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UNESCO/mission/reforms – Palestinian membership/US and Israeli funding freeze

Published on November 15, 2011
Reception held on the occasion of the 36th UNESCO General Conference – Speech by Alain Juppé, Ministre d’Etat, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs (excerpts)

Paris, November 9, 2011

Madam President of the General Conference,
Madam Director-General,
Members of Parliament,
Ladies and gentlemen,


I’m very happy to welcome you this evening, on the occasion of the 36th UNESCO General Conference. Every two years, this conference enables us to reaffirm our joint commitment to protecting, transmitting and sharing knowledge and culture.

This commitment is particularly strong here in Paris, where the Palais UNESCO contributes to spreading the capital’s influence and – in the eyes of Parisians and all French people – symbolizes France’s determination to send out her humanist message to the world. It’s also a symbol of the close ties between diplomacy and culture, a symbol of our profound conviction that our cultural policy abroad is a major trump card for furthering our aims and the values we uphold in the international arena: peace, human rights, development and solidarity among peoples. It’s this conviction that guided us at the G8 summit in Deauville, where the French presidency wished to give a full role to Internet-related issues. I’ll have an opportunity to reaffirm this on 13 December, in the framework of the seminar on cultural diplomacy that we’re organizing on Xavier Darcos’s initiative.

Allow me first of all to thank all the ministers and heads of delegation, who have come from every continent to take part in this General Conference. By their presence, they embody the universal nature of UNESCO, the living force of our organization.

I’d also like to pay tribute to you, Madam Director-General, for your commitment and determination.

Since your election at the last General Conference, UNESCO has done remarkable work in promoting the right to education, equal opportunities, cultural diversity, sustainable development and solidarity. I’m thinking about the adoption of a recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape, the organization of the first meeting of states parties to the 1970 convention against illicit trafficking in cultural property, and the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity.

Under your authority, the organization has embarked on an in-depth reform and has been able to overhaul its programmes. It has adapted its agenda better to the international calendar and coordinated its action more effectively with that of the other players in the UN system. In Cannes, the G20 summit emphasized that this is necessary in a world that is changing ever more quickly and presenting us with a constant stream of fresh challenges.

Your commitment and determination will be more necessary than ever in the coming weeks and months.


As we all know, UNESCO is going to go through a difficult period, as a result of the announced interruption of American and Israeli funding following Palestine’s admission as its 195th member. Of course, we hope the United States will find a way of continuing to contribute to UNESCO’s programmes, to which she is committed. We also call on Israel to reconsider her decision to freeze her share.

In this delicate period, France stands alongside UNESCO and alongside you, Madam Director-General. Let’s not close our eyes to reality: adjustments and structural reforms will be necessary. It won’t be easy, and we have every confidence that you’ll carry them through successfully. As far as we’re concerned, the budgetary constraints we’re facing leave us little room for manoeuvre. But we’ll examine with all our partners – particularly in Europe and the Gulf – the ways and means to support the organization so that it continues to fulfil its mission.

More than ever, the world needs UNESCO, its message of peace and its development programmes in support of education, science and culture. (…)./.

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