Unlike other UN organizations, UNESCO has a limited number of country offices manned by officers employed directly by Headquarters. Instead it works through National Commissions which each Member State is supposed to establish after joining the organisation. National Commissions are the responsibility of each Member State as far as day to day operations are concerned. Their function is to act as “bridges” when Member States are interacting with UNESCO through liaising, advising and informing government bodies, institutions and individual intellectuals on UNESCO matters. The organisation, however, has regional offices which work hand in hand with National Commissions in a group of countries (region or sub-region).
The Malawi National Commission for UNESCO was established on 1st June 1979 in pursuance of the above constitutional requirement of UNESCO. The National Commission, as such bodies are popularly known, started operations on 27 May 1980.
The main objective is to make Malawi’s membership in UNESCO meaningful and beneficial both to Malawi and UNESCO. Another objective is to ensure that Malawi participates actively in activities of a regional or sub-regional nature, e.g. seminars, symposia, research projects, conferences, inter alia. Again the Commission ensures that Malawi contributes to policy discusions about UNESCO.
The Commission’s mission mentioned above is fulfilled principally through four ways:
- Firstly, the Commission advises government on those activities which are of interest to Malawi, the southern Africa sub-region, and the Africa region.
- Secondly, in its fields of competence, UNESCO promotes professional and intellectual interaction of many institutions. The Commission ensures that the Malawi society is involved in this interaction.
- Thirdly, the organisation produces a lot of information through the different meetings, surveys and research activities. It is the duty of the Commission to pass on this information to institutions and individuals who can benefit from it. This is done through a well organized documentation system.
- Finally, UNESCO executes activities in a number of ways, for example, it has collaborated with Government in matters pertaining to policy formulation, conducted surveys, studies and seminars. Commission officers have attended expert meetings, evaluated and reported on all activities carried out by UNESCO.
The Malawi National Commission for UNESCO has had an illustrious history. It has provided indispensable interlocutory services in the relationship between UNESCO on the one hand, and the Malawi and Government, NGO’s, the Civil Society and other stakeholders in the country on the other hand. In this relationship, the Commission has happily played “midwife” to a number of initiatives that are the pride of Malawi today.
Notable among these are: the establishment of the Guidance, Counselling and Youth Development Centre for Africa; the Copyright Society of Malawi; the National Youth Council; the Journalism Degree Programme at the Malawi Polytechnic; 6 Community radios; the Malawi Anti-Doping Organisation (MADO); Lake Malawi National Park World Heritage Site; Chongoni Rock Art Site; National Bio-ethics Committee; the National Commission for Science and Technology; the Malawi Parliamentary Training Programme; the Makongoni Solar Village; the Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust and inscription of the following dances as masterpieces of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity: Gule Wamkulu, Vimbuza Healing Dance and Tchopa Dance.
In all its operations, the Commission has enjoyed total support from all players it has worked with. These players are principally the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) whose work directly relates to Education, Science, Culture, Communication and Information. Support has not only been from within. The Malawi National Commission for UNESCO has also enjoyed support from sister National Commissions (such as the South Korea National Commission for UNESCO and the German National Commission for UNESCO) and UNESCO Regional offices which deserve a lot of appreciation. There is confidence that with continued support from all partners, a lot more will be accomplished in the years ahead.