Wednesday, April 30, 2008

UNESCO and the Global Information Society

Last year Seán Ó Siochrú published a chapter on UNESCO in the Global Information Society Watch 2007 Report. The report provides an overview of UNESCO's programs and activities related computers and information technology, with some discussion of UNESCO's role in the World Summit on the Information Society.

An Impact of UNESCO's Influence

The International Institute for Sustainable Development has published a new report titled
How Information and Communications Technologies Can Support Education for Sustainable Development: Current uses and trends
IISD describes the report in the following way:
As part of IISD's involvement with Manitoba Education, Citizenship and Youth and the UNESCO Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, this paper presents a brief history, and identifies current uses and trends for deploying ICTs, primarily in the formal Kindergarten to Grade 12 education system, with a focus on the online environment. It considers three main questions: (1) Why do ICTs need to be considered as a critical tool in education for sustainable development (ESD)?; (2) What ICTs are currently being used by educators and learners?; and (3) What can we expect to see in the near future?
UNESCO has a program on ICT and Education, which combines its expertise in Education and that in Communications and Information. That program produces information from UNESCO headquarters in Paris, from its Bangkok regional office, from the UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education (IITE)in Moscow, and from other decentralized UNESCO Centers and Institutes.

However, as the IICD report indicates, UNESCO influences other organizations to produce information complementary to that which it can produce internally. Indeed, the global community involved in ICT in education dwarfs that internal to UNESCO, or even those who can be involved directly in UNESCO meetings and publications. Many members of this larger global community are influenced by UNESCO, producing materials in support of UNESCO's programs and activities.

Australian Kids at e-learning,
Photo: Mario Borg, Copyright UNESCO

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Musing: Emergency Education

Two students in my class last night presented a synopsis of their project on UNESCO's role in emergency education. They emphasized education for refugees, noting that there are an estimated 20 million refugees in countries other than their own, and some 30 million refugees within their own countries, and that these world estimates may be too low. My colleague, Frank Method, mentioned that a large portion of the world's children who are not able to exercise their rights to primary education are refugees. We will not achieve "Education for All" unless we educate refugees, and refugee kids have a right to education in their own languages.

There are of course other emergencies such as natural disasters which also require special handling of educational resources. But let me continue the student focus on refugee education.

There are many agencies that are involved, such as UNRWA, UNICEF, development banks, NGOs and bilateral agencies, as well as the national governments that have the central responsibilities for efforts in their own countries and for their own citizens. However, UNESCO has the lead responsibility within the United Nations system for education, communication and information and thus should play an important role in refugee education. Unfortunately, UNESCO's staff and financial resources are very limited in the face of UNESCO's huge responsibilities within the UN and international system.

The students pointed out that most of the concern for emergency education is focused on primary school, but that UNESCO correctly sees education as a lifelong process, and indeed there is a great need for providing appropriate secondary, tertiary, and informal education services for refugees. The refugees need to be prepared both to return to their homes and places of origin and deal with the problems there, and to cope with their current situation as refugess.

Frank pointed out that UNESCO's function in refugee education was not simply to teach the kids, but nation building. Refugee education should help to overcome the circumstances that caused the regugees to seek refuge in the first place. They will include building a culture of peace, supporting respect for cultural diversity, and facing the problems of rebuilding economies and promoting participatory governance.

In thinking about the breadth of this challenge, it would seem to involve all of UNESCO, and not just its educational sector. UNESCO's social and human sciences sector emphasizes the management of social transitions and migration, and would seem to have the capacity to bring social science knowledge to bear in the service of refugee education, even as refugee education could prove an important tool in the management of some social transitions and migration problems. The communication and education program would seem a natural complement to the education program in providing information to refugees and helping them to change their behavior. The culture program would seem to be critical in helping refugees to preserve their cultural heritage, while adjusting to the challenges presented by living in a different culture. (Indeed, even internal refugees often face cultural differences as they move from one region of their country to another.) The natural science programs could help educators prepare refugees to confront the environmental challenges that they often face, and indeed its new focus on innovation for economic development may prove quite valuable to refugee communities.

Thus, UNESCO might well be advised to consider a cross-sectoral program of support for the knowledge needs of refugees and victims of other national emergencies. Such an initiative should merit the support of the U.S. delegation to UNESCO, and indeed the United States might lead in helping UNESCO find resources for such an effort.

Monday, April 28, 2008

From the Candidates Positions on Foreign Policy

Hillary Clinton
America is stronger when we lead the world through alliances and build our foreign policy on a strong foundation of bipartisan consensus. As president, Hillary will lead by the words of the Declaration of Independence, which pledged "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind."

We know we need global coalitions to tackle global problems like climate change, poverty, AIDS, and terrorism. And to keep our country safe, we need to start engaging our enemies again. During the Cold War, with missiles pointed at us, we never stopped talking to the Soviet Union. That didn't mean we agreed with them or approved of them. But it did mean we came to understand them -- and that was crucial to confronting the threats they posed.

Hillary knows that America must remain a preeminent leader for peace and freedom, willing to work in concert with other nations and institutions to reach common goals. Hillary has put forth an aggressive plan to support public schools in developing countries in an effort to achieve universal primary education for the 77 million children around the world who aren't in school because they are too poor.
John McCain
The United States must lead in the 21st century, just as in Truman's day. But leadership today means something different than it did in the years after World War II, when Europe and the other democracies were still recovering from the devastation of war and the United States was the only democratic superpower. Today we are not alone. There is the powerful collective voice of the European Union, and there are the great nations of India and Japan, Australia and Brazil, South Korea and South Africa, Turkey and Israel, to name just a few of the leading democracies. There are also the increasingly powerful nations of China and Russia that wield great influence in the international system.

In such a world, where power of all kinds is more widely and evenly distributed, the United States cannot lead by virtue of its power alone. We must be strong politically, economically, and militarily. But we must also lead by attracting others to our cause, by demonstrating once again the virtues of freedom and democracy, by defending the rules of international civilized society and by creating the new international institutions necessary to advance the peace and freedoms we cherish. Perhaps above all, leadership in today's world means accepting and fulfilling our responsibilities as a great nation........

