Saturday, September 30, 2006

"Towards an Improved Strategy of Support to Public Service Broadcasting"

Evaluation of UNESCO’s Support to Public Service Broadcasting, 2002-2005 Styles Associates Inc., June 2006.

From the Executive Summary:
"This, the first-ever evaluation of UNESCO’s work in this area, took place as the Organization prepared its Medium Term Strategy for the period 2008-2013. Its purpose was to assess the following:
• Relevance and effectiveness of UNESCO strategies and capacity building activities to enhance PSB institutions;
• Results achieved;
• Extent of collaboration and strategic alliances built with broadcasting unions and regional broadcasting organizations, and the impact they have had on the development of PSB; and
• Sustainability of positive results.......
Major achievements: Between 2002 and 2005, UNESCO contributed to incremental progress toward PSB in a handful of countries, including Afghanistan, Cambodia, Kyrgyzstan, Malawi, Panama, India and Sri Lanka. It has helped to define PSB and to achieve broad consensus on criteria for PSB.

During the period under review, the CI sector sponsored many conferences, meetings, workshops and seminars, and widely distributed PSB resource materials. The evaluators determined that these activities helped raise awareness about PSB, but were unable to ascertain to what extent. Numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs), professional associations and development agencies also contributed to raising awareness, most with initial or ongoing support from UNESCO.

The CI sector has produced and distributed excellent PSB resources and guides in recent years which stakeholders have found useful. The evaluation team notes that some of these materials, such as the Best Practices Sourcebook (Banerjee and Senevirantne, eds. 2005), establish standards against which public service practices can be measured.

Capacity development activities account for the bulk of the CI sector’s support to PSB during the period under review.....

Major challenges: The CI sector shares a characteristic of many organizations with broad mandates and limited resources: it is trying to do too much with too little money and too few qualified staff. As a result, the CI sector is not achieving an optimal level of success in relation to fostering PSB services, particularly in Africa. With few exceptions, Afghanistan among them, the evaluators found that the CI sector funded hundreds of small, discrete projects over the period under review, almost all with a time span of less than a year, and most directed at operational level rather than the political level where PSB decision-making rests. With its mainly ad hoc approach to PSB programming, UNESCO and its partners achieved many outputs, such as meetings, declarations, materials and trained broadcasters, but not the outcomes one would expect of a well-structured, tightly focused program.

Headquarters and field staff characterize UNESCO’s PSB programming as “personality-driven,” meaning that it is overly dependent on the qualifications and personal interests of individuals. Headquarters staff acknowledge a dearth of PSB expertise among field staff and attribute the Organization’s limited success in some regions (Africa in particular), to lack of expertise. Conversely, the success in parts of the Americas, Asia and the Pacific can be traced to staff with strong PSB backgrounds and interests."

UNESCO and Non Governmental Organizations

Download "UNESCO and NGOs" (two pages in PDF format).

Since its foundation, UNESCO has given great importance to partnership with civil society organizations, in particular NGOs. Relations between UNESCO and NGOs are essentially intellectual and moral. It maintains a website promoting collaborative linkages with Non Governmental Organizations and Foundations. The Organization maintains a website promoting collaborative linkages with Non Governmental Organizations and Foundations as well as a list of UNESCO sectoral focal points for NGOs.

Many NGO's have long term relations with UNESCO, and have established formal organizational links with the Organization. (Click here for a list of those organizations.) UNESCO regards these NGOs as "valued partners owing to their active presence and concrete action in the field, the expertise they represent, and their ability to channel the concerns of the people." Requests for establishment of such a formal partnership can be made by an NGO to the Director-General of UNESCO at any time and will be processed as quickly as possible.

An NGO International Conference takes place every other year and includes all NGOs maintaining official relations with UNESCO. The NGO-UNESCO Liaison Committee, elected by the NGO International Conference, is responsible for permanent coordination and continuity of this collective cooperation. It is based at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.

National Commissions act as a liaison body for all matters of concern to UNESCO. Their task is to involve in the work of the Organization all the different ministerial departments, services, institutions, organizations and citizens in their country working for the advancement of education, science, culture and communication. In the case of the U.S. National Commission, many NGOs are represented directly on the Commission, and its Secretariat is available to help other NGOs with contacts with UNESCO.

UNESCO and an NGO (the International Council for Science) jointly organized the World Conference on Science in 1999. That an Intergovernmental organization would share responsibility with an NGO in the development of a United Nations global conference was exceptional! (More)

Here is a link to the "Evaluation of Non-Governmental Organizations as UNESCO’s Programme Delivery Mechanisms," D. Daniels and Associates, June, 2006.
The evaluation found that there are NGOs that are relevant to achieving nearly all UNESCO programmes objectives and to advancing each of UNESCO’s functions. NGO contributions are identified for each of the UNESCO functions with their contribution being greatest in capacity building and least in contributing to standard setting.

All programme sectors work with some kind of NGO but the level of involvement with NGOs appears to be greatest in the Education, Culture and Social and Human Sciences programmes.

UNESCO: What It Is. What It Does.

This nine page, easy to read brochure provides a great introduction to UNESCO. It describes its history, and each of its five major programs.

"Strategic Foreign Assistance: Civil Society in International Security"

Strategic Foreign Assistance: Civil Society in International Security by A. Lawrence Chickering, Isobel Coleman, P. Edward Haley, and Emily Vargas-Baron, 2006.

One of the Directors of Americans for UNESCO and my long time colleague and friend, Emily Vargas-Baron, is one of the coauthors of this important new book on foreign policy.

Book Description:
Stopping terrorism at its source The emergence of global terrorism has created a new reality in national and international security. Governments and peoples must come together to encourage economic, political, legal, and social change within weak societies in which terrorists take refuge and to assist deadlocked governments in overcoming the explosive legacies of religious and ethnic conflict. In Strategic Foreign Assistance the authors show that, to do this, the United States must develop a strategic international cooperation and assistance policy that fosters strong civil societies. The book details the key role that civil society organizations (CSOs) could play in mitigating the conditions that promote terrorists and terrorism. The authors reveal how CSOs can help nations overcome internal conflicts by attacking the roots of violence and empowering people directly affected by the conflict to develop culturally appropriate strategies to pacify violent regions. They explain the value of informal society-based, nonstate initiatives--including initiatives aimed at religious leaders--in recruiting a country's citizens in the efforts for peace. And they show how CSOs can help accomplish strategic objectives for promoting social development and changing state policies in such critical areas as economic and educational policy reform, empowerment of women, property rights for the poor, and other vital areas. A. Lawrence Chickering is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. Isobel Coleman is a senior fellow in U.S. foreign policy and director of the Women and U.S. Foreign Policy Program of the Council on Foreign Relations. P. Edward Haley is the Wm. M. Keck Professor of International Strategic Studies at Claremont-McKenna College. Emily Vargas-Baron directs the Institute for Reconstruction and International Security through Education. "This is a profound and greatly useful exposition on a critical question yet strangely unexamined: how to use civil society to advance strategic objectives abroad, especially when government-to-government relations are incapable of moving adversaries away from conflict. The approach is useful and challenging and original, at once profoundly conservative and yet bound to be deeply appealing without regard to party to the most perceptive of those responsible for American foreign policy."
Emily tells me that you can buy this book at a discount at Amazon.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

New Layout of US-UNESCO Website from Paris

The United States delegation to UNESCO in Paris has an informative website. It has recently been revamped, and looks better than ever! I especially like the decision to have sections on the major UNESCO program areas, and have them all clearly linked from the home page of the website.

