Monday, November 24, 2008

Places of Wonder and Discovery

Places of Wonder and Discovery is a “coffee table book” that provides magisterial images of World Heritage sites. My wife describes it as "National Geographic on steroids", as the book combines great photography with a broad geographic educational content. Ten photographers made the images. David Muench, my favorite living American nature photographer, made those of Yellowstone and Mesa Verde, as well as those of Uluru in Australia.

The World Heritage list currently includes 878 sites of cultural and/or natural importance. Each has been nominated by the government of the country in which it is situated, provided with a detailed management and conservation plan by that country, and subjected to extensive review before being authorized for inclusion on the list by the oversight committee of UNESCO’s World Heritage Center. They represent a heritage for all mankind.

This is the first book published by Our Place, a New Zealand firm, and is the first in a series of ten books it is to produce in collaboration with the UNESCO World Heritage Center. The book includes 350 original photographs of 50 World Heritage sites in 35 countries.

Many of the sites included in the book were familiar to me and will be to almost all readers: the Acropolis, the Taj Mahal, the Egyptian pyramids, Petra, the Lagoon of Venice, and Yellowstone National Park are all included.

Other sites were previously unknown to me. The stone circles of Senegal and the Gambia include some 29,000 stone monoliths of ancient origin. Tongariro in New Zealand is truly a place of wondrous natural beauty.

The book is thoughtfully designed. A few pages are devoted to each site, combining text and images. The photos are varied in style and content, providing not only large scenic views of the sites but smaller images that stirred the artists interests and provide variety for the reader.

If I were to have a quibble with the book, it is that it lacks a list of image titles indexed by page number, making it hard to identify the large images that are found at the start and end of the book.

For the many fans of UNESCO’s World Heritage program, the book will be a great find. I recommend that libraries consider it and the remaining books of the series as they are published for their collections; certainly this first book in the series has both artistic and reference value. Indeed, I suspect that many people will want a copy of the book for their personal collection, and it may indeed influence their travel plans for years to come.

Tongariro National Park, Chris Morton

Places of Wonder and Discovery

320 pages
Publisher: Our Place Publishing (October 22, 2008)
ISBN-10: 186953669X
ISBN-13: 978-1869536695 lists the book as available new from two U.S. companies for about $70 including shipping and handling.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bipartisan U.S. Foreign Policy Leaders Urge Obama Administration To Revitalize U.S.-UN Relationship

A bipartisan coalition of over three dozen senior foreign policy leaders in the United States issued a public statement today urging the incoming Obama Administration to help lead a new era of international cooperation by strengthening the U.S.-UN relationship. The signatories include four former Cabinet Secretaries, eight former Senators, four former UN Ambassadors, three former National Security Advisors and two former Governors. The statement was released by the United Nations Foundation and Partnership for a Secure America.

Read more!

Editor's note: I would suggest that the statement applies to decentralized agencies of the United Nations systems, such as UNESCO. JAD

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Getting On Board: Promoting E-Government Via Bus

E-government has many wonderful benefits for citizens in promoting transparency of activities, troves of information, and new ways to participate as well as to express opinion. Citizens, however, must first be equipped with the access and skills to take advantage of e-government. And for that, UNESCO's Information for All Programme (IFAP) are urging people to get on the bus.

All this month, citizens in Quito may take chivas, popular Equadorian buses, from busy neighborhoods to public Internet access centers called cybernariums. These cybernariums will hold training workshops of 25 people each that will focus on explaining and promoting e-government services to spread the word about what is available for the community.

Radio and television spots will additionally promote awareness of the initiative; the population of focus will consist of secondary school students, leaders of organizations or neighborhoods, and housewives.
This initiative is part of UNESCO's IFAP "E-government Model for World Heritage Cities" project, which is sponsored by the Spanish government. The cities of focus are Cartagena de Indias (Colombia), Quito (Ecuador), and Cusco (Peru).
Projects like this and others regarding Latin American e-government promoted by the Spanish government and UNESCO certainly have tremendous potential for change on a global level. For more information, see UNESCO's e-government news as well as the World Bank's e-development publication.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Baltic states nominate Marciulionyte for post of UNESCO head

The Baltic states officially presented their candidate, Ambassador Ina Marciulionyte, permanent delegate of Lithuania to UNESCO, for the post of the UNESCO Director General for the term of 2009-2013.

Ambassador Marciulionyte was elected to the committee that oversees the World Heritage program in 2004, and headed this committee in 2005-2006. Currently, the ambassador holds the posts of:
  • deputy chair of the Executive Board of UNESCO,
  • chair of the Headquarters Committee, and
  • deputy chair of the Intergovernmental Committee of Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.
She also is the head and member of various UNSECO working groups.

Ambassador Marciulionyte studied Lithuanian Language and Literature at the University of Vilnius. She worked as a correspondent and editor for Lithuanian newspapers and magazines. In 1991, Ambassador Marciulionyte co-founded the Open Society Fund Lithuania (OSFL), where she subsequently acted as Director of the Cultural Program and of the Fund House. As Vice Minister of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania from 1999 until 2003, Ambassador Marciulionyte was responsible for culture heritage. She also served as the Chairperson of the Cultural Committee of the Lithuanian Commission for UNESCO.

