Thursday, December 31, 2009

Irina Bokova on Climate Change

UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova gave an informative briefing on UNESCO's actions with regard to Climate Change during the Copenhagen meeting earlier this month.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The State Department Announces UNESCO Jobs

DIRECTOR, Division of Water Sciences; UN Edu, Sci & Cult Org (UNESCO); (SC-250); Paris, France
(AdvDeg: Hydro/WaterRsrces/Engin; 10+ yrs int’l exp; Fr); D-2; $191K Closing date: 01/23/10

(AdvDeg: PolicyPlanning/Mgmt; extnsv sr lvl exp; Fr); ADG; $205K Closing date: 01/27/10

DEPUTY DIRECTOR, Office of the Director-General; UN Edu, Sci & Cult Org (UNESCO); (ODG-015); Paris, France
(AdvDeg: SocSci/Law; 10+ yrs int’l exp; Fr); D-1; $177K Closing date: 02/08/10

Sunday, December 27, 2009

New England Rugby Leader to Speak at UNESCO

Dr. Joe Olzacki, the President and CEO of the New England Rugby Football Union, was recently invited to speak at the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Global International Leadership Training Program in Kigali, Rwanda, Dec. 31-Jan. 10.

"I am deeply honored and very excited by UNESCO's invitation" Olzacki said. “The opportunity that UNESCO has provided me with is truly rare. I have no idea how to prepare for this, but I realize that this opportunity is a gift, and one that I plan to take full advantage of."

In his spare time, Olzacki, of East Hampton, Conn., plays rugby for both the Newport (Rhode Island) Rugby Club and also serves as a founder and as the treasurer of Gypsy Rugby Club, a select international touring rugby club. Full time, Olzacki works as the Director of the Bloomfield (Conn.) Public Schools Department of Visual and Performing Arts, and was selected by UNESCO to the World Summit to share what he has learned through the Identity Project.

Read more from!

UNESCO fights brain drain with computing gain

The Brain Gain initiative is a digital infrastructure linking African and Arab Region universities to global knowledge

The migration of highly-skilled people is having a significant impact on higher education and research, as universities and research centres have to adjust to increasingly mobile, competitive labour markets, and strive to retain highly-skilled professionals.

In an effort to change this trend, UNESCO and HP joined forces in 2003 to develop several projects, using innovative technology to create a “brain gain” for regions that are particularly impacted by the exodus of academics and scientists.

Many skilled expatriates, wherever they may be located, have the potential and the willingness to contribute to the development of their home country, and information and distributed computing technologies provide a new way to enable distance cooperation.

A digitally literate generation of young people will be able to take advantage of the opportunities provided by access to virtual classrooms and virtual laboratories. Remote access to rare or expensive resources can help small, low-budget universities enjoy access to infrastructure of the same quality as large, well-endowed ones.

In 2009 UNESCO and HP agreed to scale up the initiative to help create a sustainable university e-infrastructure for science, bringing together higher education institutions and research centres in Africa and the Arab States region and allowing them to pursue innovative education projects.


Friday, December 25, 2009

Holiday Best Wishes

For those readers who are Christians, may today's celebrations by happy, healthy and bright. For others, may you too have a happy, health and bright day!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

UNESCO Science Prize Proves Controversial

Source: "Rights group criticizes UNESCO partnering with Equatorial Guinea's dictator," DONNA BRYSON, Associated Press via The Washington Examiner, 12/23/09.

A human rights watchdog group, Global Witness, called on UNESCO to cancel the $300,000 UNESCO-Obiang Nguema Mbasogo International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences, to be awarded for this first time next year. UNESCO's Web site says the prize was founded to recognize scientific research that leads to "improving the quality of human life." Global witness holds that UNESCO "is being hypocritical by collaborating with Equatorial Guinea's dictator."


