Monday, October 31, 2005

"Financial mechanisms for meeting the challenges of ICT for development"

Below are the recommendations to be presented to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) on the financing of ICT for development. Note that agreement has been reached in the preparatory meetings for WSIS on all these recommendations. (Read the full report online.)

"34. Recognizing that the central responsibility for coordination of public financing programmes and public ICT development initiatives rest with governments, we recommend that further cross-sectoral and cross-institutional coordination should be undertaken, both on the part of donors and recipients within the national framework. (Agreed)

"35. Multilateral development banks and institutions should consider adapting their existing mechanisms, and where appropriate designing new ones, to provide for national and regional demands on ICT development. (Agreed)

"36. We acknowledge the following prerequisites for equitable and universal accessibility to and better utilization of financial mechanisms:

a. Creating policy and regulatory incentives aimed at universal access and the attraction of private sector investment;
b. Identification and acknowledgement of the key role of ICTs in national development strategies, and their elaboration, when appropriate, in conjunction with e-strategies;
c. Developing institutional and implementation capacity to support the use of national universal service/access funds, and further study of these mechanisms and those aiming to mobilize domestic resources;
d. Encouraging the development of locally relevant information, applications and services that will benefit developing countries and countries with economies in transition;
e. Supporting the “scaling-up” of successful ICT-based pilot programmes;
f. Supporting the use of ICTs in government as a priority and a crucial target area for ICT-based development interventions;
g. Building human resource and institutional capacity (knowledge) at every level for achieving Information Society objectives, especially in the public sector;
h. Encouraging business sector entities to help jump-start wider demand for ICT services by supporting creative industries, local producers of cultural content and applications as well as small businesses;
i. Strengthening capacities to enhance the potential of securitised funds and utilising them effectively.
(Full Para Agreed).

"37. We recommend improvements and innovations in existing financing mechanisms, including:
a. Improving financial mechanisms to make financial resources become adequate, more predictable, preferably untied, and sustainable;
b. Enhancing regional cooperation and creating multi-stakeholder partnerships, especially by creating incentives for building regional backbone infrastructure;
c. Providing affordable access to ICTs, by the following measures:
i. Reducing international Internet costs charged by backbone providers, supporting, inter alia, the creation and development of regional ICT backbones and Internet Exchange Points to reduce interconnection cost and broaden network access;
ii. Encouraging ITU to continue the study of the question of the International Internet Connectivity (IIC) as an urgent matter to develop appropriate Recommendations;

d. Coordinating programmes among governments and major financial players to mitigate investment risks and transaction costs for operators entering less attractive rural and low income market segments;
e. Helping to accelerate the development of domestic financial instruments including by supporting local microfinance instruments, ICT business incubators, public credit instruments, reverse auction mechanisms, networking initiatives based on local communities, digital solidarity and other innovations;
f. Improving the ability to access financing facilities with a view to accelerating the pace of financing of ICT infrastructure and services, including the promotion of North-South flows as well as North-South and South-South cooperation;
g. Multilateral, regional and bilateral development organizations should consider the utility of creating a virtual forum for the sharing of information by all stakeholders on potential projects, on sources of financing and on institutional financial mechanisms.
h. Enabling developing countries to be increasingly able to generate funds for ICTs and to develop financial instruments, including trust funds and seed capital adapted to their economies;
i. Urging all countries to make concrete efforts to fulfil their commitments under the Monterrey Consensus;
j. Multilateral, regional and bilateral development organizations should consider cooperating to enhance their capacity to provide rapid response with a view to supporting developing countries that request assistance with respect to ICT policies;
k. Encouraging increased voluntary contributions;
l. [Deleted];
m. Making, as appropriate, effective use of debt relief mechanisms as outlined in the Geneva Plan of Action, including inter alia debt cancellation and debt swapping, that may be used for financing ICT for development projects, including those within the framework of poverty reduction strategies.
(Full Para Agreed)

"38. We welcome the Digital Solidarity Fund (DSF) established in Geneva as an innovative financial mechanism of a voluntary nature open to interested stakeholders with the objective of transforming the digital divide into digital opportunities for the developing world by focusing mainly on specific and urgent needs at the local level and seeking new voluntary sources of “solidarity” finance. The DSF will complement existing mechanisms for funding the Information Society, which should continue to be fully utilized to fund the growth of new ICT infrastructure and services. (Agreed)"

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Media in Development: An evaluation of UNESCO's International Programme for the Development of Communication

Read the complete evaluation report. (By Kristin Skare Orgeret and Helge Rønning; Published by the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, October 2002.)

