UAE wins place on Unesco executive board

The UAE has won a place on the Executive Board of the United Nations' educational, scientific and cultural agency.

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DUBAI // The UAE has won a seat on the executive board of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), placing it among major international decision makers.

"It is a seat at the most senior position on Unesco that comes with privileges, influence and responsibility," said Dr Christina Gitsaki, the Unesco chair of applied research in education at Sharjah Higher Colleges of Technology.

The UAE is one of the 31 new members elected to the 58-member executive board by Unesco's member states, which are attending the 36th session of the general conference.

The conference, in Paris, began on October 25 and continues until November 10.

"The win is a testament to the international efforts of the UAE in various areas: in research and innovation; in renewable energy; in education and trying out different models of schooling; in humanitarian efforts; and its accomplishments within the heritage and culture domains as well," Dr Gitsaki said.

Unesco's mission is "to contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information," according to its website.

This past June, Al Ain was the first UAE location to be selected as a world heritage site on Unesco's prestigious list, which includes Egypt's pyramids and India's Taj Mahal.

Sharjah officials will also submit a file to Unesco on Sharjah's heritage area as a possible world heritage site next year. Unesco named Sharjah the Cultural Capital of the Arab World for 1998.

In 2010, the UAE and 11 other countries had falconry recognised by Unesco as an example of intangible cultural heritage.

The UAE's membership on Unesco's executive board can also help efforts to name Bu Tinah, a small archipelago off Abu Dhabi, as one of the world's "New Seven Wonders of Nature".

"Unesco is very active, and does a lot of work in underprivileged countries," Dr Gitsaki said. "UAE can now help highlight issues in the region that previously didn't get any attention."

The Minister of Education Humaid Mohammed Obaid Al Qattami, who headed the UAE delegation to the conference, said the UAE received 144 votes out of total 186, topping the Arab Group in the organisation, which competed for three seats in the board.
The other two winning Arab countries were Saudi Arabia and Tunis.

States are elected to the executive board for a term of four years, and the board meets twice a year to examine the execution of the programmes adopted by the general conference.

In a statement released on the state news agency Wam, Mr Al Qattami said the win reflected the huge respect the UAE enjoys worldwide, and the prominent role it plays in serving global issues, particularly in the humanitarian arenas.

"This win is a translation to the progress and prosperity witnessed in all walks of life in the UAE, thanks to our wise leadership," he said.