Sunday, December 20, 2009

UNESCO Publications -- overview 2008 and 2009

The following resources provide easy to consult information on UNESCO publications issued in 2008 and planned for 2009:

Friday, December 18, 2009

Harmonizing Global Science

I quote at length from an editorial in Science magazine by Alan I. Leshner and Vaughan Turekian:
Every major problem facing modern society now has a science and technology component—either as a cause or cure—whether it's energy and the environment, access to water and fertile land, the spread of infectious diseases, or sustaining a viable economy. Although every societal problem has unique regional characteristics that require attention, there are sufficient implications across regions for which only globally coordinated efforts will be successful. The recent assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and their impacts on public and policy-maker perceptions provide one example of successful cooperation on a near-global scale. The betterment of humankind depends on a deliberate move from being an international community of scientists to being a truly global community.

As more countries have invested in science and technology to advance their societies, high-quality science is increasingly being carried out in every part of the world. The scientific enterprise has become highly collaborative both within and across countries. These trends present great opportunities and increasing obligations for the scientific community to contribute to solving society's major problems. But efforts will be successful only if the community can function in a much more globally integrated way.

Becoming global can only happen if the differences among national scientific communities are reduced. For example, there is substantial variation in the norms and standards that govern the work of scientists in different countries. Effective collaboration requires harmonizing these standards of conduct so that scientists can work together with full trust and confidence. Consider the work of the International Society for Stem Cell Research, which has been striving as a community to develop global guidelines for embryonic stem cell research so that biological materials developed in one nation can be shared with others. Similar concerns apply to other policies concerning the conduct of science, such as those regarding the use of human subjects, animal welfare, or work on genetically modified organisms. Harmonizing norms and standards may be the most pressing need for successful globalization. But disparate national intellectual property rules and regulations can also deter international cooperation, as can differing publication and information access policies.
UNESCO, as the lead agency for both Natural Sciences and Social and Human Sciences in the network of intergovernmental organizations, should take this editorial in one of the leading scientific journals of the world to heart. This is especially true in that UNESCO has decades of experience helping its member nations coordinate norms and standards in its fields of expertise.

Smithsonian Film Collection Added to UNESCO Memory of the World List

The John Marshall Ju/'hoan Bushman Film and Video Collection, 1950-2000, held at the Smithsonian Institution's Human Studies Film Archives, is one of the seminal visual anthropology projects of the twentieth century. It is unique in the world for the scope of its sustained audiovisual documentation of one cultural group, the Ju/'hoansi, of the Kalahari Desert, in northeastern Namibia. Created over a span of 50 years, it is an unparalleled historical record not only of an indigenous people's traditional lifeways and ties to the land but of the transformation of these lifeways in the rapidly changing political and economic landscape that developed in concert with the struggle for Namibian independence.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

News About UNESCO Jobs

A number of senior positions in UNESCO are being recruited, reflecting the change in administration of the Organization. The following recruitments, originally to close in December, have been extended to January 27th.

Two other important positions are closing on February 8th:
This should be a good time for those seeking jobs in UNESCO, since a large portion of the Secretariat is at or near retirement age and, since there has been a small increase in UNESCO's budget, their positions should be refilled on retirement of the current occupant.

According to the State Department
UNESCO will not be soliciting applications for the Young Professionals Program for 2010. We do anticipate that the program will restart for 2011 and therefore a new application will be available during the fall of 2010.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

National Commission to hold Telephone Meeting Tomorrow

The Annual Meeting Teleconference will take place on Thursday, December 17.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 10am and last until approximately 1pm. There is a fifteen minute period of time set aside for members of the public to either make comments or ask questions. That portion of the call is scheduled to take place at approximately 12:25pm.

You may still be able to participate by contacting the National Commission secretariat in the Department of State.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

American Film Star Visits UNESCO

Vin Diesel recently attended a meeting at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris to present the launch of the One Race Global Film Foundation for Peace and Development. The first initiative of this program, in collaboration with Wyclef Jean’s Yele Haiti and President Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic, brought Haitian student ambassadors to Santo Domingo to participate in the ORGFF’s Summer Intensive Institute. The ORGFF for Peace and Development seeks to use film production as a tool for promoting conflict resolution and intercultural exchanges between nations historically at odds.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

UNESCO publishes outcome brochure of its conference on broadcast media and climate change

Last September UNESCO, in partnership with UNEP, organized an International Conference on ‘Broadcast Media and Climate Change: A Public Service Remit’. As a result of this event, international and regional broadcasting unions have decided to increase cooperation in order to give media exposure to climate change. UNESCO launches a brochure, A Commitment to Act Now: Broadcast Media and Climate Change, published as an outcome of the Conference.