"The present study of the UNESCO International Programme for the Development Communication (IPDC) – undertaken at the initiative of The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs – is basically a desk study of the Programme’s organizational structure, its history and impact supplemented by an evaluation of selected projects based on IPDC reports and evaluations. In addition, we interviewed officials at UNESCO headquarters in Paris and the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs."

"Ethnographic Action Research"

"A Users Handbook Developed to Innovate and Research ICT Applications for Poverty Eradication" By Jo Tacchi, Don Slater and Greg Hearn, UNESCO, 2003.

"UNESCO recognises the importance of using information and communication technologies to achieve development goals. It is also important to learn how ICTs can play an effective role in economic development, social transformation, political empowerment and cultural enrichment. Research is of immense value in this context. Ethnographic action research is considered to be one of the innovative research approaches to study the impact of information and communication technologies. This handbook presents and explains the approach and the methods employed in it particularly for projects using information and communication technologies related to poverty alleviation. We hope that along with other research methods it would prove useful for people working with information communication technologies for sustainable development."

Saturday, October 29, 2005

International symposium on UNESCO’s history

Visit the website for the symposium.

"On the occasion of its 60th anniversary, UNESCO is hosting, from 16th to 18th November 2005, an international symposium on the Organization’s history, which will take place at its Headquarters in Paris.

"More than sixty historians, anthropologists, philosophers and other scholars will speak at round table sessions or in plenary on major themes of UNESCO’s history, such as the birth of the Organization, the vision of humanism and peace, the race question, ideals challenged in the context of cold war and decolonisation, reconciliation, reconstruction, dialogues, education for all, cultural heritage and the social responsibility of the sciences.

"The objective of the symposium is to inspire research on topics relating to the history of the Organization. Rather than providing official answers and final conclusions, the symposium aims at multiplying approaches to UNESCO’s history in a critical and pluralistic spirit. A concluding session of the symposium will attempt to draw up the basis for a research agenda 2005-2010."

A Round Table on "Social Responsibility of the Sciences" will be held as part of the Symposium on November, 17. An American, Jacob Darwin Hamblin, is included among the speakers, and has chosen the topic: “The Politics of International Cooperation in Science”.

Put Yourself on the Americans for UNESCO Mailing List

If you would like to be added to the Americans for UNESCO mailing list, send your snail mail and email address to Americans for UNESCO.

World Science Day / World Science Forum

World Science Day for Peace and Development comes round again on 10 November. The start of the three-day World Science Forum has been timed to co-incide with the Day. During the Forum, which is hosted by the Hungarian government in Budapest, an international roundtable will be organized by UNESCO, ISESCO and others on the role of parliamentarians in S&T policy. This year's laureates of UNESCO's science prizes will also receive their awards at the Forum.

Read the Message from Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

"Working in Partnership with UNESCO"

Read the full PDF report online.

The U.K.'s Department for International Development (DfID) published this report recommending ways that Great Britain could work in partnership with UNESCO. It might be of interest to us Yanks, as we too seek to put our recently renewed relationship on the best possible footing.

I reprint the Summary of the report in full:

The UK Government’s Goal for UNESCO

A1 The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) was established in 1945 because – in the words of its Constitution – “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed”. The organisation was mandated to promote universal respect for justice, the rule of law and human rights through international collaboration in education, science and culture. From the beginning education has been the keystone of UNESCO’s mission.

A2 While the organisation has traditionally covered a wide range of important issues, the breadth of its activities and a certain resistance to reform have hindered it from reaching its full potential. The reforms set in train by the new Director-General promise to refocus and reinvigorate UNESCO, but the organisation will need to guard against dispersing its efforts. UNESCO can forge a solid reputation if it concentrates, within its educational, scientific, cultural and communications mandate, on the promotion of greater social justice and progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.

A3 The UK Government’s goal is to see UNESCO transformed into an effective organisation with clear, focused objectives and strategies. Our key objective is the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Of those, the education goals are particularly relevant to UNESCO. We believe that the main thrust of UNESCO’s work should be a commitment to spread education opportunities to the 113 million children now without access to primary school and to the 880 million adults in the world who are illiterate. This objective is more important than ever at a time when information technology is driving the spread of knowledge and information, which are essential for development and for access to the benefits of the globalising world economy. In order to achieve a clearer focus for its work, and to make a more effective contribution to meeting the Millennium Development Goals, we believe that UNESCO should:

· fulfill its mandate within a well-defined poverty and sustainable development strategy;
· top priority to achieving the Millenniumm Development Goals for education;
· seek to improve the production of policy-relevant and internationally comparable statistics on education in developing countries and countries in transition;
· ensure that all programmes incorporate systems forr monitoring and show clear evidence of impact and assessment of outcomes;
· participate more fully in the wider UN reform agenda and seek effective partnerships with other agencies.

