Strategic Transformation, a collective challenge


The year 2020 is off to a very good start for the Strategic Transformation, marked by the many successes we achieved together since the start of the process. This relates particularly to the decisions taken by the Member States at the 40th General Conference, the dialogues with Member States and the successful first meeting of the High Level Reflection Group in Paris.

The 40th session of the General Conference, entitled “(Re) Generation – Rethinking multilateralism with young change agents”, set multilateralism at the top of its agenda. Opening the event with the presence of the representatives from 193 Member States and the 11 Associate Members, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres spoke strongly in favor of multilateralism. He emphasized that it requires coordinated and multilateral solutions to resolve the global challenges of our time. This message echoed the Director-General’s speech delivered at the 204th of the Executive Board on the Strategic Transformation: “rejecting multilateral cooperation should not be an option at a time when issues that are at the heart of the mandate of UNESCO are at the center of the process (…). We must take our destiny in hand, take back the initiative, that is, to start a transformation, not by default, but by strategic choice”.

The Strategic Transformation has clear directions for the New Year. For the last 18 months, Strategic Transformation process has been ongoing at UNESCO and it has been broadly discussed with the Member States of the Organization.

During the General Conference, the APX Commission examined, on the 16 November, the progress made in the Strategic Transformation process, in particular pillars 1 on administrative reform and pillar 2 on the efficiency of the means of actions (see document 40C/55). Member States have reaffirmed the need for a reform of the Organization and their commitment, which is vital for the future of the Organization. They also underlined the importance of having an inclusive and participatory approach to the process, which stresses that the Strategic Transformation is a collective endeavor.

Furthermore, the 40th session of the General Conference also marked an important step forward for pillar 3 of the Strategic Transformation process, which aims at increasing the impact of the Organization’s programs and therefore represents a decisive step in the preparation of the Medium-Term Strategy of the Organization.

A series of substantial dialogues with Member States, organized in July and October 2019 served as a solid basis for the debates of the General Conference concerning future orientations and the preparation of the Medium-Term Strategy for the period of 2022-2029. The highlights of these dialogues as well as an overview of the main trends, opportunities and challenges, which could affect the Organization’s future programs were presented to the General Conference (see document 40 C / INF. 18).

These sectoral and transversal dialogues also served as a solid foundation for a first meeting with the National Commissions on November 15, at the occasion of the Interregional Meeting of National Commissions. The dialogues with the National Commissions, the unique network within the United Nations system, engaged participants from programme sectors’ initiatives, potential transversal trends and the road map of the Medium-Term Strategy for 2022-2029 (41 C/A). The Deputy Director-General underlined in his opening speech that “this kind of approach is a first in our organization. In a multilateral organization like ours, there is no relevance without consultation, nor efficiency without cooperation”.

It is in the same spirit the independent and recognized personalities have been asked to shed a new light on the programs and major regional and global trends. The first meeting of the High Level Reflection Group was held on 12 and 13 November 2019 at UNESCO Headquarters during the General Conference, launching the work of the group. The members of the group reaffirmed their commitment to contribute to the review of UNESCO’s programs, which aims to be more targeted and interdisciplinary, better adapted to current challenges, and support UNESCO’s strategic repositioning by 2030. Members States will adopt the Medium-Term Strategy at the next General Conference in 2021.