Saturday, May 22, 2010

Editorial: The U.S. Intellectual Community should be more involved in UNESCO.

Francesco Bandarin mentioned in his talk to the Board of Directors of Americans for UNESCO that the new administration of UNESCO will give high priority to strengthening the participation of the U.S. educational, scientific and cultural and communications and information communities in UNESCO's efforts and networks. That participation languished during the years in which the United States was not a member of UNESCO, and has not been fully restored since the United States reentered UNESCO in 2003.

From the point of view of the UNESCO Secretariat, the desire to strengthen U.S. participation in UNESCO is obvious. Not only does the United States contribute 22 percent to the regular budget of UNESCO, but:
  • The U.S. education community is very strong. Thus one study finds 55 of the top 100 universities in the world are in the United States.
  • The U.S. scientific community is very strong. According to the NSF the United States provides one-third of the world's funding for research and development and produces more scientific and technological journal articles per year than any other country.
  • The U.S. cultural community is very stron. According to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, the United States leads the world in trade of cultural goods.
  • The United States is a leader in the development of the information society. U.S. innovations include the transistor, the semiconductor chip, the personal computer and the Internet.
The effort to strengthen the participation of the U.S. intellectual community in UNESCO's programs should be welcomed by the Government and those communities. Through participation in UNESCO's activities and networks Americans can promote understanding of the United States by others while improving our understanding of other cultures. UNESCO provides a neutral forum in which key issues can be discussed by representatives of many nations.
  • It can provide a venue for discussions of the ethics of climate change and the responsibilities of nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to ameliorate the damages done by global warming.
  • It continues to be the place in which countries discuss and monitor global progress on education.
  • It not only has catalyzed a number of global networks tackling critical scientific problems, but it provides an umbrella under which nations (even nations with fundamental disagreements among themselves) can collaborate on mutually beneficial scientific projects.
  • It provides a forum in which countries can work to develop a global culture of peace, and provides fora for discussion to help bridge the gaps between U.S. and Islamic culture and between Christian and Islamic religions. It can help protect world heritage while promoting cultural changes needed to enhance economic development.
  • It provides a useful emphasis on the development of knowledge societies to balance the increasing global interest in development of information societies.
The United States participated fully in the creation of UNESCO after World War II, modifying its Constitution in ways designed to make it a better instrument in achieving the goal of building teh defenses of peace in the minds of men. The United States reentered UNESCO in 2003 based on a consensus that the perceived problems of the organization that led to our withdrawal had been overcome and that membership in the organization would advance U.S. global interests. This history would itself justify full participation in UNESCO's efforts. More importantly, the more fully the U.S. educational, scientific and cultural communities participate in UNESCO, the more fully UNESCO will meet our expectations and achieve that which we hope for it to achieve.

John Daly
The opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Americans for UNESCO.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Remarks by UNESCO Chief Irina Bokova on World Press Freedom Day

Meeting of the Board of Directors

The Board of Directors of Americans for UNESCO met yesterday. Francesco Bandarin, current director of the World Heritage Center and Assistant Director General designate for Culture opened the meeting with a most informative overview of the new developments in UNESCO.

Discussions in the meeting focuses on next week's meeting of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO and the expectations of the Board for the future of the National Commission. The National Commission has been relatively inactive since it was reestablished and the consensus of the the Board is that it should be reorganized and rechartered to become more active in the future.

The Board also discussed the future of the UNESCO seminar that Board members have given at George Washington University in each of the last four Spring semesters. The course appears to be well received by students and to be a useful means of developing a cadre of young people knowledgeable about UNESCO. It was agreed that it should be continued and a small group was appointed to study ways and means of doing so.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

UNESCO Strategic Program Objective Evaluations Completed 2008-2010

Member states of UNESCO are currently formulating suggestions as to the priorities for the next biennium. UNESCO has suggested that thes evaluations of accomplishments under UNESCO's strategic program objectives may provide valuable information for that purpose. Those evaluations are:

UNESCO Program Priorities

UNESCO is in the process of defining priorities for the next biennial budget and plan of action. It will do so within the priorities defined in the Medium Term Strategy 2008-2013. Those priorities are summarized in the chart reproduced above.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Powerful, Pro-Israel House Democrat Praises Obama's Strategy of Engagement at the UN

The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Howard Berman, recently wrote a "Dear Colleague" letter to fellow members of Congress in which he stated:
"(S)ince rejoining UNESCO in 2005, the U.S. has exerted much effort to reform the organization and to ensure that it does not become another venue that unfairly singles out Israel for criticism. In that regard, I was pleased to see the attached letter from Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman thanking Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for recent U.S. efforts at UNESCO that prevented the adoption of a number of anti-Israel resolutions. Had the U.S. chosen not to engage with UNESCO, we would have been unable to rally the votes to block these anti-Israel resolutions."

Monday, May 10, 2010

WSIS Forum 2010: Turning Targets into Action - towards 2015

The year of 2010 marks a turning point for assessing the progress made towards WSIS implementation during the past five years and for proposing new strategies to ensure the achievement of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) goals by 2015.

The WSIS Forum 2010 will be held from 10 to 14 of May 2010 at the ITU Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. The organizers, UNESCO, ITU, UNCTAD and UNDP set-up an exceptional event: More than 800 participants have registered. Four heads of UN agencies, many ministers, CEOs, civil society, representatives from academia and other stakeholders will participate in a week full of high-level debates, facilitation meetings, thematic workshops, interactive sessions, knowledge exchanges and kick off meetings. There will also be an exhibition and several publication releases and two receptions for the participants.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Luncheon in New York focused on information for empowerment

More than 75 United Nations delegates, journalists and representatives of media advocacy groups attended the World Press Freedom Day luncheon programme held at the UN Secretariat on 3 May. In line with the theme of this year, the event focused on the basic role of media, which is information for empowerment.
Participants particularly stressed that the right to information is a precondition of all other rights, such as the right to food and shelter, the right to education, or the right to vote. In the context when the international community has to intervene more frequently in post-conflict and post-disaster situations, the right to know is more important than ever.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

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

The U.S. National Commission for UNESCO will host its Annual Meeting on Wednesday, May 26, 2010 and Thursday, May 27, 2010 at the Embassy Suites in Washington, D.C. (900 10th Street NW).

The Commission will host a series of informational plenary sessions and subject-specific committee and thematic break-out sessions on Wednesday, May 26. The Commission will meet in plenary session to discuss its final recommendations on Thursday, May 27, 2010, from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.

The meetings will be open to the public, and those who wish to attend should contact the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO (202-663-0026; no later than Wednesday, May 19th for further information about admission, as seating is limited. Requests for reasonable accommodation should also be made before that date.