Close of 35th Session of UNESCO General Conference

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The 35th session of the UNESCO General Conference concluded its work in Paris on October 23.

The General Conference defined the main areas of UNESCO activity, reviewed all current programs, adjusted the Medium-term Strategy for 2008-2013 and approved a 2010-2011 Program and Budget. The Conference had agreed to a budget ceiling of 653 million USD for these years, as proposed by the Director General (an increase of 3.5% in nominal terms). There will be allocated 118.5 million USD to education, which is to remain a priority area of activity of this international organization.

The session approved a number of tabled Russian initiatives. In particular, it supported the proposals for the establishment of a Regional Museum Center for capacity building in museum studies at the Moscow State Integrated Art and Historical, Architectural and Natural Landscape Museum-Reserve Kolomenskoye, for the participation of UNESCO, member states and all interested parties in the preparation of a World Conference on the Upbringing and Education of Junior Age Children being organized by Russia in 2010 and for the use of a space satellite to strengthen international cooperation in fundamental sciences.

On the last day of the General Conference, the investiture ceremony of Irina Bokova as UNESCO Director General took place. She had been elected by an overwhelming majority of member countries on October 15.

In her keynote address Bokova expressed pride at being elected to such a high post, adding: “My accession to this high office gives confidence to all women wherever they may be. It is a signal that they must have access to knowledge and power so that they may bring their contribution to society and take part in running world affairs.” She also said she thought it her duty to spread the message whereby gender equality was indispensable for development.

The new Director General devoted special attention to the necessity of widening dialogue in conditions of increasing globalization: “East, west, north, south: I will endeavor to build numerous bridges between these parts, all involved in the process of globalization. Globalization calls for watchfulness because – while it liberates and helps millions get out of poverty and destitution – it also risks reducing our world of rich diversity into uniformity.”

As one of her priorities Irina Bokova also spoke of the “new humanism” she intends to promote: “Cultural diversity and inter-cultural dialogue contribute to the emergence of a new humanism that reconciles the global and the local, and teaches us anew how to build the world. For me, humanism means aspiring to peace, democracy, justice and human rights. For me, humanism means aspiring to tolerance, knowledge and cultural diversity.”

The new Director General read out her speech using the main working languages of UNESCO, including Russian.

Messages of congratulations from leaders of a number of international organizations of the UN system and UNESCO member countries to the new Director General were read out at the ceremony.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov sent his message of congratulations to Irina Bokova.

The 36th session of the UNESCO General Assembly will be held in Paris in 2011.