Friday, January 30, 2009

The Dick and Ray Show

Last week, Dick Arndt and Ray Wanner led our UNESCO class discussing the history of the organization and the role played by Americans in its founding, and in this country's withdrawal from UNESCO.
Frank Method, co-coordinator of the course
introduces Dick Arndt

Ray Wanner, having described the central role of the United States delegations in the creation of UNESCO and the important role of people from the United States in encouraging UNESCO to create some of its key programs, such as those of the World Heritage program and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, ended saying the United States has much to be proud of about UNESCO.

Ray Wanner checking his notes

I will allow myself to wonder whether the United States also has much to be ashamed of in its role with respect to UNESCO.
  • The Organization functions under a complex governance system which sometimes hampers its efficiency and effectiveness. The United States delegates to UNESCO's planning and governing bodies bear more responsibility than most countries for UNESCO's governance structures and processes.
  • The United States representatives to UNESCO and our Civil Society organizations have encouraged the Organization to embark on new and often ambitious undertakings. On the other hand, the U.S. Government has sought to limit the rate of growth of UNESCO's budget. The withdrawal of the United States and the U.K. created a financial crisis for UNESCO. Now UNESCO fails to play the ambitious role that its constitution and the majority of its members demand because its resources fail to meet its responsibilities.
I could go on, but perhaps the proper position is not to assign blame or credit, but to consider the role that UNESCO could play internationally, and helping it to achieve the excellence we require in assuming that role. There are remarkable successes within the UNESCO program such as the creation of CERN (which in turn hosted the creation of the World Wide Web) and the World Heritage network of protected cultural and natural sites. The creation of the SESAME project which is showing the way towards international cooperation in the Mid East or the work to create a global tsunami warning system may be equally valuable in the future. How do we make sure that UNESCO remains capable of such important initiatives?

John Daly
(The opinions expressed in this posting do not necessarily represent those of Americans for UNESCO.)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

UNESCO's Eyes and Voice in World Economic Forum

Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura will be prominently participating at this year's World Economic Forum, which began yesterday and will continue through February 1 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland. This is a wonderful opportunity for the over 2,500 participants, including over 40 heads of state, to hear UNESCO's perspective on pressing global concerns.

Matsuura will be a part of panels speaking on cultural literacy and education, and he will also be the speaker in a private morning session on January 30 about the global water crisis. That evening, he will attend a session regarding the relationship between religion and science in society.

UNESCO will also promote its Partnerships for Education platform that stresses how crucial the relationships between civil society, governments, and private sector corporations are in advancing global initiatives such as Education for All.

The forum, themed Shaping the Post-Crisis World, seeks to bring together ideas and agendas of world leaders. Annual meetings are organized by the independent international World Economic Forum, which has run for 38 years, and has a distinguished reputation for promoting dialogue and initiatives worldwide. For more information, schedules, webcasts, and summaries, visit the World Economic Forum Index.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

"A Loyal Bushie Burrows Into Obama's System"

Source: Elana Schor, TalkingPointsMemo (TPM), January 23, 2009.

Dr. Kathie Olsen has resigned her politically appointed position of Deputy Director of the National Science Foundation and assumed a career position of "senior advisor" in the NSF's Office of Information and Resource Management. She was apparently a career Senior Executive Service employee at NSF in the 1990's. Dr. Olsen was trained as a neuroscientist and worked in that field for many years.
Before becoming deputy director of the NSF, Olsen was the associate director of the Bush White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy. Her immediate boss there was Bush science adviser John Marburger.
The TPM article suggests that in that position "Olsen was at the forefront of the former president's systematic denial of the human causes of climate change." It also suggests that stepping down from the number two position in NSF to that of "senior advisor" she was burrowing into a career position.

According to her NSF biography:
Prior to OSTP, Olsen served as Chief Scientist for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) (May 1999-April 2002) and the Acting Associate Administrator for Biological and Physical Research (July 2000-March 2002).
One might wonder how a neuroscientist became Chief Scientist for NASA. Perhaps the answer lies in her Congressional service:

According to her NASA biography:
From February 1996 until November 1997, she served as a Brookings Institute Legislative Fellow and then as a NSF detailee in the Office of Senator Conrad Burns of Montana.
Conrad Burns was a three term Republican senator from Montana who was powerful due to his place on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and his chairmanship of the Interior subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Burns was selected by Time as one of "America's Five Worst Senators." The magazine dubbed him "The Shock Jock" and called him "serially offensive" for his many controversial statements during his career, such as a 1999 remark in which he called Arabs "ragheads." The magazine also criticized his "meager" legislative record and his legal problems involving Jack Abramoff.
Burns' rating by major think tanks and political action committees included:
  • American Conservative Union : 91%
  • American Civil Liberties Union: 0%
  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce: 94%
  • National Education Association: 0%
  • League of Conservation Voters: 5%
  • Christian Coalition of America: 100%
  • American Land Rights Association: 100%
So Dr. Olsen, a neuroscientist, worked for a very conservative senator and then was appointed to be chief scientist in an agency that his committees oversaw, went from that position to the Office of Science and Technology policy, and then to Deputy Director of NSF as a political appointee, and is now returning to a much less influential career position in NSF.

