UNESCO is the only UN Agency that has a global network of national cooperating bodies referred to as National Commissions. They are set up by their respective governments in accordance with Article VII of the UNESCO Constitution and operate, on a permanent basis, for the purpose of associating their governmental and non-governmental bodies in the work of UNESCO. They also facilitate UNESCO’s outreach to civil societies, parliamentarians and the private sector therefore, playing a significant role in raising UNESCO’s visibility at the country level.
The Kenya National Commission for UNESCO (KNATCOM) was established, by cabinet decree, when Kenya joined UNESCO as its 73rd Member in 1964. Since its establishment, KNATCOM has been housed in the ministry responsible for education from where it derives its human and financial resources. The Minister responsible for Education takes leadership for all UNESCO related matters within the country.
The KNATCOM is headed by a Secretary General. The current Secretary General of KNATCOM is Dr. Evangeline Njoka and the Deputy Secretary General is Mr. John Mireri.
KNATCOM works very closely with the Permanent Delegation of Kenya to UNESCO in ensuring that Kenya effectively and efficiently participates in UNESCO’s programmes and activities by marshalling the intellectual community to add and extract value to and from the Organization. The two offices also act as agencies of consultation, liaison and information, and mobilizing and coordinating partnerships with the civil society.
The KNATCOM Secretariat is supported by five programme and several expert committees. The programme committees include: Education, Natural Sciences, Social and Human Sciences, Culture, and Communication and Information.
The expert committees are structured along the lines of UNESCO’s programme activities and are responsible for implementing activities at the national level. They include: Man and Biosphere (MAB); International Hydrological Programme (IHP); Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC); Basic Sciences (BS); World Heritage (WH); Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH); Youth; Bioethics; Basic Education; HIV/AIDS Education; Higher and Technical Education; Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE); Special Needs Education (SNE); Non Formal Education (NFE); Open and Distance Education (ODE); Media and Information and Communications Technology (ICT).
KNATCOM derives its mandate from the Charter of the National Commissions for UNESCO, which was adopted by UNESCO’s General Conference at its 20th Session in November 1978. The Charter clearly articulates the purpose, functions, roles and responsibilities of the National Commissions in Members States such as involving in UNESCO’s activities the various ministries, departments, agencies, institutions, organizations and individuals; ensuring the permanent presence of UNESCO in Kenya; encouraging participation of governmental, non-governmental organizations, institutions and various individuals in the formulation and execution of UNESCO’s programmes; and implementing UNESCO’s activities and budgeted programmes.
Although KNATCOM is functionally located in the Ministry of Education, its mandate cuts across several ministries and departments whose functions include UNESCO’s fields of competence. The Commission collaborates with other key ministries, departments, parastatals, institutions and NGOs.
HOW KNATCOM OPERATES
KNATCOM which is the focal point of all UNESCO activities in Kenya constitutes a secretariat for collaboration between the ministries, universities, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations and individuals with UNESCO. It brings together experts and policy makers in the five broad fields of UNESCO’s competence who engage to add and extract value to and from UNESCO’s work in conferences, workshops and seminars. In all these activities, the programme and expert committees are the implementing agents.