Senior UNESCO officials and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas attended the ceremony on December 13, which follows the decision of the agency’s General Conference on 31 October to admit Palestine as UNESCO 195th member.
Membership took effect on 23 November after Palestine signed and accepted the agency’s constitution in London. UNESCO thus became the first UN agency to admit Palestine as a full member.The Palestinian people, as all peoples, must be able to preserve their culture and heritage. They must benefit from quality education, education for peace.
**“It Goes Beyond Raising the Flag”**
In remarks welcoming Palestine to the agency, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova noted that membership “goes beyond raising the flag” and includes critical rights and responsibilities, as well as the sharing of universal values such as tolerance and respect for others.
“Membership allows a country to bring to the world that which it cherishes most – the wealth of its culture, the resonance of its dreams for mutual understanding,” she said.
“The Palestinian people, as all peoples, must be able to preserve their culture and heritage”, she said.
“They must benefit from quality education, education for peace. A strong educational system teaches respect for human rights. A vibrant culture respects the culture of others. In this connected world, healthy societies flourish through ties with others. UNESCO stands for all of this.”
**“It is a Tremendous Source of Pride”**
Bokova stressed that “multilateralism has never been so important. This must be a chance for all to join together around shared values and renewed ambitions for peace.”
In his address to assembled delegations and guests, Abbas said the admission to UNESCO was “a tremendous source of pride to us… Palestinian writers, artists and researchers have played a vital role trying to preserve the culture and identity of our people. UNESCO has also played a fundamental role – and has been a loyal partner.”
The ceremony was also attended by Katalin Bogyay, the President of UNESCO’s General Conference, and Alissandra Cummins, the chairperson of the agency’s Executive Board.
On October 31, UNESCO voted to admit Palestine as a full member of the Paris-based agency.
“The admission of a new member State is a mark of respect and confidence,” Bokova said following the vote.” She added “This must be an opportunity to strengthen the Organization and not weaken it, a chance for all to commit once again to the values we share and not to be divided.”
Bokova voiced concern by the “potential challenges” that may arise to the universality and financial stability of UNESCO. “I am worried we may confront a situation that could erode UNESCO as a universal platform for dialogue. I am worried for the stability of its budget.
> **“It is well-known that funding from our largest contributor, the United States, may be jeopardized,” she noted. “I believe it is the responsibility of all of us to make sure that UNESCO does not suffer unduly as a result. UNESCO’s work is too important to be jeopardized”** -Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General.
Admission to UNESCO for States that are not members of the UN requires a recommendation by the agency’s Executive Board and a two-thirds majority vote in favour by the General Conference.
The General Conference, which consists of the representatives of the States that are members of the agency, meets every two years, and is attended by member States and associate members, together with observers for non-member States, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
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.
Related: [www.un.org](http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=40710&Cr=palestin&Cr1=) | 2011 [Human Wrongs Watch](http://human-wrongs-watch.net/)