Monday, October 01, 2007


The Secretary General of UNESCO prepared this progress report on the science programs in preparation for the upcoming meeting of the Executive Board:
A draft plan for the possible implementation of the recommendations emerging from the Overall Review of Major Programmes II and III is in the process of finalization, for presentation to the General Conference at its upcoming session (34 C/13). The plan will also be shared with members of the Overall Review Committee at their sixth meeting, which will take place during the General Conference (25 October 2007). Furthermore, in order to facilitate the Conference’s decision-making as concerns the science programmes, a mapping of science activities in the United Nations system has been prepared and will also be presented to the forthcoming General Conference (34 C/INF.13). Finally, in line with 176 EX/Decision 7, the international science programmes, as well as the Organization’s main science partners, have been consulted on the possible implementation of the Review Committee’s recommendations. The consultation of regional groups is ongoing and will come to an end just before the 34th session of the General Conference.

Natural sciences

There has been a major shift in the importance accorded to global climate change on the international political agenda, reflected in two new initiatives of the Secretary-General: to mainstream climate change into all relevant programmes and work streams of the United Nations system; and to “green” the system’s administration.

With climate an important component of UNESCO’s environment activities, the Director-General established an Intersectoral Task Force on Global Climate Change (TFGCC – DG/Note/07/27 of 29 June 2007) to enable the Organization to effectively contribute to these new initiatives. The TFGCC’s mandate is to reposition the Organization and redefine the interdisciplinary framework and platform for UNESCO’s climate activities through the preparation of a new strategy and implementation plan. The Task Force has so far held two meetings, producing a draft strategy, currently under consideration by the Director-General. The strategy aims to ensure a holistic approach that draws on the Organization’s recognized areas of comparative advantage and provides a cooperative and coherent contribution to the Secretary-General’s initiative. Once finalized, it will be shared with Member States.

IOS, the TFGCC and the Natural Sciences Sector are carrying out an audit of the Organization’s on-site energy use and conservation measures in order to set realistic targets for change. The final report will include implementation measures and recommendations for dissemination to the Organization’s field offices, with follow-up workshops scheduled for the months following the publication of the report. Already, measures have been taken in-house to improve energy efficiency, reduce waste, and reduce UNESCO’s carbon footprint, including through the renovation works (e.g. double-paned windows and energy-efficient lighting); to upgrade the network cabling and electronic switches to improve bandwidth for effective web conferencing so consultative meetings with colleagues and other partners located away from Paris can be conducted in this manner; and in-house awareness-raising.

Following the move of the World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP) secretariat to
Perugia towards the end of this year, work on the World Water Development Report (WWDR), which will be launched at the fifth World Water Forum (Istanbul, Turkey – March 2009) will move from the current preparatory phase to the in-depth scientific research and analysis that underpins the Report. The evaluation of WWAP Phase II is now completed. Its conclusions are very positive, especially as concerns the Programme’s role in raising global awareness of the water crisis and strengthening regional cooperation, and its Reports’ presentation of a comprehensive overview of water and policy issues, including those that may be of a controversial nature in some regions.

Dr Ardakanian, the Director of the Regional Centre on Urban Water Management, a UNESCO category 2 centre based in Tehran (Iran), was recently appointed Director of the UNWater Decade Programme on Capacity-Building, based in Bonn (Germany). He will direct one of the two offices of the secretariat for the International Decade for Action – Water for Life that is coordinated by UN-DESA. The other office, in Zaragoza (Spain), has as its Coordinator a former UNESCO colleague, Carlos Fernández-Jáuregui. This arrangement follows the decision of UNWater to establish two offices for this Decade.

It should be noted that to improve cooperation with field partners and ensure the proper coordination of activities of the water-related category 2 centres, a strategy has been prepared and endorsed by the 40th session of the Bureau of the International Hydrological Programme (13-15 June 2007). The strategy has now been submitted to the IHP Intergovernmental Council (June 2007), which should formally adopt it at an out-of-session meeting in September 2007, prior to its presentation to UNESCO’s governing bodies. Information on the strategy can be found in document 177 EX/INF.9.

At its 40th session, the Bureau of IHP (June 2007) constituted a working group to review the draft thematic water programmes foreseen within the framework of the recently adopted Action Plan for DESD, in order to properly articulate them as fully-fledged programmes and ensure that they are scientifically sound. This is particularly true of thematic programme 8 on Education for Sustainable Water Development. The working group is also tasked to help engage all the relevant actors involved in UNESCO’s water activities, including the IHP National Committees and water-related centres, in order to ensure their full participation in DESD.

In the area of biodiversity, the Local and Indigenous Knowledge Programme, in association with the Australian National Commission for UNESCO, organized an international experts meeting on Indigenous Knowledge and Changing Environments: Biological and Cultural Diversities in Transition (Cairns, Australia, 19-23 August 2007). Specialists from both the natural and social sciences, and indigenous peoples, deliberated on past, current and future responses of local and indigenous communities to changing environments, as mediated by their indigenous knowledge.

Four new members have joined UNESCO’s Global Network of National Geoparks. Three are located in Europe: Papuk Geopark (Croatia), Lochaber Geopark (Scotland, United Kingdom), and the Geological and Mining Park (Italy). The fourth, the Langkawi Geopark, is the first member from South-East Asia (Malaysia) to join the Network. The Global Network now has 52 members, present in 17 Member States. The Overall Review of Major Programmes II and III recommended that UNESCO’s inscribed sites be examined for their appropriateness for coordinated global monitoring of climate change, biodiversity loss and sustainable development. Biosphere reserves, geoparks and World Heritage sites are already being used as locations for monitoring change, including through the use of earth observing space technology coordinated through the “Open Initiative on the Use of Space Technologies to Monitor Natural and Cultural Heritage of UNESCO Sites”, testing adaptation strategies for sustainable development, and addressing mitigation efforts related to carbon sequestration.