This history is presented here because Dr. Olsen was one of 15 people chosen to work with five UNESCO staffers on the UNESCO Overall Review of Major Programs II and III, the natural sciences and social and human sciences programs.

One might wonder why UNESCO -- which does not have a neuroscience program nor a space science program -- would choose a neuroscientist who had been chief scientist of NASA to review UNESCO's natural science and social and human science programs. Might it have been susceptible to influence from the political appointees of the Bush administration? Might the Bush administration have wanted a "politically reliable" member on that important panel?

I would note that Dr. Olsen's former boss, John Marburger strongly endorsed the recommendations of the panel when he represented the United States in Ministerial Roundtable in 2007.

Perhaps the Obama administration appointees dealing with UNESCO should quickly review the proposed revisions to UNESCO's science programs.

John Daly
(The opinions expressed in this posting are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of Americans for UNESCO.)

Caroline Kennedy for U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO?

Al Kamen in his "In the Loop" column in the Washington Post yesterday suggested that Caroline Kennedy be appointed Ambassador to UNESCO by the Obama administration. The suggestion appears to have been made in jest, but it may not be such a bad idea. Not only is she a Kennedy, but her father introduced himself in Paris as the husband of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy who was indeed much admired by the French. Were she to take the job, her voice would be heard in Washington and in the White House, and she would be a star in the diplomatic community in Paris.

In point of fact, according to Wikipedia, she has considerable experience in communications and has been a fund raiser for the New York city public school system for decades. She did a museum internship. As a lawyer she would be better equipped than most of our diplomatic corps to deal with the many UNESCO conventions.

We could do a lot worse.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

DG's Update on UNESCO Program

On January 18th the Director General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, briefed the Executive Board on the state of the Organization's programs. A few of his comments are reported below:


The Director General reported progress following up the recommendations of the panel which reviewed the two science programs in 2007.

Natural Sciences
UNESCO was proactive in the development of the “Compact on Climate Change”, which was presented as a joint contribution of the United Nations system to the high-level segment in Bali. We also organized a side event to present our draft Strategy for Action on Global Climate Change, which represents UNESCO’s specific contribution to the United Nations system-wide response.

Both the United Nations and UNESCO strategies give special attention to adaptation. The approval at Bali of the creation of an Adaptation Fund highlights the urgent need to support countries already affected by climate change. To this end, UNESCO will extend current research efforts – such as those undertaken by the World Climate Research Programme jointly sponsored by WMO, UNESCO/IOC and ICSU – to include adaptation research. UNESCO will also take the lead in efforts to update and complement the global knowledge-base on climate change, notably through the inclusion of key human and social science inputs, such as work on the ethics of climate change. Programmes in the human and social science sector will be re-focused towards this end. This emphasis on the more “human” dimensions of climate change will be vital to developing effective adaptation measures.......

The celebration in 2008 of the United Nations International Year of Planet Earth (IYPE) provides an important opportunity to stimulate public and scientific debate on climate change, as well as on other issues related to sustainable development.

As lead agency for this International Year, UNESCO will organize a high-level global launch event at Headquarters on 12 and 13 February 2008, in collaboration with the International Union of Geological Sciences.......

Finally, let me recall that the third edition of the World Water Development Report will also focus on climate change. The Inception Meeting, which brought together some 70 experts in Paris last month, has now established the Table of Contents for the Report. I will launch the report at the Fifth World Water Forum, which will take place in Istanbul in March 2009.
Social and Human Sciences

In the field of the social and human sciences, as you know, one of our priorities is to finalize the plan of action for the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the celebrations of which I launched at the Organization’s Headquarters on 10 December 2007 in the presence of many distinguished guests, including the representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Louise Arbour.
Communications and Information

The Sector for Communication and Information is working to give more strategic focus to UNESCO’s follow-up to the World Summit on the Information Society, and to reinforce our engagement with the issues and mechanisms emerging from the WSIS process.

The World Summit highlighted the importance of collaboration and partnership. In this regard, let me mention UNESCO’s very successful partnership with the private sector to develop ICT Competency Standards for Teachers, which has just completed its first phase. Developed in cooperation with Cisco, Intel, Microsoft, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, these standards are designed to help educational policy-makers and curriculum developers identify the skills teachers need to harness technology in the service of education. They will make a valuable contribution to our efforts to achieve EFA, as part of our broader commitment to building inclusive knowledge societies.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

International Workshop on Innovation for Development: Converting Knowledge to Value

OECD Conference Centre - Paris, France

28-30 January 2009

This is a Workshop to examine ways in which knowledge contributes to innovation, especially in developing countries. This includes knowledge produced formally through research and development, and knowledge from other sources, informal, and indigenous, which can be combined to produce value. As the focus is on innovation, the realization of the value created is through the introduction of a new product (a good or a service) to the market, the introduction of a new process that produces products for the market, or delivers them, the use of new organizational structures or business practices, or the development of new markets or the capturing of a greater share of existing markets.

