The head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) opened a meeting in Paris today of experts gathered to consider preparations for an international instrument against doping in sports. In his opening address, Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura recalled that the agency had been encouraged to consider developing an anti-doping instrument last January, when the ministers and representatives attending a sport and physical education summit in Paris adopted a communiqué stressing that doping “threatens to kill sport as surely as it kills athletes.” They urgently called on the UN take “immediate action” to help draft an international convention. The officials urged the UN system and the Council of Europe, in close collaboration with other concerned bodies such as the International Olympic Committee, the World Anti-Doping Agency and the Intergovernmental Consultative Group on Anti-Doping in Sport (IICGADS), to coordinate the preparation, if possible before the Summer Olympic Games of 2004, and the adoption, if possible before the Winter Olympic Games of 2006, of a universal international instrument for this purpose. At its session last April, the UNESCO Executive Board endorsed this proposal and decided that an item to this effect will be included in the provisional agenda of the 32nd session of the General Conference, set to open in September. Anticipating a positive decision will be taken on the matter by the Conference, which consists of UNESCO Member States and includes the participation of community groups and non-governmental organization (NGOs), Mr. Matsuura decided to arrange this meeting of experts to advise him some time in advance. Today, Mr. Matsuura insisted “we are not starting from scratch – there is a strong foundation of work that has been developed by a number of partners.” He added that “the complexity of the problem means that no one organization can develop an international instrument on its own,” hence the need for close cooperation and partnership among all parties and stakeholders involved. He re-affirmed his personal interest in this task and UNESCO’s strong commitment to seeing it through to its conclusion. More than 15 experts, drawn from countries in different regions and from a range of sports bodies and international organizations, are attending this three-day meeting. There is currently no such legally binding, universal standard-setting instrument. The Council of Europe adopted an Anti-Doping Convention in 1989 that has so far been signed and ratified by 40 countries. The 1999 Lausanne Convention on Doping led to the establishment, in the same year, of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and to the drawing up this year of a world anti-doping code.