Switzerland elected again to UNESCO executive board

The Swiss Aletsch glacier, one of the largest ice streams in Europe, is the first UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Alps. Keystone / Anthony Anex

Switzerland has regained its seat on the Executive Board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It will be one of 58 members of this governing body for the period 2019-2023.

This content was published on November 20, 2019 - 18:30

On Wednesday, Switzerland garnered 175 votes, the most among the 58 new Executive Board members, at UNESCO’s 40th general conference in Paris. It will play a strategic role in the preparation of the organisation's new 2022-2029 strategy, according to the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), which welcomed this "success for the Swiss Confederation's foreign policy".

Switzerland last sat on UNESCO's Executive Board during the period 2003-2007. In 2015, it had postponed its candidacy to 2019 bringing the number of candidates to seven for six places in Electoral Group 1. In 2017, the US withdrew from UNESCO which meant six countries were therefore on the list for six seats on Wednesday.

Switzerland's priority for UNESCO is quality education, from early childhood to lifelong learning, an objective that is part of Agenda 2030. It is also committed to the development of scientific diplomacy, the protection of cultural heritage in all its forms, respect for fundamental freedoms including freedom of expression for both academics and journalists, according to the FDFA.

Switzerland's annual contribution to UNESCO amounts to nearly CHF4 million (around $4 million) out of a total budget of approximately CHF250 million. Switzerland joined UNESCO in 1949, even before its accession to the United Nations in 2002.

The country has a dozen World Heritage Sites. Among the more recognised ones are the terraced vineyards of Lavaux (2007), the watchmaking city of La Chaux-de-Fonds (2009) and the architectural work of Le Corbusier (2016).

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