30 May to 1 June 2016 summary records of the fifth session of the general assembly unesco headquarters, 2 to 4 June 2014


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Document: ITH/14/5.GA/6

Resolution: 5.GA 6

  1. The Chairperson proceeded with the topic of accreditation of NGOs, inviting the Secretariat to introduce the item.

  2. The Secretariat explained that the Convention laid out the division of labour between the General Assembly and the Committee with regard to NGO accreditation: the Committee recommended NGOs to the General Assembly when the criteria for accreditation were met, as per the Operational Directives, and the General Assembly took the final decision to accredit or not those recommended NGOs. Accredited NGOs might be invited by the Committee to provide advisory services in the future. The Secretariat reminded the Assembly that it was the third time it would consider requests for accreditation from NGOs. To date, a total of 156 NGOs had been accredited. At its seventh session in 2012, the Committee recommended 10 additional NGOs and at its eighth session in 2013 another
    12 NGOs. The Assembly, therefore, had a total 22 requests (annex to document 6) to consider in the present session. It was recalled that accreditation was granted for a period of four years, after which the Committee would review the contribution and commitment of the advisory organization and the Committee’s relations with it. The Committee would, therefore, review in 2015 the first 92 NGOs that were accredited in 2012.

  3. The Chairperson remarked that the Assembly had already discussed how the Committee called upon NGOs to provide advisory services, adding that the 22 additional NGOs would help increase the pool of accredited NGOs. Noting that there was general satisfaction to accept the Committee’s recommendation, the Chairperson turned to the draft resolution. With no comments or objections, the Chairperson declared Resolution 5.GA 6 adopted.

  4. The delegation of Guatemala remarked that it had presented an amendment at the end of paragraph 5 of the Resolution ‘especially those from countries and regions that have less representation and participation’.

  5. The amendment by Guatemala was projected onto the screen and was duly adopted. The Chairperson congratulated the 22 NGOs and wished them success in their work in the interests of the Convention presently and in the future. The Chairperson opened the floor to observers, but with no comments forthcoming, moved to the following agenda item.



Document: ITH/14/5.GA/7

Document: ITH/14/5.GA/INF.7.1

Document: ITH/14/5.GA/INF.7.2 Rev

Resolution: 5.GA 7

  1. The Chairperson then turned to item 7 and the adoption of the plan for the use of the resources of the Fund on the basis of a proposal submitted by the Committee (document 7), which could be read alongside the two information documents that presented the financial report, and the list of donors having made voluntary supplementary contributions to the Fund. It was noted that the revised version of the list of donors included the latest contribution, and that the most recent amounts could not be reflected in the final statement of 31 December 2013. The Chairperson warmly thanked the eight States that had made voluntary contributions to the Fund since the last General Assembly. Four had contributed to the sub-fund for enhancing the human capacity of the Secretariat. The Chairperson appealed to States Parties to support the sub-fund in any amount, and thanked those States Parties that had done so, as well as those providing support to the Secretariat through the secondment of staff or the Associate Experts programme. The Chairperson invited the Secretary to provide background information on the item.

  2. The Secretary turned to document 7 and the approval of the plan for the use of the Fund, which was one of the central functions of the General Assembly, along with the amendments to the Operational Directives and the election of Committee members. This important document consisted of four parts: i) a general introduction that provided the context of work; ii) an explanation of budget lines and allocations 2014-2015; iii) prospects for future budget cycles; and iv) the proposed draft plan for use of the Fund with percentages recommended by the Committee and their indicative amounts based on the balance of the Fund at 31 December 2013. The Secretary asked that the document be read in conjunction with the financial report that reflected how the expenses approved two years ago had actually been spent. The financial report of receipts and expenditures of the previous biennium and the annex offered a spending proposal for the biennium that began on 1 January 2014. The present General Assembly, therefore, had to decide on the draft plan for use of the Fund for a period of 24 months, which began on 1 January 2014 and would end on 31 December 2015. However, as the Secretariat did not cease its work between 1 January 2014 and the present time, the Assembly was invited to approve
    24 months – from 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2015 – but also the six months of 2016 to be granted provisionally, as had been the case in the previous General Assembly so as not to interrupt operations, which would then be reabsorbed at the next General Assembly.

