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unesco general conference 39th session

REPORT BY LILIANNE PICARD, ICJW REPRESENTATIVE TO UNESCO

ICJW representatives attended the 39th session of the General Conference, which took place in Paris at the UNESCO headquarters from October 30 to November 14, 2017.

The General Conference includes delegates of all the Member States. It meets every other year for deciding on the policies and the main lines of work of Unesco. Its duty is to set up the programs and budget of the Organization.
The opening session took place in a big room, surrounded by the flags of all the Member States. It was attended by a large audience, many of the delegates wearing their national costumes. 

The Conference elected its President for the coming 2 year period: Mrs Zourh Alaloui from Morocco. Her CV is impressive and she is the first woman from an African country to hold the position. The Conference elected also the new Executive Board, which is in charge of implementing the program of the General Conference and of other missions defined by the Conference.The Executive Board appointed Mrs Audrey Azoulay, from France, to the post of Director General of the organization, where she succeeds the outgoing Director General, Mrs Irina Bokova from Bulgaria.

Mrs Azoulay is the 11th Director General of Unesco and the second woman to occupy this
position. Born in Morocco in a very important Jewish family and raised in France, she was Minister of Culture and Communication in the French government in 2016 and 2017. She has inherited an embattled Agency, accused of bloated bureaucracy and political bias, especially against Israel, and which struggles with cash shortage. (As you may know, the United States and Israel have stopped paying their fees since the admission of the Palestine Authority. Both States have decided to quit the Organization in 2018.)

The Jewish NGOS have decided to remain present in the Organization and to participate in different events such as the International Day of the Girl and the Forum on Climate Change.
We shall see what happens.

In her inaugural speech, Mrs Azoulay insisted on the relevance of the Unesco mandate
in a particularly difficult world. She pointed out the Unesco ’s priorities: climate change,
terrorism, attacks against cultural diversity and sciences, oppression of women, and the situation of migrants. As a steady supporter of tolerance and diversity, coming from her personal experiences, she has committed herself to work in these fields and to act as a
mediator to solve the political and financial difficulties of the Organization. We wish her good luck for this difficult task.