"Climate Change and Water"

This special report brings together messages on water and climate change from the World Water Development Report 3: "Water in a Changing World." The WWDR3 shows that changes in our water resources are shaped to a great extent by a number of key externalities, among them climate change, and that decisions taken far from the conventionally defined water sector have a tremendous influence on water resources and how they are used or misused.

Full report in PDF format (2.73 MB);Number of pages: 28; Publication date: November 2009

First North American UNESCO water centre established

UNESCO and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) have signed an agreement establishing the UNESCO International Centre for Integrated Water Resources Management (ICIWaRM) in Alexandria, Virginia. The ICIWaRM is now the 13th member of UNESCO’s global network of water centres. The new centre would notably increase support to developing countries, especially in Africa, but also in Latin America and the Caribbean. The overall mission of the new centre is “the advancement of the science and practice of integrated water resources management to address water security and other water-related challenges by regional and global action, through new knowledge, innovative technologies, collaborative interdisciplinary scientific research, networking, training and capacity development within the framework of UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme.”

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

UNESCO chief speaks out at murder of another Mexican journalist

The head of the United Nations agency tasked with defending press freedom has condemned the murder of Mexican journalist José Emilio Galindo Robles, the second such killing in less than one month.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

COP-15 and the UNESCO Intersectoral Platform for Action to Address Climate Change Copenhagen, 7 - 18 December 2009

With 15,000 people expected to fill the halls of the Bella Center in Copenhagen to capacity during the COP15 UN Framework on Climate Change Conference, expectations are again on the rise. “The UN has stated clearly that the goal we would like to see is ambitious: for all nations to share a common vision of what is needed to be done or, at a minimum, what is needed to agree on in order to mitigate causes of climate change,” said Patricio Bernal, Assistant Director-General of UNESCO for the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.

More about the UNESCO Intersectoral Platform for Action to Address Climate Change

Director General's Address to the Executive Board

Irina Bokova, the new Director General of UNESCO addressed the Executive Board last week, her first opportunity to do so since her investiture. She previously served as the representative of Bulgaria to the Executive Board and so has inside knowledge of the functioning of the Board.

I quote from her address:
With our fields of competence in education, culture, natural science, social and human sciences, communication and information, combined with our two priorities – gender equality and Africa – we are in a unique position in the multilateral arena, in order:
  • first, to assist in harnessing globalization more in the service of humanity andsustainable development and in attaining internationally recognized developmentobjectives, in particular the Millennium Development Goals;
  • second, to make a difference internationally, and at the national level in particular, through effective high-quality activities in our fields of competence, in which we must play an international leadership role;
  • third, to refine our unique role in the multilateral system, as an Organization that promotes and facilitates dialogue among decision-makers, scientists, the academic world, intellectuals, members of civil society, journalists, spiritual leaders and many others; this must have a definite impact on the overriding goal of our Constitution, which is to construct the defences of peace in the minds of men and women;
  • fourth, to continue to contribute fully to the reform of the United Nations, in particular at the country level, in order to highlight our capability to meet the Member States’ priorities and demands.

Colorado State University Part of New Consortium

Colorado State University is a founding member of the newly approved North American UNESCO water center in the United States
The agreement means that the roughly 120 professors conducting water-related research at Colorado State will help provide guidance on issues largely facing the world including:
• hydrologic and hydraulic engineering;
• water planning and systems management;
• water policy development and governance;
• ecosystem sustainability;
• socioeconomic analysis;
• conflict resolution; and
• global change.