Monday, September 25, 2006

"Social Transformation in an Information Society: Rethinking Access to You and the World"

Download the entire report.

by William H. Dutton, UNESCO, 2004.

‘While technology shapes the future, it is people who shape technology, and decide to what uses it can and should be put’

Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General

This publication argues for rethinking "access" in relation to ICTs beyond the traditional definition that referred primarily to physical access to ICT infrastructures, systems, and devices. It also widens the object of that access from information, as implied by the term ‘information society’, to include people, services, and technologies. The author seeks to place his presentation into a broad historical context by outlining the nature and limitations of current understandings of the information society. In this brief book, he seeks to "uncover and simplify the complex social, cultural, psychological, and economic processes underlying the social transformations in the real-world contexts in which people live, work, and make decisions about the design and use of ICTs." Summarizing the main competing perspectives that have contributed to current understandings of the societal implications of ICTs, the author goes on to discuss the main ways in which the design, production, dissemination, use, and consumption of ICTs can open and close personal, social, and organizational opportunities. He also discusses the main social factors that facilitate or restrict one's ability to make good choices about ICTs. Examples of activity in a number of different arenas are provided to show how ICTs could help to create different kinds of local, regional, national, and global futures. Finally, the author signals some key policy implications from his discussion.

The chapters in this book are:
1. Introduction: opening and closing access pathways to your future
2. The information society and social transformation
3. ICTs and society: the evolution of different perspectives
4. Social change tied to technological choices
5. Inventing our futures: the social factors shaping outcomes of digital innovation
6. Reconfiguring access in major economic, social, and political arenas
7. Summary: policy for a connected world

UNESCO's Basic Texts on the Information Society

Download the entire document. (PDF, 116 pages.)

UNESCO Publications for the World Summit on the Information Society, 2003.

On the occasion of the World Summit on the Information Society, UNESCO made available a series of documents summarizing key issues facing the world for the development of a just and equitable information society. This document, one of the series, contains the Declarations and other important texts that UNESCO staff believe underlie its major programs in relation to the Information Society. It has specific sections related to Science, Communication and Information, and Freedom of Expression.

"Status of Research on the Information Society"

Download the book. (PDF file, 81 pages.)

Edited by Kwame Boafo, UNESCO Publications for the World Summit on the Information Society, UNESCO, 2003.

The report is divided into five sections:
* "Information Communication Technologies ICTs) and Gender"

* "Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in Media and Information Networks"

* "Press Freedom and Freedom of Expression in the Information Society: Selected Studies and Projects"

* "Information and Communication Technologies and Persons with Disabilities" and

* "Info-ethics and Universal Access to Information and Knowledge."

Each of these was chosen as a keyy issue which UNESCO believes it is necessary to address in order to build a information society which is just and universal.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Report on the 1st International Forum on the Social Science – Policy Nexus

The 1st International Forum on the Social Science – Policy Nexus was held in February 2006 in Buenos Aires (Argentina). More than 2000 participants come from all continents, including thirteen Ministers of Social Development and Education from Africa, Asia and Latin America, five Secretaries General of regional organizations and numerous government representatives and local authorities, students, university professors and academics, project representatives and members of civil society. UNESCO considers this meeting to have been a true success.

* the Buenos Aires Declaration, calling for a new approach to the social science – policy nexus.
The Final Report of the Meeting

21st Century Talks: "Knowledge-Sharing: Always Tomorrow’s Concern?"

The topic of the next 21st Century Talks is at the core of the UNESCO World Report “Towards Knowledge Societies”. Three outstanding personalities will attend the meeting, which will be held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris tomorrow (25 September 2006). They are:
* Jacques Attali (founder and first President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development from 1991-1993)
* Boutros Boutros-Ghali (Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1992 to 1996 and first Secretary-General of the Francophonie Organization from 1997 to 2002
* Nouzha Guessous Idrissi (President of the UNESCO International Bioethics Committee and a member of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee of the World Health Organization).

Saturday, September 23, 2006

"Science in the Information Society"

Susan Schneegans (editor), UNESCO Publications for the World Summit on the Information Society, UNESCO, 2003.

Download the full 86 page document as a PDF file.

"The emergence of the information society is a revolution comparable to the deep transformation of the world engendered by the dual inventions of the alphabet and the printing press.
Walter Erdelen (Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, UNESCO)

From the Overview:
"In much the same way that the printing press has expanded human outreach, so the Internet is spreading its net ever wider to envelop an ever greater number of human beings; it is changing existing rules of how we acquire information, modifying the way people access new knowledge, accelerating procedures and, at the same time, triggering novel values, trends and challenges. The term ‘information society’ was coined at the turn of the century to describe a society in which information and communication technologies (ICTs) have become an integral part of daily life. It has become second nature to millions of people around the world to use ATM banking machines, listen to a radio, carry a mobile phone, surf the Internet or consult their e-mail inbox, to cite but a few examples.....

"Sir Roger Elliot, Chair of the Executive Board of the International Council for Science (ICSU) stresses the role scientists play in the development of ICTs, the foundation of the information society. ‘Scientific research, full and open access to scientific information for scientists and improved science education and training’, Elliot says, ‘are all important for raising public understanding of science, in order to enable society to make more informed decisions’

‘The application of scientific knowledge continues to furnish powerful means for solving many of the challenges facing humanity, from food security to diseases such as AIDS, from pollution to the proliferation of weapons’, says United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan6. “Recent advances in information technology, genetics and biotechnology hold extraordinary prospects for individual well-being and humankind as a whole. At the same time, the way in which scientific endeavours are pursued around the world is marked by clear inequalities. Developing countries, for example, generally spend much less than 1% of their gross domestic product on scientific research, compared to between 1.5% and 3% in wealthy countries. The number of scientists in proportion to population in the developing countries is 10–30 times smaller than in developed countries’. The great majority of new science is created in the North ‘and much of this – in the realm of health, for example – neglects those problems that afflict most of the world’s people’"

The UNESCO Observatory on the Information Society

The Observatory on the Information Society monitors the impact of globalization on knowledge societies through the collection of pertinent information and observing trends.

UNESCO, through its Communication and Information Program, plays a major role in the efforts of the United Nations system to support the creation of an international information society. This portal is a part of UNESCO's effort. It provides a wealth or resources to a global community of interest. It also provides links to UNESCO sponsored Regional Observatories for:
* Africa
* Arab States
* Asia/Pacific
* Latin America / Caribbean
* Portuguese Speaking Countries
This is one of five major sections of UNESCO's Webworld portal. The others are:
* The UNESCO Libraries Portal (which gives access to websites of library institutions around the world. It serves as an international gateway to information for librarians and library users and international co-operation in this area.)

* The UNESCO Archives Portal (which gives access to websites of archival institutions around the world. It is also a gateway to resources related to records and archives management and international co-operation in this area.)

* The UNESCO Free Software Portal (which gives access to documents and websites which are references for the Free Software/Open Source Technology movement. It is also a gateway to resources related to Free Software.) and

* The WebWorld Portals Discussion Forum (that is the place to discuss various topics related to Libraries, Archives, Information Society, Free and Open Source Software and as well to provide feedback on and to discuss all aspects of WebWorld Portals.)