Read more!

© UNESCO/Tony Marjoram
Innovative leg-pump for water in Ghana

Departure of the NatCom Exec Director

Alex Zemek yesterday sent the following message to members of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO:
Today is my last day as the Executive Director of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO. It has been my pleasure being a part of this office from the beginning. We have come very far since President Bush announced the U.S. intention to rejoin UNESCO on September 12, 2002. I joined this office after having come back from a year in Iraq, looking for an opportunity where I could continue to contribute to the U.S.’s foreign policy objectives. In these past four and a half years we have begun to make a difference at UNESCO and in the world. From important issue from literacy, potable water, countering youth radicalization, and upholding and advancing civil liberties like freedom of expression.

Thank you all for making this a rewarding experience. I know I will continue to interact with you all through the Commission’s Laura W. Bush Traveling Fellowship. The challenges at UNESCO will continue but with your help we can continue to build off of the great foundation that this Administration has laid on investing in people and helping others to govern justly and democratically.

I am excited about the new members who are joining the Commission. It is a great group that builds off of many of your recommendations from last year. I would have wanted to announce them all by this point and inform you of who has been selected as chairs and vice chairs of the subject committees, however, most information hopefully be released in the coming days by the next administration.

I will be starting a new opportunity next week at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA); I am excited to continue my serve to the defense of this great nation. Thank you all for the service that you provide.

Celebration of Charles Darwin and the Theory of Evolution

2009 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species. There are celebrations of Charles Darwin's life and contributions scheduled throughout the year, including a year-long set of articles published by Science magazine, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Julian Huxley, known to UNESCO followers as the first Director General of the Organization, is better known to the world as one of the key thinkers in developing the synthesis of Darwin's theory of evolution and the modern scientific understanding of genetics. While Darwin did not understand why characteristics were passed from parents to their offspring, molecular genetics have illuminated that issue. Huxley was one of the first to realize the connection and to describe it in his book, Evolution the Modern Synthesis.

UNESCO: Agenda for the 21st Century

Yesterday I wrote an entry for my blog, Thoughts About K4D, about the complementary ways one can understand UNESCO, based on something I prepared for a seminar on UNESCO. Dmitry Epstein, the Think Macro blogger, posted a comment asking for updates on the course. I share my first response to that request.

The title of the seminar is "UNESCO: Agenda for the 21st Century" and I have posted the Syllabus online. I am coordinating the course with a colleague, Frank Method, and many members of the Board of Directors of Americans for UNESCO are participating during the semester.

The seminar is intended to provide students with an understanding of UNESCO and the context in which it works as an intergovernmental organization focusing on education, science, culture and communications and information. Students lead about half the sessions, and are expected to do a project for the course. In the two previous semesters that the seminar was offered, projects have included:
  • The creation of a manual for students intending to start a UNESCO club in their university,
  • The design of a museum exhibit on natural World Heritage sites and their conservation,
  • A proposal for a multimedia self-learning course on the World Heritage sites in U.S. national parks, which has been accepted by the National Parks service, and
  • A paper on UNESCO's role in the students home country which was accepted as the basis of a paper for an international conference.
This is the third time the course has been offered at George Washington University. It is a graduate seminar in the International Education Program. However, the seminar is open to students in other parts of the university and for cross registration for students in other universities of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area. Indeed in previous semesters the class has been enriched by students of museum management and foreign affairs and by students from Georgetown university.

This semester there are ten students signed up. They are an impressive group. Most have lived abroad and have mastered more than one language, and almost all have some professional working experience. We have only had the orientation meeting so far, but I am looking forward to the semester.

John Daly

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Thoughts on the Nomination of a New Ambassador to UNESCO

Louise Oliver, Ambassador to UNESCO as a Bush administration appointee, is leaving that office. The Obama administration is to appoint a replacement. Ambassador Oliver has faced important challenges at UNESCO, managing the reentry of the United States into the organization and representing this country in an era of its decreasing international reputation. Reliable observers tell me that she has been extraordinarily effective, representing her administration's policies consistently in a professional manner while gaining respect and making friends for America among the diplomatic community and the UNESCO Secretariat. The new appointee should build upon and extend her successes.

It is my hope that the new appointee will be given Ambassadorial rank by the administration. That rank has been established for Ambassador Oliver, and has been helpful in establishing her personal authority in Paris. It also symbolizes the importance of UNESCO to the United States.

The Obama administration has expressed its concern for improved international partnerships. President-elect Obama wrote in an article in Foreign Affairs magazine:
To renew American leadership in the world, I intend to rebuild the alliances, partnerships, and institutions necessary to confront common threats and enhance common security. Needed reform of these alliances and institutions will not come by bullying other countries to ratify changes we hatch in isolation. It will come when we convince other governments and peoples that they, too, have a stake in effective partnerships.......