First Consultation Meeting of IFAP National Committees to take place next week in Moscow

The First Consultation Meeting of National Committees for UNESCO’s Information for All Program (IFAP) will take place on 7 and 8 December 2009 in Moscow, Russia. This meeting is jointly organized by the IFAP Intergovernmental Council, the UNESCO Secretariat, the Russian IFAP Committee and its working body - the Interregional Library Cooperation Centre. It is officially sponsored by the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO and the Russian Ministry of Culture.

The main purpose of this meeting is to share information about the current activities of existing National IFAP Committees, discuss the prospects for future cooperation, as well as the possibilities for strengthening inter-regional and multilateral collaborations, increasing the Program’s visibility and funding. The participants will also discuss ways of implementing the National Information Society Policy, a template document which was recently developed by IFAP.
The Program seeks to:
  • promote international reflection and debate on the ethical, legal and societal challenges of the information society;
  • promote and widen access to information in the public domain through the organization, digitization and preservation of information;
  • support training, continuing education and lifelong learning in the fields of communication, information and informatics;
  • support the production of local content and foster the availability of indigenous knowledge through basic literacy and ICT literacy training;
  • promote the use of international standards and best practices in communication, information and informatics in UNESCO's fields of competence; and
  • promote information and knowledge networking at local, national, regional and international levels.
IFAP was created in 2000. Through IFAP, Governments of the world have pledged to harness the new opportunities of the information age to create equitable societies through better access to information.

The United States is not a donor to the IFAP program and it is not represented on the Intergovernmental Council for the program. There is no U.S. National Committee for IFAP.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Virtual Meeting of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO

The U.S. National Commission for UNESCO will host its Annual Meeting on Thursday, December 17, 2009, from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. Eastern Time by telephone conference.

The meeting will have a series of subject-specific reports and allow for brief question and answer periods. The Commission will accept brief oral comments or questions from the public or media during a portion of this approximately three-hour conference call. The public comment period will be limited to approximately 15 minutes in total, with two minutes allowed per speaker. Those who wish to present oral comments or listen to the conference call must make arrangements with the Executive Secretariat of the National Commission by December 14, 2009.

The National Commission may be contacted via e-mail at, or via phone at (202) 663-0026. Its Web site can be accessed at:

Budget of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission

The IOC and its IODE Programme are supported by a combination of UNESCO Regular Programme funds (funds provided to UNESCO by its Member States) and extra-budgetary contributions provided to UNESCO (to Funds-In-Trust) or directly to the IOC (to the IOC Special Account). The budget of the UNESCO Regular Programme is adopted by the UNESCO General Conference for a 2-year period (biennium).

The IOC budget from the UNESCO Regular Programme is approximately USD 4,000,000/biennium (average 2002-2007). A similar amount is allocated for core staff positions (professional and support staff). In 2006/2007 the IOC had a total of 21 UNESCO staff positions of which 9 were professional (P) and 12 support staff (G).

Below you can see the evolution of the UNESCO Regular Programme contributions between 1971 and 2009 (in millions of US dollars).

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Experts' meeting on the Right to Enjoy the Benefits of Scientific Progress and its Applications

Last summer UNESCO joined with other organizations to convene an expert meeting on the rights of people to enjoy the benefits of science and the applications of science. Now a brochure has been published with the findings of that meeting.

The right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications (REBSP) is enshrined in various international and regional instruments. It was proclaimed for the first time in Article 13 of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (1948) which states that “every person has the right […] to participate in the benefits that result from intellectual progress, especially scientific discoveries.”

The REBSP was further enshrined in Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) which stipulates that “everyone has the right […] to share in scientific advancements and its benefits.”

This right became a binding norm when it was included in Article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR, 1966), which recognizes “the right of everyone to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications.”

World Science Forum Wound Up on a Cautiously Optimistic Note

Great responsibility rests on scientists in giving help to politicians enabling them to bring good long-term political decisions in Copenhagen at the coming climate summit.

In this respect the World Science Forum held in Budapest certainly has its merits, said Hungarian Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai at WSF’s 7 November closing session. WSF had a message to players outside the scientific field, to representatives of government, decision-makers in business, but also to the average person. Everyone should understand what an important role science plays in forming the future.

