Thursday, October 20, 2011

First and Second Ladies make UNESCO policy?

Someone pointed out that the U.S. delegation to UNESCO tries to keep quiet about most of the issues brought up in UNESCO's governing bodies. That makes sense to me. If 193 delegations all felt free to comment on every item, and on the comments of every other delegation on every item, and .....

On the other hand, I recall that Laura Bush made literacy one of her "things" as first lady, the United States pushed for a literacy initiative by UNESCO, there were major literacy events in the United States involving UNESCO, and Mrs. Bush became a UNESCO  goodwill ambassador.  I also recall that Jill Biden, a community college teacher, was called upon to attend a UNESCO conference on higher education shortly after her husband, Joe Biden, took office as Vice President. I understand that the United States delegation to UNESCO is now encouraging UNESCO to look carefully at two year institutions of higher education.

Now I think literacy is a good thing for UNESCO to encourage and I think that there is a lot to be said for two year colleges, but should U.S. policy towards UNESCO depend on the interests of the wives of the president and vice president, or should there be a more formal consultation, say with the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO.

I can understand why UNESCO secretariat officials bow to the wishes of the White House in such matters, given that the United States was so long out of UNESCO and that the United States contributes 22 percent of its regular budget, some $70 million per year. But one would hope that the governing bodies of UNESCO would be more capable of creating Organization wide priorities and imposing them on the Organization's secretariat.

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