Recall the words of our founders in the Declaration of Independence, that we pay "decent respect to the opinions of mankind." Our great power does not mean we can do whatever we want whenever we want, nor should we assume we have all the wisdom and knowledge necessary to succeed. We need to listen to the views and respect the collective will of our democratic allies. When we believe international action is necessary, whether military, economic, or diplomatic, we will try to persuade our friends that we are right. But we, in return, must be willing to be persuaded by them......

There is such a thing as international good citizenship. We need to be good stewards of our planet and join with other nations to help preserve our common home. The risks of global warming have no borders. We and the other nations of the world must get serious about substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years or we will hand off a much-diminished world to our grandchildren.
Barack Obama
In the wake of the Second World War, it was America that largely built a system of international institutions that carried us through the Cold War. Leaders like Harry Truman and George Marshall knew that instead of constraining our power, these institutions magnified it.

Today it’s become fashionable to disparage the United Nations, the World Bank, and other international organizations. In fact, reform of these bodies is urgently needed if they are to keep pace with the fast-moving threats we face. Such real reform will not come, however, by dismissing the value of these institutions, or by bullying other countries to ratify changes we have drafted in isolation. Real reform will come because we convince others that they too have a stake in change – that such reforms will make their world, and not just ours, more secure......

As President, I will double our annual investments in meeting these challenges to billion by 2012 and ensure that those new resources are directed towards these strategic goals.

For the last twenty years, U.S. foreign aid funding has done little more than keep pace with inflation. Doubling our foreign assistance spending by 2012 will help meet the challenge laid out by Tony Blair at the 2005 G-8 conference at Gleneagles, and it will help push the rest of the developed world to invest in security and opportunity. As we have seen recently with large increases in funding for our AIDS programs, we have the capacity to make sure this funding makes a real difference.

Part of this new funding will also establish a two billion dollar Global Education Fund that calls on the world to join together in eliminating the global education deficit, similar to what the 9/11 commission proposed. Because we cannot hope to shape a world where opportunity outweighs danger unless we ensure that every child, everywhere, is taught to build and not to destroy.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Towards Information Literacy Indicators

UNESCO's Information for All Programme (IFAP) has released a paper providing a basic conceptual framework for measuring information literacy. The publication includes a definition of information literacy; a model that links information literacy with other adult competences, such as ICT skills; and a description of information literacy standards in education.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

UNESCO Hewlett Packard Partnership in Education

At the end of last year, UNESCO announced a new partnership agreement with Hewlett Packard to strengthen their collaboration around existing education projects. Through the partnership, UNESCO and HP will work together on several projects in the area of education, especially to support UNESCO’s priority of “Education for All". This includes an evaluation on the extension of the existing brain drain project to additional regions in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

UNESCO and HP started to collaborate five years ago in South East Europe to help key universities connect to global research networks. In 2006 the project was extended to Africa. The project fights brain drain by providing universities with an advanced technology called grid computing, which allows top quality researchers to play a key role in international research and contribute to economic development in their home countries.

“UNESCO’s education priorities are very much in line with the goals of HP’s education strategy. In Europe, the Middle East and Africa, HP has supported more than 200 education projects in over 20 countries, reaching over 50,000 young people in 2007. On a worldwide level, HP contributed grants to more than 850 schools in 36 countries, worth €30 million between 2004 and 2007,” said Gabriele Zedlmayer, vice president, Global Citizenship HP Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Happy World Book and Copyright Day!

Since 1996, World Book and Copyright Day has been celebrated on 23 April to honor books, widely recognized as invaluable cornerstones of societies’ educational, cultural and social systems. The present year, proclaimed “2008, International Year of Languages” by the United Nations General Assembly, provides an excellent opportunity to reflect upon the linguistic aspects of books, which constitute a means of expression nourished by and through language.

UNESCO and L’Oréal: Raising AIDS Awareness

Beauty transcends national borders, and a trip to the hairdresser is a ritual in almost every country in the world. When UNESCO was looking for a private sector partner to help educate a mostly female global audience about HIV and AIDS, it turned to L’Oréal Professional Products. In 2005, through the initiative of Lady Owen-Jones, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for HIV/AIDS Prevention Education, the two organizations created Hairdressers Against AIDS, aimed at raising awareness of HIV by sensitizing hairdressers about HIV and encouraging them to talk about personal risk with their customers.

Knowing that hair salons are excellent locations for information sharing and exchange, UNESCO saw a golden opportunity in partnering with L’Oréal–an opportunity to ensure that the company’s network of 190 training centres and 1.2 million professionals are reached with reliable information on HIV and AIDS. Hairdressers in L’Oreal’s 400 000 partner salons around the world take courses at the training centres in more than 50 countries. The UNESCO training module–integrated into L’Oréal’s professional training system–provides simple, factual and accurate information on HIV. Hairdressers who graduate from the training programme UNESCO designed with L'Oréal relay their knowledge to clients in salons in every corner of the world.

Read more about this initiative in
Partnerships with the Private Sector: A Collection of Case Studies from UNAIDS

Monday, April 21, 2008

Nominations for the Office of Director General

Koïchiro Matsuura (Japan) has been Director-General of UNESCO since November 15, 1999. He was reappointed by the Organization's General Conference to serve a second four-year term. It is expected that a new Director General will be elected in late 2009, when Matsuura has completed his second term.

In keeping with the international nature of UNESCO, there is an informal understanding that the post will rotate among continents. The last three Directors General came from Asia, Europe and Africa, and there were three previous Directors General from Europe and three from North America. It appears likely that the next Director General will be elected from an Islamic member state.

The Topposts blog has a couple of clues on the nominations that have already been made.
Oman has officially nominated her ambassador to UNESCO, Musa Bin Jaafar Bin Hassan for the UNESCO DG......Bin Hassan has some credits, no least of which is his presidency over the 33rd UNESCO General Conference in 2005 - and at that time the Organization celebrated - at the highest level - its 60th anniversary.......

Egypt nominated Culture minister Farouk Hosni, the longest serving member of Mubarak's cabinet and an abstract painter who has exhibited his work around the world......Egypt's foreign minister has already met with the "working group that ran the support campaign for Hosni" (I guess, just the Foreign Ministry's experts - as of now). Considering Egypt's previous successful campaigns, Oman obviously faces a tough challenge.