(T)he United Nations requires far-reaching reform........Yet none of these problems will be solved unless America rededicates itself to the organization and its mission.
In her opening remarks in her hearing before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Secretary of State designate Clinton stated:
We should also use the United Nations and other international institutions whenever appropriate and possible. Both Democratic and Republican presidents have understood for decades that these institutions, when they work well, enhance our influence. And when they don’t work well – as in the cases of Darfur and the farce of Sudan’s election to the former UN Commission on Human Rights, for example – we should work with likeminded friends to make sure that these institutions reflect the values that motivated their creation in the first place.
In their various statements the spokepersons for the Obama administration have stressed objectives for U.S. foreign policy that are fully consistent with UNESCO's programs. UNESCO's emphasis on peace and human rights, its leadership in education, and its scientific programs providing the knowledge to deal with global resource and environmental problems are all prototypical of efforts that the Obama administration will seek to enhance.

Thus the new Ambassador will be charged with collaborating with partner nations to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of UNESCO as it carries out its fundamental missions.

The next Ambassador should be:
  • An articulate and charismatic spokesperson for the United States;
  • Fully committed to the foreign policy goals of the United States as articulated by the Obama administration, especially those for the promotion of peace, the reduction of poverty, the sustainable development of nations, and the solution of global environmental problems;
  • Capable of leading an organization with 2,000 staff and a $500 million annual budget which is capable of catalyzing global action;
  • A distinguished professional in one of the fields of competence of UNESCO;
  • A capable diplomat, able to negotiate compromise among the disparate interests of UNESCO's member nations; and of course
  • A person of sterling personal and professional integrity; as well
  • As someone who can communicate effectively in French as well as other major languages used in UNESCO.
I would stress, however, that while the new Ambassador must be a capable diplomat, his/her function should not be simply to negotiate with other diplomats and international civil servants, but to conceptualize how UNESCO's programs can be integrated with those of other U.S. and international agencies to achieve U.S. foreign policy objectives, advocating the needed changes in UNESCO to achieve those ends, and also advocating the needed changes in U.S. policies towards UNESCO.

The first U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO was Athelstan Spilhaus, who served on UNESCO's Executive Board from 1954 to 1958. Dr. Athelstan Spilhaus was listed in "American Men of Science" as a meteorologist and an oceanographer, and made contributions to cartography. He was the inventor of the bathythermograph, a device to measure water temperatures in the deep ocean. That device contributed substantially to the success of sonar in WW II, and thus to America's victory in the war. He also developed balloons for meteorological and remote sensing applications. He was best known to the public for his extraordinary success in communicating scientific knowledge to the public through his comic strip read by some 12 million people per week, and to the academic community as the father of the Sea Grant program of the U.S. government. He as seen both as a global intellectual leader and as an effective advocate of U.S. policies.

I would hope the new Ambassador will live up to and extend the record of excellence established by Louise Oliver and Athelstan Spilhaus.

John Daly
(The opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not represent those of Americans for UNESCO.)

UNESCO Seeking Nominations for the World Press Freedom Prize 2009

Tomorrow is the last day to nominate candidates for the 2009 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. Organizations and institutions as well as individuals may be nominated, and the winner will be recognized in a ceremony in Quatar May 3, 2009, during the World Press Freedom Day Conference. The form and instructions to submit nominations can be found here.

The prize itself is awarded to those who have made significant contributions to progress or defend the freedom of expression and information, particularly if this involves risk. First given in 1997, it was created by UNESCO's Executive Board and is given annually. It is now supported by the Nicholas B. Ottaway Foundation, JP/Politiken Newspapers LTD, and the Guillermo Cano Foundation. Guillermo Cano Isaza, the prize's namesake, was a Colombian newspaper editor who was assassinated on December 17, 1986, for denouncing the activities of local drug barons.

This award is especially poignant in light of recent developments in many parts of the world, most notably in Gaza where attacks have been becoming more frequent against individuals and institutions involved in the media. UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura has condemned the Gaza attacks on members of the media in citing UN Security Council resolution 1738 agreed to in December 2006. It is hoped any further breaches of this resolution will cease immediately to allow the media to safely disseminate information to those anxiously awaiting it.

Thoughts About Choosing a New Director General for UNESCO

UNESCO is the lead agency of the United Nations system for education, natural and social sciences, culture and communication and information. More fundamentally, it was created in the aftermath of World War II to build the defenses of peace in the minds of men.

A new Director General of UNESCO is to be elected in October. The term is four years, but Directors General often serve two terms. Thus the delegates of the member nations will soon select someone to act as a global spokesperson for peace, for education, for science, for culture and the protection of our cultural heritage, and for freedom of expression for most of the coming decade.

Member nations have until the end of May to nominate candidates for the position. The nominations will be considered by the Executive Board consisting of the representatives of 50 nations. The Executive Board's recommendation will be acted upon by the General Conference of all 193 nations in October.