Emily Vargas-Baron informs me that Ambassador Mirciulionyte has been
deeply involved in educational planning, reform and child development. She is very highly regarded by close colleagues who are internationals, among them U.S. citizens. They feel she would be an excellent DG. And, I might add, some one with whom our new administration could work well.


Responding to the Challenge of Global Climate Change through Public Engagement and Social Innovation

5th Annual Ename International Colloquium
18th - 20th March 2009 in Ghent and Ostend, Belgium

UNESCO has issued a call for papers to be presented at t
his three-day colloquium that is to focus on the impacts of global climate change to the Low Countries, namely rising sea levels and increased river flooding.

Image source: "Climate Change: Coastal Mega-Cities in for a Bumpy Ride," by Srabani Roym, CommonDreams.Org News Center.

World Philosophy Day 2008

World Philosophy Day, an annual celebration of philosophy initiated by UNESCO in 2005, continues to extend its scope. This year, the event will be held in Palermo (Italy) on November 20 and 21, while umerous other initiatives will take place at UNESCO Headquarters and in over 80 countries around the world.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tell the Obama Transition Team About UNESCO

The Office of Barack Obama as President Elect has created a website,, with news, information on the Transition Team, and information on the transition process. It also provides a site for anyone to share a vision of America.

UNESCO was created to build the defenses of peace in the minds of men by improving the global dissemination of education, promoting social and natural science, promoting cultural understanding, and helping to assure an adequate communication. For six decades it has sought to do so with considerable success. Since the Bush administration led the United States to rejoin the organization, our representatives in Paris have done much to reestablish American prestige and influence with respect to UNESCO.

Many have suggested that we will not win the "war on terror" if we fail to "win the war of ideas". They have suggested that the United States must improve its soft diplomacy and its public diplomacy. If you agree that UNESCO should play an active role as a venue for soft and public diplomacy, and that the new administration should facilitate greater involvement of the U.S. educational, scientific and cultural communities in UNESCO and its global networks, let the transition team know your ideas.

Clemson Joins UNESCO Trace Element Network

The Clemson University trustees have approved the creation at that university of an Education and Research Satellite Center in Trace Elements for UNESCO. Vincent Gallicchio, Clemson Associate Vice President for Research, recently represented the international network of 25 UNESCO Trace Element centers at the UN-Rotary Day at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

The Trace Element Institute for UNESCO and its network of satellite centers seek to promote:
  • Analytical chemistry
  • Geo-environmental studies - the influence of the ecosystem: industrialised countries versus developing countries
  • Scientific co-operation to reduce avoidable ill-health
  • Sustainable development
The analysis of trace elements, the chemical elements found in trace amounts in a substance, is an integral part of environmental science, the study of soil, air and water. Trace element concentrations in man, animals and plants iare a function of their environment, and determine their health and development. Problems can be caused by either an excess or a deficiency of a trace element.

The development of science education in the field of trace elements is interdisciplinary including chemistry, biochemistry, pharmacology, toxicology, genetics, epidemiology, therapeutics and also nutrition, agronomy and veterinary sciences.

UNESCO's Central Institute for Trace Element Research is located in
in the South of Lyon, France.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Editorial: The Obama administration should embrace UNESCO in its public diplomacy

Applying this successful Cold War “war of ideas” model to the present national security challenge in the Middle East could effectively drive out extremist ideology that may give rise to terrorist behavior while strengthening the United States’ stature in the international community.

The U.S. Marine Corps Small Wars manual, which details tactics and strategies for operations combining military force and diplomatic pressure, and on which the “Global War on Terror” is based, famously notes that such “wars are battles of ideas and battles for the perceptions and attitudes of target populations."

Winning the war of ideas and creating better relations with the Muslim world require more than tired tactics, immobility, and budgetary pocket change (the current $50-million cost is less than 1/10,000th of our Iraq-related expenditures). The next president should designate this effort as a matter of the highest national security importance. The campaign as a whole should be self-critical, regularly evaluating its own performance and ready and willing to change in response to evaluation results.

Simply put, there is a glaring need for the United States to undertake a proactive strategy aimed at restoring long-term security through the presentation of our principles as part of U.S. foreign policy. The tools of public diplomacy and strategic communications are the most valuable weapons in America’s arsenal. It is not too late to wield them.

Hady Amr and Peter W. Singer
"Engaging the Muslim World: How to Win the War of Idea"
American Constitution Society for Law and Policy
The quotations shown above are from a paper provided for the Obama administration as it takes office, published by a think tank with close ties to the Democratic party. The authors make a number of very good points and the paper is worth reading by anyone interested in public diplomacy. They stress the need to complement our military actions with a far more effective program of public diplomacy. They emphasize that the effort must be sincere, and that we must work to better implement our ideals at home and abroad if our public representations are to be believed.

