UNESCO delegate picked in violation of merit

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has appointed a new deputy permanent delegate to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) in Paris in violation of merit.

A day before the end of its 16-month term in office, the previous government gave approval to the appointment of a person as Pakistan’s deputy permanent delegate to Unesco who was at 10th position in written test and third in a panel of three.

In a summary sent by the Ministry of Education to former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif, the ex-premier selected a person who was not even among the top five candidates in a merit-based exam conducted by the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), showed official documents.

Sources said that after an interview conducted by a panel constituted by the ex-PM, the person was pushed to the third place to make her eligible for inclusion in a summary sent to the premier for approval.

“The Departmental Selection Committee conducted interviews of 12 candidates on 8th July this year and selected the panel of three officers, in order of merit, consisting of marks in written test and interview,” read the summary sent to the former PM on July 31.

The education ministry, in the order of merit, forwarded names of Mansoor Ali Masood, currently serving in the economic affairs ministry, Saadiya Noori, posted as secretary customs FBR, and Lubna Said Ghias, also serving in the economic affairs ministry.

The ex-premier had the discretion to pick any of the three persons but he did not follow the merit list.

In the written test, there was a wide gap between the first and third candidates. The top candidate got 79.3 marks out of 100 while the one approved by Shehbaz Sharif received 62.85 marks. Masood was at the top position in the written test while Ghias was at the 10th position.

The position of deputy permanent delegate at the embassy of Pakistan in France is important for ensuring Pakistan’s interest in Unesco. The appointment has been made for a period of three years.

The former PM approved the appointment a day before dissolution of the National Assembly.

As many as 56 applications had been received and 42 candidates were found eligible as per eligibility criteria. LUMS was selected through the departmental procurement committee to conduct the written test, which was held on May 21, 2023.

The result was announced on May 29. Finally, 12 candidates, who passed the test and fulfilled the required criteria, were called for interview by the Departmental Selection Committee.

Pakistan has been a member of Unesco since September 1949 and also a member of Unesco Executive Board, member of the Committee on Conventions and Recommendations of the Executive Board, member of the Intergovernmental Council of the International Programme for Development of Communications (IPDC), member of the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting Return of Cultural Property to its Country of Origin or its Restitution in Case of Illicit Appropriation (ICPRCP), and member of the Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme.

People with right connections often could not perform well on these critical positions. Pakistan has not been able to fully utilise the Unesco forum to its advantage in the past.

Over the years, the country could arrange funding of just $80,000 for projects in education, water quality, women empowerment, capacity building, training of staff at schools for the visually impaired and the Centre of Excellence for Autism.

The deputy permanent delegate is responsible for liaison with the permanent delegations of member states based in Unesco, Group of Non-aligned Countries, and Group of Asia and the Pacific Member States at Unesco headquarters in order to project Pakistan’s point of view and safeguard national interest regarding election to the Executive Board, general conference and inter-governmental committees.

The Paris-based deputy delegate is also responsible for liaising with the Unesco Secretariat, field offices and affiliated organisations for obtaining information about their proposed programme activities and informing the Pakistan National Commission for Unesco in advance for effective participation by Pakistan.

The delegate is responsible for assisting the secretary general in the visit of Unesco officials and other delegations to Pakistan.

The person is responsible for covering the proceedings and work of Unesco’s General Conference and Executive Board including all important matters during different sessions.

The appointee will also be required to prepare an analytical brief for Pakistan’s executive board member on all issues and matters which fall within the mandate of the executive board.

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