UNESCO has a unique governance structure in that its Constitution calls for member states to create national commissions which provide their educational, scientific and cultural communities with the means to exercise leadership in UNESCO affairs in collaboration with their governments. In no other United Nations organization is there such empowerment of civil society.

Now is the time for the national commissions to search for suitable candidates and to encourage their governments to make suitable nominations. This summer will be the time for the national commissions to consider the nominations, to evaluate the qualifications of the candidates, and to encourage their governments to support the best candidate.

The next Director General should be:
  • An articulate and charismatic spokesperson for peace and international understanding;
  • Capable of leading an organization with 2,000 staff and a $500 million annual budget which is capable of catalyzing global action;
  • A world leader in one of the fields of competence of UNESCO;
  • A capable diplomat, able to negotiate compromise among the disparate interests of UNESCO's member nations; and of course
  • A person of sterling personal and professional integrity; as well
  • As someone who can communicate effectively in the major languages used in UNESCO.
UNESCO's first Director General was Julian Huxley, a world class scientist who was one of the leaders in the synthesis of genetics and Darwinian evolution, a former Director of the London Zoological Society, and an effective disseminator of scientific information to the general public. The first Director General from the United States was Luther Evans, who had been the Librarian of Congress (the world's largest library) and who had organized and headed the Historical Records Survey (bringing order to the disparate historical records held in the individual states of the United States for the first time). Both of these men were known worldwide in fields of central importance to UNESCO, and both had demonstrated records in successfully leading major organizations. The next Director General should be add further luster to the tradition that they began.

If the nominations and selection of a new Director General is left to diplomats we can expect a diplomat to be selected. While diplomatic skills are important in the Director General, there are few diplomats who are qualified to lead UNESCO in its global mission. It is time for the educational, scientific and cultural leaders to stand up and be sure that the best representatives of their communities are considered for the post. The national commissions must exercise their authority to assure that a truly outstanding leader will be chosen to lead UNESCO into the new decade.

John Daly
(The opinions expressed are those of the author alone, and do not necessarily represent those of Americans for UNESCO.)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

UNESCO Director-General expressed grave concern over attacks against Gaza UNRWA schools

In a joint statement, UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura and UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, expressed grave concern over the recent attacks against UNRWA schools and associated facilities. These facilities had been set up by the UN as places of refuge for civilians fleeing the fighting in Gaza.

New Marine National Monuments

On January 6, 2009, President George Bush signed a proclamation “to protect three beautiful and biologically diverse areas of the Pacific Ocean as new Marine National Monuments”. President Bush enacted the preservation of these three regions, which will make up the largest area of ocean set aside for marine conservation in the world (195,280 sq. miles), using the 1906 Antiquities Act. This Act was first used by President Theodore Roosevelt to set aside public lands such as the Grand Canyon as national monuments. Many of the areas created under the act were later acknowledged as national parks.

Additionally, Bush announced that the United States will submit a request to establish George Washington's Virginia home, Mount Vernon, and the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument as UNESCO world heritage sites. Although, environmentalists haven’t been first in line to praise Bush for the past eight years they are welcoming his current support and enthusiasm for environmental and historical preservation.

The Marines Conservation Biology Institute and the Environmental Defense Fund partnered to identify eight of the nine sites that the President identified for preservation. The identified areas; Rose Atoll, Wake Island, Johnston Island, Palmyra Island, King Reef, Baker Island, Howland Island, and Jarvis Island. Noting the intent for preservation Bush provided gravity to the decision, "For sea birds and marine life, they will be sanctuaries to grow and thrive. For scientists, they will be places to extend the frontiers of discovery. And for the American people, they will be places that honor our duty to be good stewards of the Almighty's creation."

All but one of these eight remote areas have Fish and Wildlife Service refuge areas at their cores. Rose Atoll, is the smallest atoll in the world yet it supports 97 percent of America Samoa’s seabird population, is a nesting ground for several threatened turtle populations and has more than 500 fish species that swim and thrive in the surrounding waters. The Pew Environmental Fund identified the ninth site: the waters around the northern Marianas and the deepest ocean canyon in the world, the Mariana Trench, 11,033 meters (36,201 feet) at its deepest. This unique site claims the deepest point on earth. It is more than five times longer than the Grand Canyon and deeper than Mt. Everest is tall. As rare earthly treasure it is scattered and surrounded with hydrothermal vents, undersea volcanoes, and it is the only known location of liquid sulfur this side of Jupiter.

The new designations will expand protection to a 50 nautical mile area off the islands. Commercial fishing will be prohibited but with a permit recreational fishing will be allowed in moderation. This is certainly a promising step on America’s behalf to begin to work more closely with UNESCO and like organization to perverse the environment, historical sites, and culture.

