UNESCO a priority for G-77 in Paris

PARIS, March - Ambassador Sami Kronfol of Lebanon, the new chairman of the Group of 77 chapter in Paris, has set as a priority the defence of UNESCO as an indispensable tool in promoting cultural cooperation among nations.

Kronfol, the ambassador to France and permanent delegate of Lebanon to UNESCO, succeeded ambassador of Colombia to France Pablo Obregon as G77 chairman.

‘’One of the priorities of the Group of 77 in Paris, based in UNESCO, is to consolidate the actions of UNESCO, its skills, its importance and the role it plays, which benefit primarily the member countries of the Group of 77,’’ said Kronfol.

The role of the G-77, he said, would be to defend UNESCO each time the organisation feels that UNESCO faces threats to its policies, financial and human resources.

‘’UNESCO is indispensable to cultural cooperation among the member countries of G-77 and the cooperation between G-77 member countries and other countries.’’

In the past, the departure of a certain number of countries had put to risk the universality of UNESCO, the G-77 chairman said.

‘’The role of the G-77 was to conserve the universality of UNESCO by persuading other countries, big or small, to participate in UNESCO, stay or to come back, as did Great Britain in 1997.’’

According to Ambassador Kronfol, there had been enormous pressures on UNESCO. ‘’But these pressures did not succeed in breaking up the mission of UNESCO. It does not mean, however, that risks no longer exist. We believe that the role of the Group of 77 is to keep intact the image of UNESCO as one that is alive and appreciated by all, even by countries which have left it.’’

The Group of 77 applauded the return of Great Britain, the ambassador said. ‘’It is a grand country, with a rich culture, which can contribute to cultural cooperation among nations. We will applaud the return of the United States and hope it can settle its obligations to the United Nations system.’’

Another priority of the Group of 77 is to consolidate the organisation and make it a group which can negotiate with the other groups within UNESCO with the view to determining together the policies of UNESCO.

One such policy, Kronfol said, is to foster greater cooperation among nations and build democracy that is not only national but international as well, to build peace.

‘’This policy was gravely jeopardised. Without peace, there is no cooperation.’’
The next biennium of UNESCO will be very busy for the Group of 77. Five themes will preoccupy the G-77 which will reflect on the future role of UNESCO. The international conference on culture will be held in Stockholm in March 1998.

The international conference on higher education will be held in Paris in October 1998. This year will also mark the fiftieth anniversary of the declaration of human rights. An international conference on science is to be held in 1999.

Consultations will also be held on the human right to peace. ‘’In all of these,’’ he says, ‘’the Group of 77 will have to define its position’’, he concluded.