A4 The UK Government will seek to achieve this goal through the governing bodies of which it is a member, and by providing appropriate technical co-operation and financial assistance.

World Press Freedom Committee Mission to Tunis

Read the full WPFC news report online.

"These are initial impressions recorded by Executive Director Mark Bench during a 4-day mission with other International Freedom of Expression eXchange members January 14-18, 2005. A link to the final report can be found at the end of this article."

The mission provides information on the host nation's information freedom just prior to the World Summit on the Information Society.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Zhang Xinsheng (China) elected Chairman of UNESCO’s Executive Board

Read the UNESCO News Release

"Zhang Xinsheng, Vice Minister of Education of China and the country’s representative to UNESCO’s Executive Board, was today elected Chairman of the Organization’s Executive Board for a period of two years.xinsheng_300.jpg Mr Zhang was elected in the first round of voting.

"Born in China in 1948, Mr Zhang graduated from China’s Military Institute of Technology in 1969 and from the University of Hangzhou where he studied English language and literature in 1977. He went on to complete the Advanced Management Programme (AMP99) of Harvard Business School in the 1980s and, in 2000, was awarded a Master’s Degree of Design Studies from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Mr Zhang chaired the 2004 session of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee in Suzhou (China), a city of which he was twice elected mayor. He holds the post of Vice Minister of Education and is an adjunct professor at the universities of Tongji and Nanjing."

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Information Society: The Next Steps

Read the entire Special edition from the Development Gateway.

"The Information Society has produced a tantalizing array of new information and communication technologies (ICT) that today have transformed the approach to global development. Access to these technologies is spreading rapidly. In 2005, the number of Internet users in developing countries will cross the 500 million mark, surpassing industrial nations for the first time. By some estimates, more than 75 percent of the world’s population now lives within range of a mobile network. Yet the long-heralded promise of ICT remains out of reach for most of the developing world. For the information poor, economic and social gaps are in fact widening both within and between countries.

Following on the rapid expansion of the Information Society, the United Nations called for a World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) organized under the auspices of the International Telecommunication Union. The two-phase summit, begun in Geneva in 2003, concludes in November 2005 with WSIS Phase II in Tunisia. The goal of this meeting is to assess progress and prompt further global action to capture the promise of ICT for all. This Special Report 'Information Society: The Next Steps' looks at how the ICT landscape is changing in the developing world and what lies ahead. Experts from governments, donors, NGOs and the private sector speak out about effective policies, promising applications and innovative business models."

UNESCO is one of the organizing agencies for WSIS, and is to play a key role in implementing its recommendations.

Monday, October 24, 2005

"Bush administration opposes U.N. Net control"

Read the full CNET article.:

"In a sign that traditionally obscure discussions about Internet control have taken on new prominence, President Bush broached the topic in a meeting this week with European Commission President Jos�Barroso.

"The high-level meeting, which took place at the White House on Tuesday, comes as the United States is facing a revolt among third-world nations that are demanding reduced American influence over key aspects of the Internet. The European Commission recently threw its support behind one of the reform proposals that's scheduled to be discussed at a United Nations summit in November. "

I expect Internet governance to be a major issue at the upcoming meeting of the World Summit on the Information Society.

UNESCO has prominent role in WSIS, says General Conference: UNESCO-CI

Read the full UNESCO news release. (10/21/05)

"Unanimous support to UNESCO’s active involvement in the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and its focus on knowledge societies was given by the Organization's General Conference at its 33rd Session yesterday in Paris.........

"In particular, the Member States endorsed UNESCO’s mandate and competence to act as a facilitator for the implementation of the Action Lines: “Access to information and knowledge”; “Capacity-building”; “E-learning and e-science (under ‘ICT applications’)”; “Cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and local content”; “Media”, and “Ethical dimensions of the information society” included in the Plan of Action adopted at the first phase of WSIS, in December 2003, in Geneva."

Saturday, October 22, 2005

"Sparks fly over UNESCO bioethics pact"

Read David Dickson's full article in SciDev.Net.

"The governing body of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has approved a controversial declaration setting out guidelines for protecting individuals against potential harm from bioscience developments.

"The text, adopted this week (19 October) in Paris, has sparked a huge debate. It is widely seen — by both supporters and critics — as a vehicle for persuading developing countries to adopt policies outlawing research involving human embryos, itself part of a wider campaign against human abortion..........

"At the heart of the document, however, is language that addresses — usually implicitly — the use of embryos in research. This is particularly significant for developing countries, given that a number of them — such as China, India and South Korea — are developing sophisticated capabilities in areas such as stem-cell research that might use human embryos.