Plan Now to Apply to UNESCO's University Twinning and Networking Scheme

The UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Program was conceived as a way to advance research, training and program. development in higher education by building university networks and encouraging inter-university cooperation through transfer of knowledge across borders. (UNITWIN is the abbreviation for the UNIVERSITY TWINNING and networking scheme) Today some 580 UNESCO Chairs and 65 UNITWIN Networks are included in the Program involving over 700 institutions in 124 countries.

U.S. university departments can accomplish several things at once by participating in the program:
* Membership in an international network of peer organizations
* Access to new research opportunities
* Opportunities to recruit foreign students
* Enhanced national and international visibility
* Opportunity to help build the capacity of developing country universities
The number of U.S. University Chairs at this time is not nearly commensurate with the international importance of the U.S. higher educational system, and we strongly encourage applications from interested university departments in education, the natural sciences, the social and human sciences, cultural fields, and communications and information related fields.

The deadline for submission of new projects under UNITWIN is 30 of April of each year. However, applications from U.S. organizations should be submitted via the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, which establishes an earlier deadline. Check the National Commission website for more information. Now would seem to be the time to consider an application, and to begin making contacts with potential partners.

The UNESCO Chairs in the United States are (click here to go to the UNESCO website for descriptions of the programs):

UNESCO Chair in Education for peace (172), established in 1996 at the University of Puerto Rico (United States of America)

Mobile UNESCO Chair dedicated to the Problems of Habitability in the Hispanoamerican Cities and to the Integral Revitalization of their Historical Centres (173), established in 1996 at the University of Puerto Rico (United States of America)

UNESCO Chair in Higher Education (485), established in 1999 at the University of Puerto Rico (United States of America)

UNESCO Chair in Comparative Human Rights (544), established in 2001 at the University of Connecticut (United States of America)

UNESCO Chair in Human Rights (595), established in 2002 at Florida Atlantic University (United States of America)

UNESCO-Cousteau Ecotechnie Chair in Global Coastal Assessment (658), established in 2004 at the University of Rhode Island, Narragansett (United States of America)

UNESCO-Cousteau Ecotechnie Chair in Coastal Resources (665), established in 2004 at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, New Jersey (United States of America)

UNESCO Chair in Communication (673), established in 2000 at the University of Texas, College of Communication, Austin (United States of America)

UNESCO Chair in Inclusive Education (692), established in 2005 at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center (United States of America)

UNESCO Chair in Bioethics (700), established in 2005 at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington D.C.(United States of America)

UNESCO Chair on Growing up in cities (702), established in 2005 at the Cornell University, New York (United States of America)

UNESCO Chair in creating independent, pluralistic media: training and exchange programme for journalists (703), established in 2005 at the Regents of the University of Colorado, a body corporate, at Boulder, School of Journalism and Mass Communication (United States of America)

Friday, September 22, 2006

UNESCO Progress Report

Read the full, 172 page progress report on the first six months of UNESCO's 2006-7 biennium program from the Director General.

Key sections of the report providing overall assessments of the science and communications programs are quoted in their entirety below:

Natural Sciences

"Major Programme II (MP II) continued its focus on capacity-building and networking in science, including for science policy-makers and youth, through ongoing programmes and in particular through the IBSP and activities in support of NEPAD. Women received special attention in several capacity-building events in the basic sciences, and through the ongoing UNESCO-L’Oreal Prizes and scholarships, which were awarded in March 2006. In consideration of the importance attached to United Nations coordination in the areas of science and technology and the environment, representatives of the Natural Sciences Sector actively participated in United Nations-wide coordination mechanisms in these areas, including the United Nations Environmental Management Group, the Environment Consultation of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on United Nations System-Wide Coherence in the Areas of Development, Humanitarian Assistance and the Environment, and the United Nations Commission for Science and Technology for Development at which UNESCO invited the UNCSTD to hold its next meeting at UNESCO Headquarters. Further, UNESCO hosted a planning meeting with the Rector and staff of the United Nations University to discuss current and future cooperation in the sciences. Similarly, following an earlier planning meeting between the Sector and the International Council for Science (ICSU) Secretariat, the Director-General met with the President and Executive Board of ICSU to further discuss cooperation in fields of common concern, such as follow-up to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and disaster reduction.

"UNESCO played a key role in several major events that took place during the reporting period. The Nigerian Parliamentarian S&T Forum was launched by the Director-General in June 2006 as part of the efforts to strengthen the role of parliamentarians in policy-making in science, technology and innovation. The Future of Drylands (Tunis, June 2006), an assessment of work over the 50 years since UNESCO’s first conference on deserts, drylands and sustainable development, resulted in the adoption of a “Declaration on Research Priorities to Promote Sustainable Development in Drylands” (the Tunis Declaration) which identifies 12 priority themes for sustainable development in drylands. The Strategic Role of Renewable Energy for the Sustainable Development of Central Asia (Almaty, Kazakhstan, May 2006), was an important first step to expanding UNESCO’s renewable energy capacity-building activities in this region. Lastly, UNESCO actively participated in the Fourth World Water Forum (WWF-4) which was held in Mexico City in March 2006. The Second World Water Development Report (WWDR-2), which is the main output of the World Water Assessment Programme, was launched during the Forum on World Water Day.

"The IHP Bureau met to begin the process of elaborating the Programme’s seventh phase. The Bureau emphasized the importance of keeping IHP policy-relevant, particularly at a time when the water crisis is seen as a crisis of water governance. Based on the contributions received from Member States, the Bureau also noted that the topic of shared water resources and water conflict resolution should remain an important component of IHP plans. In addition, four new water-related centres were formalized through agreements with their host countries,and an additional one was approved by the Executive Board at its 174th session.

"Studies on different ecosystems (drylands, coastal and mountain ecosystems, urban systems, etc.), accompanied by capacity-building efforts through international scientific workshops and education schemes, made substantive progress, particularly via the Regional School on Integrated Management of Tropical Forests (ERAIFT). The IGCP (International Geoscience Programme) scientific board meeting in February 2006 reviewed IGCP’s objectives to increase its focus on geoscience and the water cycle, geohazard mitigation, earth resources, global change and the study of the deep Earth. The reorientation of the programme aims at better meeting the needs of society and sustainable development. Through UNESCO’s participation in the implementation of GEOSS (Global Earth Observation System of Systems),there was a marked increase in earth observation activities meant to improve the management of World Heritage sites, Biosphere Reserves and Geoparks.

"UNESCO/IOC officially launched The Tsunami Early Warning and Mitigation System for the Indian Ocean, successfully meeting its target delivery date of June 2006. The Indian Ocean System consists of a seismographic network, a real-time sea level network, and three deepocean assessment and reporting of tsunamis sensors. These are all firsts for the Indian Ocean. UNESCO/IOC is continuing its work to foster warning systems similar to that for the Indian Ocean in the Mediterranean, Northeast Atlantic and the Caribbean. IOC also hosted two significant meetings. First was the Conference of the Global Forum on Oceans, Coasts and Islands in January, which addressed governance of the high seas and the effects of climate change on oceans and coastlines. The second was the June World Climate Research Programme meeting, Understanding Sea-Level Rise and Variability, which sought to improve observational tools and reduce uncertainty.

"The basic sciences have focused on building additional new partnerships and fostering a networking strategy towards building scientific capacity in Member States within the framework of the IBSP and other programmes in the basic sciences. The second meeting of the IBSP scientific board specifically addressed these issues of new partnerships and networking. The Organization also actively contributed to the implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action (2005-2015), in particular with the launch of the 2006-2007 world campaign on education for disaster reduction on 15 June 2006.

