Sunday, June 29, 2008

UNESCO seeks expert for WSIS follow-up

UNESCO is currently recruiting a program specialist (P4) for the Information Society Division of its Communication and Information Sector. The major responsibility of this post will be to manage UNESCO's follow-up to the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), including the Organization’s role in the implementation of the WSIS Action Plan.

The search closes 19 August 2008.

You can apply on the UNESCO employment website. The post number is CI-006.

The incumbent in the post will be expected to:
  • develop strategic approaches to the implementation of the WSIS Action Plan;
  • monitor UNESCO's role as a facilitator of the multi-stakeholder implementation of six WSIS Action Lines; and
  • coordinate UNESCO's contribution to the overall multi-stakeholder coordination of the Facilitators of the eleven Action Lines.
Candidates must have advanced university degree in communication, information or international relations, preferably with orientation towards knowledge societies and five to seven years of working experience in international or intergovernmental organizations active in knowledge society issues.

Donna Shalala to Receive Medal of Freedom

Donna Shalala, a member of the Advisory Council for Americans for UNESCO is to receive the Medal of Freedom.

Shalala was U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services during the Clinton Administration and currently serves as President of the University of Miami.

Congratulations to President Shalala!

Change in State Department UNESCO Leadership

Susanna Connaughton, who has been the State Department official chiefly responsible for the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO since 2006, has announced she is leaving that position this week. Alexander Zemek will assume the acting role as Executive Director of the National Commission.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

U.S. Participation in the IHP Council Meeting

The looming water crisis was the focus of the biennial International Hydrological Program (IHP) Intergovernmental Council (IGC) meeting, held at UNESCO headquarters from June 9-13, 2008.

Matt Larsen of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) headed the U.S. delegation, which included Verne Schneider, USGS, Bob Pietrowsky, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Gene Stakhiv, USACE, and Ross Corotis, U.S. National Commission to UNESCO. Among the approximately 200 participants were representatives of the 36 IGC Member States, as well as many other UNESCO Member States and non-governmental organizations. Matt Larsen was elected as the chair of the meeting’s drafting committee, which is influential in shaping the summaries of the major discussions and decisions.

The New Issue of The World of Science is Out

A World of Science (July–September 2008)



  • Why modern agriculture must change


  • Concern for health of Aral Sea’s residents
  • A global forum takes to the frontlines of climate change
  • Better preparation for storm surges is possible
  • Network gets name-change
  • A fond farewell to a carbon based biped


  • Andrea Mantesso explains why teeth will help to shape the future of stem cell research


  • A last call to arms
  • A city making the switch to healthy sanitation


  • Diary
  • New releases

South Eastern European Higher Education, Science and Innovation Policy Forum

Support for the adoption of a forward-looking approach of Higher Education, Science and Innovation governance with a view to contributing to the building of knowledge societies in South Eastern Europe. 1-3 July 2008, Budva, Montenegro.

Policy forum organized by UNESCO’s Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe for ministers, parliamentarians, academies, universities, and research fundingbodies from Southeast Europe. The focus will be the Lisbon Strategy.

Launch of the International Science, Technology and Innovation Centre (ISTIC)

The International Centre for South-South Co-operation in Science, Technology and Innovation was inaugurated in Kuala Lumpur in May 2008. The centre functions under the auspices of UNESCO.

It facilitates the integration of a developmental approach into national science and technology and innovation policies, and provides policy advice. In parallel to organizing capacity-building and the exchange of experience and best practices, the centre conducts research and tackles specific problems in science, technology and innovation policy-making in developing countries.

International Coalition of Cities against Racism

The International Coalition of Cities against Racism was launched by UNESCO in 2004 to establish a network of cities interested in sharing experiences in order to improve their policies to fight racism, discrimination, xenophobia and exclusion. In North America, the program is represented by the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities against Racism and Discrimination (CMARD), but there apparently is no U.S. coalition participating.

UNESCO will launch an international coalition of cities against racism and discrimination at the 3rd World Forum on Human Rights in Nantes (France) which will take place from 30 June to 3 July. The international coalition will bring together the regional coalitions aleady launched by UNESCO.

Comparative Analysis of National Research Systems

UNESCO plays an important international role in enabling and encouraging the comparative analysis of national research systems. The UNESCO Institute of Statistics, for example, collects statistics from member nations on research and resources available for research. It provides advice to member nations on the collection of such data, and updates its S&T database every other year.

Periodically UNESCO issues its World Science Report which provides an overview of the global research system.