EBSCO Information Services (EBSCO) has recently joined forces with Hasselt University Library, Belgium, and the IODE (International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange) programme of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC) to develop a global Open Science Directory.

About 13000 scientific journals are now available in the 'Open Science Directory'. When all the special program journals will be included, the Open Science Directory will contain more than 20000 titles.

Read more about the UNESCO Initiative!

Editors comment: This initiative is illustrative of a fact about UNESCO, It is often difficult to discover important initiatives carried out under UNESCO's sponsorship. The IODE is a decentralized program of the IOC, which has its own governance body, and thus the Open Science Directory, which was created with two cooperating agencies, is difficult to find from the UNESCO website. Yet an initiative which allows one to find 20,000 online journals is important for all scientists, and especially for scientists in developing nations, where printed journals are often not accessible or available. JAD

Friday, April 18, 2008

Musing: UNESCO's Agenda for the 21st Century

Monday's class on UNESCO, focusing on the changes for the future, was very thought provoking. There was general agreement, I believe, that in the coming decades there will be forces that require major changes in UNESCO. If UNESCO does not reinvent itself to make itself more efficient, more effective, and more relevant to the emerging needs of the international system, it may well become irrelevant or even go out of existence. Not only is a reengineering of UNESCO's structure and processes needed, but so too is a restructuring of its relations with the governments of member states and the intellectual communities of educators, scientists and cultural leaders in those states that UNESCO was created to serve.

UNESCO not only is headquartered in Paris, the majority of its employees are there. It was suggested that, as the UN agencies are all concentrated in rich countries, they are seen by the majority of the world's population (which lives in poor countries or emerging economies) as tools of the rich isolated from the interests and concerns of the poor. As part of its reinvention, UNESCO will have to reach out and involve many more people in its work. Indeed, it would be well advised to reach out to make itself known to the majority of the world's population.

In its sixty some years of existence, UNESCO has had some major successes. USAID has been characterized as spinning off its successes in order to concentrate on its failures. Whether that is or is not true, surely UNESCO should emphasize and build upon its successes. These would include the networking of World Heritage sites and of bioreserves, the collaborations UNESCO has catelyzed through its intergovernmental science programs, and development of networks of international laws and agreements through its standards setting instruments in the fields of culture and education.

It was suggested that the governments of rich countries now see UNESCO as irrelevant to their domestic interests, and that UNESCO should seek seriously to again become something valued for its ability to serve its major financial donors domestic interests in education, science and culture.

There is a huge management challenge for UNESCO's management.
  • Management should find ways to clean out the dead wood, eliminating programs that don't work, that duplicate those of other agencies, or that would be better implemented by other agencies.
  • Management should find ways to either spin off subsidiary organizations that are able to go it alone, and decentralize management of subsidiary organizations that are peripheral to UNESCO's core business, allowing the secretariat and governing bodies to focus their attention narrowly on that core business.
  • Management should find ways adopt programmatic innovations that allow it both to respond to changing international needs and demands on the organization and simultaneously to focus on its core values and mission.
While some innovative programs may arise from the secretariat, the history of the organization suggests that the most important innovations have come from outside. Thus UNESCO's roles in Education for All and the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals arose out of the consensus developed in international meetings, while the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Program and the World Heritage Program arose from initiatives of the U.S. delegation, influenced by leaders in the U.S. scientific and environmental communities. UNESCO can play a key role building on its great power to convene leadership from government, education, science and culture and its bureaucratic power and outreach, but it needs to continue to innovate successfully to remain and gain in relevance.

In order for UNESCO to rise to these challenges, it needs a very strong secretariat and leadership. Director General Matsuura will complete his second term of office in a few years, and it is very important that the community of nations select a strong, effective leader to replace him. Many of the senior staff of UNESCO are nearing mandatory retirement age in the United Nations system, and therefore UNESCO will have to restaff by replacing many professionals. One suggestion is that the organization might move toward a system like that of the U.S. National Science Foundation, bringing in senior professional on a rotating basis. A cadre of senior people rotating through UNESCO for three to five year terms might help it to rethink its operations and reinvent itself.

The current governance structure of UNESCO will make major reform, reengineering and restructuring difficult at best. Not only is it expensive, it is unwieldy. When UNESCO was created, the number of nation states was relatively small and the strong Director General could deal effectively with its representatives. In the intervening years, the size of the governing bodies has grown with the number of member states. Moreover, the participation of leaders from the intellectual community has been replaced in governance by representatives of the diplomatic missions of the member states. The long meetings of UNESCO's 193 member state delegations every other year at the General Conference deal with so large an agenda as to overwhelm most delegations' capacities to absorb and analyze information. The Executive Board, now with more members than the original General Conference, is similarly cumbersome and overloaded. The Executive Board and General Conference take up a great deal of the attention of UNESCO's senior staff. Thus, reform of governance seems a precondition to rebuilding and reforming the organizations, and reinventing its programs and ways of carrying out those programs.

It seems clear that the United States must take a leadership role in the reinvention of UNESCO; the United States contributes 22 percent of UNESCO's assessed budget, and the United States has the world's strongest educational, scientific and cultural communities, as well as being a world leader in information and communications. It is important that the United States assume this leadership role, especially because this nation must reemphasize "soft diplomacy" and UNESCO can and should be a key element in America's soft diplomacy. To assume that leadership role, the State Department needs a very strong staff dealing with UNESCO affairs, the U.S. National Commission has to be given a stronger role not only in advising the government but in the governance of UNESCO, and State and the National Commission needs to reach out more effectively to involve the American intellectual community in their and UNESCO's efforts.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Musings: The Importance of UNESCO

UNESCO is chartered with huge responsibilities, but shackled with a small budget -- on the order of US$300 million per year. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has lead responsibilities in the United Nations system for there areas, and also for communications and information.