Watch Bush dedicate the central Pacific sites »

"Press freedom and development:

an analysis of correlations between freedom of the press and the different dimensions of development, poverty, governance and peace"

Guseva, Marina; Nakaa, Mounira; Novel, Anne Sophie; Pekkala, Kirsi; Souberou, Bachir; Stouli, Sami
UNESCO, 2008. (133 pages)

This study is the outcome of a research project implemented by the Centre for Peace and Human Security (CPHS) at Sciences Po University with support by UNESCO. The initial idea was to gather and collate quantitative and qualitative evidence of correlations between the indicators of environments conducive to media freedom and independence and the indicators of human development, human security, stability, poverty reduction, good governance and peace.

Welcome to the Year of the Gorilla 2009

The UNEP Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), the UNEP/UNESCO Great Ape Survival Partnership (GRASP) and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) have joined hands to declare 2009 the Year of the Gorilla (YoG).

Dr. Jane Goodall is the official campaign patron.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A Comment on Science, Diplomacy and the Role of International Scientific Cooperation

An important aspect of diplomacy is the peaceful negotiation of disputes. There are many disputes that concern the exploitation of resources that cross borders. Examples might be oil deposits, rivers and aquifers. Indeed, the debates over climate change might be seen as based on the resource of an unpolluted atmosphere.

It is hard to see how negotiations over the ownership and management of such resources can be successful unless the resources are mapped and their dynamics understood. Thus it seems to me that countries sharing a river can not successfully negotiate a plan for river basin management, river water quality assurance, and water allocation without a detailed understanding of the river, its watershed, and the relevant meteorology and climatology.

International scientific cooperation is then called for to establish the basic information on which such diplomatic negotiations can take place. In the case of a river shared by two or more nations, it seems likely that an appropriate knowledge base would best be constructed by scientists from the nations involved collaborating in studies of the river. Indeed, it might well be that the presence of highly respected scientists from a neutral nation might lend greated authority to the knowledge base.

There are many ways to get such cross-border scientific cooperation. The obvious one is to form a specific "border" science program or problem specific international research project. But what does one do when the nations involved are at each other's throats? Water shortages may exacerbate the international problems in the Middle East, but it is hard to get middle eastern nations to set up bilateral cooperation programs or projects.

The United States has taken the lead in setting up many such collaborations. (I was once responsible for managing a U.S. government program funding research collaboration between Israel and its Arab neighbors.) Multinational organizations can also play an important role, as UNESCO has done in catalyzing the SESAME project headquartered in Jordan.

One might ask why the multinational mechanism is important to the United States, since we generally have good relations with our neighboring countries, and there are strong scientific linkages with Mexico and with Canada. That may be less true as we look at the management of the resources in the Gulf of Mexico which we share with many nations, including Cuba.

More generally, the status of the United States as the most powerful economic and military power in the world tends to pull us into disputes that escalate anywhere in the world. The more disputes that can be settled by peaceful negotiations the better.

UNESCO is the key intergovernmental organization for the earth sciences, oceanography, hydrology and bioreserves. It has a significant cross sectoral program focusing on climate change. In all of these elements of UNESCO's natural science program it can play an important role in catalyzing research cooperation and in legitimating the results of the collaborative research it sparks.

In its cultural program it is the lead program on archaeology, and this program together with its World Heritage program can be helpful in creating the knowledge base on which diplomatic negotiations can take place. It is not only in Jerusalem that the cultural property becomes the subject of controversy so severe that it has led to violence.

UNESCO is also the lead agency for the Intergovernmental system of United Nations agencies in the social sciences. In this author's opinion it does unfortunately little in that field. Of course the International Financial Institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monitary Fund do a great deal of economic research and even catalyze research cooperation in economics, but in my opinion more needs to be done. There are many areas where shared understanding of economic issues could facilitate diplomatic negotiations.

I would suggest that the collaboration in area studies, sociology, anthropology and geography could similarly create a commonly agreed knowledge base that could facilitate diplomatic negotiations, and that UNESCO could play an important role in making such collaboration possible, were it to have the resources and a stronger mandate to do so from its governing bodies.

UNESCO was created in large measure to help build the defenses of peace in the minds of men. In the above paragraphs I have outlined a case that the sciences can help build those defenses by establishing common bases in scientific knowledge to enable diplomats to negotiate peaceful solutions to resource based conflicts. It is to the interests of the United States that UNESCO be further encouraged to work to fulfill this role in the international community.

John A Daly (The opinions expressed are those of the author. and do not necessarily represent those of Americans for UNESCO.)

Monday, January 05, 2009

Do You Want a Job at UNESCO?

UNESCO is Recruiting for the position of Executive Director of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. The person selected will work in the Paris headquarters of UNESCO. Applicants must apply no later than January 14th, 2009.

You can find how to apply to this and other positions on this UNESCO website.

I have noticed that postings relating to employment at UNESCO continue to receive many visitors. If you are starting the process of getting such a job yu may find the following interesting:
The U.S. National Commission for UNESCO provides some information about opportunities at UNESCO on its website.