Read more!

International Year of Biodiversity 2010

The UN-declared International Year of Biodiversity marks the 2010 Biodiversity Target aiming to significantly reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by this date.

UNESCO joins the Convention on Biological Diversity, the lead UN body and other UN, international and national partners to make the IYB an effective instrument to advance the cause of biodiversity conservation. During the Year, UNESCO will lead several activities which aim to educate and to raise public awareness on the reasons for conserving biodiversity, to fill the gaps in our knowledge of biodiversity and to catalyze further international action for its sustainable use.

Related links

Monday, November 30, 2009

The UNESCO Courier 2009

The 2009 Archives of the UNESCO Courier provides links to all the monthly issues of UNESCO's principle online magazine as well as to three special issues.

Focus on UNESCO’s Management of Social Transformations Programme (MOST)

This is a 20-minute film that describes the UNESCO’s Management of Social Transformations (MOST) Program. The program is the flagship for UNESCO's Social and Human Sciences program, focusing on the use of social science results by governments, civil society and academia to improve social and economic development processes and decisions.

The video is primarily in French, but includes sections in English, Spanish and Portuguese. The non-English portions have English subtitles.

My computer played the video using the Windows Media Player.

U.S. UNESCO category 2 centre on freshwater

On Thursday 29 October 2009, the outgoing Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, signed with Major General Don T. Riley, Deputy Commanding General of the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), an agreement establishing the UNESCO International Centre for Integrated Water Resources Management (ICIWaRM) in Alexandria, Virginia.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Atlas of Transboundary Aquifers

The worldwide Internationally Shared Aquifer Resources Management (ISARM) Initiative is an UNESCO and IAH led multi-agency effort aimed at improving the understanding of scientific, socio-economic, legal, institutional and environmental issues related to the management of transboundary aquifers. Since its start in 2000, ISARM has launched a number of global and regional initiatives. More than 200 transboundary aquifers have been identified. Inventories undertaken in the Americas, Asia, Africa, South-Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Caucasus, and Middle East have been already published separately. This Atlas presents a compilation of available data.

In recent years water security for people and the natural environment have taken a centre stage in much of the dialogue on international policy. Coordination among countries is essential for the sustainable management of transboundary aquifers. This atlas is intended to be a valuable reference that will encourage the sound and sustainable management of transboundary aquifers.

UNESCO publishes WSIS Followup brochure

The brochure, entitled Fostering Information and Communication for Development, is a short introduction to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and its follow-up. It presents different aspects and outcomes of WSIS. Read more!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pensez-vous que le monde globalisé menace les cultures nationales ? ... Forum d'Avignon 2009 Irina Bokova.

UNESCO Institute for Statistics Report on Research and Development

The number of researchers in developing countries jumped from 1.8 million to 2.7 million in five years (2002-2007), according to the new data release from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS).

The rise in numbers of researchers equates to a 45% increase, from 344 to 499 researchers per million inhabitants in developing countries. During the same period, the number of researchers in developed countries increased by only 8.6% to 4.4 million. In relative terms, this amounts to 3,592 researchers per million inhabitants, still far more than in developing countries.

The information was collected through the third UIS survey on statistics of science and technology (S&T), which is conducted every two years. It focuses on human resources devoted to research and development (R&D), as well as expenditure on R&D. Results of the survey reveal global and regional trends in the allocation of R&D resources.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The UNESCO Courier: Memory and History

Image source: UNESCO

From the cruel dictatorships of Latin America and Cambodia, the destruction of the Burgundian kingdom, and the Korean enlightenment, to the splendour and intrigues of the Malagasy Empire, the saga of the Kalahari and the constructive failure of the League of Nations – memory and history wend their way through this issue, revealing the extraordinary wealth of the documented heritage of humanity.

