Paris Chapter scrutinises UNESCO budget for next biennium

PARIS (G-77/IPS)-- A number of important events and priority concerns clutter the agenda this year of the Paris chapter of the Group of 77, according to its new chairman, Pablo Gabriel Obregon, ambassador of Colombia and permanent delegate to Unesco. Meetings have been held during the past weeks and more will be held as Unesco's Executive Board convenes in May and the General Conference, in November.

Topping the agenda of G-77 in Paris is the preparations for the budget for the next biennium (1998-1999) which will be adopted at November's General Conference.

An ongoing project, rolled over from last year, is an analysis of the working methods of the General Conference. A special group set up by Unesco has met on several occasions over the past one and a half years and a final document has been produced which will be presented to the Executive Board in May.

Obregon said that the parts which are of primary importance to G-77 will be examined so that these can be defended or disputed by the G-77 members on the Executive Board.

Two important reports likewise need to be studied: one done by the Commission on Education in the 21st Century chaired by former European Commission President Jacques Delors and the other, by the Commission on Culture and Development headed by former U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar.

Although a more profound scrutiny still has to be done, Obregon said that there seems to be a ''large agreement on the Delors report''. There is also a ''consensus on the body of the Perez de Cuellar report'', he added, ''although there is debate within the G-77 on some of the conclusions of the Perez de Cuellar report''. One theme which could raise much discussions could be the suggestion to create a category of cultural crimes just as there are crimes against humanity.

Other G-77 preoccupations are the regional conferences on higher education. Two have already been held: one for the Latin American and the Caribbean region and another for Africa. The regional conference for Asia will be held later this year in Manila. All these preparations are for the World Conference on Higher Education to be held in 1998.

Regarding the financial situation of Unesco, the Chairman of the Paris chapter said that cutbacks have already hit Unesco. ''We are concerned that some very important countries have not been members of Unesco for the past decade and that the programmes of Unesco could be affected further by the trend among developed countries to give less importance to non-political U.N. organisations.
There seems to be a tendency to stay in technical bodies like the World Heritage Programme. But where there is a need for North-South cooperation, they leave. The trend is worrisome.''