2. An International Debate
The UNESCO Vote
On the morning of 21 October I arrived early for work. It was a momentous day. The much anticipated vote took place later and I accompanied the Director-General of UNESCO throughout the day. This meant I sat behind my boss in the conference room and provided him with briefing papers and speeches during the vote.
This was the culmination of years of work. Although my role was small, I had worked feverishly in favor of the ideals of the organisation. I felt strongly about the potential of fostering mutual understanding through the exchange of words and images. My years of working for the re-entry of the United States to UNESCO were going to be tested on this day. (Appendix 3) Dressed in my best suit, I accompanied my boss to the conference hall and I took my place with the secretariat on the stage.
As each country eloquently argued its case for or against the international cultural treaty the mood of the room hinted toward an obvious outcome. Country after country expressed a favorable view of the convention and after each speech the applause grew louder. Finally the United States responded.
The American delegate spoke in very clear terms. Slowly and deliberately she explained why and for what reasons the United States would not be voting in favor of the convention on that day. The echo of the speech being translated into the six official languages of UNESCO could almost be heard bouncing from the ears of the delegates. Silence filled the room with uncomfortable glances being exchanged. The moderator thanked the United States for its intervention and indicated the next country’s name and the debate carried on. When the moment came for each country to cast their vote the mood was celebratory. It was a unanimous celebration of one-hundred-forty-six countries agreeing on common cultural policy principles.
When the moderator called for those in favor of the international treaty to raise their name plates the rest of the secretariat and I stood on the stage. Slowly each engraved black plate filled the air. At first the wave was timid. As each delegate realised the vote of the other delegations, the arms holding the plates stiffened with confidence. The counting of the votes were being done by other members of the secretariat. I did though see and register in my mind an incredible visual, literal and emotional shift in international cultural policy. As the voting ended, the final tally was announced. Amid the emotional applause and congratulatory hugs and hand shakes the questions that lead to this report began to emerge.