"UNESCO, as the lead agency of the United Nations S&T Cluster in support of NEPAD, is coordinating the 2007 special session of the African Union Summit to be devoted to science and technology. To this end, several consultative meetings were held which focused on drafting the implementation agenda for the African Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action, and raising donor support. Steady progress has also been made on the issue of sustainable development in SIDS, including the launch of the book Water and Indigenous Peoples at WWF-4. The UNESCO Science Report 2005, which reviews the state of science around the world through the eyes of an independent team of experts, was released during the semester and its findings received a large echo among scientists and science decision-makers, and in the media."

Social and Human Sciences

During the first six months of the 2006-2007 biennium significant progress was made under Major Programme III to implement the relevant resolutions of the General Conference at its 33rd session and the approved 33 C/5: in the normative area, the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights (2005) and the International Convention on Doping in Sport (2005) were widely disseminated in different forums and through various publications, with a view to ensuring their ratification and entry into force. In addition, the World Commission on the Ethics of Science and Technology (COMEST) considered a series of key ethical questions emanating from recent global, scientific and technological progress during its extraordinary session on 27 and 28 June 2006, and made significant recommendations to the Director-General on UNESCO’s future action in this regard. These recommendations will be shared with the Executive Board at its 175th session (see document 175 EX/14).

"UNESCO furthered its action in reinforcing the links between social science research and policy-making in the fields of human rights, the fight against discrimination, and human security by strengthening its networks on economic, social and cultural rights in the Arab States, Latin America and Africa; launching the Coalition of Cities against Racism in Latin America, Africa and the Asia-Pacific region; promoting human security at the regional level in South-East Asia and the Arab States; and building the capacities of Member States in the field of gender equality and development. Emphasis on the research-policy nexus was also furthered in the field of philosophy by mobilizing key partners through the worldwide survey on philosophy teaching, preparing for the forthcoming celebration of the World Philosophy Day to be held in Morocco in November 2006, and organizing various interregional philosophical dialogues. Cooperation has also been strengthened with other United Nations agencies, funds and research institutes in this area, which is essential for creating synergies and avoiding the duplication of efforts.

"To provide the space for decision-makers and social science researchers to come together to enhance the research-policy nexus in the human and social sciences, UNESCO also organized and participated in various forums. Examples include the first International Forum on Social Science-Policy Nexus in Argentina and Uruguay in February 2006; forums organized for Ministers of Social Development in Africa and Asia under the auspices of UNESCO; and UNESCO’s participation in the third session of the World Urban Forum held in Vancouver, Canada, in June 2006 and the second World Forum on Human Rights held in Nantes, France, in July 2006."

Communication and Information

"The implementation of Major Programme V (Communication and Information) is geared towards attaining strategic objectives 10, 11 and 12 assigned to the programme in the Medium-Term Strategy for 2002-2007 (31 C/4), namely “promoting the free flow of ideas and universal access to information”, “promoting the expression of pluralism and cultural diversity in the media and world information networks” and “access for all to information and communication technologies, especially in the public domain”.

"Within the framework of the principal priority of Programme V.1 “Empowering people through access to information and knowledge with special emphasis on freedom of expression”, action was initiated along four main thrusts: (i) promoting freedom of expression and freedom of the press; (ii) creating an enabling environment which is conducive to and facilitates universal access to information and knowledge; (iii) developing effective “infostructures”; and (iv) stimulating the development of and access to diverse content.

"The celebration, on 3 May, of the World Press Freedom Day, and the outcomes of the international conference on 'Media, Development and Poverty Eradication' held on that day, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, reaffirmed the fundamental principles of freedom of expression and press freedom, while highlighting that press freedom is part of the agenda for a human rights-based approach to development and poverty eradication as elaborated in the United Nations Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The role of media and information in harnessing knowledge for development was at the centre of the discussions of the fourth session of the Information for All Programme (IFAP) Council which met in March 2006 and confirmed its three strategic priorities – information literacy, information ethics and information preservation.

"The implementation of the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS, Phases I, Geneva, and II, Tunis) was continued during the period under review. In accordance with the Tunis agenda for the Information Society and the Consultation Meeting on Possible Action Line Moderators/Facilitators (Geneva, 24 February 2006), UNESCO was designated provisional focal point for six WSIS Action Lines, of which three are under the direct responsibility of Communication and Information Sector (CI), namely 'Access to information and knowledge' (C3); 'Ethical dimension of the Information Society' (C10) and 'Media' (C7).

"Under Programme V.2, Promoting communication development and ICTs for education,
science and culture, actions were geared towards: (i) supporting the development of
communication media, including in conflict and post-conflict areas and post-disaster
situations; and (ii) enhancing learning opportunities through access to diversified contents and delivery systems – thereby contributing to achieving the EFA target goals and the WSIS Action Plan – , and strengthening capacities for scientific research and information-sharing.

"The International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) is a main instrument of UNESCO’s efforts to support media development, including professional and institutional capacity-building. The external evaluation of IPDC carried out in early 2006, following the implementation of a three-year reform programme, commended the improvements in IPDC’s working methods and the innovative manner in which the programme implements and funds projects. IPDC could help in facilitating the implementation of the WSIS Action Line on Media by developing indicators for media development and providing a forum for global media development issues such as safety of journalists.

"Partnerships and alliances are indispensable for achieving a greater impact in the activities and need to be given greater priority, especially in resource mobilization. In this context, cooperation with the private sector led to achieving progress in fostering community access and diversity of content. Cooperation with Sonatel in Senegal had direct benefit for community multimedia centres (CMCs) across the country. Other such initiatives included the development of “ICT Competency Standards for Teachers” in cooperation with private sector partners Microsoft, Intel and Cisco.

"The CI Sector continued to spearhead joint intersectoral action in areas such as ICTs in education with Major Programme I; broadening access to scientific and technological information through media and ICTs; and the the use of ICTs to foster cultural and linguistic diversity in the media and in cyberspace. Intersectoral action was further reinforced through the cross-cutting projects pertaining to the contribution of information and communication technologies to the development of education, science and culture and the contributing of knowledge societies."

Connect to UNESCO International Science, Technology & Environmental Education Newsletter!

Check the latest issue of Connect on "UNESCO's role, vision and challenges for the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014)"!

Connect was launched in 1976 as the official organ of the UNESCO-UNEP International Environmental Education Programme (IEEP). Since 1997, it was merged with the International Network of Institutions of Science and Technology Educations (INISTE) bulletin to become the International Science, Technology and Environmental Education (STEE) newsletter of UNESCO. The objective of the newsletter is to promote UNESCO's action in STEE worldwide as well as provide a platform for the exchange of information among individuals and institutions across the world.

Useful links for Science and Technology Education
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Braunton Burrows Designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserve

The sand dunes at Braunton Burrows and Northam Burrows in North Devon are designated as an international Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO's Man in the Biosphere Program. This designation of the 3,120 hectares of Braunton Burrows as the first site in the UK to be made a biosphere reserve means that the site is recognized alongside Mount Vesuvius in Italy and the Danube Delta in eastern Europe as natural wonders.

Braunton Burrows
is the largest sand dune system in the United Kingdom. It hosts an extraordinarily diverse plant community, with over 400 recorded species of vascular plants. This in turn means that there are also a great variety of associated invertebrate species.

The Burrows, located in the north of Devonshire (in the south-west of England) was one of Britain's original biosphere reserves, and has been expanded to include Northam Burrows, the Taw-Torridge estuary and Braunton Marshes.