This issue of the UNESCO Courier (2009, Number 9) was produced in partnership with UNESCO’s Memory of the World program.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Happy Birthday UNESCO

The Constitution of UNESCO, signed on 16 November 1945. Yesterday Irina Bokova began her term of office as 10th Director General of the Organization. Best wishes to both!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

UNESCO contributes to the fourth Internet Governance Forum

UNESCO will participate in the fourth Internet Governance Forum, to be held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, from 15 to 18 November 2009, to advocate the principles of freedom or expression and universal access as fundamental elements of the Internet Governance structures.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

World Science Day for Peace and Development: 10 November

Celebrated each year on 10 November, World Science Day for Peace and Development provides an opportunity to shine the spotlight on the contribution science makes to achieving sustainable development and enhancing the prospects for peace.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

UNESCO is recruiting a new senior staff

UNESCO has published the announcements of the competitive recruitment of the following posts:

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

UNESCO pays tribute after death of anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss

The world has lost one of its greatest thinkers with the death of Claude Lévi-Strauss, the head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said today, as he paid tribute to the renowned anthropologist.

Mr. Lévi-Strauss was “one of the giants of the 20th century,” said Koïchiro Matsuura, UNESCO Director-General, in a statement issued from the agency’s headquarters in Paris following the announcement of the Frenchman’s death at the age of 100.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Knowledge and Future: World Science Forum in Budapest

Ten years after the first World Conference on Science (Budapest, 1999), the fourth World Science Forum will take place in Budapest (Hungary) from 5 to 7 November. The meeting, whose theme this year is “Knowledge and Future”, coincides with World Science Day for Peace and Development, celebrated annually on 10 November.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Conference at UNESCO to examine future of fight against doping

The Conference of States Parties to the International Convention against Doping in Sport is taking place at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris from 26 to 28 October. More....

Thursday, October 22, 2009

USAID, UNESCP and Intel Foundation Partnership

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), UNESCO and the Intel Foundation have created a joint project to promote digital inclusion in Brazil. The project will provide courses on "Technology and the Community" and "Technology and in Work" in some 180 community education centers.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Editorial: UNESCO should do more to promote effective ues of television

Charles Kenny has an excellent article this month titled "Revolution in a Box" in Foreign Policy magazine. He points out that:
By 2007, there was more than one television set for every four people on the planet, and 1.1 billion households had one. Another 150 million-plus households will be tuned in by 2013.
Today television is revolutionizing social behavior in poor countries as it did in the United States and other affluent countries decades ago.

Charles points out further that television can have an important impact in the promotion of peace:
television help solve a problem we've had since before Sumer and Elam battled it out around Basra in 2700 B.C. -- keeping countries from fighting each other? Maybe.

U.S. researchers who study violence on TV battle viciously themselves over whether it translates into more aggressive behavior in real life. But at least from a broader perspective, television might play a role in stemming the global threat of war. It isn't that TV reporting of death and destruction necessarily reduces support for wars already begun -- that's an argument that has raged over conflicts from Vietnam to the Iraq war. It is more that, by fostering a growing global cosmopolitanism, television might make war less attractive to begin with. Indeed, the idea that communications are central to building cross-cultural goodwill is an old one. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels suggested in the 19th century that railways were vital in rapidly cementing the union of the working class: "that union, to attain which the burghers of the Middle Ages, with their miserable highways, required centuries, the modern proletarians, thanks to railways, achieve in a few years," they wrote in The Communist Manifesto. If the Amtraks of the world can have such an impact, surely the Hallmark Channel can do even better.
Charles also draws attention to the negative impact of a narrow selection of television channels available to the public in poor nations, allowing those channels too often to be dominated by factions that seek to promote their narrow interests via biased broadcasting.

UNESCO's Communications and Information Program is the lead in the United Nations System dealing with broadcasting, and UNESCO's mission of promoting peace and international understanding also demands that it attend to television as a powerful medium for good. Yet UNESCO does very little to promote responsible television broadcasting, not to promote the dissemination of television infrastructure or the use of television to provide a broad content linked to the needs and interests of poor people in developing nations.

