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Finland back on UNESCO Executive Board after 20 years

Finland has landed a four-year seat on the executive board of the UN's Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation after a 20-year hiatus. Cultural Minister Sanni Grahn-Laasonen called the appointment "joyous news".

Unescon päämaja Pariisissa
UNESCO's 195 members may not soon include the USA and Israel. Image: Christphe Petit Tesson / EPA

Finland has been chosen to sit with 57 other UN member states on the Executive Board of the union's Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

The four-year membership was formalised in Paris on Thursday and is to begin in November. All the other Nordic countries supported Finland's membership.

"Joyous news!" tweeted Minister of Education and Culture Sanni Grahn-Laasonen, who added that the appointment came as the result of long-term appeals.

"Winning a seat in the close ballot with the highest number of votes in its electoral group is an excellent recognition of Finland’s strong expertise in education and world heritage matters," Grahn-Laasonen said in the government release.

Foreign Minister Timo Soini said the membership is important due to UNESCO's work against radicalisation.

Previous placing in 1990s

New additions to the Executive Board also included Portugal and Turkey. The 58-member board delineates and directs UNESCO's programmes and budget spending between the UN's biennial General Assemblies.

Finland has been a member state of UNESCO since 1956 and last held a place on the Executive Board in 1997—2001, during a Nordic membership rotation.

UNESCO's goals include promoting peace and security through international collaboration in education, science, culture, and communication.

UNESCO also maintains the World Heritage Site preservation programme; the island fort of Suomenlinna, the old quarters in the city of Rauma and the Kvarken Archipelago in the Gulf of Bothnia are all on the list of heritage locations.

UNESCO's member count is currently 195 countries, but that figure is diminishing as the United States intend to sever ties with the organisation in January (for a second time) and Israel has expressed its intention to leave the peace alliance.

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