Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rita Colwell Named Science Envoy

Dr. Rita Colwell, a member of the Board of Directors of Americans for UNESCO, has been named a U.S. Science Envoy. The Science Envoy program, announced by President Obama in Cairo in June 2009, is a centerpiece program to implement U.S. global engagement in science and technology. Dr. Colwell is one of six distinguished scientists to have been appointed to this prestigious as well as important position.

Dr. Colwell is a Distinguished Professor at both the University of Maryland at College Park and Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. She has focused her research on global infectious diseases, water and health, and is currently developing an international network to address emerging infectious diseases and safe drinking water for both the developed and developing world. Dr. Colwell served as the 11th Director of the National Science Foundation from 1998-2004. She is recipient of the 2010 Stockholm Water Prize awarded on September 9, 2010 by the King of Sweden.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

UNESCO contributes to the fifth Internet Governance Forum

The 5th meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) was held in Vilnius, Lithuania, from 14 to 17 September 2010. It focused on the following issues:

  • managing critical Internet resources, 
  • security, openness and privacy, 
  • access and diversity, 
  • Internet governance for development, 
  • taking stock of Internet governance and the way forward, and 
  • cloud computing.
In conjunction with the meeting, UNESCO organizes two workshops:

Privacy and Social Networking (16 September)
This workshop examined the interaction between privacy protection, freedom of expression and security.

Freedom of Connection – Freedom of Expression: The Changing Legal and Regulatory Ecology Shaping the Internet (14 September)
This event is a follow-up to a well attended discussion on Internet Censorship and Filtering by the participants of IGF 2009 in Sharm el Sheikh. UNESCO took this opportunity to release an in-depth analysis entitled Freedom of Connection – Freedom of Expression: The Changing Legal and Regulatory Ecology Shaping the Internet. This report, conducted by the Oxford Internet Institute, builds upon previous discussions and provides a panorama of observations and useful exploration of the subject.

UNESCO also organized an open forum to present its activities on multilingualism in cyberspace, open educational resources and open access to scientific information. In addition, UNESCO installed an exhibition stand to present the Organization’s overall activities and programs.

Membership in the ILO as a Precedent for Membership in UNESCO

Frances Perkins was an interesting person. She was the first woman to hold a cabinet post in the Federal Government, serving for the entire period that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president. After FDR died, Perkins wrote a book titled The Roosevelt I Knew which includes a discussion of the decision in the 1930s for the United States to join the International Labor Organization (ILO). I found that decision shed light on the likely intent of the United States in the creation of UNESCO, and especially the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO.

The legislation which enabled the United States to create the U.S. National Commission cites the Constitution of UNESCO in defining the duties of the NatCom. That Constitution allows but does not require that national commissions both associate the nation's "principal bodies interested in educational, scientific and cultural matters with the work of" UNESCO and "act in an advisory capacity to their respective delegations to the General Conference and to their Governments in matters relating to" UNESCO. People associated with the NatCom in the period prior to the departure of the United States from UNESCO membership have told me that the NatCom was both energetic and influential in that time. This is confirmed by Howard E. Wilson in his book, The United States National Commission for UNESCO, published in 1948.

Perkins worked with President Roosevelt to support the entry of the United States into the ILO. The ILO existed before the creation of the League of Nations, but was formally affiliated with the League after the League was created. Of course, the United States never joined the League. Perkins and Roosevelt agreed with State Department personnel and eventually the Congress that the ILO and the League of Nations were distinct entities, and that the United States might appropriately join the ILO. They did so in large part because the ILO had a separate governance structure in which member nations were represented by persons representing employers and workers as well as government; the participation of citizens outside of government of member states in the governance of the ILO made all the difference.

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

Friday, September 10, 2010

U.S. Financial Contributions to UNESCO

U.S. funds to UNESCO
are allocated by the Congress

There is a formula used by the United Nations and other agencies of the UN system to determine the portion of the assessed contributions to be paid by each member nation. According to this computation, the United States contributes 22 percent to the regular budget of UNESCO; the approved regular budget for the two years 2010 and 2011 is $653 million. In addition to the assessed budgetary contributions, UNESCO received voluntary extrabudgetary contributions. These are an important part of the Organization's financial resources amounting to an estimated $463 million for the same two years.

The U.S. contributes close to $3.7 million dollars in extra-budgetary funds to UNESCO each year in addition to its assessed dues. Those funds are devoted to specific projects:

Read more about:

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Event to Honor Rita Colwell

The Maryland-Asia Environmental Partnership (MD-AEP) is honoring Dr. Rita Colwell, this year's winner of the Stockholm Water Prize, at their leadership event on September 22nd. Dr. Colwell is a member of the Board of Directors of Americans for UNESCO. Read more...