"This part of the text, and the declaration's stress on the need to defend 'human dignity', for example, have been widely welcomed by conservative religious groups deeply opposed to abortion or embryo research. So too has the statement that 'the interests and welfare of the individual should have priority over the sole interest of science or society'.

"An advisor to the US delegation at the Paris meeting wrote on the website Christianity Today, 'These resonant assertions of the centrality of human dignity and the limitations of science give us hope and ammunition.'.......

"Many in the professional bioethics community have been less impressed. They argue that the recommendations in the declaration are too vague, and seek to impose unwarranted ideological constraints on areas of research that could have important medical and social benefits.

"It is remarkable that a policy document that is clearly untenable in crucial areas has been approved by the UNESCO general assembly," says Udo Schuklenk, co-editor of the journal Developing World Bioethics, which recently published several articles attacking a draft of the declaration.

"He adds, 'What is problematic, to me as a professional in the field of bioethics, is that as professionals we might be tainted by a document that so clearly should not be called 'bioethics' in the first place.'

"Richard Ashcroft, reader in biomedical ethics at Imperial College London, is similarly concerned. He says it is strange that the document was adopted without being amended after near-universal criticism of the draft declaration by academics."

Friday, October 21, 2005

Close of the General Conference of UNESCO

Read the full UNESCO message on the closure of the General Conference.

"The adoption of three standard-setting texts and the re-election of Koïchiro Matsuura as Director-General of UNESCO marked the 33rd session of UNESCO’s General Conference, which closed today. The texts adopted are: the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions; the International Convention Against Doping in Sport; and the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights. A day of reflection about human dignity, as well as two Ministerial Round Tables – one on Education for All (EFA), another on the basic sciences – and an exhibition about EFA, were also organized during the 33rd session. Every two years the General Conference, UNESCO’s highest decision-making body, brings together representatives from all Member States (191, since Brunei Darussalam joined the Organization recently). Eight heads of state and more than 200 ministers1 were among the 3,700 participants of the session, held at UNESCO Headquarters from October 3 to 21.........

"For 2006-2007, the General Conference adopted a budget of US$610 million - in keeping with the scenario proposed by the Director General – to which are to be added US$25 million in extra-budgetary voluntary funding to reinforce activities in priority areas. Education – 'priority of priorities,' according to Mr Matsuura – received a budget of US$107 and will benefit from the lion’s share of the extra budgetary funding. The Natural Sciences sector is to receive close to US$56 million, and the Social and Human Sciences close to US$31 million. The Culture Programme was allocated US$50.5 million, and the Communication and Information Programme close to US$33 million."

In an unusual step, the U.S. Delegation called for a vote on the budget at the General Conference, and voted against the budget. An observer reported that the U.S. delegation said its negative vote was because of: (1) lack of program concentration on priorities, and (2) funding of the Cultural Diversity Convention is in the budget, which the U.S. thinks will do harm. The vote was 126-1, with no abstentions.

The U.S. Mission to UNESCO has provided links to statements on issues raised in the General Conference on its website, as well as on the Executive Board Meeting that preceeded the General Conference, and on the Science Round Table held in conjunction with the General Conference.

Google Map links for Unesco World Heritage Sites

Google Map links for Unesco World Heritage Sites

Brad Templeton has created this website on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is complementary to UNESCO's own website. Go to any country that interests you, and click on the site. You will see a satellite image of the region from Google, and you can zoom into or out of the picture to see the site in more detail or in its larger context. Google also provides maps, and combinations of the map and satellite images.

I found this a very interesting application of communications technology to promote interest in UNESCO's cultural programs.

Templeton was the founder and publisher of ClariNet Communications Corp., the world's first ever ".com" company (founded in 1989) and which was also the net's first and for a long time largest electronic newspaper.

Source book on Public Service Broadcasting published by UNESCO

UNESCO-CI Press Release:

"UNESCO announces the publication of 'Public Service Broadcasting: A Best Practices Source Book', to provide information on core concepts of Public Service Broadcasting to media professionals, decision makers, students and general public. "

Download the Source Book itself.

The Cultural Diversity Convention Coverage in the Washington Post

Read the full article in the Washington Post.

"In a vote cast as a battle of global conformity vs. cultural diversity, delegates to a U.N. agency turned aside strong U.S. objections Thursday and overwhelmingly approved the first international treaty designed to protect movies, music and other cultural treasures from foreign competition.

"The 148 to 2 vote at the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization emerged as a referendum on the world's love-hate relationship with Hollywood, Big Macs and Coca-Cola......

