On 5 December, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the United Nations (UN APPG) hosted a parliamentary meeting on the wider value of UNESCO to the UK, which was chaired by Lord Hannay of Chiswick. Alongside Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, speakers for the event included Professor W John Morgan, Chairman of the UK National Commission for UNESCO and Ambassador Matthew Sudders, UK Permanent Delegate to UNESCO.
Mrs Bokova outlined UNESCO’s immense contribution across the fields of education, culture and heritage, including for the UK. She also spoke about the importance of gender equality in education and the need to promote freedom of speech and expression. In the latter context, she highlighted the role played by UNESCO in ensuring safety for journalists in the course of their reporting in difficult circumstances. In addition, Mrs Bokova praised the National Commission’s report and welcomed the prospect of sharing the learnings with other National Commissions. She further emphasised that "UNESCO is not just for the developing world but UNESCO matters for everybody".
In his presentation, Professor Morgan highlighted the crucial role played by the Commission in fostering UK participation in UNESCO activities. In his view, “the National Commission is a hub which connects British civil society, Her Majesty’s Government and UNESCO”. He also discussed the Commission’s recently released report titled the ‘Wider value of UNESCO to the UK’. The report estimates that UNESCO affiliated organisations in the UK benefit by generating £90 million per year through the UK’s membership of UNESCO. This is six times the contribution made by the UK to the organisation.
Ambassador Matthew Sudders also focussed on the multiple contributions of UNESCO in different fields and elaborated on UNESCO reform in recent years. Complimenting the National Commission's report, Ambassador Sudders stated that the report not only shows "the economic value in a number in pounds that we can relate to but it also shows the broad range of stakeholders that we already know about in the UK".
The speeches were followed by a spirited Q & A session, where questions ranged from the need for UNESCO to engage actively with civil society and partner with other international organisations to the difficulties in promoting education in some parts of the world.
Audio recordings of the speeches will be made available shortly.