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St. Lucia Hits it off at UNESCO Conference

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Contact: Richmond Felix

November 2, 1999 - The 30th Session of the General Conference of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization is currently under the way in Paris. In the opening stages of the five-week conference a number of major issues were addressed, including a call for more action proceeding last yearís "Focus on the Caribbean."

St. Lucia has been making a strong case for greater accountability, more responsiveness and better governance of the august body, through Mr. Leton Thomas who holds a position on the Executive Board of UNESCO. In an address that received high commendation, Minister for Education, Human Resource Development, Youth and Sports, Honourable Mario Michel, again raised the question of restructuring UNESCO.

"The issues as I said centered around the whole question of accountability, but also had to do with the fact that you have a Director-General in place for a period of twelve years, who over time had began to treat the organization like his own," said Michel. He added that the time had come to return real power to the hands of member states.

Mr. Michel also pointed out that UNESCO has been dragging its feet on a number of projects submitted by the Caribbean. During his presentation, he capitalized on the opportunity to breath new life into these initiatives and to call for a stronger response. A new Director-General will take up office following the conference and it is expected that the response from the UNESCO Secretariat will be more favorable, especially to small member states.

St. Lucia was expected to make a bit for Mr. Leton Thomas to be elected as Vice President of the executive board, however after consulting with other delegations from the English speaking Caribbean, it was decided that the pursuit be discontinued. "Itís a lot of tactical considerations that influence that particular position," revealed Michel. He indicated "Barbados was also putting up a case for a particular position for the chairmanship of another commission and we felt that both bids would not have been likely to succeed. So it was decided that it would be better at this time to advance the candidacy of the Barbados representative."

Minister Michel along with Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development, Dr. Didacus Jules returned to the island over the weekend. Mr. Leton Thomas and Mrs. Shery Alexander Heinis, Secretary-General of the National Commission of UNESCO will remain in Paris until the end of the conference to advance St. Luciaís agenda.

The 30th Session of the UNESCO General Conference is being held from October 26 to November 14, 1999. The General Conference is held every two years.


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