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Australian National Commission for UNESCO

Charter of the Australian National Commission for UNESCO


1. The Australian National Commission for UNESCO provides expert analysis and policy advice on United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) matters to the Australian Government; contributes to the development and implementation of programs in support of UNESCO priorities; and promotes and publicises UNESCO's objectives and programmes.


2. The National Commission advances Australia's priorities and interests as a UNESCO member state.

3. The National Commission fulfils its function in accordance with Article VII of the Constitution of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the Charter of National Commissions for UNESCO adopted by the UNESCO General Conference at its 20th session, and other relevant decisions of the General Conference and the UNESCO Executive Board.

4. Specifically, the National Commission:

  1. brings together Australian Government departments and agencies and experts from the community to assist in the development of policy on UNESCO matters, including briefing for Australian delegations to UNESCO General Conferences;
  2. will provide advice and make recommendations to the Minister for Foreign Affairs (hereafter referred to as 'the Minister') on matters relating to UNESCO; and
  3. act as a first point of contact for UNESCO issues within Australia.

5. In fulfilling its function, the National Commission should, through engagement with relevant portfolio departments and agencies, consult as widely as possible with individuals, organisations and institutions associated or concerned with strengthening Australian engagement with UNESCO.

6. The Minister may from time to time issue directives to the National Commission, and the National Commission will comply with such directives.

7. The National Commission is an advisory body for the Minister, through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (hereafter referred to as 'the Department'), and has no executive powers. The National Commission is directly responsible and accountable to the Minister for the exercise of its responsibilities.


8. The National Commission and its members will undertake the following:

  1. contribute to the development and implementation of Australian and UNESCO programs and services;
  2. where required by UNESCO, advise the Department on formalising Australian endorsement of proposed initiatives, projects and nominations, in accordance with the National Commission's identified priorities, and on the advice of relevant portfolio departments and agencies;
  3. ensure the quality of programs and services;
  4. monitor National Commission expenditure and make recommendations to the relevant financial delegate for expenditure;
  5. will follow the development of UNESCO's program and bring to the attention of appropriate agencies the potential benefits of international cooperation;
  6. contribute, as resources allow, to national activities related to UNESCO's program and its evaluation; and
  7. update and re-issue the Australian National Commission for UNESCO Charter at least every five years.

Structure and membership

9. The National Commission shall consist of:

  1. a Chair;
  2. six community members, that is:
    1. one specialist member in each of UNESCO's five major programs: education, the natural sciences, the social and human sciences, culture, and communications and information (one of whom will also serve as Deputy Chair); and
    2. a youth member;
  3. two parliamentary observers, one representing the Government and one representing the Opposition;
  4. one ex officio member, or their nominated representative, from Departments engaged on UNESCO matters, including those with portfolio responsibility for:
    1. foreign affairs;
    2. communication and information;
    3. environment and heritage;
    4. education;
    5. human and social sciences;
    6. natural sciences;
    7. culture; and
    8. overseas development assistance; and
  5. a Secretariat provided by the Department.

10. The Chair and community members shall be appointed by the Minister:

  1. for a period not exceeding four years; and
  2. on a part-time basis.

11. The Chair and community members may be re-appointed.

12. National Commission appointees will be Australian citizens.

13. The parliamentary observers are nominated by the Minister until ceasing to be members of the Senate or House of Representatives or the dissolution of the House of Representatives, whichever is sooner. The Minister will consult the Leader of the Opposition in appointing the parliamentary observer representing the Opposition.

14. The Minister has the absolute discretion to terminate the appointment of the Chair, a community member or a parliamentary observer at any time. The Chair, a community member or parliamentary observer may resign his or her membership at any time by notification in writing to the Minister. This paragraph 14 does not apply to the ex officio members.


15. The responsibilities of individual National Commission members (including the Chair and ex officio members) are to:

  1. have a commitment to the National Commission's mission and goals and act in the best interests of the National Commission;
  2. make reasonable inquiries to ensure the National Commission is operating efficiently, effectively, appropriately and legally in achieving its mission and goals;
  3. comply with the Department's policies and procedures for the management of the National Commission as laid out in the Policies and Procedures for the Management of Foundations, Councils and Institutes and Other Discretionary Grant Programs;
  4. contribute the time needed to study and understand material for meetings and other National Commission work in advance;
  5. meet all of their fiduciary duties and responsibilities; and
  6. apply good analytical skills, objectivity and good judgment; and express opinions frankly, ask questions that go to the fundamental core of the issue and pursue independent lines of enquiry when:
    1. attending National Commission meetings
    2. participating in discussions
    3. participating in decisions, and
    4. participating in sub-committees as appropriate.

16. In addition to paragraph 15, the Chair is responsible for:

  1. chairing meetings (unless agreed otherwise)
  2. facilitating National Commission meetings to ensure there is effective participation and decision making at National Commission meetings including:
    1. working through the agenda;
    2. ensuring the effective participation of all members present at meetings;
    3. encouraging constructive questioning and strategic thinking;
    4. clarifying decisions (and wording where appropriate) for the Secretariat and the National Commission as a whole;
  3. managing potential conflicts of interest in accordance with departmental policies;
  4. ensuring adequate follow-up and reporting; and
  5. promoting good relations with the Minister and other relevant portfolio Ministers, the Secretary and other staff of the Department, and key stakeholders.

