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Africa may be spared UNESCO budget cuts

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) says its African science programme may be spared in budget cuts brought on by the organisation’s current financial problems.

UNESCO cut its science budget by 31 percent last December owing to a shortfall in funding, which was a result of the United States freezing its contributions to contest a vote to admit Palestine as a member.

The UN agency has already cut back on projects such as the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission’s tsunami warning system for the Caribbean.

But African science programmes may be spared cuts or budget freezes, a UNESCO official told Research Africa on 5 March.

Anna Candau, a communication officer for UNESCO, spoke as the agency’s executive board was set to discuss its work in Africa at the organisation’s annual meeting in Paris.

“African programmes will always be a priority. I can’t say what will happen yet but the general principle is that Africa will be spared as much as possible,” she said.

UNESCO’s work in Africa includes helping governments to develop science policies.

Candau added that UNESCO is looking to “reinforce the presence of field officers in Africa” but said further details would be provided once the UNESCO board has concluded its meeting this month.

“Whether that reinforcement will mean a small number of offices in Africa with a great number of staff, or having more high-level professionals going to work in Africa, we don’t know yet. But the intention is to support Africa in every way,” she said.