The Braunton site is among 18 just designated biosphere reserves in 12 different countries.

Visit the UNESCO Man in the Biosphere (MAB) Biosphere Reserves website.

Check out the complete list of 47 MAB designated Biosphere Resterves in the United States. Each place name in the list links to a website devoted to the Reserve.

Check out the interactive map of all the MAB designated Biosphere Reserves in the World.

A Personal Note: My mother's maiden name was a Braunton, and her family comes from North Devon, probably originally from Braunton Village. I still have relatives living there. Mom no doubt walked these beaches as a child. JAD

UNESCO and BBC join forces to distribute science programs in developing nations

Read the full story on the UNESCO website.

UNESCO and BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the British Broadcasting Corporation, have agreed to work together to provide high-quality television programs on science and technology to developing nations in Africa and Asia. Under a Memorandum of Understanding, to be signed by the BBC and UNESCO today, UNESCO acquires the rights for one year to 46 titles in the award-winning BBC Horizon series for distribution in 41 African and 9 Asian countries.

Meeting of the Information For All Program Bureau

Women listening to the radio

The eleventh meeting of the Bureau of the Intergovernmental Council for the Information for All Program is being held at UNESCO House in Paris yesterday and today. During the open thematic debate of the Bureau, IFAP wants to take a further step on filling the World Report “Towards Knowledge Societies” with life. The possible linkage of its own priority areas with the World Report’s Recommendations will be an important issue. The members expect to identify specific actions that they will recommend to the Intergovernmental Council for IFAP.

“Living Information” is the main concern of UNESCO’s Information for All Program (IFAP).

National Commissions for UNESCO

Every member nation of UNESCO has a National Commission -- 192 in all. The NatCom's were conceived at the very creation of UNESCO, sixty years ago, to enable civil society to participate fully in the organization. They provide a means for educators, the scientific community, and cultural leaders to interact with UNESCO. Indeed, NatCom's often sponsor UNESCO activities in their countries, especially in developing nations.

Here are links to some of the websites for the NatCom's of English Speaking nations. Check out the information they provide:
* United States
* United Kingdom
* Canada
* Australia
* New Zealand
This UNESCO website provides information on the activities of the National Commissions, as well as a complete list and contact information.

Understanding the Human Rights-Based Approach and the United Nations System.

A recent study explores the lessons learned by UN agencies in the implementation of the human rights-based approach to development cooperation, and reveals both common constraints and common solutions. Constraints shared by most agencies include a lack of political will at national level, resistance by governments for fear of another form of conditionality, lack of awareness of or understanding by UN staff and national partners.

The author, Andre Frankovits, underlines good practices, and suggests recommendations that are specific to UNESCO’s mandate. Frankovits highlights UNESCO's position to contribute to other agencies’ endeavors by clarifying for them further the nature and content of economic, social and, especially, cultural rights. >> Download the document (pdf)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Does UNESCO needs a more strategic approach to science?

Read the full editorial by David Dickson in SciDev.Net (19 September 2006).

This is a thoughtful piece, by someone uniquely placed to understand the scientific capacity and scientific needs of developing nations. Dickson also clearly understands the bureaucratic realities of large organizations, and the political realities of multinational governance. I quote his final comments, but strongly recommend the entire piece to those interested in UNESCO.
Some have suggested that the UN headquarters in New York, United States, should house a strategy office for science (see UN to set up science advisory mechanism). But this has so far failed to make much progress, partly because of resistance from some technical agencies — who fear, perhaps correctly, that it could impinge on their 'turf' — and partly because no one wants to cover the extra costs of a new science advisory mechanism at the UN headquarters.

But the need still exists. And UNESCO, for all its current weaknesses, could be well-placed to adopt such a role. Its remit would embrace many of the agency's current activities, stretching from issues such as the need to harmonise regulations for science-based technologies, to enhancing the public understanding of science and the better use of scientific evidence in political decision-making.

But before it can fulfil this role effectively, two things need to change.

First, UNESCO's mandate for science should give more focus to strategic issues rather than the implementation of scientific programmes. Sharp questions need to be asked, such as whether UNESCO is the appropriate agency to fund projects in areas such as water technology and hydrology.

The second requirement is that any funds freed up are used to ensure that UNESCO is properly resourced, particularly in terms of appropriately trained staff, to carry out its mandate effectively. All too often, UNESCO's failure has not been in identifying needs, but in its ability to persuade governments in both developed and developing countries to address these needs effectively.

At a time when science is returning to the international development agenda, the need for effective and workable strategic advice, particularly in countries such as those in Africa, is now stronger than ever. It is up to UNESCO, hopefully with guidance from the review committee when it presents its final report next year, to demonstrate whether it has the skills and commitment required to meet the challenge.

Editorial Comment: Perhaps the U.N. Commission for Science and Technology for Development is even better placed than UNESCO to provide "a strategy office for science" in the U.N. system. Unfortunately, its secretariat was moved from New York to Europe more than a decade ago, and it has not played as important a role in the U.N. system as it might have. It has been said that the most important determinant of the success of an advisory body is the willingness of its clients to be advised. I am not sure that the representatives of the member nations of the United Nations are very willing to utilize scientific advice. I would also note that the InterAcademy Council is one of a number of alternative sources of scientific advice available to the international community.

The United Nations system includes many agencies that include sector-specific scientific and technological responsiblities within their charters -- for example, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the U.N. Environmental Program (UNEP), and the U.N. Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). UNESCO's role in science and technology must be complementary to those of the other organizations in the system.

UNESCO is well placed to deal with science and technology education, including engineering education. Strong coordination between its various programs would seem to be called for to maximize its S&T education impact.

It is also well placed to deal with basic science. First, as Pope Benedict XIV has recently stressed, science-based reason serves as one of the pilars of peace among men. UNESCO's role in the promotion of reason for the promotion of peace remains paramount. I suggest that it is the fundamental sciences that most support the application of reason to understanding the world. Second, while the basic sciences underly all of the applied sciences and technologies of the other mission agencies of the U.N. system, none of them has the charter nor the capacity to promote the basic sciences in the way that UNESCO does.

Economic development requires the effective management of natural resources, and the effective management of these resources requires a strong scientific support. Indeed, countries have found that governments need to invest in the descriptive sciences to understand their mineral, water, biological and marine resources, and that they can not depend on the private sector to provide the scientific information required. UNESCO's geology, hydrology, oceanography and biological science programs thus have an important niches in the U.N. science system.

Sustainable economic development also requires prudent concern for the environment, and environmental conservation requires strong scientific support. UNESCO's programs, provide this support, and provide a means for legitimating scientific information so that it is more likely to be accepted and acted upon by political decision makers. The Man in the Biosphere program, with very few resources of its own, plays an important role in mobilizing support for biosphere reserves.

Remembering the tsunami of December, 2004, it is hard to take exception with UNESCO's work promoting the development of a Pacific Ocean tsunami warning system. While the World Meteorological Organization provides a site for meteorological and climatological expertise within the United Nations system, UNESCO's programs provide an important source of guidance for other disaster planning, warning, and mitigation systems. Earthquakes, mudslides, volcanic eruptions, floods, and tsunamis not only cause loss of life every year, they have a huge economic impact.