  3. The Secretary explained that compared to the plan 2012–2013, which had been approved at the last General Assembly, the budget lines remained the same, though with some minor changes. Line 1 remained unchanged with 54 per cent of the Fund's resources allocated to international assistance that included the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage inscribed on the Urgent Safeguarding List, inventory preparation, and support to other safeguarding programmes, projects or activities. Line 2 was almost the same wording ‘preparatory assistance’, but there was a minor change regarding requests for international assistance. The Secretary recalled that the evaluation had recommended considering international assistance as an opportunity for capacity-building, with the Committee endorsing the principle that the Secretariat provide technical assistance to countries requesting it in order to develop more satisfactory files so a greater number might be approved by the Committee. The principle of technical assistance to countries to develop stronger requests for assistance was thus deemed necessary. Lines 3, 4, 5 and 6 remained identical to those of the previous plan. Line 3 under ‘other functions of the Committee’ encompassed a range of activities including capacity building, sharing best practices, and information management. Line 4 supported the travel and subsistence costs of Committee members from developing countries to attend meetings of the Committee if they did not have the means to cover all costs associated with their participation. This was a line that existed since the beginning of the Fund. Line 5 provided financial assistance to States Parties to the Convention nonmembers of the Committee from developing countries to participate at the meetings of the Committee, as many more States Parties wished to participate in the Committee’s proceedings in addition to the Committee’s 24 members. Line 6 provided the same thing but for those that were non-members of the Committee or State Party, and included members of the advisory bodies, accredited NGOs, and experts called upon to give advice to the Committee from developing countries wishing to attend the Committee. It was noted that no budget line was attributed to help attend the General Assembly. Line 7 provided for developing States whose representatives were appointed to serve in the Evaluation Body. At its session in Baku, the Committee introduced a special provision to support experts serving in the Evaluation Body from developing countries by compensating them for their work. This was an addition to remuneration provided to representatives of accredited NGOs. Finally, Line 8 remained unchanged, which was the Reserve Fund, as provided in Article 6 of the Financial Regulations of the Fund, that might be released in case of urgent need. To date, the Reserve Fund had not been tapped into, as Line 1 provided for international assistance, which had been used to provide emergency assistance to Mali, and thus the Reserve Fund had yet to be utilized.

  4. The Secretary continued by explaining the small difference in percentages applied to the balance at 31 December 2013, adding that the percentages were not exactly the same in some cases because the original balance was greater in the current biennium than in the previous one. Thus, the percentages had been adjusted to compensate for the higher balance, whose effect did not diminish the absolute amounts, meaning they either remained the same or increased. Applying the same percentage to international assistance would be acceptable, but applying it to support the travel of members of the Committee, whose number had actually decreased, would serve no purpose as the allocated funds would not be used [the projected spending was less for this biennium]. Thus, reducing certain percentages had the effect of maintaining the same value in absolute terms. Referring to the draft plan, the first column indicated the balance at the beginning of the year that had just ended (2012–2013), while the column (in grey) indicated the proposed budget for 2014–2015. In the case of international assistance, maintaining the percentage at
    54 per cent had increased the budget from US$3.3 million (in the last biennium) to
    US$3.6 million currently, though actual spending on international assistance in 2012–2013 amounted to US$1.2 million, which explained the balance increase in the Fund. With regard to preparatory assistance, US$369,000 was allocated in 2012–2013 but only US$44,300 was spent, with the amount in the current biennium set at US$371,000. Thus, even with the drop in percentages, the amount allocated was still large so that there was no danger of a country being unable to receive preparatory assistance. Under line 3 ‘other functions of the Committee’, it was noted that US$1.1 million had been attributed in the previous biennium and US$1.3 million in the current biennium. Under line 4, US$184,000 had been made available for travel costs for Committee members, with US$185,000 available in the present biennium. Thus, in terms of absolute numbers, the amounts maintained the same scale of expenditure. The only decrease, equal to US$5,000, was for the participation of invited members to the Committee sessions, which was expected to receive fewer requests given that the Evaluation Body would have fewer members. So again, the figure would more than cover all their needs.