The new administration should realize that UNESCO is an important venue in which the United States can wage "the war of ideas", and that UNESCO has considerable influence in Muslim countries. The Bush administration has helped reestablish U.S. prestige in the halls of UNESCO, and the new administration can build on that start.
  • UNESCO's education programs can help to build understanding among cultures;
  • Its social science programs can help develop valid information on which such understanding can be built;
  • Its natural science programs not only provide means to encourage cooperation among scientists in Islamic countries and the United States, but can help to defuse potential conflict over natural resources;
  • Its cultural programs can promote a peaceful dialog among cultures, and help people to learn to respect cultures other than their own;
  • Its information and communications programs can help to improve the quality of media in the Muslim world.
The United States should of course provide its assessed contributions to UNESCO in a timely fashion, and encourage our best professionals to seek positions in UNESCO. The government should seek opportunities to make voluntary contributions to UNESCO where they can promote projects that contribute to our public diplomacy. Importantly, the U.S. Government should revitalize the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, using it to empower our educational, scientific and cultural communities to work more actively and effectively with UNESCO.

John Daly
(The opinions expressed above are those of the author, and don't necessarily reflect those of Americans for UNESCO or other organizations.)

"Aren’t There Enough Trails?"

Image Source: Bison in winter at Old Faithful; Richard Lake, National Park Service

In response to a court ruling throwing out a plan allowing 540 snowmobiles a day into Yellowstone, the Department of the Interior now proposes a compromise: 318 machines a day. "The National Park Service’s own scientists — studying air pollution, noise pollution and the effect on the park’s animals — have consistently found that the best solution is low-emission, higher-capacity snow coaches. The new plan would allow 78 of those a day."

"This new plan is a bad and barely acceptable compromise. It is well past time for snowmobilers to confine themselves to the thousands of miles of trails on public lands outside Yellowstone."

The public has until Monday, November 17th to comment.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Awarding ICTs in Education

UNESCO announced Monday that its 2008 UNESCO King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa Prize for the Use of Information and Communication Technologies will be awarded to Shanghai TV University as well as to Dr. Hoda Baraka of the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology in Egypt. These laureates were selected by an international jury and will be recognized in a ceremony in Paris at UNESCO Headquarters on January 14, 2009. They will also receive a diploma and US $25,000 from Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura.

These laureates were selected from 67 projects focused on ICTs in education. One of the winners, China's Shanghai TV University, was recognized for its project Turning the Digital Divide into Digital Opportunity: The Project for Building the Digital Lifelong Learning System in Shanghai. The project seeks to spread educational resources such as teacher training and lifelong learning materials through extensive satellite and network systems. It reaches 230 community learning centers and over four million Shanghai residents as well as an equal number of area migrant workers.

The other recipient, Dr. Hoda Baraka of the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology in Egypt, was rewarded for her superior leadership efforts in promoting many ICT initiatives across Egypt. She has steered ICT projects to promote quality, equitable education and to fight illiteracy. Baraka has greatly impacted thousands across the country with her efforts.

The King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa Prize for the Use of Information and Communication Technologies prize itself was created in 2005; its objective is to reward projects and activities for superior models, practices, or creativity in using ICTs to augment and promote education. The award is sponsored by the Kingdom of Bahrain and is awarded annually. Application information as well as information about previous winners can be found here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

World Science Day for Peace and Development

10 November

The role of the sciences in forging a better world. Make the effective mobilization of scientific knowledge more fundamental than ever. More

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The New Issue of the UNESCO Courier

© UNESCO/Ariane Bailey
Memory, a key to human rights.

Human Rights : a thorny path

The UNESCO Courier, 2008 No. 9

Human rights, viewed through the prism of memory, constitute the theme of this issue marking the 60th anniversary of the 1948 declaration. Stéphane Hessel explains what makes it unique and why it must remain universal. Pierre Sané reviews the status of the dignity of the individual in the world today.

Monday, November 03, 2008

"It is the knowledge (not digital) divide that matters"

Abdul Waheed Khan, the Assistant Director General of UNESCO for Information and Communications, has published this article in A World of Science in the Developing World. He writes:
Thanks to advances in ICTs, knowledge has never been easier to process, share and analyse. Having said that, it is important to note that the issue is not 'how' but 'what' information is communicated. That is why I prefer to use the term 'knowledge divide' instead of 'digital divide".
The book is published by Nature magazine and is available freely on the Internet. It commemorates the 25th anniversary of the Third World Academy of Sciences and its work building the scientific capacity of developing nations.

Dr. Kahn's participation in this publication is symbolic of the importance of UNESCO to the development of science in the third world, and illustrates the close cooperation between UNESCO and other agencies building scientific capacity.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Registration deadline for Mondialogo Engineering Award extended till 31 December 2008

Daimler and UNESCO invite engineering students to enter Mondialogo Contest

Project proposals to improve living conditions in developing countries; address poverty; sustainable development; and climate change

€300,000 in total prize money for the best teams

2007/8 Participants during visit to Mercedes Plant