The Unesco prepares to commemorate its 75th anniversary during a meeting of its highest governance body starting Tuesday in Paris with the guaranteed re-election of its current director on the agenda and the hope of the return of USA.
Chosen four years ago at the head of UNESCO after a tight election, the French Audrey Azoulay she must be chosen for a new term, without rivals, and after having already received the support of the executive council.
Azoulay sees his re-election as a sign of the “confidence” and “unity” recovered within this UN agency for Education, Science and Culture, especially when in 2017 it was set as a priority to appease tensions.
Under his baton, the ultra-sensitive issues of the Middle East, such as the heritage of Jerusalem, were the subject of prior discussions to avoid possible pitfalls or were even postponed.
This policy that seeks to end internal division even led the United States to Israel, who left Unesco accusing it of an anti-Israeli bias, consider going back. “There are positive signs,” according to a knowledgeable source.
For some, the return of the United States would represent a counterweight to the growing involvement of China, which became the first contributor to the regular budget, excluding specific projects.
Beijing pays 15.5% of this budget that amounts to 535 million dollars for the 2020-2021 financial year, an increase of 3% during Azoulay’s mandate after 15 years without changes or decreases, according to the Unesco secretary.
Beyond mandatory quotas, voluntary contributions also increased to about $ 890 million, up 50% from the previous term (2013-2017) for specific projects such as rebuilding Mosul.
Beijing “filled the void left by the absence of the United States,” the researcher reported in Foreign Policy magazine in January. Kristen Cordell, counselor of the American Development Agency (USAID).
After especially evoking the collaborations between UNESCO and the Chinese technology giant Huawei, the expert also pointed out the Chinese proposal to host in Shanghai the International Bureau of Education.
Currently in Geneva, this Unesco center, which finances the host country, helps develop educational content and methods, a task that some would not want to see in a country marked by censorship.
The French newspaper The world it recently indicated that European countries were waging “a discreet duel with China” in this regard. But beyond these silent battles, progress was made on other fronts.
Encouraged by the UN agency, the two Koreas came together to jointly defend the inclusion in 2018 of the Korean traditional wrestling (Ssirum) on the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The director general wants to go even further and create a biosphere reserve in the DMZ, the demilitarized zone on the border between North and South Korea, and abandoned to the wild for decades.
Unesco thus works for reconciliation, faithful to the objectives of an institution born after the Second World War to promote peace through respect for cultural diversity and international cooperation.
“It is in the minds of men where the bulwarks of peace must be erected”, reads the preamble to the Constitution of this agency of Education, Science and Culture, whose formal creation took place in November 1946.
This 75th anniversary will be celebrated on 12 November with the participation of 20 heads of state and government and some fifty ministers, in parallel to the meeting of the General Conference of the institution.
Education, especially of girls, remains at the center of their actions. During the global closure of schools by the Covid-19, the institution immersed itself in the development of online education and training platforms.
The Conference, scheduled for November 9 to 24, should also discuss future issues, such as the ethics of artificial intelligence or the opening of scientific research.