  5. Regarding future prospects, the Secretary understood why many were wondering how, in such an austere situation currently faced by UNESCO, the Fund was extremely abundant and remained unspent. She explained that in line 1 under international assistance, accounting for 54% of the Fund, funds could only be spent if the requests made to the Committee by States were successful. Requests could not be artificially created and the Committee could not be forced to grant requests that in its opinion were unsatisfactory. Nevertheless, the good news was that there was an improvement in expenditures, i.e. this biennium had seen expenditures for international assistance increase. So, progress was being made since the first year, which had US$1.8 million (when obviously there were fewer States Parties and thus fewer contributions to the Fund). In 2010–2011 this increased to US$4.4 million, in 2012–2013 to US$5.8 million, and was currently standing at US$6.75 million, so although there was an increase in the Fund, the incremental difference was beginning to diminish. Eventually, the Fund would stop increasing and funds be dispensed. The Secretary reminded the Assembly that contributions to the Fund began in April 2006 with the entry into force of the Convention, but the first real requests for funding were submitted in 2009 following adoption of the Operational Directives in 2008. Thus, three years of contributions, without the concrete possibility of requesting assistance, had resulted in accumulated capital. This was in addition to the increasing number of States Parties whose contributions had further increased the Fund. It was hoped that the reserves would be balanced out by the next biennium, and eventually, the plan would solely be based on contributions from the previous biennium.

  6. With regard to mandatory contributions under ‘General Fund’ the Secretary explained that they referred to mandatory contributions under Article 26 of the Convention, but also nonmandatory contributions provided by States Parties that did not want to be related to Article 26 but wished to make an equivalent contribution called ‘assessed contributions’. Other contributions to the Fund included voluntary contributions made for specific purposes that were not governed by a decision taken by the General Assembly. The Assembly’s decision only applied to mandatory contributions under Article 26, as well as assessed voluntary contributions. Nevertheless, it was important to note the additional voluntary contributions by certain States Parties of varying amounts to support specific activities had been accepted by the Committee. Contributions from Japan assisted the working group on the scope and scale of an element; Spain, Netherlands and Norway contributed to supporting capacity-building projects in a number of regions; and Monaco and Turkey contributed for the tenth anniversary exhibition. In addition, a second smaller proportion of contributions were made to the sub-fund created by the General Assembly in 2010 to enable the Secretariat to strengthen its human resources capacity. Contributions were made from Bulgaria, China, Japan, Spain, Hungary and Indonesia, which secured a person for two years in the Secretariat in addition to other forms of occasional assistance that enabled the Secretariat to carry out its essential duties. The Secretary also referred to document INF.7.2.Rev, requested by the General Assembly and the Committee, of the list of donors having provided voluntary supplementary contributions and for what purpose, though the exact amounts were unspecified.

  7. Referring to the financial reports, and with a view to improve transparency, the Secretary drew the Assembly’s attention to document INF.7.1 and the table on page 11, which listed the beneficiary countries for capacity building, the specific projects, the timetable for implementation and the amounts allocated to the projects. The first column in the table showed the countries that had benefitted from capacity-building for example; in the second column, the session in which the Committee decided to accept the donor’s generous offer was indicated, as well as the start date of the project, the budget approved by the Committee per project, and the expenses spread over the biennia, depending on the start of the project, and so on. It was important to note however that some donors occasionally chose to stagger payments, especially for longer-term projects that covered several years. Thus, not all funds for a particular project had been received, with a deficit of US$ 869,000 that was pending for further implementation. The Secretary then referred to the second report on page 12, which again indicated the proposed spending plan project-by-project in relation to the extra-budgetary contributions in 2014 and the following years. It was noted that 2014 was a big spending year, while spending fell in 2015, and even more so in 2016. The Secretary concluded that donors should continue to propose projects to improve the projections for 2015 and 2016, as capacity-building activities and projects relied entirely on extra-budgetary contributions and should at least partially be reflected in these reports. Concluding the financial reporting, the Secretary understood that this might seem a bit intimidating, but on the other hand it was useful for the Assembly to gain another perspective of the work carried out by the Committee, as well as the Secretariat in implementing both requests for international assistance, support for travel, and the implementation of capacity-building projects. The biggest challenge, however, was to increase access to the US$4 million available for international assistance to the greatest number of States, which at the time was unexploited. The Secretariat was trying its best to implement measures to accompany States, but that limited human resources did not allow it to simultaneously support all the States. In any case, its priority was to ensure that there were no longer any reserves in the 54 per cent allocated to international assistance in the coming years.