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Editorial: UNESCO should investigate Social Network Analysis as a tool for Development

An article on Social Network Analysis in The Economist states:
Last year America’s army, which jointly funds SOMA with the air force, began disbursing about $80m in five-year research grants for network analysis to promote democracy and national security. An authoritarian government, for instance, may have difficulties slowing the spread of a new idea in a certain medium—say, internet chatter about a book that explains how corruption undermines job creation...... An authoritarian government, for instance, may have difficulties slowing the spread of a new idea in a certain medium—say, internet chatter about a book that explains how corruption undermines job creation. Diplomatic services can use this information to help ideas spread.

SPADAC, a firm based in McLean, Virginia, performs such analyses on Egypt and other countries in Africa, the Middle East and South-East Asia. Clients include the United States, Mexico and various diplomatic services. Riots, bloody elections and crackdowns, among other things, can be forecast with improving accuracy by crunching data on food production, unemployment, drug busts, home evictions and slum growth detected in satellite images.
A key phrase in the UNESCO Constitution states:
That since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.
This has been taken to define the core mission of UNESCO. The founders of created
the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization for the purpose of advancing, through the educational and scientific and cultural relations of the peoples of the world, the objectives of international peace and of the common welfare of mankind for which the United Nations Organization was established and which its Charter proclaims.
UNESCO acts as an international intellectual leader, an honest broker, and a clearinghouse for ideas as well as by helping poor nations to build their capacity for social and economic progress.

I strongly suggest that UNESCO catalyze an investigation of the potential of social network analysis as a means to improve the planning, implementation and evaluation of social and economic development efforts. To do so would be very consistent with its mission in the promotion of social and human sciences, and specifically with its program on the Management of Social Transitions. The effort would also be consistent with the activities of UNESCO's Communication and Information Program, and specifically with its efforts to promote the dissemination of software and to promote the evolution toward Knowledge Societies.

John Daly
The ideas in this posting are those of the author alone, and do not necessarily reflect those of Americans for UNESCO or any other organization.

Monday, September 06, 2010


Water Project H2Ooooh!
3-D Animation/Cartoon - Gruppo Alcuni
in collaboration with UNESCO Venice Office

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Water in a Changing World

The World Water Assessment Program, managed by UNESCO, has issued the Third United Nations Water Development Report. It is available online.

The structure of the WWDR3 has four main chapters, apart from the introduction and the recommendations:

  • ‘drivers of change’,
  • ‘the use of the resource for humans and for ecosystems’,
  • ‘the state of the resource’, and
  • ‘responding to a changing world: what are the options?’

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Recommended: A Profile of UNESCO's Chief, Irina Bokova

Irina Bokova was elected to the position of Director General of UNESCO in October 2009 by the General Conference of the Organization as the winner of a close contest among nine formal candidates for the position. She assumed the office in November, and has since led the organization as it faced major challenges such as responding to the Haitian earthquake and the Pakistani floods. She is the first woman to head UNESCO and the first citizen of a former Communist country.

Toute l'Europe has provided this very useful profile of DG Bokova and her priorities as she leads the Organization.

Friday, September 03, 2010

The U.K. National Commission for UNESCO is more active than the U.S. NatCom

For example, the U.K. NatCom has the following working groups in the area of science:
  • Working Group for Input to Development of UNESCO's Science Programs
  • Working Group for Increased Cooperation Among UNESCO Intergovernmental and International Scientific Programmes in the UK
  • Working Group for Improving Access to Scientific Information in Developing Countries
  • Engineering Education in Africa
The UK National Commission for UNESCO (UKNC) is also working in a number of areas to support science, engineering and technology capacity building in developing countries, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa.

The U.S. National Commission has had a committee on UNESCO's Natural Science program, and it annually reviews reports from U.S. scientists following the work of UNESCO natural science sub-programs. Since the U.S. reentry into UNESCO, the natural science experts on the U.S. National Commission have been primarily involved in responding to (infrequent) requests for advice from the State Department. It does not have a significant role in promoting input to UNESCO's programs or increasing cooperation between U.S. scientific programs and those of UNESCO. Neither does it work on scientific information for developing countries, building African scientific capacity, nor science and engineering education in Africa.

It is my opinion that the U.S. National Commission should be asked to do more in the area of natural sciences, perhaps on the model of the U.K. National Commission, or those of other developed nations such as AustraliaJapan, Germany, France or Canada.

John Daly
The opinions expressed in this posting are mine alone, and do not necessarily represent those of Americans for UNESCO.

FIP-UNESCO University Twinning Network for Pharmacists formally Approved by UNESCO

On Tuesday 31st August, the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) and the UNESCO launched a unique global University Twinning and Networking Program. The Global Pharmacy Education Development network is a UNESCO sponsored initiative hosted under the UNITWIN scheme (for university-twinning). This UNITWIN collaboration is the first ever in the field of higher education for health professionals and the first for global pharmaceutical education.