State Department's U.N. Jobs website

Sunday, January 04, 2009

"Science, Technology, and Global Reengagement"

There is a good article by Gerald Hane in the Fall 2008 issue of Issues of Science and Technology, a journal of the National Academies, with a strong set of recommendations for means by which the Obama administration can improve U.S. international scientific cooperation and the use of science and technology in foreign policy. Hane was Assistant Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for International Strategy and Affairs in the Clinton Administration.

It is endorsed with synergistic comments by a stellar lineup (Eugene Skolnikoff, Norm Neureiter, Tom Ratchford, and Cathleen Cambell) in the "Forum" of the Spring 2009 issue of the journal.

As any reader of this blog will realize, I strongly support an increase in international science and technology cooperation. The White House and the Agencies of the U.S. Government should lead in creating the policies that will enable such an increase in international S&T cooperation.

Editor's Note: My own experience has been in the applications of science and technology in development assistance. The capacity of USAID to lead in such efforts has been radically reduced, and should be restored by the Obama administration.

The Bush administration has also been largely unwilling to deal appropriately with intergovernmental organizations that provide scientific and technological assistance to poor nations. With leadership from the United States, these agencies can be much more effective instruments of U.S. international S&T policy. While UNESCO is the lead agency in the UN system for natural and social science, the World Health Organization, the Food and Agricultural Organization and other UN agencies and programs also have important scientific programs. JAD

"SESAME opens doors to international collaboration"

Source: Herman Winick, Science News, January 17th, 2009; Vol.175 #2 (p. 32).

The international Centre for Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East(SESAME),created under the auspices of UNESCO, came into existence as an intergovernmental organization (IGO) on 15 April 2004. It is located in Allan (Jordan). The facility is now under construction as a "third-generation" 2.5 GeV (X-ray) light source which will have a total value of perhaps $100 million. The facility should offer great opportunities for scientists in the Middle East. "Nothing approaches the impact of X-rays as a tool for understanding materials — biological materials, semiconductor materials, catalytic chemical materials, environmental toxins, whatever."

I quote from the interview of Herman Winick, one of the originators of the concept of SESAME by Science News editor in chief Tom Siegfried:
The motivation for SESAME is as a facility for doing science and also for working together across countries and cultures as an example of how science can foster that kind of cooperation, right?

Precisely. UNESCO called it a model project for other regions.... It has brought together people. These nine countries include Turkey and Greek Cyprus, which sit at the same table. They don’t recognize each other. It includes Israel, the Palestinian authority, Iran and Pakistan
Editor's Note: The importance to U.S. long term science policy of a collaborative effort among the scientists of these often antagonistic countries is quite significant, especially as it has been achieved without major funding from the U.S. taxpayer. JAD

Physicist Herman Winick of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in Menlo Park, Calif proposed using equipment from a German synchrotron, BESSY, that was being replace as the seed for the international research facility in the Middle East. He also coined the name SESAME. Photo credit: Tom Siegfried

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Next meeting of the National Commission for UNESCO

On May 19 and May 20, 2008, the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO will hold its Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Agenda for Americans for UNESCO for 2009