  8. The Chairperson thanked the Secretary for the useful explanation of the draft plan, agreeing that there should not be any resources in the Fund when there were States in need, but that it was also understandable given the limited human resources of the Secretariat. Nevertheless, States in need should be given assistance, especially when the Convention had celebrated its tenth anniversary and some States had yet to establish their inventories. The Chairperson was happy that that the plan had been clearly examined and explained, and opened the floor for comments.

  9. The delegation of Zimbabwe congratulated the Chairperson on his election and his chairmanship, and sought an explanation on the effect the Convention Common Services Unit was likely to have on the capacity of the Secretariat to facilitate access to international assistance.

  10. The Secretary replied that the Common Services Unit only managed communication and the logistics in the organization of meetings, and thus it did not have any substantive role. Although the Common Services Unit would support the Secretariat’s work, it was also unfortunately accompanied by the suppression of three positions in the section. This reshuffle of human resources also affected other convention secretariats. Nevertheless, the Secretariat was looking into alternate ways of outreach, such as using the networks of trainers to support States on international assistance linked to safeguarding plans, much in the same way as for capacity-building projects with specialized trainers having skills like how to build a budget and correctly complete request forms. The Secretariat had even devised pre-filled forms that would automatically calculate budgets, as the Committee occasionally had to reject requests because of mistakes in calculation. In this way, a team of dedicated experts could be sent to offer assistance to States in place of Secretariat staff, so that States would not be affected by the lack of staff. The Secretariat would thus propose an activity to train trainers to provide support for international assistance to the Bureau of the Committee, meeting immediately after the session.

  11. With no requests for the floor, the Chairperson declared Resolution 5.GA 7 adopted. He wished to add his voice to the message by the Director-General in March in her letter in which sounded alarm regarding the increasing workload on the Secretariat and its continuing challenge to face those demands without additional support from Member States. It was noted that the General Assembly was a pioneer in this field by establishing the sub-fund in 2010. Yet, the sub-fund had received only a quarter of the total needs identified for the period. The Chairperson understood that not all States Parties found themselves in a position to contribute funds to the sub-fund or to provide staff on secondment but was grateful to those who had done so. At the same time, there was also a shared responsibility by all States Parties, whether or not they were in a position to donate resources, to realistically consider the capacities of the Secretariat, particularly in light of the budgetary austerity that was unlikely to end soon. Thus, it was essential to find ways to help the Secretariat, while ensuring that the Fund reached countries in need as quickly as possible. Due to an important commitment, the Chairperson excused himself from the podium and the Vice-Chairperson from Brazil took over his role to lead the debates in his absence.



Document: ITH/14/5.GA/8

Resolution: 5.GA 8

  1. The Vice-Chairperson proposed to move to the examination of item 8 and the revision of the Rules of Procedure of the General Assembly, inviting the Secretariat to provide the background information.

  2. The Secretariat explained that the proposed amendments presented to the General Assembly concerned Rule 2 and Rule 14 of the Rules of Procedure. Rule 2 determined who might participate as observer in the work of the Assembly. At the present time, the text did not mention Associate Members of UNESCO and, therefore, the draft amendment rectified the omission. Rule 14 concerned the procedures and timetable for the presentation of candidatures to the Committee. It was recalled that at the last session, the General Assembly was obliged to suspend Rule 14.1 requiring States Parties to send to the Secretariat their candidature for election to the Committee at least six weeks prior to the opening of the General Assembly. In 2012, the number of candidates in several electoral groups was insufficient at the deadline of six weeks and the Assembly chose to suspend its rules. The General Assembly in 2012 then asked that the Rules of Procedure be amended to recognize that the six-week deadline was impractical. There were also two further problems associated with Rule 14.1. The first point concerns the matter of timing. The Secretariat was obliged to ask States Parties of their interest in being candidates three months prior to the opening date of the General Assembly. Yet, at the time of the election the Secretariat would still not know all the possible States Parties. In 2013, for example, a country was not a State Party on the first day of the Assembly but became a State Party two days later because their ratification occurred at a particular time in the calendar. As elections usually took place on the third, fourth or fifth day of the Assembly, when the letter had to be sent, the Secretariat did not really know the number of States Parties, and therefore the information provided on the number of seats available to electoral groups or the number of vacant seats was unreliable. Thus, deferring the deadline by a couple of days would clear the confusion and the letter would be more accurate and informative at the time Member States would be invited to present their candidacies. The second points concerns, the exact number of vacant seats could not be known at that six-week period. The Secretariat recalled Article 26.5 of the Convention, mentioning that for any State Party of the Committee, which at the term of office was in arrears with its compulsory or voluntary contributions for the current and preceding year, its membership would come to an end at the time of the elections. In other words, new candidates would have to pay their dues, while current Committee members risked losing their seat if payment was overdue. Rule 14.3 thus stated that payments of compulsory and voluntary contributions to the Funds could not be accepted in the week before the opening of the General Assembly. This had been a hypothetical case until the present year when one Member State came within a very few days of losing its seat because of technical reasons delaying the payment. This gave rise to a number of interesting debates within the Secretariat about the practical problems faced with late payments. Unanticipated vacancies might arise until just before the election but the current Rule 14.1 required that candidatures present six weeks prior; this means States Parties were not permitted to present candidatures for last-minute vacancies.

