National Statement of United States Ambassador Crystal Nix-Hines to the 200th Executive Board
October 10, 2016
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Madam Director-General Bokova, President of the General Conference, Excellencies.
We appreciate the condolences for Hurricane Matthew and extend our profound regrets to the people of Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba.
The Director General has asked this Board to make hard choices about UNESCO’s future strategic direction. And so we should. If UNESCO is going to lead – truly lead — in the international system, it needs to focus like a laser on those areas in which it has a clear comparative advantage — on unique, groundbreaking work that other organizations do not do, or do not do as well. That may mean reducing or eliminating other work that detracts from UNESCO’s mandate, is already being tackled by others, or does not achieve significant impact
Board Members had good discussions this weekend along these lines, but more work needs to be done including a closer evaluation of the distinct attributes UNESCO brings. We will highlight a few areas where we believe UNESCO’s comparative advantages are most pronounced.
When working well, UNESCO’s close relations with Education Ministries, coupled with its field presence, means that UNESCO can deliver services to countries both top down, and bottom up to advance important 2030 Agenda priorities. That sets it apart from organizations that focus on policy advice, on the one hand, or grassroots services, on the other.
UNESCO has effectively utilized the power of a top down/bottom up approach in both Global Citizenship education and gender sensitivity training, where it has helped Ministries shape education policies, while delivering hands on teacher training to foster global citizenship and gender empowerment.
Using a similar approach, UNESCO is on track to achieve significant results in education to prevent violent extremism, where its leadership in the international community is unrivaled. This is the defining issue of our era.
In September, UNESCO developed policy guidance to help governments develop national PVE plans in support of the UN Plan of Action. We helped facilitate the development and translation of UNESCO’s Teacher’s Guide on the Prevention of Violent Extremism, and plan to support a UNESCO training for teachers in how to use the guide.
A combined policy and practical approach should guide future work plans, but it requires strong service deliverers. Field offices and Category One institutes that demonstrate success should be rewarded, while non-performers should be eliminated.
We experienced the power of an effective regional partner during our first TeachHer STEAM Training in August. UNESCO’s Institute for International Capacity Building in Africa, a Category One Institute, and its new, energetic director, brought substantial expertise, which, together with other partners, made for a powerful inaugural training for 58 highly motivated educators from six African countries.
Tomorrow, we will host a briefing on the Addis program, as well as plans for a November Central American training. And we will soon launch a U.S.-funded small grants program to permit African countries to develop their own initiatives to close STEAM gender gaps, and impact the lives of young women. TeachHer has the potential to grow into the kind of large, multi-stakeholder partnership UNESCO has advocated. But we need more partners, including Member States, to support the effort.
In the field of culture, UNESCO’s comparative advantage is unequaled, with World Heritage its strongest brand. With over 1,000 sites, it is imperative the World Heritage list gain broader representation from all geographic regions. To further that effort, the United States will sponsor a “first-timers” training session on successful inscription packages. We hope other countries will join this effort. Next year, our National Park Service will offer site preservation training for countries associated with the global slave trade.
UNESCO’s effective work to protect and preserve heritage in peril, including its Unite 4 Heritage campaign, is another unique attribute. But more can be done, including safeguarding the heritage of ethnic and religious minorities.
In the science sector, as the primary organization for marine science in the UN system, the International Oceanographic Commission plays an important role in developing scientific knowledge to improve responses to environmental impacts now occurring. The United States will continue to support IOC’s research and programs. The devastating effects of Hurricane Matthew underscore the importance of this work.
As we contemplate UNESCO’s strategy for action on climate change, we should amplify UNESCO’s unique mandate to help the world better understand the impacts of a changing climate, including on our oceans. Demonstrating U.S. commitment, President Obama has enlarged a U.S. national marine preserve in Hawaii to create the world’s largest marine preserve. The third “Our Ocean” Conference generated commitments of over 9 billion dollars to protect the marine environment and over 3.8 million square miles of ocean.
In light of the perils to our oceans, we urge UNESCO to apply its “Unite4Heritage” expertise to launch a new social media campaign on the oceans. My government is prepared to support such an effort, including through experts and public diplomacy support.
Finally, in running for reelection to the Executive Board, we recommitted to do all we could to resolve our funding situation, and this Administration — including Secretary Kerry personally — has worked hard to make good on that pledge. But even as we make concerted efforts, increasingly one-sided and politicized Middle East resolutions detract from UNESCO’s good work and impede our efforts.
Going forward, let’s work together to strengthen UNESCO’s comparative advantages, and commit ourselves to a new path, a more strategic direction, a better way of doing business – for UNESCO, for ourselves, and for the world.