Can Medsin-UK benefit from UNESCO?
Through the (International Federation of Medical Students) IFMSA, Medsin-UK is affiliated to UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation). The following information has been prepared by the IFMSA official responsible for communication with UNSECO.
The specific question at this point is whether there are any Medsin-UK events or Medsin-UK activities that would benefit from UNESCO patronage (see below). This may seem slightly confusing, by please contact email@example.com if you have any questions, and if you have any feedback (postiive or negative) to offer on the IFMSA-UNESCO partnership, please email firstname.lastname@example.org by the 31st October 2012.
UNESCO’s fields of activity
The United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization can concisely be said to work for a sustainable, equal and peaceful international community. The Internationally Agreed Development Goals (IADGs), including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) underpin all of UNESCO’s activities. Although a majority of Medsin-UK and IFMSA’s fields of interest are more closely related to the UN’s pure health agency – the World Health Organization (WHO) – many still fall under the UNESCO umbrella. Examples of this are the very concept of peer education with its methods, sexuality education including HIV/AIDS prevention, gender equality that is currently a top priority for UNESCO, human rights issues and the youth movement. Another top priority goes under the slogan “Education for All by 2015” and any IFMSA project that educates the general public is very much in line with this strategy.
Experts lead different “sectors” with subcommittees and coordinate UNESCO’s activities. It is often these individuals that are relevant as external contacts for the IFMSA and Medsin-UK. What they implement is decided by the National Commissions to UNESCO (often simply referred to as the member states) during general assemblies. Lastly, UNESCO provides a framework for its around 370 NGO partners to collaborate and there is an abundance of NGOs working with projects similar to ours.
IFMSA partnership as of the 189th session of the UNESCO Executive Board in March 2012
This section aims at briefly explaining in what the IFMSA partnership with UNESCO consists, with its granted advantages and obligations imposed. Adopted in the autumn of 2011 and executed in the spring of 2012, UNESCO has restructured its framework for working with non-governmental organizations. The IFMSA was in this process reclassified from being in an operational partnership, a category that no longer exists, to a partnership of consultative status.
Consulting partners are invited to be involved as closely and regularly as possible with the various stages of planning and execution of UNESCO’s programme in relevant fields. It is implemented by granting such partners observer spots at UNESCO meetings where they may make statements on matters of their competence. Our competence is primarily the field of youth and secondarily health.
Under the authority of the IFMSA plenary we may also submit written statements at any time to the Director-General of UNESCO regarding its programme. The IFMSA are also consulted when UNESCO drafts its strategies and budgets. It is the view of the LO to UNESCO that certain of our policy statements could be used to attempt at expanding the scope of IFMSA’s reach. Our consultative status means that we have an opportunity to affect the work of UNESCO.
These partnerships are designed to make NGOs official partners for the development and implementation of UNESCO’s programmes, why, while the nature of UNESCO partnerships are primarily of an intellectual and collaborative nature, partners are allowed to seek project grants through the participation programme (see later).
The IFMSA are obliged to inform the Director-General regularly of our activities carried out in UNESCO’s field of competence and of changes in our governing body. The IFMSA are obliged to acquaint our general members with the UNESCO activities and achievements that are likely to interest them. The IFMSA shall invite UNESCO to be represented at meetings where the agenda is of interest to them and we shall have representatives at the International Conference of NGOs where UNESCO cooperation is reviewed; collective consultation on UNESCO’s work is made; and facilitation of inter-NGO collaboration executed.
Opportunities for the IFMSA, its projects, Medsin-UK and individual members
1 UNESCO patronage for specific events
For its consulting partners the UNESCO offers the opportunity to grant their patronage for events within their area of expertise. Upon request the Director- General reviews events and decides upon patronage status. The formal benefaction of UNESCO allows the event to use the UNESCO logotype and patronage message on all marketing, communication and publications. This moral support is aimed at helping trusted partners reach a perception of higher credibility and professionalism.
It is the estimate of the LO to UNESCO that patronage status can help IFMSA events to be perceived as reliable and professional to the extent that it can attract greater involvement of our own members, incite a heightened sense of responsibility among our own members, ease the process of obtaining other sponsorships, as well as giving a stronger appeal to externals that may aid us. It may also encourage the beneficiaries of our projects, i.e. the people we try to help, and give credibility to us when we try to affect others through our policy work.
If you have any suggestions about Medsin-UK or Medsin-UK activities' events that would benefit from UNESCO patronage, please email email@example.com before the 31st October 2012.