  3. Outlining the revisions, the Secretariat reiterated that Rule 2 would add the Associate Members as a category of observer participants automatically admitted to the General Assembly proceedings. Rule 14.1 asked that the Secretariat’s letter be sent out three months before the date of the election rather than the date of the opening session, which would give a more accurate idea of the numbers of States Parties, vacancies, and seats allocated to each of the six electoral groups. Another problem that arose in the past related to the language in which it stated that States Parties’ candidatures shall be sent, which created an obligation that the States should submit the candidatures six weeks prior. The Secretariat proposed instead that States Parties are requested to send their candidature. In this way, the Secretariat could compile the preliminary list, but on the understanding that it was preliminary, which helped other States understand the current but not final context. Rules 14.2 and 14.3 remained unchanged, while new Rule 14.4 provided that, ‘The list of candidatures shall be finalized three working days prior to the opening of the General Assembly’, so that if a candidate State had not submitted its obligatory contributions prior to that seven-day period set out in Rule 14.3, they would not appear in the final list of candidatures. New Rule 14.4 read, ‘No candidature will be accepted in the three working days preceding the opening of the Assembly’, thus ensuring the presentation of a definite final list for the Assembly’s consideration.

  4. The Vice-Chairperson felt that it was important that the Assembly take stock of the accumulated experience during its past four sessions and adapt its rules to make its work more efficient and effective.

  5. The delegation of Zambia congratulated the Vice-Chairperson for his able chairmanship and expressed its gratitude to the hosts for its hospitality. The delegation wished to know what would happen on the unlikely but possible event that a State Party withdrew its candidacy within the last three days prior to the election.

  6. With no additional comments, the Vice-Chairperson turned to the amendments of the Rules of Procedure as proposed by the Secretariat on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis. There was no change in Rule 2, and the addition of Associate Members in Rule 2.1 was duly adopted. Rule 14.1 contained a modification in which ‘at least’ had been deleted, which was adopted. The Vice-Chairperson then turned to Rule 14.4, and asked Zambia whether it had a specific proposal with regard to its earlier intervention.

  7. The delegation of Zambia surmised that in the event of a withdrawal three days preceding the elections, it might be necessary to suspend a particular clause so as to allow for candidates or submissions to be taken from the floor.

  8. The delegation of Albania understood that the amendment by Zambia asked whether there could be new candidatures presented after the deadline in the case of withdrawals.

  9. The Vice-Chairperson explained that it would consult on whether specific language would be needed in the case of withdrawals, as suggested by Zambia, adding that the General Assembly could in any case decide to suspend its rules in extraordinary cases, as in the case of a withdrawal. Following consultation, it was deemed unnecessary to introduce an amendment in this regard.

  10. The Vice-Chairperson asked Zambia if it would withdraw its amendment following consultation with the Legal Adviser who confirmed that any State had the right to withdraw its candidacy at any time if it so wished. In which case, the General Assembly could suspend its rule, and that a specific rule was not required.

  11. The delegation of Zambia withdrew its amendment.

  12. With no further comments the Vice-Chairperson declared Resolution 5.GA 8 adopted.

  13. The Vice-Chairperson remarked that agenda item 9 concerned the distribution of seats in the Committee per electoral group, and agenda item 10 the election of its members, and suggested postponing the election until the following day and, therefore, duly adjourned the session.

[Wednesday 4 June 2014, morning session]


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