"U.S. officials say the measure could be used to unfairly obstruct the flow of ideas, goods and services across borders. Films and music are among the United States' largest exports -- the foreign box-office take for American movies was $16 billion in 2004. Assuring access to overseas markets for these products has been a prime U.S. goal at the World Trade Organization..........

"The vote came less than a month after delegates at a U.N.-organized summit in Geneva sided against the United States to try to remove technical control of the Internet from U.S. hands. Talks deadlocked after the European Union refused to support the United States, in a move that stunned American officials.

"'In the battles over issues critical to shaping the globe in the 21st century,' French sociologist Eric Fassin said, 'each side is defending its own best interests.' Most of the world, he said, is asking: 'Is there only one way to look at things?'

"Proponents are uncertain how the convention would be enforced or how potential conflicts with the free-trade rules of the World Trade Organization would be resolved. The convention states that it is not intended to overrule existing treaties but would have equal force with future ones."

From the blogosphere:

Accidental Deliberations: "While the U.S. position was based on a claim to freedom of information (in this case, the freedom to dump whatever information it wants whenever and wherever it pleases), the real question was whether local languages and cultures could be defended and allowed to survive when faced with well-funded foreign influences - whether from the U.S. or otherwise. It's only appropriate that the U.N. nearly unanimously chose the right side of that question."

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Koïchiro Matsuura appointed to a second term as Director-General of UNESCO

Read the UNESCO announcement.

"Koichiro Matsuura was re-elected as Director-General of UNESCO by the Organization’s General Conference and is to take office in a ceremony on October 21. He was first elected in 1999 to a six-year term. This time he will serve for four years, following a reform instituted by the 29th session of the General Conference. Mr Matsuura was born in 1937 in Tokyo. He studied law at the University of Tokyo and economics at Haverford College (Pennsylvania, U.S.A.) and began his diplomatic career in 1959. Posts held by Mr Matsuura include those of Director-General of the Economic Co-operation Bureau of Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1988); Director-General of the North American Affairs Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1990); and Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs (1992-1994). He was Japan’s Ambassador to France from 1994 to 1999. After one year as the Chairperson of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, he became UNESCO’s ninth Director-General on November 12, 1999."

There will be a live Webcast - Friday 21 October - of the Ceremony for the installation of the Director-General. It will take place from 10 a.m to 1 p.m. (GMT+1), and will include a performance by Chico Bouchikhi (founder of Gipsy Kings), UNESCO Artist for Peace. The site for the live webcast is:

Ministerial Round Table on the basic sciences

Check out the UNESCO website for the Round Table.

Some 50 science ministers and high-ranking officials in charge of science policy participated in a debate about the challenges facing the basic sciences. The debate, held at UNESCO Headquarters on October 13 and 14, was part of the the Organization’s General Conference. The Round Table sought to ensure that the sciences play their part fully as the “lever for development.” Many countries lack scientific infrastructures and resources and the young are losing interest in scientific careers, despite the fact, highlighted at the World Conference on Science (Budapest, Hungary, 1999), that science is a key factor for both economic and social development. The UNESCO website provides a link to the Communiqué published after the Round Table, as well as a webcast done of the meeting.

UNESCO’s General Conference adopts Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights

Read the full UNESCO press release.

"UNESCO’s General Conference, gathered in Paris for its 33rd session, today adopted the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights. The text, adopted by acclamation, 'addresses ethical issues related to medicine, life sciences and associated technologies as applied to human beings, taking into account their social, legal and environmental dimensions.' The Declaration meets a genuine and growing need for international ethical standards in this area. This need is due to the proliferation of practices that go beyond national borders, often without a regulatory framework: biomedical research projects and experiments carried out simultaneously in different countries; importing and exporting of embryos, stem cells, organs, tissue and cells; and the international transfer of tissue and DNA samples and genetic data."

Here are links to some of the comments made on the Declaration on various blogs and other sources:

Canary in the Mine: "Though ignored in the US press, this past week saw the culmination of more than a decade of negotiations on a document that could prove one of the keys to the human future...This past week, UNESCO's General Conference unanimously approved the Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights. While the details of the document are mostly unexciting...the very fact of its endorsement shows that every nation now has the biopolicy agenda on its radar screen. And while for the US statements of this kind may not be very influential, for many smaller countries and most of the developing world they have huge significance. Many nations will use the declaration as the basis of national policies..."