Compare UNESCO's budget for its world wide responsibilities with some U.S. entities. My county's school system, for example, has an operating budget of some $2 billion per year plus an investment budget of some $230 million a year. The U.S. Federal Government spends $116 billion per year on research and development, and of course that is only part of what is spent on R&D in the country, and the expenditures on science include not only research and development but many other scientific functions as well. The global market value of cultural and creative industries (producing and distributing such goods and services such as books, CDs, videogames and sculptures) has been estimated at US$ 1.3 trillion and is rapidly expanding; between 1994 and 2002, international trade in cultural goods increased from US$38 billion to US$60 billion. The United States -- with a population of over 400 million, and per capita GDP of $43,500 -- spent 8.8 percent of GDP on information and communications technology in 2005.
As the above graph shows, the number of intergovernmental organizations exploded in the last half of the 20th century. UNESCO is now one of thousands of such organizations. We tend to lose track of the work and impacts of individual intergovernmental organizations in the mass of such organizations. So too, we tend to assume that these organizations with relatively small budgets also have relatively limited impact.

In the case of UNESCO, I would suggest that the impact has been quite significant:

The community of nations has embarked on an ambitious program to provide Education for All, and includes ambitious educational goals within the Millennium Development Goals. UNESCO's function over the years has been to keep international attention on education, and on the need to work to assure people's human rights to education. In the current situation, it has worked to help assure that educational statistics are comparable among countries, and provides forums where national governments have to defend their educational performance before both their own citizens and other nations. It is likely that global educational achievements are much greater than they would be had there not been a United Nations body to do that which UNESCO does in education.
In its early years, UNESCO's influence was critically important in the creation of the International Center for Theoretical Physics and the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN); these organizations have helped both to illuminate the nature of the universe and to spread modern physics worldwide. The role of CERN in the creation of the World Wide Web might alone justify UNESCO's existence.

The role of UNESCO's Intergovernmental Science Committees has been quite important. In oceanography, UNESCO has helped the scientific community to work in ways transcending national borders, and is working to develop tsunami warning systems to serve all of the world at risk from tsunami disasters. The hydrology program is allowing collaborative work to characterize water resources, and helping to create a knowledge base that can be trusted in negotiation on control and allocation of water resources. The Man in the Biosphere program has resulted in a collaborative structure of hundreds of bioreserves, where mankind is learning how to protect the biospere.
UNESCO's World Heritage Center has recognized more than 800 natural and cultural sites that are so important that they can be fairly called the heritage of all mankind. For each, the country in which the site is located has produced a detailed study of the site and a plan for its protection. Monitoring of the state of those sites encourages countries to work hard to achieve that protection, and over the history of the program only one country has withdrawn a single site from the network.

UNESCO has also catalized the creation of a body of international conventions that protect cultural property. Since the protection of Abu Simbelm UNESCO has provided a system that helps to protect cultural heritage during emergencies and wars, and helps to regulate international trade to prevent the trade in stolen artifacts and other cultural property.
UNESCO provides a mechanism for the United Nations to militate for freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Every time a reporter is killed or imprisoned anywhere in the world, UNESCO protests and in so doing draws public attention to the event.

UNESCO also serves the United Nations system to promote libraries, to support a culture of the book, and more recently to promote the development of digital information serving the countries on the wrong side of the digital divide.
Why is UNESCO Important to the United States?
The points above are made to illustrate that UNESCO is important to the community of nations. To our State Department, which concerns itself primarily with security and economic issues, those services may not be convincing. Of course, U.S. foreign policy is also concerned with supporting the international humanitarian programs desired by the American public, and UNESCO's programs in Africa are prototypical of the multilateral approach to development assistance.

UNESCO was created to promote the international cooperation of national intellectual communities -- educatoral, scientistific and cultural. Indeed these communities in the United States value the contacts with their peers abroad, and expect the foreign policy apparatus of government to facilitate that networking. UNESCO is, in realizing these aspirations, an important element of foreign policy.

The State Department is increasingly recognizing the importance of "soft diplomacy" as a necessary complement to the "hard diplomacy" focusing on economic and military power. The United States needs to restore the confidence of other nations that this country will negotiate in good faith, with understanding and respect for the positions of others, and UNESCO provides a useful forum for that purpose.

As Archibald McLeish, the writer and Librarian of Congress, so memorably said in the negotiations leading up to the creation of UNESCO, "Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that we must begin to build the defenses of peace." Building those defenses is a long term process, and it is one best accomplished by the community of nations working together. Thus UNESCO, with its work with education and with the intellectual communities of the nations of the world, should be a significant element in U.S. soft diplomacy.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Musing About the Future of UNESCO

Last night we held a panel discussion in our graduate class on UNESCO. The class focused on UNESCO's future in the 21st century. The discussion focused on how UNESCO could adapt to the changes that will surely occur over the next 40 years or so.

Coincidentally, I have been reading Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism, and the Economics of Growth and Prosperity by William J. Baumol, Robert E. Litan, Carl J. Schramm. The authors focus on innovation as the basis of economic success of nations. For advanced developed nations, working at the forefront of technology and having relatively high costs of labor, companies must invent, not only innovate by copying. The authors also realize that most invention comes from individual entrepreneurs and small firms. However, they note that it is large firms that have the resources to take an invention and develop it into a widely used, high quality, reliable product. Successful large firms not only continue to innovate by acquiring and building on ideas from outside (and occasionally inventing from within(, they also get rid of activities by decentralizing management, selling off divisions, or closing down things which are no longer profitable.

Perhaps UNESCO, with its 2000 people can take the successful commercial firm of a comparable size and learn from their approach. It seems clear that would be better served by a sharper focus. Many of its most successful programs have their own oversight bodies and receive most of their financing from other sources, not UNESCO. Perhaps a process of formally either turning activities into independent agencies, or of decentralizing by delegation of full authority to the staff and directors of some of these activities might help. This sounds easy, but in fact is very difficult. The management of the reengineering and restructuring of relations in downsizing processes requires great leadership if it is to be done well.

UNESCO often finds innovations thrust upon them -- new standards setting documents, new centers, new programs. Some of the best programs were started in this way. Russel Train was the motive force behind the invention of the World Heritage program, which the secretariat carried to success, as Roger Revell and a few other scientists were the originators of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Committee, which UNESCO also made a success. Indeed, even in the cases of Education for All and the Millennium Development Goals, UNESCO took on tasks developed outside and ran with them. Again, the management of innovation in a large, complex organization is also very demanding of skills and time.

