Tuesday, July 22, 2008

DG Reports on The Science Programs

On the 18th of July, Director General Koïchiro Matsuura briefed an information meeting of UNESCO's Executive Board on the status of UNESCO's programs.

This was his report on the natural science and social and human science programs:
Let me now turn to the sciences, staring with the follow-up to the overall review of major programmes II and III.

You have asked how this is progressing. The recommendations adopted by the General Conference are gradually being implemented, and I am pleased to report that significant results have already been achieved. For example, the Natural Sciences Sector has reinforced its support to Member States in the review of national science, technology and innovation policies, an area where UNESCO has longstanding expertise. We are giving special focus to Africa, with reviews currently being undertaken in 14 countries in the region.

Earlier this month, during the ECOSOC High-Level Segment, I organized a ministerial roundtable breakfast meeting to discuss how we could better harness scientific knowledge for sustainable development through effective policies. It aroused considerable interest, and many interesting proposals for action were made, which UNESCO will actively follow up.

Interdisciplinary and intersectoral activity is also being strengthened. The ADGs of SC, IOC and SHS lead four of the platforms, on Science Education, Climate Change, Small Islands and National Research Systems. One example of successful intersectoral work is in the field of science ethics. In response to the question of how UNESCO is bringing together its expertise in ethics and the natural sciences, let me mention the effective collaboration between the two sectors in addressing subjects such as biotechnology, nanoscience, and new developments in the life sciences. In this regard, I should highlight the important roles played by the World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST) and the International Bioethics Committeeof UNESCO (IBC).

In addition, International and Intergovernmental scientific programmes are now cooperating in a more coherent way. For example: MAB and IOC now coordinate coastal and marine activities; and MOST and MAB work on outreach to youth and women in African biosphere reserves.

We are also improving outreach through new partnerships, as for instance, with the BBC, to disseminate science programmes in least developed countries, as well as through international years, such as the International Year of Planet Earth. Following the global launch of the Year at UNESCO Headquarters in February, regional launches were held for Latin America and the Caribbean in Brasilia in April and for Africa in Arusha in May. I had the great pleasure to attend the latter event personally, together with President Kikwete of the United Republic of Tanzania, and Chair of the African Union.

Responding to your question on UNESCO’s Strategy for Action on Climate Change, it has been revised to take into account discussions at the last Board, as well as on-going efforts to promote a UN system-wide approach to the issue. I am pleased to inform you that the CEB has accepted UNESCO’s position to create a new working group, under the joint leadership of UNESCO and WMO, in the cross-cutting areas of science, assessment, monitoring and early warning, which will coordinate system-wide action in those areas for the UN system. Their work will then serve as a basis for proposals to be made by the UN Secretary-General to the 2009 Poznan meeting of the State Parties to the UNFCCC.

Under the intersectoral platform on Climate Change, which is charged with coordinating the implementation of UNESCO’s strategy, efforts have been made to identify high-impact intersectoral projects for extrabudgetary funding and to increase UNESCO’s visibility and participation in international action to address climate change. These will be presented in a detailed plan of action at the 2009 spring session of the Executive Board.

In response to Member States’ requests, the strategy gives special focus to Africa and Small Island Developing States. Another key area of concern is the effects of climate change on indigenous peoples, who often find themselves excluded from debates on the subject. In collaboration with Professor Malaurie, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for polar issues, and with the support of H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco, UNESCO will organize a meeting of international experts in Monaco in Spring 2009 on the transformations of Arctic land and seascapes due to climate change and their implications for sustainable development.

IOC plays a key role in the area of climate change. I am pleased to note that IOC’s Executive Council, which met from 24 June-1 July 2008, endorsed the conclusion of the Working Group on the Future of IOC that the future of IOC should unquestionably remain, and be reinforced, within UNESCO. This is something I feel very strongly about, as do you, the Member States, who at last year’s General Conference expressed unanimous support for IOC and decided to increase its resources for the 2008-2009 biennium by US$500,000. I have already allocated this extra funding and will soon identify its sources.

In the area of freshwater, the preparations for the third edition of the World Water Development Report are well under way. The Report’s theme is “Water in a Changing World” and it will establish the links between water and climate change, the global food crisis, energy, demographics, economic development and changes in land use patterns.

The preparatory process has been inclusive, with the participation of hundreds of scientists, professionals and decision makers in a variety of consultations, which included, for the first time, an open online consultation with the broader public.

I will have the honour to launch the Report, on behalf of the UN system, on the first day of the 5th World Water Forum, on 16 March 2009 in Istanbul. This will ensure that the Report receives good visibility, and is used as a reference throughout the Forum.

With regard to the question on the global rise in food prices, let me remind you that FAO is the principal agency responsible for food security. Nevertheless, UNESCO is providing some support through scientific initiatives such as the recentlycompleted International Assessment on Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD). The report considers such major issues as biofuels, GM crops, use of traditional know-how, and the impact of climate change, and underlines the pressing need to change the rules of modern agriculture.......

In the human and social sciences, I know that UNESCO’s action to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is of great interest to Member States.

The celebration of World Press Freedom Day 2008 took place on 3rd May in Maputo, Mozambique, with major activities organized by UNESCO and numerous other events around the world. The richness of the deliberations is reflected in the “Maputo Declaration: Fostering Freedom of Expression, Access to Information and Empowerment of People”. On this occasion, I also had the pleasure of handing over the 2008 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom prize to the Mexican reporter Lydia Cacho Ribeiro, in the presence of the President of Mozambique, Mr Armando Guebuza.

Preparations are well advanced for the high-level symposium on freedom of expression, including an exhibition on the safety of journalists and press freedom, planned for the 29th of October at UNESCO Headquarters. UNESCO is also involved in organizing the regional conference on the Contribution of the Media and Education to the Promotion of a Culture of Human Rights, which will be hosted by the Government of Colombia in Cartagena, in early September.

In response to the specific request of Member States, the UN Inter-Agency Coordinating Committee on Human Rights Education in the School System (UNIACC) – of which UNESCO is an active member – will organize a side-event on human rights education at the forthcoming International Conference on Education.

The ICE will be an important occasion to reaffirm education as a basic human right – and, in response to Mexico’s question, a meeting is scheduled to be held duringthe conference by the UNESCO/ECOSOC Joint Expert Group on the Monitoring of the Right to Education.

The visibility of UNESCO’s action on human rights will receive a boost when we host from 3 to 5 September the 61st annual UN Department of Public Information/NGO conference. We are fully involved in the preparation of this major event, and I will participate in the opening session.

We also foresee various events at Headquarters in December, including the award ceremony of the first UNESCO/Bilbao Prize for the Promotion of a Culture of Human Rights. We will also stage an exhibition of UNESCO human rights-related posters from the past sixty years, and another of human rights learning materials demonstrating the diverse ways that Member States are carrying out human rights education in their countries.

I take this opportunity to emphasize again that the implementation of many of these activities depends on extrabudgetary resources, and reiterate my appeal to Member States to consider making financial contributions. I count on your full support to ensure the visibility of UNESCO’s action in promoting “Dignity and Justice for All of Us”.

On a related subject, I must add that UNESCO’s role in the fight against doping in sport has become highly visible. As of today, there are 86 States Parties to the Convention from across all five regions. Our cooperation with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is also very successful, and allows us to continue focusing on the harmonization of anti-doping rules and policies worldwide, as well as antidoping education and prevention programmes.

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