Social science has been something of a stepchild in the development community, but it should not be. The International Financial Institutions (such as the World Bank Group and the International Monitary Fund) have carved out an obvious and important role in economics and especially the economics of development. The other mission agencies of the United Nations have supported and applied social sciences in their spheres of activity -- WHO in Health, FAO in agriculture, UNFPA in its population activities, etc. UNESCO's program on the Management of Social Transformations (MOST) fills a niche important for developing nations, which is not filled by other agencies. Yet there remain key areas of the fundamental social sciences which lack an effective guardian in the U.N. system other than UNESCO -- anthropology, sociology, geography, history, etc. In its social and human sciences programs, UNESCO promotes human rights and ethics.

An important aspect of UNESCO's social science program is its effort to tie social science research and development policy more closely. Surely national, regional and international social and economic policies should be thoroughly grounded research findings from the social and human sciences, but all too often they are not. The research-policy nexus has been of increasing concern everywhere, but especially in developing nations.

Dickson, in the body of his piece, correctly highlights the important role of UNESCO in science policy. Again, this must be properly understood. The other mission agencies all have roles in supporting the policy making of developing countries with respect to research, development and innovations within their sectors. I see a role for UNESCO in the U.N. system in support of policy for basic science, and indeed for the sciences of the public sector -- geologic survey, hydrological survey, biological survey, etc. Further, no agency in the U.N. system is better placed to provide advice to developing-country governments on the overall integration of their various science, technology and innovation policies.

Essentially, the above discussion suggests that UNESCO has sought to fill all the appropriate science niches left by the other U.N. mission agencies. I conclude, as does Dickson, that UNESCO does not have access to the resources necessary to fund enough research and development (R&D) in the natural or social sciences to make a difference. I think, however, that it can and should play a useful role in stimulating such R&D.

In the resource management related scientific fields, I would give high priority to capacity development for developing nations. This is a big job, and one for which UNESCO would have a comparative scientific advantage. By forming partnerships with other donors, especially the International Financial Institutions which have a comparative advantage in access to finance, as well as complementary influence to that of UNESCO with developing country governments, much might be done.

I think UNESCO's role in stimulating international cooperation in the resource management related scientific fields is worth careful consideration. It has played a useful role in the past in encouraging nations to work together on oceanographic science. Geological and hydrological structures do not respect political boundries among states, any more than do forests or wildlife. Moreover, while most scientists in these fields are located in the North, those scientists find many of the most interesting challenges in their disciplines in the South; UNESCO's international scientific bodies can help to catalyze the North-South partnerships that will help build capacity in the South while they help open scientific opportunities to scientists in the North. This is important work that the international scientific commissions of UNESCO would seem to do efficiently and well.

There seems to be consensus that UNESCO could be more efficient in carrying out its scientific responsibilities, and that it has been becoming so. I await the report of the Review team on how far UNESCO has progressed, and the urgency and budgetary support that should be assigned to further reforms.

UNESCO will have to face difficult issues in developing its next biennial plan and budget. I suspect it will not be able to attract the necessary resources from its donors to do all that should really be done, although perhaps the Review team can suggest an increase in funding would be well used by UNESCO's science programs. However, UNESCO will almost certainly have to make difficult choices about what not to do. It will have to allocate resources it can command among its programs, and indeed it may well have to reorganize its structure to reflect the changing priorities. It will have to make difficult choices among the possible activities within each program. It will have to make choices between efforts to be carried out centrally, and those to be delegated to the field.

Of course, UNESCO's Secretariat will make these decisions under the guidance of its Executive Council and its General Conference -- its overall governance structures. I hope that its Review team can provide guidance and illumination for the planning and budgetting processes, as they affect UNESCO's science programs. I also hope that the representatives of the member states on UNESCO's governing bodies are open to advice and reason.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

"A seedbed of revolution"

Read "Economics focus: A seedbed of revolution" in the current edition of The Economist.

Last week the Rockefeller Foundation and the Gates Foundation said they would devote $150m over five years to research to improve agricultural productivity in Africa.
Some of this money ($63m) will be spent training more crop scientists and breeding new seed varieties suited to sub-Saharan Africa's parched climate, denuded soils and stubborn pests. But the two foundations, appreciating that technology is not the only obstacle, will spend almost as much ($61m) on the distribution of seeds as on their discovery. They will, for example, help village retailers and seed wholesalers set up in business, and push for financial reforms that would enable farmers and their suppliers to get credit.

The money is welcome, because crop science of the sort Mr Borlaug (who won the Nobel Prize for his leadership in the research that fueled the Green Revolution in Asia) made famous has fallen out of fashion in recent decades. The International Rice Research Institute, for example, lost a quarter of its core funding between 2001 and 2003. These days biotechnology is mainly a profit-driven enterprise, creating seeds for big farms, often in rich countries. This skews its research, says Michael Lipton, of the University of Sussex. Herbicide-resistant crops, for example, allow weeds to be killed chemically, rather than plucked manually. This might reduce the demand for farm labour, which is scarce in rich countries, but in need of employment in poor ones.
Thus we see philanthropists stepping in to support biotechnology for agriculture in Africa, recognizing the failure of private industry to address Africa's technological needs under the market-based innovation system, and recognizing the failure of governments to adequately support the International Agricultural Research Centers to make up the shortfall.

Editorial Note: This was originally posted to this blog by mistake, but I have left it as it might be of interest to our readers even though it does not specifically deal with UNESCO. After all, Africa is UNESCO's priority region, and the need to build scientific capacity in Africa is recognized by UNESCO. JAD

Monday, September 18, 2006

Science and Technology in the Era of Globalization

On the occasion of last week’s conference on Globalization: Challenges and Opportunities for Science and Technology, co-organized by UNESCO and the United Nations University (UNU) in Yokohama, Japan, UNESCO Director General, Mr. Koїchiro Matsuura, underlined that it was one of UNESCO’s main concerns to render globalization more beneficial to all by empowering people to escape exclusion and discrimination, and by empowering countries to become equal actors in the global arena. To accomplish this, Mr Matsuura stated, science and technology would be key, inter alia by promoting equal access to information and knowledge through the use of information- and communication technologies, and by strengthening developing countries’ institutional capacities to lead and manage scientific research and development. In this context, Mr. Matsuura emphasized that a well-functioning and inclusive education system that delivers high quality education for all was a basic precondition for any effective science and technology policy.

The Conference, held August 23rd-24th, 2006, provided a forum for eminent experts from around the world to review the ways in which globalization is changing science and technology, and vice-versa, and assess the opportunities that these changes offer. Panelists discussed how science and technology link with, and contribute to, economic and social development in four fundamental areas — knowledge-sharing, trade and technology transfer, society and policy-making, and science and technology education for sustainable development — and how globalization is influencing these processes.

James Collins, Assistant-Director for the Biological Sciences Directorate, National Science Foundation, was among the key speakers who intervened during the conference.

Conference proceedings, papers, and presentations will be posted to these pages as material becomes available.

UNESCO and Globalization

First Asia-Pacific-Europe Media Dialogue hosted by UNESCO

Top broadcasters from Asia-Pacific and Europe met from 11 to 13 September at UNESCO’s Paris Headquarters to discuss joint approaches to media issues such as cultural diversity and conflict resolution, digital opportunities for radio and television and mechanisms to improve media governance, credibility and accountability.

The Asia-Pacific-Europe Media Dialogue, a first event of this kind, explored the issues facing broadcasters in the third millennium, as satellites and the internet blur borders and pose new challenges in a globalizing world.