UNESCO needs very good management to select among all the innovations suggested each year those which are really practical and important, those which fit with UNESCO's mandate and capabilities, and those which UNESCO can do well. It also needs good management to decide which of its current activities not to do, and to make the best, most appropriate arrangements for their termination or decentralization.

John Daly

Sunday, April 13, 2008

UNESCO Destroys 100,000: Director General Launches Investigation

Molly Moore and John Ward Anderson write in The Washington Post (April 13, 2008):
For more than two decades, 250 historians and specialists labored to produce the first six volumes of the General History of Latin America, an exhaustive work financed by UNESCO, the United Nations organization created to preserve global culture and heritage.

Then, over the course of two years, UNESCO paid to destroy many of those books and nearly 100,000 others by turning them to pulp, according to an external audit.

"This is the intellectual organization of the United Nations system," Aziza Bennani, Morocco's ambassador to UNESCO, said in an interview. "How could an employee of UNESCO make a decision to destroy these books?"

Homero Aridjis, Mexico's ambassador, said at the organization's executive council meeting this week, "This is not only a blow to the culture and knowledge of entire populations and nations, it contradicts the mandate entrusted to UNESCO." He demanded an internal investigation.

UNESCO Director General Koichiro Matsuura said it was "completely incomprehensible and inappropriate" that some of the organization's "most important and successful collections" were ordered destroyed, including histories of humanity and Africa, and surveys of ancient monuments.
The article also states:
According to the report, the destruction occurred in 2004 and 2005, when UNESCO's overflowing book storage warehouses in Paris were relocated to Brussels. Rather than pay to move 94,500 books, auditors reported, UNESCO officials ordered them destroyed. The books were turned to pulp for recycling, the audit says.

Nino Muñoz Gomez, director of UNESCO's Bureau of Public Information and chief of the publishing division, said that at least half of the destroyed volumes were outdated and contained obsolete statistical data.

The audit notes that some publications were out of date but says others "on historical or purely literary themes (poetry anthologies, stories from all lands in translation) were not at all affected by obsolescence." It says a "solution other than destruction" should have been considered, "such as free distribution to libraries.".....

Because too many books often were ordered and others were never distributed properly, tens of thousands piled up in UNESCO's storage facilities at a cost of about $100,000 a year, until the agency decided to shift distribution functions to a Brussels company and move its stocks there.

Muñoz Gomez, who assumed his post in April 2005 and was chief of the publishing section for nine months while the book destruction was taking place, said he did not learn of it until early 2006, when a new employee showed him thousands of dollars in bills for the pulping.

He said he authorized payment of those bills "of several thousand euros each" but did not realize the magnitude of the operation. "All we knew is the bills were sent by the company and we had to pay the bills," he said in an interview.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Within the Frame of UNESCO Major Program II - Natural Sciences, UNESCO's Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe (BRESCE) set priority action in:

Devoted to the follow-up to the World Conference on Science (Budapest 1999) with respect to the elaboration of national S&T policies and related legislation for promoting human resources and institutional development in science and technology in developing countries and countries in transition; strengthening science education; improving university teaching, enhancing national research capacities and reinforcing regional and international co-operation in mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, the biotechnologies and the engineering sciences.


Science in support of environment and sustainable development. The concept and value of integrated management of vital resources and the environment is a priority. Close relation with the five environment and development related programs (IGCP, IHP, IOC, MAB and MOST).

Friday, April 11, 2008

Telephone Conference of the U.S. National Commission For UNESCO

The U.S. National Commission for UNESCO will meet by conference call on Wednesday, April 23, at 11a.m. The meeting of this advisory committee will last until approximately 12:00 p.m., and the call is open to the public.

The U.S. National Commission for UNESCO was asked to provide recommendations on a proposal received to establish a UNESCO Chair. For more information about the Program see The call will also be an opportunity to provide an update on recent and upcoming UNESCO and U.S. National Commission for UNESCO activities.

For more information on this conference call, or to participate in it, please contact the Executive Secretariat of the National Commission at 202-663-0026.

World Press Freedom Prize awarded to Lydia Cacho Ribeiro

2008 Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize awarded to Mexican reporter Lydia Cacho Ribeiro

Lydia Cacho Ribeiro, the recipient of this year's UNESCO Press Freedom Award, is a freelance reporter based in Cancun, Mexico. Joe Thloloe, President of the jury of 14 professional journalists and editors from all over the world, and Press Ombudsman of the Press Council of South Africa, explained the choice of this year’s laureate:
“Members of the jury were impressed by the courage of Lydia Cacho Ribeiro as she continues to expose political corruption, organized crime and domestic violence in the face of death threats, an attempt on her life and legal battles. For me, a journalist who knows the antagonistic environment in which he or she operates and continues to do the right thing by keeping readers, listeners or viewers informed about their society deserves recognition for their contribution to freedom of expression around the world. Lydia Cacho is such a laureate.”

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Editorial: The United States Positions At UNESCO

What should be the United States position with respect to UNESCO as we enter the 21st Century?

UNESCO seeks to build the defenses of peace in the minds of men. It seeks to promote international cooperation among the intellectual communities of its member states, It is the lead agency for the United Nations in education, science, culture and communications. It describes itself as a laboratory of ideas, as a standard setter, as a clearing house, as a builder of capacity in Member States and as a catalyst for international cooperation.

The United States cooperated in the creation of UNESCO, with post World War II leaders seeing it as important to a variety of U.S. foreign policy interests. It withdrew from UNESCO in 1984 when -- due to UNESCO's bureaucratic inefficiencies and to some areas in which the majority of governments opposed the positions of the United States -- a later administration concluded that UNESCO no longer was a cost-effective vehicle for achieving U.S. foreign policy objectives. In 2002, following improvements in the operations and efficiency of UNESCO and changes in aspects of UNESCO's policies and programs, the United States government decided to rejoin the Organization.

U.S. Foreign Policy Objectives

The dominant foreign policy objectives of the United States are assuring the security and economic health of the nation. Humanitarian concerns are also important, realized through provision of relief to the victims of disaster and provision of foreign assistance for the alleviation of poverty. There are increasing concerns for global problems, such as protecting the health of the nation from global epidemics, protection of the global environment, and protection of World Heritage from the threats that arise from globalization.