In January of this year, UNESCO held a Symposium on Comparative Analysis of National Research Systems. The website provides not only guidelines for such analysis, but also reports on the research systems of a large number of member states.

Currently UNESCO is seeking applications to present papers or attend a meeting of its Global Research Seminar at the end of November. That meeting will address the draft guidelines from the Symposium, and more generally will "discuss new and ongoing research, identify research gaps and suggest new research agendas on systems of higher education, research and knowledge."

The United States, in its effort to retain global leadership in research and development benefits from UNESCO's efforts to develop this global system of data which allows international comparisons of research systems. More importantly, the system encourages all the countries of the world to bear their fair shares of the burden of development of knowledge and technology, thereby supporting the rapid growth of the world's scientific knowledge. This knowledge is one of the more important "commons" benefiting us all.

UNESCO Catalyzes Networks

UNESCO's budget is tiny when compared to the global governmental expenditures on education, science, culture and communications. Indeed, its total budget is much less than that of my local county for education.

UNESCO exercises no sovereign control over its member states. Each member state continues to exercise full sovereign control over its own people, territory and actions. UNESCO can not tell any state what to do, nor does it have any power to enforce the decisions of its governing bodies on its member states.

How then does it manage to achieve so much worldwide?

Examination of three networks of sites that have been created under UNESCO sponsorship provides one answer. They are:
In each case, individual member states nominate sites within their own territory, providing detailed discussions of the proposed sites to be included in the network. In each case, the sponsoring nation retains full sovereignty over the site, but commits to maintaining the site and to participation in the network with its own resources or those which it can generate from other sources.

In each case, UNESCO manages a review process to assure that nominees qualify for inclusion in the network and reviews the status of members of the network to assure that they still qualify. In each case, there is a subset of member states elected by the overall group of member states which is delegated oversight of the network, and a small bureau or secretariat to manage the networking functions.

In each case the member states have decided that the benefits of participation in the network more than justify the costs of participation. Decades of experience indicates that each network really works to promote cooperation among the sites included and to showcase important sites within the member nations to world attention.

The United States has been critically important in the creation of each of these networks, and Americans have provided intellectual leadership over the lifetime of each of them. Indeed, participation in each of these networks has provided a vehicle for cultural diplomacy, enabling the United States to achieve cultural and environmental objectives of its foreign policy in collaboration with other states. Through the collaborating networks these goals have not only been achieved more economically than would otherwise be possible, but indeed the goals might not have been at all possible without the collaboration of other sovereign states.

Finally, the networks provide the community of nations with an assurance of globally coordinated efforts to accomplish programs of global importance that would be beyond the capabilities of any member state alone.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The World Network of Biosphere Reserves

The United States was a major proponent for the decision by UNESCO to create the Man in the Biosphere (MAB) program in 1974. Even when the United States decided to withdraw from UNESCO, the Reagan administration chose to retain U.S. participation in the program. The flagship effort of the program is the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR).

"Biosphere Reserve" is a term denoting an area that has been nominated by the locality and the country in which it is located for participation in the worldwide Biosphere Reserve Program. Biosphere Reserve recognition does not convey any control or jurisdiction over such sites to the United Nations or to any other entity. The United States and/or state and local communities where biosphere reserves are located continue to exercise the same jurisdiction as that in place before designation. The networking of the independent reserves provides scientific advantages, facilitates cross-border cooperation in the management of shared landscapes (such as between the United States and Mexico or the United States and Russia), as well as some assurance that globally important genetic resources will be conserved.

There are now 531 biosphere reserves in 105 countries, including 47 reserves in the U.S.. The following map shows those in the continental United States with red dots.

The program provides the most important mechanism for international scientific cooperation focused on how to manage social and economic development so as to preserve the environment -- producing knowldege that will be increasingly important in meeting the pressures on the environment in the next century. It also provides an important mechanism for the preservation for future use by mankind of genetic resources that have not yet been domesticated. Moreover, it provides a valuable source of stimulus and advice to nations (especially the poor nations in Africa and Asia) on how to manage their social and economic development to ensure that it can be sustained.