Global Bioethics Blog: "This month’s issue of Developing World Bioethics is devoted, in its entirety, to an examination of the draft Declaration and to speak of a ‘mixed review’ might be a bit charitable. The editorial draws first blood by calling the Declaration an obvious attempt on the part of UNESCO to muscle in on the authority of the World Health Organization on issues pertaining to the ethical regulation of biomedical research. UNESCO, writes the editorial, is an organization with little credibility among in the wider bioethics community and is best known for holding ineffectual (but costly) meetings and producing colorful booklets. Given its weak track record and dubious expertise, the predictable result is a Declaration that fails to state universal principles, redundantly lifts phrases from existing documents, is out of touch with some current bioethics debates, and offers misleading points of ‘guidance’. One thing is sure: Article 10 of the draft Declaration is a truly devastating piece of bioethics parody. “The fundamental equality of all human beings in dignity and rights is to be respected so that they are treated justly and equitably.” The deadly serious tone makes it all the more amusing." (This entry also seems to be quoted in full in blog.bioethics,net, The Editors Blog of the American Journal of Bioethics.)

HealthLawProfessorsBlog: "In the relatively short history of the relatively new discipline of bioethics, historical perspective can be difficult to come by. Thus, it is anybody's guess whether the recently published UNESCO's Universal Draft Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights (24 June 2005) will prove to be the seminal document its authors intend it to be."

CoreEthics.Org: "‘CORE is very pleased that this Unesco declaration has been passed with the total agreement of its members,’ said Josephine Quintavalle. ‘We attended some of the sessions when the text was under discussion and frankly did not imagine that we would see such an encouraging outcome. We are particularly delighted that the document uses the term ‘human being’ rather than ‘persons’ throughout the text. This is a great victory for those of us who do not accept the gradualist view of human life."

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea

Read the October 2005 UNA-USA fact sheet.

"The Law of the Sea Treaty was adopted by the United Nations in 1982 and entered into force in 1994. Although the United States played a lead role in drafting the treaty, the Reagan Administration did not sign it due to concerns relating to certain deep seabed mining provisions. However, since the negotiations began in 1973, every US Administration has supported the treaty in its entirety except for the deep seabed mining provisions, and the United States has accepted and complied with all other provisions of the treaty. In 1994, a legally-binding agreement altering the treaty was concluded, addressing all US concerns regarding deep seabed mining. The agreement was subsequently signed by the United States and must now receive the advice and consent of the Senate before it can be ratified by the United States.

"United States accession to the treaty has recently been strongly endorsed by President Bush; the Departments of State, Defense, and Homeland Security; the US Navy; the US Coast Guard; a bipartisan collection of congressional leaders; and a diverse group of environmental organizations, trade associations and business groups. Despite such broad bipartisan support, the treaty was never considered by the full Senate last year after the Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved it in early 2004. However, late last year the congressionally-mandated US Commission on Ocean Policy and the Bush administration’s official response, the US Ocean Action Plan, both called for the Senate to approve the treaty as soon as possible. During her nomination hearing in January 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged the Foreign Relations Committee to again approve the treaty and pledged the Administration’s support in securing a vote in the full Senate.

"As the world’s leading maritime power, with the longest coastline of any country and some of the earth’s richest waters, the United States stands to benefit from the protections provided by the Law of the Sea Treaty more than any other country. Indeed, the US has long sought the establishment of a comprehensive, widely accepted legal framework that regulates all uses of the world’s oceans. The Law of the Sea Treaty, with 149 states parties, including every other permanent member of the Security Council and all other major industrialized nations, provides just such a framework. United States accession to the treaty would provide vital security, economic, and environmental benefits, and would greatly enhance our influence in the development and interpretation of maritime law."

October 24 -- UN Day

Read the United Nations Association discussion of UN Day

The U.N. Charter went into effect on October 24, 1945. Two years later the U.N. General Assembly adopted a U.S.-sponsored resolution declaring October 24th United Nations Day, to be commemorated annually by all member-states of the United Nations. Since 1947, U.N. Day has been observed in nations large and small around the world.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Arsenic removal water filter could help save millions of lives

Read the entire UNESCO press release.

"A filter that removes arsenic from water and that could save tens of millions of lives was launched today at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. Simple and ecologically sound, the filter uses an absorbent recycled by-product available at no cost almost everywhere in the world. It was developed by the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education."

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Americans For UNESCO Board Member Added to Women's Hall of Fame

Read the story in of Tacoma, WA:

Dr. Rita Colwell, who became the first female director of the National Science Foundation in 1998, was included in Saturday National Women’s Hall of Fame, along with nine other inductees. Among the others inducted into the Hall of Fame Saturday were Senator Hillary Clinton and Maya Lin, who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.. The hall, which opened in 1969, honors women who have made valuable contributions to society and to the freedom of women. In all, 217 have been chosen for the honor by a national committee of judges.

Dr. Colwell is the chair of the science committee of Americans for UNESCO.

The World of Science November-December 2005 Issue

Read the new online issue of UNESCO's magazine, The World of Science.