The State Department has also maintained a program of cultural diplomacy, which has been under-appreciated. Cultural diplomacy has the potential to help bridge the cultural divides between the people of the United States and the peoples of other nations, tand indeed to prepare U.S. government officials to deal with people from other cultures.

It is also important that the U.S. builds support for and reduces resistance to its own diplomatic priorities. Importantly, diplomats engage in give and take in international fora, supporting the priorities of other nations and building alliances.

UNESCO's Potential Importance to U.S. Diplomacy

UNESCO's efforts to promote peace through appropriate education programs, and its ability to promote better understanding among people of different cultures are increasingly important to U.S. security, as indeed is UNESCO's ability as a neutral party to allow the global scientific community to reach consensus on issues such as the location and availability of water resources or the appropriate management of ocean resources.

UNESCO's leadership of the global Education for All program, its intergovernmental scientific programs, its World Heritage program, and its network of conventions governing cultural property are additional examples of highly cost- effective vehicles for the United States by which UNESCO is achieving objectives of U.S. foreign policy as well as objectives of many other member states.

UNESCO can serve as a neutral venue for discussions between the United States and other nations. In some cases those discussions are important in themselves and in others they are important in building confidence for later negotiations. Similarly, it serves as a venue in which other countries can meet, advancing peace processes and cultural understanding in ways that are indirectly important to the United States.

UNESCO offers a vehicle to help network U.S. educations, scientists and cultural leaders with their counterparts in other nations. Such networking is important in achieving a number of foreign policy objectives, and indeed is so valued by the U.S. communities involved that it is itself an increasingly important objective in terms of service to the public.


As a result of the 18 year absence of the United States from UNESCO membership, the immediate concern is to reestablish U.S. influence in the governance of UNESCO while seeking changes in policy and programs that further advance U.S. foreign polity interests.

Another immediate priority is reacquainting the U.S. communities with UNESCO, and increasing the involvement of leaders of those communities in the work of UNESCO. In this respect, the U.S. National Commission could again be an important instrument as it was in the distant past.

Of course, the United States is interested in UNESCO's ability to work effectively and efficiently. UNESCO will not be an useful vehicle for achieving U.S. foreign policy objectives if it is allowed to be ineffective or inefficient in carrying out its constitutionally assigned mission. Thus the U.S. should use its influence in the governing bodies of UNESCO to assure it is well led and efficiently run.

UNESCO's most important objectives have not been met in six decades of its existence, and will not be quickly met in the future. Every U.S. administration seeks to have results to show in four or eight years. The U.S. should be willing, given the modest size of the UNESCO budget, to give priority to those long term efforts likely to contribute most to peace and prosperity in a livable environment.

Perhaps the most important priority might be to fully incorporate UNESCO as an instrument of U.S. cultural diplomacy, encouraging the organization to promote cultural development in its member states. UNESCO quite properly follows the mandate of its member states to protect and promote cultural diversity. Globalization often results in pressures driving cultural changes which are unpleasant to the members of the changing cultures and indeed sometimes immoral or unethical to the majority of the people.

This is not to say that cultural change itself is unacceptable, but rather that the directions and processes of cultural change must be more acceptable. While the world's cultures are hugely diverse, there is wide agreement among nations on universal rights of man. Consequently, there is likely to be wide agreement that cultural changes are acceptable when they help to assure that people within a culture can more fully achieve those rights. Indeed, it is clear that cultural development is important for achieving peace, for assuring that peoples rights to a decent life, and indeed for assuring freedom of expression and freedom from coercion.

Thus U.S. cultural diplomacy should seek to encourage UNESCO to promote processes which engage the members of the cultures of the world to embrace those changes which will help them to more fully achieve the rights of their members which all nations have agreed to be universal rights.

John Daly
The ideas expressed in this posting are those of the author alone, and do not necessarily represent those of Americans for UNESCO or any other organization.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Editorial: UNESCO Needs to be Reinvented for the 21st Century

UNESCO still reflects the management systems of the time it was created in the aftermath of World War II. It is time to reorganize UNESCO, taking into account the advances in organizational design made possible by the Information Revolution, and prepare UNESCO for the challenges of the 21st Century.

UNESCO should focus on International Networks. It should decentralize, outsource back office functions, conduct much more of its activity via the Internet, focus far more on its core functions, and spin off functions that distract it governors and leaders from those core functions.

Why UNESCO Is the Way It Is

When UNESCO was founded, transportation was far less developed than it is today; there was no commercial jet air travel, and the international air travel system was rudimentary. People in developed nations listened to the radio, but the transistor radio had not yet been invented and much of the world was even out of radio broadcast range. Television was an invention waiting for a market. Making an international phone call was a lengthly and expensive undertaking. The intellectual communities that UNESCO was designed to serve were concentrated in a couple of score of rich countries, and got their information from print media.

There were few intergovernmental organizations in existence before the 1940s, and thus few models that UNESCO could copy. The most applicable was probably the International Institute for Intellectual Cooperation with its 40 national committees, and the founders of UNESCO did indeed draw heavily on that experience. However, at that time the dominant organizational form used by government and corporations was hierarchical with a central headquarters and dependent field offices. There were few international corporations in today's sense of that term, and even fewer that emphasized knowledge services.

Not surprisingly then, UNESCO was created with a highly centralized bureaucracy (in Paris), and depended heavily on publication in the print media for its information products. Its founders rejected a French proposal that the national delegations to UNESCO be tripartite, with representatives of the National Commissions and Civil Society as well as government; government was given full control. National Commissions were, however, included in the UNESCO constitution both to advise their governments and to serve as channels of communication between UNESCO and the educational, scientific and cultural communities within the member states.

With decolonization and the epoch of development assistance, UNESCO had to reorganize to some degree in order to carry out its development assistance mission. Similarly, as the network of intergovernmental organizations exploded to include thousands of such organizations, and as governments became more familiar with the concepts of intergovernmental organizations and organized to deal with them on a regular basis, many of the successful UNESCO programs were restructured to have governance shared between UNESCO and their own intergovernmental governance committees. Similarly, many decentralized centers and Institutes came into being, and many have governance structures that respond to UNESCO and to their external donors.

