Mayor’s predecessor.
Unesco celebrated its golden anniversary in Paris on October 25-November 16 that was
attended by 14 heads of states, writers, educators and Nobel laureates, and by delegates from 184 countries. The organization adopted a Medium-Term Strategy (1996-2001). Unesco’s General Conference, which preceded the celebrations, called for avoiding duplication of activities with other UN agencies and urged the agency to further decentralize and streamline its operations.
The Conference also adopted Unesco’s budget of $518.4 million for 1996-1997, which will be devoted to programs in education, science, culture, communication and building what Mayor calls a “culture of peace.” For education, which is Uneseo’s primary focus, the budget allocates $104 million, increasing the funds for basic education for girls, women and disadvantaged groups. For science programs, the budgeted amount of $85 million will be aimed at boosting development through transfer and sharing of scientific and technical knowledge.
In the area of cultural development, which includes safeguarding the heritage, $45
million would go toward the protection and promotion of sites under the 1972 Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage; grants and workshops to promote artistic creation; and strengthening of national and regional capacities in publishing and copyright.
For communication and information programs, $30.5 million would be directed toward
strengthening the communications infrastructure in developing countries and also to
help develop community-based media to meet information needs of rural areas.
Director General Mayor said, “This is a zero growth budget in real terms,” adding, “but this year alone we have already had about $125 million in extra-budgetary contributions, which shows the confidence of public and private donors to Unesco.” The need for tolerance and peace was poignantly brought home to participants when a letter written for Unesco by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin shortly before his assassination, was read by Mayor.
Rabin wrote: “Of all the diverse international organizations and agencies which were created following the end of the Second World War it is Uncsco, with its emphasis on
education, science and culture, which speaks the most to the human spirit, to human creativity and to the universal human ethic of peace and cooperation in the midst of diversity and pluralism.”
In his address, Mayor spoke of his vision not only for Unesco but for all humanity. He stressed the need to end poverty and disparities, saying, “There is nothing which promotes a culture of violence more than poverty and exclusion.”