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.......In her opening remarks in her hearing before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Secretary of State designate Clinton stated:
(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.
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.
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.
(The opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not represent those of Americans for UNESCO.)