Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC)
International Geological Correlation Programme (IGCP)
International Hydrological Programme (IHP)
Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme
Management of Social Transformations (MOST) Programme

Fifth meeting of the Steering Group of the five Chairpersons
(Paris, 30 September-1 October 2003)

The role of the Steering Group of the Chairpersons of the five scientific programmes is to guide collaboration and synergy among the five intergovernmental and international scientific programmes.

The Steering Group, at its fifth meeting on 30 September and 1 October 2003, affirms UNESCO’s unique position for helping governments to address today’s complex environment and development issues.

The Steering Group acknowledges that the outcomes of the WSSD and related Millennium Development Goals continue to provide a strategic vision for the five scientific programmes, and this has been reflected in document 32 C/5. The five programmes are united by the common theme of sustainability.

While the setting of priorities has affected the level of support for the different programmes, the Steering Group was pleased to note progress in increasing interaction among programmes, for example in relation to the management of the Volga-Caspian region, biodiversity and remote sensing.

Some lessons have been drawn from this experience.

Added value of collaboration

The Steering Group stresses that within the United Nations, the five UNESCO scientific programmes provide the basic scientific underpinning for understanding global change and feeding into policy decision-making on sustainable development. Collaboration among the five programmes is a considerable asset to implement issue-driven research within a context of rapid socio-economic and cultural change, and thus is central to the concerns of Member States.

Linking with policy-making

The Steering Group emphasizes the need for more policy-driven research and monitoring in the different programmes. This has two dimensions: research informing policy and policy-orienting research. The use of indicators, the establishment of monitoring systems and performing assessments, are essential for measuring the major trends, and providing feedback to policy-makers on the effectiveness of their decisions.

Mechanisms and inducements

The Steering Group is of the view that collaboration between the five science programmes and genuine multidisciplinary engagement will be optimized only if appropriate mechanisms are established that will serve as an inducement. This may involve consideration of partial joint financing.

This leads to the question of governance.

The Steering Group considers that the expertise of the intergovernmental councils guides and should continue to guide the scientific contents and the operational structures at various levels of each programme. These are reflected in the draft C/5 document. The role of the secretariats for facilitating the implementation of the programmes and their interaction is reaffirmed. The Steering Group enumerated several substantive items for collaboration in the short and medium term:
1. The need for UNESCO, in cooperation with ICSU, and other United Nations programmes and agencies, to provide a framework for the data management components of the Earth Observation Systems. This will open many opportunities, for example in coupling these systems with socio-economic parameters and data sets, in reaffirming government implications in these systems, and in helping to translate theirresults more directly into government policy.

2. Joint activities in specific geographic regions, where possible benefiting from the MAB World Network of Biosphere Reserves. Examples mentioned included threatened wetlands such as the Polessia region in Eastern Europe, plus the possibility of joint action in the Caribbean, in West African coastal areas, and in drylands.

3. The endorsement and participation of the five programmes in the proposed UNESCOIUGS International Year of Planet Earth (2005-2007). The desirability of joint action in relation to the International Polar Year (2007-2008) was also identified.

4. Capacity-building, in the context of the United Nations Decade on Education for Sustainable Development, for which UNESCO is the lead agency, was stressed.

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