Unfortunately, the United States withdrew from UNESCO in the 1980's and in so doing sent the organization into a financial crisis of major proportions -- a crisis from which the organization has not fully recovered to this day. UNESCO does not have the resources to adequately take advantage of the opportunities offered by the rapid penetration of television into the poor areas of the world.

The discussion in the past degenerated into futile areas of "The New World Information Order" rather than useful discussions of the role of mass media in fighting corruption, promoting peace, and disseminating knowledge. Perhaps now is the time to try again!

UNESCO DG Irina Bokova at Women's Forum Global Meeting 09

U.S. Multilateral Engagement: Benefits to American Citizens

“…the time has come for the world to move in a new direction. We must embrace a new era of engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and our work must begin now.”
President Barack Obama

The United States is deeply engaged with the United Nations and other international organizations to promote U.S. national interests. While most Americans are familiar with U.S. leadership at the United Nations as part of the Security Council and as a leading voice in support of human rights, economic development, and humanitarian relief, fewer Americans are aware of the many benefits that stem from U.S. engagement with the many technical and specialized international organizations.

Read the State Department Fact Sheet!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Elizabeth Kelley-Kanick Named Executive Director

Elizabeth Kelley-Kanick has been named the new Executive Director of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO. She was formally the Administrative Director in the Office of Senator Hillary Clinton.

Developing countries boost their R&D efforts

The number of researchers in developing countries jumped from 1.8 million to 2.7 million in five years (2002-2007), according to the new data release from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS).

The rise in numbers of researchers equates to a 45% increase, from 344 to 499 researchers per million inhabitants in developing countries. During the same period, the number of researchers in developed countries increased by only 8.6% to 4.4 million. In relative terms, this amounts to 3,592 researchers per million inhabitants, still far more than in developing countries.

The information was collected through the third UIS survey on statistics of science and technology (S&T), which is conducted every two years. It focuses on human resources devoted to research and development (R&D), as well as expenditure on R&D. Results of the survey reveal global and regional trends in the allocation of R&D resources.

Between 2002 and 2007, developing countries increased their global share of researchers by 8.1% (from 30.3% to 38.4%). They accounted for 24% of the total gross domestic expenditure on R&D in 2007, which is an increase from 17% of the global share seen in 2002.

Learn more:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Dream for the future

“It is my dream to nurture relations of perfect synergy between the Director-General and Member States, so as to move together towards the creation of societies that are more just and prosperous, based on knowledge, tolerance and equal opportunity for all, thanks to education, science, culture and access to information. I shall be guided in my work by my concept of a new humanism for the 21st century.”
Irina Bokova, the newly elected Director General of UNESCO

Friday, October 16, 2009

Irina Bokova elected Director-General of UNESCO

The 35th Session of the General Conference today elected Irina Bokova of Bulgaria as the tenth Director-General of UNESCO. The investiture will take place in a ceremony on Friday 23 October 2009, when Irina Bokova will become the first woman to hold the post since the foundation of the Organization in 1945.

Elaine Fuchs to receive 2010 L'Oréal-UNESCO prize for women scientists

Elaine Fuchs, Rebecca C. Lancefield Professor at Rockefeller University, will be the North American recipient of a 2010 L'Oréal-UNESCO Award in the Life Sciences, which recognizes exceptional women scientists. Fuchs is one of five scientists representing five continents who will be honored with the award this year.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I am on vacation

and may not be posting for a couple of weeks. Expected return about October 12.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

"UNESCO must reclaim science leadership"

Irina Bokova
UNESCO Chief designate

David Dickson has an excellent editorial in SciDev.Net that concludes:
Real change in science programmes, as elsewhere within the agency, will require strong and visionary leadership.

The good news from this week's election is that the final ballot, in which Bokova beat Hosni by 31 votes to 27, provided a clear outcome. A stalemate at this stage — each candidate had secured 29 votes in the previous round — could easily have undermined the authority of the eventual winner.

Less satisfactory is that, to secure her victory, Bokova is likely to have made serious commitments to those governments who eventually voted for her (she visited 45 countries in her campaign).

