The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the European Union have today announced they will strengthen their cooperation and scale up their joint operations on areas of mutual interest, such as education, culture, science and technology, water and oceans, and freedom of expression. The decision comes one year after the signing of a partnership agreement (Memorandum of Understanding) between the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Catherine Ashton and the European Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, to exchange information and work more closely together on areas of common interest.
Within this Memorandum of Understanding, the two organizations have undertaken a range of projects in education, culture, the sciences and human rights in several regions of the world. These include activities such as education and skills training for young Syrian refugees in Jordan, building tsunami emergency response capacity in Haiti, strengthening dialogue as well as media accountability in South East Europe, safeguarding and preserving cultural heritage in Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. Through this agreement, they have also supported initiatives, such as the International Teachers Task Force for Education for All, which helps countries recruit and train an adequate number of competent and motivated teachers.
New projects for the coming 12 months include the safeguarding of Timbuktu’s unique manuscripts in Mali, an advanced survey of groundwater resources in Iraq, the strengthening of capacities of Mediterranean youth networks to advocate for their rights and representativeness and technical assistance for developing countries to reinforce the role of culture as a driver for sustainable development. The new initiatives will push the European Commission’s contributions to the partnership to around 30 million euros.
"Our work together is bearing fruit,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova on the first anniversary of the Memorandum of Understanding. “I am confident that our collaboration with the European Union will substantially respond to some fundamental needs that are necessary if we are to advance an inclusive sustainable development rooted on quality education for all and the respect for cultural diversity.”
Commissioner Piebalgs added that "the initiative has proven that working together means our work is even more effective. The European Union and UNESCO share several priorities, but above all they share the desire to strengthen fundamental values to achieve inclusive development".
The Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2012 set clear strategic priorities and stimulated an increased dialogue on policy issues between the two organizations. Moreover, it encouraged cooperation and exchange of information to achieve the common goals in shared domains of interest.
The agreement builds on a longstanding cooperation between UNESCO and the European Union, and a shared conviction of the importance to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms as cornerstones of stability and development. It also engages the European Union and UNESCO to develop more effective multilateral cooperation.
Alexandre Polack (+32 2 299 06 77)
Maria Sanchez Aponte (+32 2 298 10 35)
UNESCO media: Sue Williams (+33 1 45 68 17 06)