Sunday, December 19, 2004

UNESCO: Progress in the Natural Science Program

DG Progress Report for the 170th Exec Board Meeting (The Executive Board meeting was in October, 2004; the next is in January, 2005.)


"50. The programme activities of the Natural Sciences Sector are being carried out in line with the relevant Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the World Summit on Sustainable Development Plan of Implementation, and the World Summit on the Information Society Action Plan. During the first six months of this biennium, the Sector’s programmes continued to support the principal priority of 'water and associated ecosystems'.

"51. Cooperation with UNESCO’s field offices has been further increased in order to address in a more efficient manner the needs of Member States and in particular those of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). At the same time the geographic focus of the programme activities continues to change towards Africa and the Small Island Developing States. In this respect, the consultation processes initiated for the 10-Year Review Meeting of the Barbados Plan of Action for Small Island Developing States (Mauritius, 2004) has been pursued and provided further guidance for the development of programmes and actions to prepare the Organization’s input to “Barbados + 10”. Likewise, since UNESCO was chosen by the African Union as the lead agency in Science, cooperation with Member States of the Africa region in the framework of NEPAD has been considerably reinforced: efforts are being made to develop a regional action plan for S&T, and UNESCO fosters the launching of a Pan-African initiative in science and technology policy.

"52. Programme activities under Major Programme II are also increasingly addressing crosssectoral issues, including the ethics of science and technology and the role of science in the peacebuilding and peace-maintaining context. Accordingly, the overall approaches have become more complex, rely on more disciplines working together and depend on the use of the latest technologies. This in turn has led to a reinforcement of interdisciplinary as well as intersectoral cooperation.

"53. The first six months of the biennium provided a strong continuation of the freshwater activities of UNESCO. The reinforced regular budget has allowed the start of significant initiatives such as the International Flood Initiative and the International Sedimentation Initiative, and the furtherance of other important lines of action such as the HELP (Hydrology for the Environment, Life and Policy) and FRIEND (Flow Regimes from International Experimental and Network Data) projects and the thematic work of the Sixth Phase (2002-2007) of the International Hydrological Programme (IHP). The amount decentralized for the execution of the Subprogramme to the field offices has nearly tripled, enhancing significantly their resources. The World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP) has already embarked on an intense course of action aimed at producing the second issue of the World Water Development Report (WWDR) to be presented at the Fourth World Water Forum (Mexico City, March 2006); IHP is actively collaborating in this endeavour. Work on SIMDAS (Sustainable Integrated Management and Development of Arid and Semi-arid Regions of Southern Africa) has started, particularly on the coordinating mechanisms in the SADC subregion.

"54. The programme on groundwater management has been further strengthened, in various aspects such as global hydrogeological mapping and management of transboundary aquifers. Other programmes, including ecohydrology (cooperation with MAB), conflict resolution and urban water management have continued their sustained action. The process of expansion and strengthening of the network of water-related regional and international centres under the auspices of UNESCO has continued strongly as work towards setting up the International Centre for Water Hazard and Risk Management in Tsukuba, Japan and the Regional Ecohydrology Centre in Lodz, Poland have shown considerable progress, with a number of other proposals under process. The planning of the Seventh Phase of IHP (2008-2013) has started in earnest with a Task Force processing the inputs of Member States for the initial formulation of the plan.

"55. In the field of ecological sciences, the expansion of the network of Biosphere reserves is being prepared and their role in developing new approaches to sustainable development is being increased. The MAB Programme is actively helping to reduce the loss in biodiversity by reinforcing science and capacity-building in the service of ecological sustainability. Regarding the basic and engineering sciences, cooperation was reinforced within the framework of the newly created International Basic Sciences Programme, and through strengthening of links with ACTP & CERN institutes and development of the flagship project, “Science for Peace in the Middle East, SESAME”.

"56. With respect to the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), four major developments took place during the first six months of the biennium: the Symposium on Quantitative Ecosystem Indicators for Fisheries Management, The Ocean in a High-CO2 World Symposium (the outcome of both activities are presented in the report), the establishment of “UNOceans” and the adoption of the framework document at the second Earth Observation Summit held in Tokyo. In addition, at its sixth session, in September 2003, the High Level Commission on Programs (HLCP) “approved the creation of an Ocean and Coastal Areas Network (…), building on SOCA and in line with the CEB’s call for a more dynamic arrangement which would enable non-United Nations actors to contribute to the achievement of JPOI targets” (Ref. CEB/2003/7). Following a request from the Secretariat of the Chief Executive Board (CEB), IOC, together with former members of the Subcommittee on Oceans and Coastal Areas (SOCA), contributed to the process that the HLCP is leading for the definition of Terms of Reference and the establishment of the Ocean and Coastal Areas Network (UN-Oceans). During the Fifth Informal Consultative
Process on the Law of the Sea (ICP V) in New York (7-11 June 2004), UN-Oceans met twice and confirmed the Terms of Reference and the preliminary list of members.

"57. The Earth Observation Summit (EOS), held in Washington DC, from 30 July to 2 August 2003, was organized by the Government of the United States of America (emphasis added) to “Promote the development of a comprehensive, coordinated and sustained Earth observation system or systems among governments and the international community to understand and address global environmental and economic challenges”. The ad hoc Group on Earth Observations (GEO) launched on this occasion set in place the necessary follow-up machinery with a view to preparing a Framework Document in time for a Ministerial Conference on Earth observations held on 25 April 2004 in Tokyo and a complete plan of implementation in time for a further ministerial conference to be hosted by the European Union during the first quarter of 2005. IOC has been fully engaged in the process, co-chairing with representatives of Australia and the United States of America the
International Cooperation subgroup (ICSG) of GEO
. (emphasis added) GEO entrusted ICSG with the task of
developing, for the 10-year implementation plan, international strategies, models, and organizational structures that could be used for effective long-term coordination of a comprehensive and coordinated Earth observation system or systems, building on existing mechanisms and structures. After considerable efforts by ICSG, the proposed principles for this process were agreed upon by GEO-3 (February 2004, Cape Town) and adopted as part of the framework document by EOS II (Tokyo, 25 April 2004)."

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