HE Amal Mohammed Al-Koos, Secretary-General of the UAE National Commission for Education, Culture and Science, chaired the meeting held in Paris on the sidelines of the 204th Session of the UNESCO Executive Board, with the participation of several member states.
The regular meeting aims at discussing important issues facing national commissions which act as the official representatives of UNESCO in all countries. Various issues are raised to ensure sustainable development in the areas of work of the national commissions which fall within the framework of UNESCO, such as sustainable development, UNESCO-associated schools network, culture and heritage protection projects, social and natural science projects, and other topics of interest.
The meeting dealt with a number of topics, including answering questions related to defining the role of national commissions and their importance in the current phase, which includes a transitional and developmental plan for the work of UNESCO in order to develop the operational, administrative and project management aspects in accordance with global priorities; one task of these national commissions is to coordinate priorities and directions of national member states on the one hand and directions and programs of UNESCO on the other.
The session was opened by HE Amal Al-Koos, who thanked the member states and UNESCO for the great trust in the UAE and the appointment of the UAE National Commission to chair the session, and wished success to all national commissions. She stressed the importance of supporting all national commissions through fruitful and effective participation to achieve results that add to the member states and help achieving the goals of UNESCO and of the national commissions in all its members States.
She said the current phase requires more creativity and innovation, different form and content, modern mechanisms for communication, evaluation of existing projects and building fruitful strategic partnerships for the benefit of all to achieve common interests and effective performance.
HE Amal Al-Koos stressed that such meetings present an ideal opportunity for everybody to benefit from UNESCO's programs and directions that serve vital issues in the countries of the world, especially that there are 190 countries under its umbrella. She noted that through the soft power of countries and programs that correspond to global priorities and agenda, we can overcome challenges, taking into account the realities of member states in terms of the level of development in each country and its real needs. At the same time, she called all countries to cooperate in this area and to share ideas towards restructuring the national commissions and reviewing their roles and public policy.
She said that it was agreed to hold the next meeting in Kenya to discuss these issues and to have brainstorming sessions and workshops for member states represented by their national commissions, to come up with an integrated framework and review the general policy and roles of the national commissions.
She stressed the roles of national commissions that are important, serious and vital, as they study UNESCO's projects and the priorities of national States, and then coordinate with UNESCO in relation to the action plans and priorities represented by the five sectors of UNESCO.
She also talked about the important role of national commissions and capacity-building in priority areas, as well as sharing best practices with member states, pointing out that the UAE National Commission has started coordination and cooperation with several countries, including Oman, Bahrain, Germany, Finland, Portugal and Britain, in the field of sustainable development goals, natural sciences, and the development of the UNESCO-associated schools and clubs network. In addition, work is underway to develop technological aspects to facilitate communication with the relevant organizations, institutions and target groups within our programs.
Mr. Nicolas Cassianides, Assistant Director-General for External Relations and Public Information participated in the meeting and expressed appreciation for the efforts of national commissions in light of the important role they have played, especially in the current transitional phase through which UNESCO aspires to work differently and to reconsider all its projects, develop effective mechanisms and focus on partnerships with the private sector. He stated that the Director General of UNESCO seeks to develop the work mechanism in an effective and fruitful manner to make UNESCO a platform for ideas and creativity rather than a place of traditional work, stressing the need for joint action and cooperation to support the proposed development plan which was endorsed by most countries.
The meeting was held over two days. On the first day, the discussion was open for member states to ask questions and present ideas about the transitional period and the role of the national commissions. Everybody called for developing a clear plan, providing material support for the activities of national commissions, promoting the exchange of knowledge and experience at the global and regional levels, supporting joint initiatives, and working more closely with the UNESCO Director-General and her team to achieve these goals.
On the second day, the participating commissions resumed their work and discussed one of the important programs of the organization, namely the job opportunities program for capacity building and enhancing the presence of the countries in the organization. The progress of the program was reviewed and opinions of all national commissions about it were heard.
HE Al-Koos stressed the importance of sharing and presenting ideas in an evolving and fast-paced world, saying that we must keep pace with this development and make a qualitative shift in joint action by utilizing technology and artificial intelligence in developing work and communication among national commissions worldwide and leveraging accumulated expertise in each country and in UNESCO through cooperation and joint programs.
As an example, she referred to cooperation between the UAE National Commission and some other countries in the field of sustainable development goals, UNESCO-associated schools network and the natural sciences sector.
She pointed out the importance of involving young people, focusing on soft power and cultural diplomacy and benefiting from the experience of some countries that started their efforts in this field, such as Germany, where the national commission operates under the umbrella of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which gave it the opportunity to work in the field of cultural diplomacy. She called for learning from best practices adopted by such countries.
Some national commissions suggested that focus be made on fruitful and priority projects through which the use of human and economic knowledge can be promoted among all countries.
At the end of the meeting, HE Amal Al-Koos called on the participating countries to work on memoranda of understanding and their proposals within this comprehensive approach and framework in preparation for the next meeting to be held in Kenya in June 2018.