The 3rd World Congress on Biosphere Reserves was held in Madrid in February. There were 105 countries in attendance, represented by 829 participants including 20 from the United States. The Madrid Action Plan (MAP) was formally approved at the Congress. According to the plan, the overall goals of the program for the next few years are to:
(a) anchor the research, training, capacity building and demonstration agendas of MAB at the interface between the interlinked issues of conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, mitigation and adaptation to climate change, and socio-economic and cultural well-being of human communities;

(b) enable the active use of places included in the WNBR as learning sites for sustainable development, i.e. demonstrating approaches to enhance co-operation amongst epistemic (academic), political, practitioner and stakeholder communities to address and solve context specific problems to improve environmental, economic and social conditions for human and ecosystem well-being;

(c) collect, collate, synthesize and disseminate lessons learned from more than 30 years of the work of the MAB Program and the WNBR as well as their planned actions during 2008-2013 to benefit international, national and local efforts to meet global targets such as the MDGs, significantly reducing the current rate of biodiversity loss by 2010 (also referred to as the “CBD 2010 target”) and others that are part of the UNFCCC and Kyoto processes linked to mitigating and adapting to global climatic change; and

(d) contribute to the emergence of a new generation of professionals and practitioners who can serve as ambassadors and managers/coordinators for linking global environmental agendas to national and local development aspirations.
The plan further defines the vision of the program as follows:
The World Network of Biosphere Reserves of the Man and the Biosphere Program consists of a dynamic and interactive network of sites of excellence. It fosters harmonious integration of people and nature for sustainable development through participatory dialog, knowledge sharing, poverty reduction and human well-being improvements, respect for cultural values and society's ability to cope with change, thus contributing to the MDGs. Accordingly, the World Network of Biosphere Reserves is one of the main international tools to develop and implement sustainable development approaches in a wide array of contexts.
It defines the mission as follows:
To ensure environmental, economic, social (including cultural and spiritual) sustainability through:
  • development and coordination of a worldwide network of places acting as demonstration areas and learning sites with the aim of maintaining and developing ecological and cultural diversity, and securing ecosystem services for human well-being;
  • development and integration of knowledge including science for advancing our understanding of interactions between people and the rest of nature;
  • building global capacity for the management of complex socio-ecological systems particularly through encouraging greater dialogue at the science-policy interface, environmental education and multi-media outreach to the wider community.
In the meeting of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO in May the members formally recommended that the State Department reinforce U.S. participation in the Man and the Biosphere program. The American participants in the Congress recommended that the
"U.S. National Commission for UNESCO should reconstitute the U.S. National Committee for MAB to allow a coordinated effort to effectively interact within the national network and internationally in areas of research, ecological monitoring, land use practices and education programs. A united front will allow U.S. agencies and organizations to develop partnerships and funding strategies for national and mission-focused activities."
The George Wright Society provides a good website on the Man and the Biosphere program and the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. The GWS is a nonprofit association of researchers, managers, administrators, educators, and other professionals who work on behalf of the scientific and heritage values of protected areas. It is named in honor of George Melendez Wright, the first chief of the wildlife division of the U.S. National Park Service in the early 20th century, who died tragically at the age of 36.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

IOC Executive Council to Meet

The IOC Executive Council elected in 2007 will meet at the IOC Headquarters in Paris on 24 June – 1 July 2008. The forty Member States that will convene for the 41st session of the Executive Council will have in front of them a rich and challenging agenda. They will consider the results of the first session of the Working Group on the Future of IOC, tasked with identifying options for enhancing the role of IOC in terms of institutional arrangements, financial resources, and relations with other intergovernmental and international organizations. The Executive Council will also discuss and adopt a programme of activities for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of IOC in 2010 that will take stock of the achievements of the Commission as well as current and future needs in terms of ocean science, observations and capacity-building.

UNESCO candidate from Egypt says ready to visit Israel

The election for the next Director General of UNESCO will take place next year. The position of Director General is always important for an organization in the United Nations system, but the Director General of UNESCO was given especially great authority (at the behest of the United States) when the organization was created. The next Director General will, it is hoped, continue the reforms initiated by D.G. Matsuura, but will also provide a charismatic and informed leadership as the organization moves to confront new challenges in international education, science, culture and communications.

The change in administration in the United States in 2009 will mean that new U.S. leadership wil be asked to act quickly to seek to assure that the new Director General is acceptable to United States interests.

Since there is an informal consensus among member nations that the position should rotate from region to region it seems likely that the next Director General will be elected from an Islamic nation, and the Egyptian Minister of Culture, Faruq Hosni, has been seen as a strong candidate. Minister Faruq is walking a fine line to satisfy the more radical constituents in his own and other Arab nations but also to demonstrate he is sufficiently moderate to suit the rest of the world.

He recently stated in an interview with an Israeli reporter that he would be willing to visit Israel:

"If you invite me, if you send me an invitation, I will come," he told Israel's mass-circulation newspaper Yediot Aharonot.