2 Participation Programme Grants
The Participation Programme constitutes a significant part of the UNESCO budget and aims at executing its mission through its partners and increase collaboration between the UNESCO, its member states and NGOs in general. During the last decade the IFMSA has obtained such financial support for several projects. Currently the Peer Education Training Project has a grant of 15’000 USD under implementation for the term 2012-2013.
3 External support of an intellectual nature (workshops, lectures, advice)
The UNESCO network contains a large number of experts in the fields described in section three. These externals have assisted the IFMSA before. A few examples follows. The Secretary General of UNESCO’s International Bioethics Committee was the keynote speaker for a workshop organized in Denmark. Together with UNESCO, UNAIDS and the International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation, the IFMSA developed a resource kit entitled ‘HIV/AIDS and Human Rights: Young People in Action’ together. Several regional workshops under the Youth Initiative on HIV/AIDS have been organized together with UNESCO and UNAIDS, one of which was concretely hosted by the IFMSA at the 20th World Scout Jamboree in Thailand. IFMSA trainers have also organized workshops on Tobacco, Human Rights and AIDS together with UNESCO.
4 Affecting the UNESCO
In the very definition of our partnership it is entailed that we are consultants to the UNESCO. Even if we work in the health domain our chief field of expertise is that we are young and represent coming generations. UNESCO consults us because their decisions will primarily affect our world. Therefore we are invited to most UNESCO meetings to give our input on strategy and budget. Representing youth and future health professionals we have previously attended the Youth Forum, the World Conference on Higher Education, meetings of the NGO Collective Consultation on Higher Education, Culture for Peace and World AIDS Day Debates.
UNESCO actively listens to their consultants and therefore we here have an opportunity to expand the scope of the IFMSA mission and goals as we can encourage a much larger organization to adopt strategies, goals and budgets in line with what we think a better world looks like. If the IFMSA believes that the policies we produce ought gain stronger momentum it makes sense to exert whatever influence we have on decision makers. If this is the case, being consultants to the UNESCO may not be considered solely as aiding them but also as an opportunity for our Federation to implement our mission. It is however difficult to render an effort/reward estimate as there are to my knowledge no records on how much other organizations listen to us specifically, but it is clear that the UNESCO is affected by their NGO collective consultation, of which we are part.
5 Meet other NGOs to share and learn
Through what UNESCO calls Joint Programmatic Committees and other structures there is a framework for all the official NGO partners working in the same field to collaborate. Several times per year specific action groups meet in Paris to discuss strategies on how to achieve common goals and the IFMSA has previously attended workshops on Human Rights and Youth. I am not able to present an estimate for this action point, as there is too little data.
6 Material resources
There is an abundance of often high-quality material available through UNESCO. Some material is SCOME-related even if not specific for medical education, much is SCORA-related, as the UNESCO International Guidelines for Sexuality Education, the EDUCAIDS Overviews of Practical Resources which directs the reader to specific methods, and the EDUCAIDS Technical Briefs that briefly summarizes issues on HIV/AIDS and Education. SCORP and SCOPH also have access to relevant material. The effort/reward estimate is relatively high considering it is quick and easy and it is suggested that the LO to UNESCO maintains an overview of existing material and new releases for direct and targeted distribution to the projects that may use them.
7 Project support from National Commissions to UNESCO
This opportunity ties in to all of the above but operates on a national level. The National Commissions to UNESCO work to implement the UNESCO strategy in the same way that the UNESCO as a whole does. They are obliged to work actively to achieve the goals of the UNESCO. It is therefore also in their interest to collaborate with partners working in the same field. Although the activity level of National Commissions varies greatly, many can provide the same kinds of support mentioned above on a national level, i.e. directly to your NMO. It is however difficult to state an effort/reward estimate as this will vary greatly between states. In the annexed live form you can inform the LO to UNESCO if you wish to establish contacts with your National Commission.
8 UNESCO internships for IFMSA members
University students who have completed at least three years and are undertaking studies in a field directly related to the UNESCO’s programme or indirectly supporting fields, e.g. law, can apply for unpaid internships lasting one to six months at the Paris headquarters or the regional offices. The benefit is presumably the experience of working for the kind of intergovernmental and multicultural institution that UN agencies are. The relevant fields for medical students at the moment are supposedly gender equality, HIV/AIDS prevention and to some extent sustainable development. The UNESCO has met previous initiatives from the IFMSA to earmark a spot for IFMSA members with disinterest and the current LO to UNESCO does not recommend restarting such a process. Further, although an internship may be of great personal development, the current LO to UNESCO struggles to see how one or two internships every other year would benefit the federation (the acceptance rate for applicants is <10%), why the effort/reward estimate is low.