Walter Erdelen's Editorial begins:

"The Cuban Ministry of Science and Technology (S&T) and UNESCO are organizing a regional conference on Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development from 1 to 3 December in Havana. The organizers are deliberately departing from a business-as-usual approach. Rather than aiming for the adoption of a set of recommendations – the more usual outcome of conferences of this kind – they will be putting on the table a series of projects for regional co-operation that participants will be invited to criticize, improve upon and possibly approve. These operational projects will include such areas as disaster risk reduction, science education and science popularization. UNESCO will then assist Member States in identifying project funding. The rationale behind this approach is that projects are an effective way of stimulating intra-regional co-operation in areas of common concern."

Monday, October 10, 2005

IDRC- UNESCO Workshop: Future Direction of National Innovation and Science Policy Reviews: International Development Research Centre

IDRC- UNESCO Workshop website:

"A joint IDRC/ UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) workshop entitled 'Future Directions of National Innovation and Science Policy Reviews' brought together about 50 clients and users of science and technology (S&T) reviews in Paris, 23-24 April 2003."

This workshop held two years ago is not exactly news, since it occurred before the first posting on this blog. However, I regard it as quite important, illustrating a service UNESCO can provide to the entire donor community.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Community Radio Handbook

The UNESCO website provides this free, downloadable handbook:

"This Handbook aims to show that ordinary people, even non-technical rural folk, can plan, set-up, manage and produce radio programmes by themselves with a minimum of dependence on outside help."

"Internet geopolitics"

Read the full article on (Subscription required.)

"At a diplomatic conference last month in Geneva to prepare for the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society, taking place in November, vocal critics such as Brazil, China and Iran led the opposition to America's control (of the Internet). On September 28th, the European Union abandoned its support for the current system and proposed a new, governmental approach, leaving America more isolated than ever..........

"The EU proposal, announced by Britain, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, was intended as a compromise between the UN supporters and America. It would create a new organisation to set policies over distributing routing numbers, creating new domains and the like. Because of its role as chair, Britain, usually America's closest ally on internet issues, had to stay neutral and could not beat back calls by Denmark, France, Spain and the Netherlands for greater government influence over the internet. After the announcement, Brazilian and Iranian delegates rushed to congratulate British officials, whose faces dropped when they realised the EU policy was being lauded by America's loudest opponents.

"If ICANN already has a degree of government representation, why is a new organisation needed? Many of the arguments advanced come down to suspicion of America, and fear that ICANN is a tool of American hegemony. But another reason is that, although today the internet's address system identifies digital devices, in future it may be extended to encompass objects (through melding addresses with radio-frequency identification tags), location (via global-positioning satellites) and even individuals.........

"All governments calling for change repeat the mantra that the new system would be a “multi-stakeholder” process that includes industry and civil-society groups.

"However, the disingenuousness of the position was made clear during the meeting last month in Geneva. Some countries demanded that groups representing business and public-interest causes be thrown out of the room when governments drafted documents for the summit in November. In one instance, delegates from China and Brazil actually pounded on tables to drown out a speaker from industry."

Friday, October 07, 2005

Breaking America's grip on the net

Read the full October 6, 2005 article in The Guardian.

Lead: "After troubled negotiations in Geneva, the US may be forced to relinquish control of the internet to a coalition of governments." At the third and final preparatory meeting for next month's World Summit on the Information Society, the EU came out for a plan to end the U.S. government's unilateral control of the internet and put in place a new body that would now run this revolutionary communications medium. The U.S. Department of Commerce (DoC) years ago created a private company, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) to run the Internet, "but the DoC retained overall control, and in June stated what many had always feared: that it would retain indefinite control of the internet's foundation - its 'root servers', which act as the basic directory for the whole internet." Brazil, China, Cuba, Iran and several African states represented in Geneva insisted the US give up control, and the meeting "was going nowhere", when the EU proposed two stark changes: a new forum that would decide public policy, and a "cooperation model" comprising governments that would be in overall charge. The proposal proved popular with other nations, but not with the U.S. and its refusal to budge apparently strengthened its opponents. "Now the world's governments are expected to agree a deal to award themselves ultimate control. It will be officially raised at a UN summit of world leaders next month and, faced with international consensus, there is little the US government can do but acquiesce."

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

"FEDERAL ADVISORY COMMITTEES: Additional Guidance Could Help Agencies Ensure Independence and Balance"

Read the full GAO Report.