The purpose of the dialogue is to serve as an opportunity to identify creative approaches to further build bridges between Asia and Europe. The 2nd Asia-Pacific-Europe Media Dialogue will be held in Bonn from 3-5 September 2007. Further details will be announced soon.

The 1st Asia-Pacific Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Media Awards will be launched in October 2006 to honor distinguished reporting on the eight Millennium Development Goals being implemented in the region. The Awards, which will support global efforts to reduce poverty and hunger are open to broadcast producers and journalists in print, radio and television covering the Asia-Pacific region. They offer USD 7,000 in cash prize, a trophy and a certificate to each 1st prize winner, and to each runner up USD 2,000, a trophy and certificate.

© C. Arnaldo/UNESCO

Friday, September 15, 2006

Science and technology policies

As part of its 60 week celebration of its 60th anniversary, UNESCO this week is featuring its science policy for sustainable development program.

UNESCO's factsheet on this program atates:
Science and technology policies consist of a set of principles, declarations, guidelines, decisions, instruments and mechanisms oriented towards scientific and technological development in the medium and long term.

Recent UNESCO programs on science and technology policy have witnessed important developments. UNESCO focuses its programme on providing assistance to developing countries to integrate sustainable development priorities into their national policies on science, technology and innovation. UNESCO works on improving governance of national and regional S&T systems and making deliberations on emerging science policy and ethical issues related to science and technology more participatory. The participatory process is encouraged, with more involvement of forums of parliamentary science committees, scientists, the private and public sector, representatives of the media and members of civil society.

Check out the UNESCO Science Report, 2005.

Call for Applications: The Mondialogo Engineering Award 2006-2007

Mondialogo, a UNESCO/DaimlerChrysler partnership initiative, is inviting engineering students in developing and developed countries to cooperate in the design, production and presentation of project proposals that address basic needs in developing countries focusing on poverty eradication, sustainable development and the other United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. Areas of basic need include: water supply, sanitation, affordable housing, food production and processing, health services transport and communication.

U.S. teams were involved in many of the winning projects of the Mondialogo Engineering Award 2004/2005; namely "Providing Arsenic-Free Water in Remote Villages in West Benghal, India" and "The Development of Appropriate and Sustainable Construction Materials".

Each team is expected to actively engage in international cooperation and intercultural dialogue over a six-month period, from December 2006 to May 2007.
Ten Mondialogo Engineering Awards of € 20,000 will go to teams with the top project proposals, with an Honourable Mention and € 5,000 earmarked for twenty more teams.
Registration is open to International Project Teams through November 30th, 2006. >> Application Guidelines

Our posting on "The Mondialogo School Contest"

© Mondialogo, The Mondialogo Engineering Award 2004/2005

UNESCO Overall Review of its Science Programs

As the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO informed in its last newsletter, UNESCO has charged an international committee with the responsibility for an overall review of its Natural science Program and its Social and Human Sciences. A website has been constructed providing many details on the review including webcasts of the Committee meetings. The evaluation has emphasized the major International Scientific Programs (ISPs):
* The International Hydrological Program (IHP), The Man and the Biosphere Program (MAB),
* The program of The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC),
* The International Geoscience Program (IGCP),
* The International Basic Sciences and Engineering Program (IBSP), and
* The Management of Social Transformations Program (MOST).

Sophie Hebden has just published a good article in SciDev.Net, occasioned by the interim progress report on the committee's work.

In the Heat of the Debate

Some of the key points in the report on the first phase of the Committee's review were:
(i) UNESCO has a unique role to play in the sciences in today's world, given its international credibility, its special mandate for science within the United Nations system, its ability to act as a facilitator for developing countries to participate in research and development, including the support of networks, and to ensure the articulation of research results in global, regional and nationaendeavorsrs. These strengths are central to its vital role as a capacity builder.

(ii) UNESCO also has a critical role in facilitating global, regional and country-level science policy development by improving the base of relevant scientific research knowledge and communication of that knowledge. This role is consistent with UNESCOÂ’s multilateral standing, its cross-disciplinary capability, its financial capacity and its respected global reach to both governments and civil society.

(iii) However, the Organization is not exploiting these comparative advantages through dynamic, innovative and interdisciplinaprogrammedmes, which would exemplify leadership in the sciences, reflect emerging global priorities, and avoid duplication with other United Nations bodies and non-governmental organizations.

(iv) The science programs lack a high and uniform level of transparency across their management and budget activities, including detailed project-level personnel allocations, and adherence to standard procedures in such areas as selection of projects, evaluation of results, including performance indicators and sunset clauses in the management of activities.

(v) Within the science programs, there are too many small and isolated projects, involving direct action or funding efforts, which show little or no demonstrable impact relative to the efforts of other United Nations agencies.

(v) The numerous ISPs, each with their respective decision-making processes and bodies, operate too autonomously, in separate 'silos', despite the considerable mutual overlap both within programs and with many outside bodies. Thus, they fail to exploit their potential for enhansed synergies through more strategic coordination with related activities across the United Nations system, as well as through administrative coordination.

(vi) Intersectoral interdisciplinary activity both within the two Science Sectors and across the Organization is inadequate. In large part, this reflects a staffing and budget structure, which together creates a culture which hinders efforts to promote such activities. Therefore, UNESCO is missing the opportunity to design and manage programs in a manner which reflects the inherent interdisciplinary nature of all of today'’s major global problems.

(vii) The science programs lack visibility in the international arena, and reflect both their current limited impact and UNESCOÂ's ineffective coordination and cooperation with other international science organizations, such as the International Council for Sciences. Furthermore, UNESCO is failing to take advantage of its National Commissions, field offices, Centers, institutes, ISP Committees and Chairs to promote its programs. The absence of an effective communications strategy involving such proactive outreach, including to various forms of the media, is a great hindrance to UNESCO's efforts to promote its leadership in the sciences.

Sophie Hebden in preparing for the story in SciDev.Net did a couple of email interviews which I have obtained ane which throw some light on the issues. Both Peter Tindemans and I (John Daly) were speaking as individuals, and not as representatives of any organizations.

An interview with Peter Tindemans:

SH: Can you fill me in some context for this: how major this is for UNESCO's science programs: will the findings create a lot of waves? How serious do you see this criticism? How often are reviews done? Are you surprised by its findings and why has it taken until now for them to be identified? She also asked specifically about issues iv through vii listed above.

PT: It seems clear that the resolution at the basis of the Review was instigated by the Nordic countries. All five of them are mentioned next UK, France and Slovenia. It certainly reflects a long-standing uneasiness among countries about the way UNESCO functions. Isolated kingdoms, poor management, no ability to break loose from old habits. That said, countries realise that much of the blame falls on themselves. And much is inherent in an organisation like UNESCO with almost 200 member states and a very broad mandate.

Normally the composition of such a commitee is a matter of the member countries. The Ambassadors at UNESCO suggest candidates and some diplomatic wrangling leads to the result -- the US, Russia, China, India, Japan, the UK, a Nordic country and then of course several developing countries being the almost inevitable candidates. I would guess that most of the members have in fact been siggested by the National UNESCO committees, and I would also guess therefore that most of them have experience with UNESCO activities.

The focus of the review is clearly on the five or programs that are listed in the review document: MAB, IOC etc. But while I understand most of the criticism, I feel that the committee should have been much more explicit. It is now quite general, will certainly please the ambassadors of the developed nations (with the exception the Japanese one who sits there to protect Matsuura), but there is also much one could argue with, I believe.