Accommodating these promises in a coherent and focused reform agenda will be a challenging task — but an essential one if UNESCO is to reclaim its leadership position in science and technology for development.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Editorial: The United States Has to Revive Participation in the Global Network of Bioreserves

The saola, a species discovered in 1992
never seen in the wild by a scientist
down to a couple of hundred
or perhaps a couple of dozen animals
no one knows which!

A recent editorial in Science magazine by Harold Mooney and Georgina Mace states:
Global responses to the deterioration of biodiversity have been slow to emerge, but next month the United Nations (UN) Environment Programme hosts a meeting* in Nairobi, Kenya, to discuss the next steps in establishing a new science/policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services.The response in this arena still lags far behind negotiations related to climate change, but the meeting is a chance to boost international action, based on strong scientific evidence. An important motivation for creating this interface is meeting the goals of international multilateral agreements, including the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Unlike the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which has the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, these environmental conventions lack a pre-convention science assessment and have no provision for subsequent government-endorsed, independent science. The meeting in Nairobi will debate, among other issues, how best to make up for this crucial omission.

Why is a robust biodiversity science/policy interface so important? The human population continues to mine the natural capital of Earth to support its growth, but the impact of this loss on human well-being is not widely understood in either public or policy spheres. Biodiversity is the building block of ecosystems that capture carbon and energy and cycle water and nutrients from the soil. These processes, and the structure of ecosystems that control them, benefit society with food, fuel, clean water, and climate regulation—so-called ecosystem services. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), supported by UN agencies and nongovernmental organizations, concluded in 2005 that 60% of ecosystem services worldwide have become degraded, mostly in the past 50 years, primarily because of land-and ocean-use practices.

We lack information on global and local trends in most biodiversity components at the level of genes, species, and ecosystems, as well as baselines and standards for their assessment. We will certainly miss the CBD's target for reducing the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010 and also miss the 2015 environmental targets within the UN Millennium Development Goals to improve health and livelihoods for the world's poorest and most vulnerable people. Changes in ecosystems and losses of biodiversity have continued to accelerate. Even the most conservative estimates suggest that an area of tropical rainforest greater than the size of California has been destroyed since 1992, mostly for food and fuel. Species extinction rates are at least 100 times those in pre-human times and are expected to increase.
The UNESCO program on People, Biodiversity & Ecology is an important part of the world scientific community's organization to understand biodiversity and how it may be protected. Specifically,UNESCO has created the World Network of Biosphere Reserves which innovate and demonstrate approaches to conservation and sustainable development. They are of course under national sovereign jurisdiction, yet share their experience and ideas nationally, regionally and internationally. There are 553 sites that have been added to this network by the governments of the countries in which they occur, including 49 that were added to the network by the United States in the early days of the program. (The United States was very much involved in the network in its early days, and was indeed influential in its conception.)

U.S. scientists remained involved in the UNESCO program even after the United States had left UNESCO, and indeed the State Department included funds in its budget to support such involvement for a number of years. However, participation dropped off and reached a nader during the Bush administration even as the United States returned to membership in UNESCO. It is now time to restore U.S. participation in the program. Perhaps most important is for U.S. scientists involved in ecosystems approaches to protecting biodiversity to return to full scientific participation with their peers in the other 106 countries with bioreserves in the network. It is also urgent to review the status of the U.S. bioreserves included in the network and the status of research within them.

The United States had a national committee for liaison with the program, but that committee was abolished at the request of the Executive Director of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO several years ago. The UNESCO Secretariat requires a point of contact in the United States for the program, and with the abolition of the national committee that responsibility devolved on a State Department employee who is not a scientist. A scientist working in the field of biodiversity and/or bioreserves should be identified and made the point of contact as soon as possible. Ultimately, however, a committee should be again created in order to include a broad range of expertise on biodiversity and bioreserves; no one scientist has a broad enough view of the field to understand the full scale of relevant U.S. scientific efforts. That committee should also provide information and recommendations to the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, as do committees alread in Oceanography and Earth Sciences.

John Daly
(Note the opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the author alone, and do not necessarily represent those of Americans for UNESCO or any other organization.)