On Friday 13 August, 2021, UNESCO Beijing Office conducted a full-day staff retreat, in answer to an urgent call to press ahead the strategic development of the office through smart and joint planning. Such strategic planning was strongly supported by secretary-generals from national commissions of the 5 cluster countries. They offered insightful suggestions through their video messages to us.
Video Message from Mr. Kyung-Koo Han, Secretary General of the Korean National Commission for UNESCO
My name is Kyung-Koo Han and l am the Secretary-General of the Korean National Commission for UNESCO. I would like to thank Professor Shahbaz Khan and everyone at the UNESCO Beijing Office for giving me the opportunity to share our Commission’s views on the strategic directions and offer our suggestions for the Beijing Office in the next 5 years.
Our world is changing fasts. The ongoing pandemic has driven dramatic shifts in the way we work and live. It goes without saying that it has severely weakened international cooperation. In this context, it will be very important for the Beijing Office to put forward a strategic vision and innovative solutions to reboot international cooperation among the five countries it serves beyond the pandemic.
As stipulated in the Charter of National Commissions for UNESCO, cooperation between regional offices and NatComs is not just an ideal concept, but a statutory duty that we all share. We hope that, going forward, more national and sub-regional joint projects in a variety of fields can be used to link the UNESCO Beijing Office and the National Commissions in the sub-region more closely, and I would like now to offer a few suggestions for some ways that we hope the Beijing Office can help achieve this in various fields of UNESCO’s competence.
First of all, I would like to suggest that we restart the annual meetings of Secretaries-General of National Commissions in Northeast Asia that were arranged by the UNESCO Beijing Office between 1998 and 2012. We hope the Beijing Office can and will play a key role in restarting and facilitating the meeting. In particular, as sustainable peace on the Korean Peninsula is one of the key elements of the peace in Northeast Asia and beyond, North Korean National Commission’s participation in the meeting will be an important factor in the success of this regional cooperation process. In view of the difficulties in communication, we expect the UNESCO Beijing Office to play the role of facilitator and coordinator in resuming the annual meeting. I am confident that the meeting will greatly contribute to advancing UNESCO’s mission of forging a culture of peace in our region.
Secondly, in the Education sector, the diverse webinars held by UNESCO during the CO VID 19 education crisis have been important for information sharing. However, I’m afraid that too many similar online meetings simply for information sharing are being held separately by different sectors, institutes/centers and field offices. It is our hope that the Beijing Office will play a role beyond promoting information exchange among Member States. We hope that the Beijing Office can function further as a laboratory of ideas for promoting SDG4 implementation within our region.
We would like to suggest that the UNESCO Beijing Office resume the ASPnet National Coordinators Meeting in Northeast Asia, which unfortunately has been interrupted as a result of the COVID-19 situation. The meeting would be a great opportunity to discuss common issues and concrete cooperative measures among UNESCO at the sub-regional level.
In Natural Sciences, the East Asian Biosphere Reserve Network (EABRN) is one of the most important regional networks in East Asia, supporting the UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme, and the Beijing Office has been serving as its Secretariat since 2003. The network provides a good foundation for cooperation among Member States in East Asia in the implementation of the Lima Action Plan for Biosphere Reserves, contributing to the achievement of biodiversity conservation and SDGs. In this urgent and critical time of accelerating biodiversity loss due to climate change, we propose the further strengthening and activation of this network over the next five years. Naturally, as a founding member of the network as well as its funding partner, we will not hesitate to participate in work to achieve this.
In the next five years we sincerely hope that the Beijing Office can become a sturdy platform through which diverse regional stakeholders can come together to brainstorm and implement meaningful measures to achieve this goal.
There are many other suggestions that we would like to make in the Human and Social Sciences, Culture and Communication and Information sectors, but l believe there will be another opportunity to discuss them in detail with your office in the near future.
As Dr. Khan rightly mentioned in his letter addressed to the Secretaries-General of NatComs in Northeast Asia, the COVID-19 pandemic presents both an enormous challenge and tremendous opportunity to the members of the UNESCO family. Together, we can turn the threat of COVID-19 into an opportunity for greater cooperation and exchanges between NatComs and regional offices by fully utilizing various online platforms that are already evolving at a rapid pace.
We sincerely hope that the UNESCO Beijing Office will provide virtual forums for the NatComs in the sub-region to participate more actively in UNESCO’s global as well as regional initiatives, while at the same time developing proactive and relevant regional agendas for the future.
Thank you for your attention.