In bringing together pharmacy schools from all regions of the world with UNESCO and FIP, the UNITWIN Network in Global Pharmacy Education Development (G-PhEd) will enable synchronised and powerful development in pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences education and improve communication for scientific innovation, healthcare outcomes, and ultimately, the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

To find out more about the UNITWIN G-PhEd Network, please contact: 

A Comment on the Ethics of Research: A Role for UNESCO

For a couple of decades I was involved in the management of grants programs that funded research in developing nations. One of the key issues in the management of such a program was assuring that the research we funded be conducted ethically.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that different societies have different views on ethics. For example, it is generally agreed that research involving human subjects should only be done with informed consent. However, different societies have differing views as to who should provide that consent. In the United States, the informed consent normally comes from the subject himself/herself. In some African societies, the consent must be communal, often provided by a village chief. There are also differences as to the age at which a subject is thought able to give informed consent, and who has the right to give consent for those deemed unable due to age or other condition.

Given such differences, our practice was to have research protocols reviewed by institutions in all of the countries involved in a specific project. That was often difficult in that institutions in countries that do not do much research were often poorly equipped to do effective ethical review. The capacity to do so depends on the existence of institutional review boards, clear statements of ethical standards, and people experienced in the ethical review of research. There were also questions as to which questions could be delegated, and which we had to directly assure ethical conduct.

Some of the ethical concerns involved in research ethics are:

  • Ethical treatment of human subjects of biomedical, social science and other kinds of research
  • Ethics of research involving human reproductive biology (e.g. research involving stem cells)
  • Ethical treatment of non-human primates in laboratory research and/or in research on wild animals
  • Ethical treatment of other laboratory animals
  • Ethical treatment of livestock involved in field studies
  • Ethical treatment of wild animals (other than primates) involved in field studies
  • Safety of researchers (consideration of radiation risks, exposure to pathogens, exposure to noxious substances, etc.)
  • Safe containment of human pathogens (to protect the public from accidental releases)
  • Safe containment of animal or plant pathogens
  • Ethical conduct of research involving recombinant DNA
  • Protection of endangered species that might be affected by the research
  • Ethical concern for environmental risks consequent to the research beyond those already mentioned (e.g. the risk of escape of exotic species which might damage agriculture)
  • Safety in the international shipment of potentially dangerous materials (e.g. radioactive materials or samples that might contain pests or pathogens)
  • The treatment of data collected during research (e.g. protection of confidentiality, appropriate sharing for scientific review)
UNESCO has a program focusing on the Ethics of Science and Technology, with an International Bioethics Committee, and Intergovernmental Bioethics Committee, and a World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology. The program and its international bodies do not seem to have taken much interest in the ethical conduct of research as described above. UNESCO has an affiliated network of University Chairs in Bioethics which could be the basis for an expanded role research ethics.

UNESCO could, and I believe should play an important role:
  • as a forum for the discussion of ethical issues involved in the conduct of scientific research and technology development;
  • as a clearinghouse for information on best practices in assuring the ethical conduct of research;
  • as an agent helping developing countries develop the capacity to assure the ethical conduct of research conducted within their borders; 
  • as the central UN science agency, in convening a working group of WHO, UNFPA, UNAIDS, FAO, UNIDO and other UN agencies to discuss research ethics; and
  • as a legitimate neutral party to help in parties come to agreement on ethical standards for multinational research projects.
John Daly
(The opinions expressed above are mine, and do not necessarily reflect those of Americans for UNESCO or any other organization.)

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Controversy over a proposed UNESCO Science Prize

An earlier photo of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

Principle source for this post: "African Union 'would consider taking on UNESCO-Obiang science prize'," Yojana Sharma, SciDev.Net, 27 August 2010

There is a controversy now over the proposed UNESCO-Obiang Prize. According to UNESCO, the proposed purpose of this Prize was "to reward the projects and activities of an individual, individuals, institutions, other entities or non-governmental organizations for scientific research in the life sciences leading to improving the quality of human life."

"UNESCO member states agreed in 2008 to establish the award with a US$3 million endowment from Equatorial Guinea's president Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, but the decision on the first prize due to be awarded last March was postponed because of a public outcry over apparent association with the Obiang regime."

According to the New York Times, one of the precipitating actions that encouraged UNESCO's Director General, Irina Bokova, to request that the Executive Board reconsider the prize was a letter from U.S. Permanent Representative to UNESCO, David Killion, urging UNESCO to suspend plans to award the prize.

Now it appears that the African Union may be willing to step in and award the prise instead of UNESCO. A formal decision by UNESCO is expected  in October.

Clearly such a prize has the potential to recognize important scientific achievements, and equally clearly there are significant issues in associating UNESCO with the donor of this prize in so public a manner, as well as accepting funds from such a source. Were the African Union to accept the responsibility of awarding the prize, it might choose to limit the award to African scientists, which might be helpful in stimulating useful scientific research where it is so badly needed.

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