"In recent years, controversies regarding the federal advisory committee system have included concerns about the appointment of specific individuals to committees and agency decisions to create or terminate some committees. Although a variety of concerns have been raised, the overarching concern was that ideological bias was influencing the selection of experts for scientific and health advisory panels. Publications such as Science, The Lancet, and Chemical and Engineering News have published editorials and articles containing criticisms of decisions seen as injecting ideology into a committee system that should be nonideological. Further, some current and potential federal advisory committee members reported being asked about their political views in the context of decisions regarding their appointment or reappointment to committees." (pages 7 & 8)

"Generally composed of individuals from outside of the federal government, federal advisory committees play an important role in the development of public policy and government regulations by providing advice to policymakers on a wide array of issues. In fiscal year 2003, 54 agencies sponsored approximately 950 committees with about 62,000 members to provide advice by performing peer reviews of scientific research; developing recommendations on specific policy decisions; identifying longrange issues facing the nation; and evaluating grant proposals, among other functions. Their advice—on issues such as stem cell research, space exploration, trade policy, drinking water standards, and drug approvals—can enhance the quality and credibility of federal decision making." (page 14)

"To address controversial and other important matters, scientific and technical advisory committees—which are the primary focus of this report—play a number of different roles on behalf of agencies. One role of science committees is to advise agencies on how to address a set of particular problems." (page 15)

"OGE and GSA governmentwide guidance and the policies and procedures of the nine departments and agencies we reviewed have limitations that reduce their effectiveness in ensuring that advisory committee members are independent and that advisory committees are, and are perceived as being, balanced." (page 17)

What GAO Recommends:

"GAO recommends that GSA and/or OGE, as appropriate, give direction to agencies on: the proper use of representative appointments; information that would help ensure committees are, and are perceived as, balanced; and practices that would better ensure independence and balance and enhance transparency in the advisory committee process. GSA agreed with GAO’s findings and agreed to work with OGE to implement the recommendations. OGE agreed that representative appointments need review but disagreed that its guidance has limitations. GAO continues to believe the guidance could be improved to better ensure that agencies are appropriately appointing committee members." GAO Highlights

This report, of the U.S. General Accounting Office, includes descriptions of the practices and measures by which several U.S. government agencies and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences use to ensure independence and balance and to promote transparency in the federal advisory committee system. Some practices, the report suggessts, should be more widely adopted, such as obtaining nominations from the public and making public information about how members are identified and screened.
Wider use of these practices—particularly for committees addressing sensitive or controversial topics—could reduce the likelihood that committees are, or are perceived as being, biased or imbalanced.

The U.S. National Commission for UNESCO is a duely constituted Federal Advisory Committee, and its charter would seem to include the wide range of scientific and technological issues that engage UNESCO. Thus, the GAO report might well bo of interest to the NatCom members and staff.

Moreover, UNESCO itself as an important function under its charter, gathers scientific and technological advisory groups. Americans are often invited to participate in such groups, and indeed the NatCom may be expected in the future to have a role helping UNESCO to find such participants, as well as to encourage UNESCO toward independence, balance, and transparency in the selection of participants. Note especially, that scientific and technological expertise in the topics under discussion are critical, but not sufficient. U.S. agencies seek scientific balance, as well as geographic, ethnic and gender balance. The GAO report might well also be of interest to UNESCO staff and advisors.

"Science and Technology in the National Interest: Ensuring the Best Presidential and Federal Advisory Committee Science and Technology Appointments"

Read the full National Academy of Sciences report online.

"With regard to appointing scientists and engineers to federal advisory committees, charges have surfaced recently that the process of making these appointments has become politicized and results in a skewing of the impartial perspective critical to independent advice. It is essential that the government’s capacity to consider and incorporate S&T information as part of the basis for public-policy decisions not be compromised by unnecessary obstacles."

This is the report of a very distinguished group, including former Science Advisors to U.S. Presidents, produced by the National Academies of Science in 2005. Key recommendations are:

-When a federal advisory committee requires scientific or technical proficiency, persons nominated to provide that expertise should be selected on the basis of their scientific and technical knowledge and credentials and their professional and personal integrity. It is inappropriate to ask them to provide nonrelevant information, such as voting record, political-party affiliation, or position on particular policies.

- Presidential administrations should make the process for nominating and appointing people to advisory committees more explicit and visible and should examine current
federal advisory committee appointment categories to see whether they are sufficient to meet the nation’s needs.

- To build confidence in the advisory committee system and increase the willingness of scientists and engineers to serve, department and agency heads should establish an appointment process supported by explicit policies and procedures and hold staff accountable for its implementation.

The U.S. National Committee for UNESCO is a "federal advisory committee" and the recommendations of this report would appear to be directly applicable to it. However, the spirit of the report might also be extended to science and technology appointments made to UNESCO advisory committies. Certainly, one would expect the U.S. government to use this advice itself, and encourage UNESCO to use it in the relevant appointment processes.