Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Visit of Director General to the United States

UNESCO Director General Koïchiro Matsuura visited the United States in June, During that visit he met with senior American officials to discuss new avenues for collaboration in the fields of education, culture and science.

Mr Matsuura meet with Dr Esther Brimmer, Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations. I quote from UNESCO's report of the visit:
Mr Matsuura first briefed Ms Brimmer on UNESCO’s work in education, especially higher education. He highlighted the Organization’s action to promote quality assurance and the mutual recognition of qualifications in response to the massive increase in student mobility and cross-border provision. Again, the Director-General pointed to the need for US engagement. He referred in particular to the role the US could play in enhancing the quality of science education and research and in attracting more young people to the sciences. “While student numbers are rising overall, enrolment in science and technology is on the decline; we must work together to curb this trend, which has serious implications for national development and economic growth”, Mr Matsuura stated. The Director-General said that this was an area where UNESCO was looking to partner both with governments and with private sector companies, citing the successful example of the UNESCO/L’Oréal initiative to promote women in science. Ms Brimmer noted that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had just established an office specifically devoted to advancing public private partnerships (PPPs)........

Finally, Mr Matsuura briefly outlined UNESCO’s normative action in the field of bioethics. The Director-General explained that UNESCO had established three international instruments which together provided a set of universal standards and practical guidelines (the 1997 Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights; the 2003 International Declaration on Human Genetic Data; and the 2005 Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights). However, he said that the ethical implications of many new scientific developments still needed to be discussed, such as human cloning and stem-cell research, in particular induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells).

While in Washington, the Director-General also spoke with Dr John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, and Dr Jane Lubchenco, Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere. He underlined the vital importance of US partnership in several UNESCO priority areas, from science policy advice and capacity-building in developing countries to ocean governance and the monitoring of climate change impacts. “For UNESCO to expand its science programme we need the involvement of the US science community – its expertise, its creativity, its entrepreneurship”, the Director-General underscored.
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