21st Century Management

The Information Revolution has led to major changes in management theory. The hierarchical organization of the 20th century was an effective way to manage national systems that were created to achieve economies of scale in production of goods and services and to distribute products via the elaborating transportation infrastructure to national markets. Companies grew by vertical integration of productive and distribution activities, and later by aggregation of different enterprises into conglomerates. Since intra-organizational information systems were at the time more efficient in coordinating the disparate operations of production and distribution than were markets, large organizations were created.

In the 21st century, e-commerce has come to demonstrate that market processes can be more efficient that intra-organizational ones. Business to business e-commerce is growing, and corporations are focusing more on core competencies, buying the inputs needed for those competencies in one set of markets, and selling their products in another set of markets. Indeed, back office functions, once thought to be core functions of any organization, are not only being outsourced, but are being outsourced from developed to developing countries to achieve economic efficiencies. Similarly, we find government to business e-institutions being developed as well as business to customer e-commerce thriving in businesses such as eBay, Amazon, and Dell. e-government is increasingly improving the efficiency and effectiveness of government to citizen transactions.

Mass communication has developed greatly in the later part of the 20th century, so that most people obtain more information from electronic than from print media. Moreover, the Internet has resulted in point to point communication being as cheap as mass media communication. The World Wide Web is a far more efficient way for UNESCO to interact with the global community that are paper books and periodicals. Indeed, with the development of community radio and satellite communications, it is possible to reach many of even the most isolated communities with up-to-the-minute information.

While it is far more feasible for people to travel to and from Paris than in the past, video conferencing is an increasingly useful approach to face-to-face communications among people who live in widely separated places; video and audio streaming via the Internet can make the proceedings of such conferences cheaply available to a global audience, with each member tuning in from his or her home or office at a time he or she finds most convenient. Thus Internet mediated dialog is likely to increasingly substitute and complement in-person meetings.

Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia of Life illustrate that new Internet based technologies can substitute for earlier management-intensive approaches to the development of bodies of reliable information, and moreover can result in those bodies of information being more current than would be possible with traditional approaches.

Social networking, which probably began with the scientific community in the United States via email and inter-networking, and expanded to include online depositories of scientific papers, has exploded with the growth of Facebook, Linkedin, and other social networking platforms. Today the scientific community continues to gather at large scientific meetings and to disseminate information through peer-reviewed paper journals, but a far richer and more timely networking is taking place over the Internet.

Implications for UNESCO

Studies of governmental organizations that have successfully embarked on e-government efforts have suggested that the process goes through several stages, each of which subsumes and builds upon the previous stages:
  1. The establishment of a presence on the Internet.
  2. The provision of information via the Internet.
  3. The conduct of transactions via the Internet.
  4. The ultimate restructuring and reorganization of functions and processes to utilize the Internet.
UNESCO has already accomplished stages one and two, and is conducting some transactions via the Internet. It is now time for the organization to undertake the completion of the process of restructuring and reorganizing to fully utilize the potential provided in the new Global Information Infrastructure. It should revamp its publication policies, reinvent its websites, and build a global information network to be far more effective in the provision of information to the global community. It not only should be far more proactive in moving its transactions to the Global Information Infrastructure, but it should also find ways to dis-intermediate the international communications among the national intellectual communities that it serves.

Most importantly, it should begin to undertake the re-engineering of its structure and processes, and the restructuring of the institutions that form its interface with the governments of its member states, with civil society organizations, and with the global and national intellectual communities it was born to serve.

John Daly
The opinions expressed in this posting are those of the author alone, and do not necessarily reflect those of Americans for UNESCO or any other organization.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Editorial: Towards a UNESCO World Forum

UNESCO should begin program of international conferences, involving intellectual leaders from all over the world, under the title of The UNESCO World Forum. The World Economic Forum involves political and business leaders to focus on global issues. TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) has expanded from its original focus on three fields, and can now be described as an annual event in which the world's leading thinkers gather to to find inspiration. The UNESCO World Forum would be an intellectual complement to these series.

This editorial suggests the creation of a forum that draws among the world's foremost intellectuals for discussions to determine the priority to be given by the global community of nations to the major issues of the day and of the century, and to address how those issues might best be addressed by the peoples of the world.

The major trends of our time are the increasing capacity of mankind to effect physical changes and the increasing intellectual capacity of mankind. Since the reconstruction after World War II, when priorities were clearly to prevent future world wars and to reconstruct the damage that had been inflicted by the first and second world wars, the agenda of the community of nations has expanded to include the protection of human rights, nation building, the reduction of poverty in all of its aspects, culturally sensitive management of the ever-more-rapid process of social change and the safeguarding of cultural heritage and diversity, and the protection of the environment. Unfortunately, mankind has failed to develop the wisdom with which to apply its increasing capacities to deal effectively with this agenda.

The UNESCO World Forum would draw on educational, scientific and cultural leaders of the world to meet together and to discuss and debate. It would encompass some of the functions of UNESCO's World Philosophy Forum, and of the Dialog Among Civilizations, being more inclusive than the former in its participants, and more inclusive than the latter in expanding beyond the focus on peace. Educators would be included, not only because of the intellectual power of academia, but because they bring a special understanding of how to build the solutions to global problems starting in the minds of men. Leaders from science and technology would be needed because of their in depth knowledge of mankind's problems and resources, and the technologies that can be brought to bear to apply those resources to the resolution of those problems. Cultural leaders, especially from the arts and humanities, would be included for their broad and integrating perspectives.

Historical Antecedents

The League of Nations system, having failed to prevent World War II, was replaced by the United Nations System, with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as an independent organization tapping into the intellectual communities in its member nations.

One of the key antecedent organizations was the International Institute for Intellectual Cooperation, which formed a secretariat for the International Committee for Intellectual Cooperation, which had enlisted such luminaries as Henri Bergson, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Béla Bartók, Thomas Mann, Gilbert Murray and Paul Valery. Some 40 national committees on intellectual cooperation were created linking to the International Committee, including an active one in the United States. "Numerous conferences and symposia were held under the auspices of the International Institute in Paris. Among the topics taken up by these conferences as the world situation became more menacing were the psychological causes of war and methods of promoting peaceful change as a substitute for war."