The recently launched Quranic Botanic Gardens project (May 2007), jointly undertaken between the Natural Sciences and Culture Sectors, facilitates linkages between traditional Islamic respect for natural habitats, the cultures inspired by the Holy Books of Islam, environmental protection, biodiversity conservation, and science education.

In follow-up to the Plan of Action adopted by the G8 at its St Petersburg meeting, the Russian Federation organized a ministerial conference entitled “Energy in a Changing World” at UNESCO (31 May-1 June 2007), with the support of UNESCO. The main output was a Message addressed to this year’s G8 Summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, presented by the Russian Federation.

Closely linked to climate issues, the main exhibition at the 34th session of the General Conference – “Planet Earth: From Space to Place” – anticipates the International Year of Planet Earth (2008), highlighting the Organization’s work related to the sustainable development of our planet and demonstrating some of the long-standing earth science contributions which underpin the United Nations’ efforts on climate.

In response to Recommendation 8 of the Overall Review Committee’s Report, a ministerial round table on the theme “Science and Technology for Sustainable Development and the Role of UNESCO” will be organized during the 34th session of the General Conference (25-26 October 2007). The outcome of the round table will be a final communiqué setting out new issues and trends that science, technology and innovation policy makers need to address.

Work in science policy has been expanded with advisory services being provided to Member States including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Congo, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Mongolia and Nigeria. The Egyptian Ministry of Education agreed on 13 June 2007 that UNESCO launch the Egyptian Virtual School Campus, which will be put in place over the next four years through the Avicenna Virtual Campus and help expand training opportunities for Egypt’s one million teachers. Other countries in the region have expressed interest in pursuing this same methodology of teacher training in the sciences.

Social and human sciences

In the last six months, the Social and Human Sciences Sector has continued its action, with particular emphasis on youth, to promote ethical reflection and the establishment of innovative action research networks on issues relating to social development, democracy and action to combat discrimination.

Responding to the need to promote discussions and capacity-building activities in the field of bioethics in Africa, the International Bioethics Committee (IBC) held for the first time in sub-Saharan Africa its fourteenth ordinary session in Nairobi, Kenya, from 17 to 19 May 2007. The meeting gathered together more than 150 participants from 53 countries, with the active participation of numerous government representatives and experts from various African countries. On this occasion, IBC devoted an entire day of work and exchange to African perspectives on bioethics. An informal meeting of the World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST) was convened in Paris from 22 to 24 July 2007 to review its activities and discuss the findings and recommendations of the expert team on the Overall Review of Major Programmes II and III.

UNESCO continued to make very good progress with the implementation of the International Convention against Doping in Sport which entered into force on 1 February 2007. As of 1 September, there were 64 States Parties to the Convention across all five of the UNESCO regions. In order to promote the Convention, UNESCO organized a regional conference among Arab Member States in collaboration with ISESCO and the Tunisian Government from 11 to 13 June 2007. The participants adopted a final declaration which inter alia called upon Arab Member States to become States Parties to the Convention prior to the 34th session of the UNESCO General Conference.

In the context of UNESCO’s efforts to strengthen the policy-research nexus, the eighth Intergovernmental Council session of the MOST Programme was held in Paris from 16 to 18 July 2007. The participants emphasized the Programme’s development towards an international platform for horizontal cooperation, peer learning and exchange among high-level policy-makers in charge of social development, as well as the consolidation of MOST as a continuous, multiple flow interface between policy-makers, social scientists, NGO representatives and practitioners. During the meeting, a ministerial round table of Ministers of Social Development took place to discuss the institutionalizing of the MOST Fora of Ministers of Social Development and the strengthening of regional cooperation on issues related to social development.

Wishing to extend its action to young people, the Sector continued to organize regional youth forums on the theme “Youth and dialogue among civilizations, cultures and peoples”. After the Pacific region and the Euro-Mediterranean region in 2006, a forum was held for Asia in the Republic of Korea from 25 to 29 June 2007 and another for the Americas in Mexico from 9 to 15 September 2007. UNESCO’s first African Youth Forum will be held from 24 to 28 September 2007 in Burkina Faso. All of the conclusions of these forums will be submitted to the Youth Forum of the General Conference, on 12 and 13 October 2007, and will provide inputs to the discussions of the ministerial round table on science and technology in the service of sustainable development, which will be held on that occasion.

Furthermore, World Philosophy Day, which will be hosted this year by Turkey, will be celebrated on 15 November 2007 and its theme will be “Dialogue: among whom and for what purpose?”.

In order to contribute to global reflection on new trends and challenges in the field of human rights and democracy, the Sector is currently preparing, in close consultation with Member States, a plan of action for the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The commemorative events and activities will take place on 10 December 2007. An International Conference on “Democracy and Human Rights in Africa” will also be held in Cairo, Egypt, in December 2007, co-organized with the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights, and with the cooperation of the African Union, the League of Arab States and the International Organization of the Francophonie.

Finally, the regional network of the Coalition of Cities against Racism and Discrimination in Asia and the Pacific will be officially launched next October, on the occasion of the World Congress of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) which will be held in Jeju Island, Republic of Korea (28-31 October 2007).

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