The Board of Directors of Americans for UNESCO will meet on January 13th to consider the program of activities for 2009 for the organization. Dick Nobbe has provided this list of possible activities to be considered. Your comments are invited:
  1. GWU UNESCO Course - Offer for a third time a course on UNESCO for credit at George Washington University (N.B. AU has broken new ground in this area and there appears to be strong administrative and student interest in the topic. And AU has plenty of competence to handle it under the animated leadership of John Daly.).
  2. GWU UNESCO Club - Assist further the students at GWU in founding a UNESCO Club. (N.B. As I understand it, this project is still in the developmental stage. We should regard this activity as resource building for American participation in UNESCO's youth programs which have gained in status and now become a permanent feature of UNESCO General Conference sessions .I personally have a valuable collection of books, magazines, reports etc which I would be glad to donate to its library. Perhaps others do too.).
  3. U.S. National Commission for UNESCO - (N.B. We need to follow up on our transition paper calling for the restructuring of the US National Commission for UNESCO to its original legislative role of influencing policy direction at State and expanding knowledge about UNESCO's activities to the public.).
  4. The Ray Wanner Manuscript- (N.B. Any organization worth its salt must publish something periodically (besides minutes of its meetings) if it is to remain visible and viable.We have in hand a unique , ready-to-go publication which needs to see the light of day. AU should take advantage of GWU's lay-out and composition department while we still have access to their services. Funding may be difficult, but we should calculate the cost, earmark a portion of AU's budget to it, and pass the hat .My experience is that original publications of this kind eventually obtain funding.)
  5. UNESCO Reports of Meetings- (N.B. The principal end-product of UNESCO is the reports of its numerous technical meetings at considerable cost,yet they seldom see the light of day. AU should undertake a study of this problem with the view to cataloguing some of the more important ones for internet or website distribution to higher education institutions, NGOs, and other technical bodies in the US.)
  6. New US`Ambassador to UNESCO - Arrange a substantive dinner meeting for the new Ambassador early in the game accompanied with selective written materials such as our transition paper, previous brochure, and UNESCO publication on national commissions. (N.B. We did this for the previous US Ambassador and it was a great success by all accounts).
  7. Former US`Ambassador - Solicit her interest post haste in becoming an AU Board member in a Vice-President capacity. (N.B.In my opinion, she is very knowledgeable about UNESCO's programs and activities, is an excellent spokesperson and could be a real resource for us. Besides, she has undergone an epiphany, and we need converts and money for our cause. Nothing ventured, nothing gained !)
  8. UNESCO ADG Briefings. Arrange for one or two seminars during CY 2009 on a UNESCO sector.(N.B. It will be recalled that AU did this in cooperation with the UN Foundation and the UNESCO Liaison Office in New York in 2008 involving the ADG for Communications, and it was a big success. .I would give priority to the Social Science Sector after the incumbent ADG leaves since knowledge about the entirety of this sector's program is practically non-existent in the US Government and private sector).
  9. AU Social Science and Natural Sciences Committees (N.B.) These two committees need to be strengthened. For all practical purposes, they are leaderless or memberless.)
  10. US MAB Committee- Play a lead role in assisting the State Department to encourage Congress to provide support for a robust role of the US MAB Committee in UNESCO's program (N.B. I realize this matter is on State's agenda, but AU could help if we brought on Tom Gilbert and Sam McKee as AU Board members since both have formerly and prominently been involved with this program).
  11. Sid Passman's UNESCO News Bulletins. Explore with Sid ways of expanding his audience to include not just AU members, but all NatCom members, selective higher education institutions, NGOs (especially religious ones), and philanthropic foundations (N.B. I realize that not everyone is enthralled by what Sid selects but the fact remains Sid is the only source providing us with information about the totality of UNESCO activities., and he devotes considerable time to this effort. Frankly, without. his contributions, most of us would be in the dark about what UNESCO does).
  12. Universal Access to Cyberspace - Continue to monitor UNESCO's program activities contributing to the creation of an international strategic partnership to reduce the digital divide and to the development of knowledge societies through the implementation of the WSIS Plan of Action. (N.B. AU should team up with other NGOs to further this goal and participate in important international conferences to keep abreast of developments in this field).
I would add to this list, continued production of this blog and management of the AU website, with the possible recruitment of added volunteers to provide content.

In order to carry out an ambitious agenda, funds will be required. You can donate using the button above, or contracting Americans for UNESCO directly.

"World Engineers' Convention Identifies a Shortage of Engineers"

President Lula addressing the Convention

Source: Tony Marjorem, UNESCO, December 2008

The World Engineers' Convention was held in Brasilia on December 5, 2008 with the participation of UNESCO. President Lula of Brazil addressed the participants, describing the needs for engineers in his country, and the inability of the university system to train enough engineers to meet national needs.

There are in many countries shortages of engineers to address national priorities in infrastructure, energy, manufacturing, construction, transport and communications. In the oil and gas and mining industries, for example, recent peaks in the price of commodities were partly attributed to the shortage of engineers. Engineering and technology are also vital for sustainable development and addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation – where shortages of engineers to develop renewable energy are also indicated. The same is true for many fields of engineering - civil, mechanical, electrical and electronics, chemical and new and emerging areas such as materials engineering and nanotechnology.

"2011 Will Be International Year Of Chemistry"

Source: Chemical and Engineering News, December 31, 2009.

I quote from the article:

The United Nations General Assembly has passed a resolution formally declaring 2011 as the International Year of Chemistry. Ethiopia, which is the host country for the Federation of African Societies of Chemistry, submitted the resolution calling for the year, which will highlight the achievements of chemistry and its contributions to humanity.

"The International Year of Chemistry will give a global boost to chemical science in which our life and our future are grounded," says Jung-Il Jin, president of the International Union of Pure & Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) and a professor of chemistry at Korea University, in Seoul, South Korea.

"We hope to increase the public appreciation and understanding of chemistry, increase young people's interest in science, and generate enthusiasm for the creative future of chemistry," he adds.

The IUPAC Committee on Chemistry has established a management panel that will work with chemical societies; the UN Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization (UNESCO); and others to plan and implement activities during the year.

Reportedly the American Chemical Society and the National Academy of Sciences both played a very helpful role in winning support by the U.S. for the commitment of the United Nations for the celebration of chemistry.
The year 2011 is the centennial anniversary of the award of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Marie Curie. Thus the International Year of Chemistry will provide a natural opportunity to celebrate the contribution of women to science.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Welcome to the International Year of Astronomy

The Opening ceremony of the International Year of Astronomy will take place in Paris, January 15-16, 2009, under the aegis of the UN, UNESCO and the International Astronomical Union (IAU). It is also supported by a number of sponsors including French and international organizations and institutions .

About 600 people will be invited, including students from IYA09 participating countries. Attendance will be by invitation only.

Preliminary Program : 15 January 2009, 16 January 2009