17. In addition to paragraph 15, the ex officio members have full voting rights on the National Commission and are responsible for:

  1. providing recommendations on appointments and extensions of National Commission community members, where relevant to their portfolios; and
  2. providing policy advice to the National Commission on the Government's policy priorities in their portfolios.

18. In addition to paragraph 17, the ex officio member from the Department is responsible for:

  1. providing advice on the administration and management of grant programs; and
  2. ensuring all spending proposals recommended for approval are consistent with discretionary grant program guidelines and the Department's financial management and accountability requirements.

19. The Secretariat shall comprise a Secretary-General and such other staff as are required.

20. The responsibilities of the Secretariat, under the authority of the Minister, are to:

  1. provide administrative support to the National Commission including record, circulate and retain copies of minutes of each meeting and maintain records of all out-of-session decisions made; and
  2. undertake other activities that progress the goals of the National Commission.

Conduct and ethics

21. All members of the National Commission, including ex officio members, are required to abide by the principles set out in the Australian Public Service Values and Code of Conduct, and where applicable, the Department's Code of Conduct for Overseas Service with the exception that they shall not be subject to the Department's disciplinary procedures. In particular, the members of the National Commission are required to:

  1. disclose potential conflicts of interest and address any issues in accordance with Departmental policies;
  2. not use their position and information for personal benefit or advantage at the expense of the National Commission;
  3. deal with other members and the Secretariat with courtesy and respect; and
  4. respect the privacy and confidentiality of information obtained in the course of their participation and not share information that members are instructed to keep confidential.

22. Nothing in paragraph 21 shall be taken as conferring any diplomatic or consular immunity, privileges or status on any member of the National Commission.

23. The parliamentary observers of the National Commission will be subject to any relevant applicable conduct and ethics requirements arising from their positions as members of parliament.


24. Subject to paragraph 25, a person appointed to be a member of the National Commission shall be:

  1. paid 'Category 2' sitting fees, and 'Tier 2' travel and accommodation expenses in accordance with Australian Government Remuneration Tribunal Determinations; and
  2. entitled to be reimbursed for other expenses actually incurred by the member in the performance of their duties as a member of the National Commission and as recommended by the National Commission and approved by the relevant financial delegate.

25. A member of the National Commission who holds any appointment (or is otherwise employed) on a full-time basis in the service of the Commonwealth, the Administration of a Territory or a public statutory corporation is not entitled to be paid any remuneration in respect of his or her holding or performing the duties of the Chair or member of the National Commission. The member may be entitled to travelling allowances at the discretion of the Department and subject to resources and National Commission priorities.

Meeting procedures

25. Meetings of the National Commission shall be held at such times and at such places as the National Commission determines. At least one, and no more than four meetings, will be held each financial year.

26. At a meeting of the National Commission, a quorum shall be constituted by any three members or not less than half the members for the time being holding office, whichever is the larger.

27. The procedures for the conduct of meetings of the National Commission, including procedures for the appointment by the members from amongst their number of an Acting Chair and a Deputy Chair, shall be determined from time to time by the National Commission.

28. The agenda for each meeting and any briefing papers will be available to be distributed to members no less than one week prior to each meeting.

29. The minutes for each meeting will be circulated no more than two weeks after each meeting, to the extent possible.

30. The procedures for out of session decisions by the National Commission shall be determined from time to time by the National Commission.


31. The National Commission will review its activities annually and produce an annual Program Report for the Minister's consideration. The Program Report is to be published on the Department's website once it is approved by the Minister.

32. The National Commission will ensure all discretionary grants awarded to third parties are included in the Discretionary Grants Central Register (DGCR) and advertised on the Department's website.

33. The Department will have responsibility for fulfilling all financial reporting requirements in respect of the National Commission and its activities.

Funding Arrangements

34. The National Commission will not be a legal entity and neither will it enter into contracts, incur debts or spend funds. The Commonwealth (represented by the Department), on behalf of the National Commission, will enter into contracts and spend funds in order to perform the National Commission's activities.

35. In carrying out its function, the National Commission may recommend grant funding for innovative proposals which would, in the National Commission's assessment, advance the National Commission's goals and objectives, consistent with Australian Government policy.

36. In meeting government accountability requirements, either the First Assistant Secretary, Multilateral Policy Division ( FAS MPD) or Assistant Secretary, International Order  Branch (AS ORB) or Director, UN Governance and Reform Section  (Dir UNR) (subject to relevant delegations) can approve the expenditure of funds, the engagement of consultants, and entering into contracts (including grant or sponsorship agreements) by the Commonwealth (represented by the Department) for the performance of the activities recommended by the National Commission, and for other matters related to facilitating the National Commission's functions.

37. Moneys required for the purpose of enabling the National Commission to discharge its functions and the implementation of the National Commission's recommendations shall be obtained from:

  1. moneys standing to the credit of any Special Account established under Section 20 of the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 for those purposes; or
  2. any other moneys lawfully available for those purposes.
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