Vincenzo Pavone points out that there has been a long term tension between a global model of UNESCO which emphasized its role in the long term solution of global problems and an intergovernmental model that focused on intergovernmental cooperation in the attack of relatively immediate problems. That tension was present at the creation of UNESCO, when the model of the International Institute for Intellectual Cooperation was counterposed with the proposals of the Conference of Allied Ministers of Education (CAME) for a massive effort to rebuild the educational infrastructure of Europe and to deal with the massive physical and mental impact of World War II on Europe's children. It reflects, to some degree, the tension between the pragmatism of the Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian cultures versus the Latin Cultures of France and Latin America.

The greatest successes of UNESCO have probably been in programs that exemplify the intergovernmental cooperation model, such as UNESCO's leadership in Education for All, the World Heritage Program, the Intergovernmental Scientific Programs, and the development of the legal instruments which establish an intergovernmental system for the protection of cultural heritage and diversity. Yet the impact of UNESCO in its sixty years seeking to build the defenses of peace in the minds of men should not be underestimated.

Yet the balance has swung heavily to the intergovernmental model. The Executive Board, which once included members chosen for their intellectual star quality, now consists of representatives of governments elected by the General Conference (and of course the permanent delegates to UNESCO are diplomats named by the governments they represent.)

UNESCO was created at the time that the atom bombs were dropped by the United States on Japan; the world had been given a vivid illustration of the power to move from scientific abstraction to terrifyingly powerful technology. It is not surprising that the founders of UNESCO saw the need to leaven science with humanism. As science has become more powerful in the six decades of UNESCO's existence, the need for a consilience of knowledge, a synthesis of the knowledge of man's different communities. Unfortunately, UNESCO in accommodating its bureaucratic realities, still tends to stovepipe its educational, scientific and cultural programs. The proposed UNESCO Global Forum would be a giant step away from reductionism towards consilience.

The proposed UNESCO World Forum would seek not to draw representatives uniformly from the member nations, but from UNESCO's constituent educational, scientific and cultural communities. It would seek rather representation from different cultures and civilizations rather than from nation states.

The proposed UNESCO World Forum is not intended to detract from UNESCO's critically important efforts to promote intergovernmental cooperation in priority educational, scientific and cultural areas. Indeed, it would be best accomplished by an increase in UNESCO's already severely strained budget and staff capabilities.


The UNESCO World Forum is proposed to complement the pragmatic intergovernmental efforts of UNESCO by drawing on the world's intellectual leaders to address the world's agenda of long term issues, drawing on UNESCO's experience as a laboratory and clearinghouse of ideas.

John Daly
The ideas expressed in this posting are mine alone, and do not represent those of Americans for UNESCO or any other organization.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Women scientists celebrated in new charter

Nearly forty past Laureates of the L’ORÉAL-UNESCO Awards met recently in Paris to sign the Charter of Commitment “For Women in Science,” the first charter designed to promote science, support the cause of women, and change the face of science in the world.

The L’ORÉAL-UNESCO Charter “For Women in Science”

This Charter marks the 10 years of the L’ORÉAL-UNESCO Awards For Women in Science. In signing the document, Award Laureates commit themselves to:

  • Act as a role model to inspire future generations
  • Transmit passion for scientific research
  • Encourage women scientists to act as agents of change
  • Strengthen and support scientific research on all continents
  • Foster creativity and innovation
  • Advocate for diversity and gender equity
  • Build sustainable networks for women scientists
  • Participate as women scientists in public policy decision making
  • Shape attitudes to change the face of science
  • Promote science as a source of progress

The 2008 L'Oreal-UNESCO Award for North America was announced at the meeting. It went to Professor Elizabeth BLACKBURN (Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco, USA) “For the discovery of the nature and maintenance of chromosome ends and their roles in cancer and aging.”

New Edition of the UNESCO Courier

Poster© Mark Bakker (The Netherlands)
IYPE student contest

Planet Hot-Spot

Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, encourages us to change our lifestyle to minimize our ecological footprint, the new measuring unit invented by Mathis Wackernackel, also included in this issue.

How can we “manage the unavoidable to avoid the unmanageable”, according to Italian climatologist Filippo Giorgi’s formula, is the question raised by this issue of the Courier, devoted to the International Year of Planet Earth.

A World of Science - April-June 2008

UNESCO has published the April-June edition of the flagship publication from its science programs.

Editorial – Don’t miss the boat!

There is a date which should be in the diary of every country with a coastline: 13 May 2009. This is the deadline for countries wishing to submit a claim for the extension of their legal continental shelf.

What future for geo-education in Africa?

Africa is a continent rich in minerals, oil, coal, gas and other geological resources. With global market prices for many raw materials escalating, geology is attracting greater attention from policy-makers. The question is: will the education system in many African countries be able to rise to the challenge?

Inteview – ‘The rice farmer need no longer sustain heavy losses in times of drought’

To mark the 10th anniversary of the L’Oréal-UNESCO Awards for Women in Science, we talk to Khady Nani Dramé, who is using her research fellowship to cross drought-resistant African rice with the more productive Asian rice. Through her research at the Africa Rice Centre in Benin, Dr Dramé hopes to reduce Africa’s dependence on rice imports.


The art of engineering a better world

A solar tunnel fruit-dryer system to supplement the income of Indian fruit farmers, a system for recycling olive oil waste in the Palestinian Territories, retrofitting of homes in Nepal to make them earthquake-proof and a bridge that comes in a kit for Rwanda’s rivers; these are just some of the 31 student projects rewarded in December by the Mondialogo Engineering Awards.

A bad year for Caribbean corals

In 2005, unusually warm waters in the Caribbean caused the worst coral bleaching in recorded history. It was also a record year for hurricanes in the Caribbean. With global warming, years like 2005 are destined to become more common in future.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Video: UNESCO building peace in the minds of men

UNESCO considers education, science, social science, culture and communication as the means to achieve the ambitious objective of its founding charter: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.”

UNESCO has created a wonderful video, which is only 12 minutes long, to describe its origins and its work. You can see it on your own computer via streaming video.