A few examples.
(iii) they ask for innovative, interdisciplinary programs, exemplifying leadership and reflecting emerging global priorities. I would say that most programs are fairly interdisciplinary and do reflect crucial global priorities. The problem is that the Committee expects direct action, i.e. the funding of research which then would exemplfy leadership. But look at the budgets. A major program like the IOC has a UNESCO budget of a few million dollars, on top of that there are maybe 20 or so millions coming from governments, but they usually have their own conditions. You cannot fund meaningful real research that can compete with the hundreds of millions or even billions that governments and research agencies fund. The consequence is either coordination or investing im centers. I am not really up to date with respect to the programs themselves, but IOC had quite a good name in the past. It is a difficult structure, but it did play a strong role in global oceanographic research (which by the way is in itself a very interdisciplinary field). A couple of the centers get high marks. The Trieste center does so; the IHE in Delft (but that was an existing high quality Dutch center which is still largely funded by the Dutch government).

iv) is no doubt true, but also partially the result of the conditions of governments for their additional contributions.

(v) reflects the unrealistic wish for direct fundign of research.

(vi) 'numerous' is not fair: there are five, or if you count the ISBP, six so-called ISPs. I don't think it is fair either to reproach UNESCO of not coordinating enough with other UN bodies. The UN members should abolish many of the new bodies they have created after UNESCO.

(vii) I am not sure whether the programs lack visibility. They played (and maybe play, that is what I don't know) a useful coordinating and rallying role, e.g. in oceanography or biodiversity. They cannot compete with an NSF program, but that is not their goal.

An interview with me (John Daly)

SH. Do you have time to provide a comment on the review's findings?

JD. It is hard to judge the quality of a program from a distance, which is why there are independent evaluations. The evaluation team seems very selected, and of course they have yet to deliver their final verdict.

SH. I wonder what you mean by the panel being 'highly selected' - are you referring to its independence?

JD. The panel seems to be very well selected. Its members all seem individually to have had long, distinguished careers. Obviously a lot of thought went in balance, trying to get a cross-section of scientific expertise, geographic balance, North-South balance, balance in understanding science policy and administration of scientific activities versus research and teaching science, and gender balance.

SH. Which criticisms are most critical for science and development in developing nations?

JD. I think two criticisms are most critical in terms of the benefits UNESCO could and should bring to science in developing nations:

* "UNESCO is missing the opportunity to design and man programs in a manner which reflects the inherent interdisciplinary nature of all of today's major global problems."
* "UNESCO is failing to take advantage of its National Commissions, field offices, centers, institutes, ISP Committees and Chairs to promote its programs."

SH. How do they conflict with UNESCO's remit for facilitating developing nation participation in the scientific enterprise?

JD. Developing countries need to make the most of their scarce scientific resources; the last thing they need is to have UNESCO leading them down the wrong path, and puting science in "silos" would be the wrong path.

UNESCO's best information on local circumstances in developing countries should usually be found in National Commissions and field offices, as its best scientific information should normally be found in the institutes, ISP committees, and chairs. UNESCO's organizational problem is bringing the best information from diverse source to bear on the key decisions.

SH. Have any of the criticisms been raised before - are you surprised by any of them?

JD. While the team has stressed that UNESCO plays an important and sometimes critical role in capacity building, I was still surprised by how negative some of the comments seemed. Of course, UNESCO has been involved in a long term reform effort, and there remain areas in which the science programs can still be improved.

Comment: The Committee may of course change its views in the next six months. The Secretariat will have the opportunity to interact more with the Committee, and to prepare the Secretariat's response to the final report of the Committee. The report and response will go before the Executive Board, composed of representatives of member countries, many of whom have significant resources devoted to understanding and participating in UNESCO's science programs. Then they may go to the General Conference of all the member states. It is early days still.

Of course one expects significant reforms to be made after such a study. The science programs can be made more efficient, even more relevant to global problems than they are today, and more effective. One hopes that the Committee will focus on the problems that can be fixed, and not on those inherent in the nature of a multinational organization with 200 member states and a large part of its financing in extra-budgetary resources contributed with ties by specific member nations.

Ultimately, I think Peter Tindemans' comments raise the issue of exactly what the governments want UNESCO to do with its science programs. Is it to be:
* A discussion forum, with the ability to catalyze international science programs? I think some of the oceanographic and hydrological programs have functioned in this way with great success.
* A technical assistance agency encouraging the development of science policy and scientific capacity in developing nations? I think the program has had some success in these functions.
* An organization funding scientific research and development. As Peter says, there is not much money available if that is the purpose.
* A combination of these and more functions. This tends to be the result of decisions made by representatives of 200 nations, unless guided by a strong Secretariat and Executive Board.

I hope that an outcome of the review process is a clear statement of the mission of the science programs, focusing on technical assistance and catalyzing scientific collaboration among nations to clarify our understanding of global and regional problems such as water scarcity and distribution and the loss of biological diversity. I would be pleased if the review process also resulted in a more cost effective science program that would justify and receive more funding.

Monday, September 11, 2006

UNESCO and International Migration

UNESCO SHS Views No. 14 includes a dossier on international migration. It is timed to coincide with the United Nations High-Level Dialogue that is to take place in New York on 14 and 15 September 2006. Among other issues, this special dossier presents UNESCO's activities regarding the Convention on Migrant Workers' Rights, human trafficking in Africa and in the Greater Mekong region, migration in China and Central Asia and also offers a list of publications to further explore the question of international migration. The dossier is also available in French. SHS Views is the UNESCO Social and Human Sciences Sector magazine. September-November 2006. (PDF, 32 pages.)

The purpose of the High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development is to discuss the multidimensional aspects of international migration and development in order to identify appropriate ways and means to maximize its development benefits and minimize its negative impacts. Additionally, the High-Level Dialogue will have a strong focus on policy issues, including the challenge of achieving the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Visit the UNESCO website on International Migration and Multicultural Policies.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

UNESCO-Nairobi New Science and Technology Publications for 2006

Revitalizing science and technology training institutions in Africa : the way forward. Nairobi , UNESCO, 2006
view document in pdf

The state of science and technology training institutions in Africa. Nairobi, UNESCO, 2005.
view document in pdf

The African Network of Scientific and Technological Institutions (ANSTI) Annual Report. Nairobi , UNESCO, 2006
view document in pdf

Friday, September 08, 2006

Disaster Reduction Conference adopts Declaration

The International Disaster Reduction Conference (IDRC), co-organized by UNESCO and held August 26th-September 1st, 2006 in Davos, has closed with the adoption of a Declaration by more than 600 participants. The Declaration draws attention to important issues in integrated risk management and development; gender and disasters; environmental vulnerability; education, knowledge and awareness. Participants from Africa, for example, advanced plans for promoting mutual interest and cooperation in disaster reduction for safer, disaster-resilient communities and issued a position paper outlining details in this regard.

The UNESCO Exhibition of Didactic Tools on Natural Disaster Reduction was displayed in Davos, alongside the IDRC. This multilingual exhibition gives a new vision in terms of strategy, since it appeals to children's creativity. Thus, it shows how to build up a culture of safety and to resist the effects of disasters through education.

The exhibition includes contributions from international and regional organizations, NGOs, and national institutions from the 5 continents. This exhibition will be updated and enriched with new contributions in the future.
The contents of the exhibition will soon be accessible on UNESCO Natural Disaster webpage.

Periodic progress reports and assessments will be made available on the conference website.

Photo© SHOA, Valparaiso, Chile - Detection buoy being lowered into the ocean