But Hosni warned that such a visit should be "carefully prepared, up to the last detail," because of the outcry it would create in Egypt.

UNESCO Bookmarks

Social bookmarking allows one share links to resources with the public. I have posted several hundred links to resources related to UNESCO on this website. They are tagged so that, for example, clicking on the word "history" you will see listed only resources related to UNESCO's history. Use the resources with my good wishes. JAD

Thursday, June 12, 2008

UNESCO Issues Call for Research Summaries for the Global Research Seminar

Global Research Seminar:
Sharing Research Agendas on Knowledge Systems

UNESCO, Paris, Room II, 28 – 30 November 2008

The objective of the Seminar is to provide an arena for researchers to discuss new and ongoing research, identify research gaps and suggest new research agendas on systems of higher education, research and knowledge; with a view to forging closer links between the research communities and UNESCO in these fields.

What is the Aim of the Seminar?

The objective is to provide an arena for researchers to discuss new and ongoing research, identify research gaps and suggest new research agendas on systems of higher education, research and knowledge; with a view to forging closer links between the research communities and UNESCO in these fields.

Another objective of the seminar is to give feedback on the methodology suggested by the Draft Country Review Template for Mapping National Research Systems (see annex of the Terms of Reference), which was developed by the UNESCO Forum's Special Initiative in January 2008.

Submission of Research Summaries

Research organisations and researchers actively involved in studying research and knowledge systems in key fields such as higher education, science and technology, innovation, social sciences, health and agriculture are invited to submit a summary on their new and ongoing research, which should include a short presentation of the research area(s), the research methodology, research partners, central findings to date and future perspectives.

The steering committee will select a number of summaries and the authors will be invited to present their research at the Seminar.

The African Network of Scientific and Technological Institutions

ANSTI, the African Network of Scientific and Technological Institutions, is an organ of cooperation that embraces African institutions engaged in University level training and research in the fields of science and technology.

Founded in January 1980, through the financial support of United Nations Development Program (UNDP), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Germany, the network has grown over the years to become an effective institution for the development of human resource capacity in the fields of Basic and Engineering Sciences.

In addition to UNESCO, which accommodates the ANSTI secretariat, several other international agencies involved in the support of higher education in science and engineering have been supporting ANSTI program activities or using ANSTI network to implement their own programs.

To-date ANSTI has 109 member institutions in thirty five (35) countries in sub-Saharan Africa. This puts ANSTI in a powerful position to advertise, coordinate and implement various programme activities for various international agencies.

ANSTI publishes the AFRICAN JOURNAL OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY. In pursuance of UNESCO’s objective to facilitate the dissemination of research results and within the framework of the organization’s support for the African Network of Scientific and Technological Institutions (ANSTI), UNESCO has provided a grant to continue the publication of the Journal. An archive of issues from 2001 is available online.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

UNESCO and Global Climate Change

Climate change is affecting our environment, our societies, and our cultures. Finding solutions to mitigate the negative impacts and adapt to changing conditions requires and approach that unites sound, unbiased science with social and cultural considerations. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, with over 40 activities in all program sectors, provides a unique forum for addressing climate change and its impacts on the environment and human society.

Read the UNESCO Draft Strategy to Address the Challenges of Climate Change (PDF, 12 pages)

American Spokesman for IOC on Polar Year

The International Polar Year has posted interviews with leading scientists on YouTube. Keith Alverson is an American working in the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Secretariat in Paris. His video can be seen here:

International Water Forum

On June 27, 2008, an international water forum is to be held at the Department of State. Supported by the National Science foundation (NSF), UNESCO and a number of agencies and international organizations will be joining to confront some of the most pressing global water needs.

Contact the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO for more information.

IFAP Draft Strategic Plan

UNESCO's Information for All Program (IFAP) has made its draft strategic plan available online.

The New Issue of The UNESCO Courier is Online

The UNESCO Courier 2008 - number 5

Claude Lévi-Strauss: The View from Afar

This month's Courier, published in his 100th year, pays special tribute to Claude Levi-Strauss, the trail breaking social scientist whose views have influenced people all over the world. It offers a selection of articles written by him and published in the magazine since the early 1950s. It also includes unpublished documents, along with his photographs and sketches from the 1930s.

Listen to "Race and Culture" read by Claude Lévi-Strauss in French at UNESCO in 1971.

Watch the video coverage of his last public speech, made on the same podium in 2005.

Laurent LEVI-STRAUSS, Claude's son and UNESCO's Chief of Museums and Cultural Objects Section was recently in Washington, representing UNESCO at the annual meeting of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO.