Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Future of UNESCO is Being Planned Now!

Last year there was a comprehensive evaluation of UNESCO conducted by an independent committee of external evaluators. The purpose of the evaluation was "to provide actionable and timely recommendations to the Governing Bodies of the Organization and the Director-General in order to position the Organization for meeting future needs and challenges."

The Executive Board of UNESCO has decided to create a working group of 18 member states to follow up on the report of the Independent External Evaluation of UNESCO. The working group is to hold open ended meetings to allow all member states to participate in the follow up process. The first of those meetings is to be scheduled for December 19, 2010.

A general staff meeting is to be held in UNESCO on November 9, 2010 which according to Director General Bokova is "to pursue our reflection on the future of UNESCO."

This would seem an important time to provide information and suggestions to the governments of Member States and to UNESCO itself to help in the deliberations of the future of the Organization!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Tribute to the Krityanand UNESCO Club

Since the first UNESCO Club was founded in Japan, in 1947, UNESCO Clubs, Centres and Associations have been very valuable partners for the Organization. According to the most recent count, there were some 3.700 associations, centres and UNESCO clubs in more than 100 countries throughout the world.

Of course, these groups vary greatly one from another in the number and vigor of the activities that they conduct. I recently came across information on a club in India, the Krityanand UNESCO Club in Jamshedpur. Jamshedpur is an industrial city with a population of over one million people in eastern India.

I came across the following description of the club's activities:
The Krityanand UNESCO Club was established in 1992. Since then the organization has been expanding continuously in terms of its social development service. It has worked for the promotion of sustainable, equitable and participatory development, social welfare and social justice through:
  • A Program for social work,
  • Human Resources Management
  • Health service and other human service
  • Through social research and dissemination of socially relevant knowledge
  • Social intervention through training and field action
  • Contribution to social and welfare policy and programs at state, National and International levels
Over the years, the organization has made a significant contribution to planning, action strategies and Human Resource Development in several areas, ranging from sustainable rural and urban development to education, health, agriculture, and Human Rights. In all cases the focus has been on the disadvantaged and marginalized sections of societies, such as women, children and tribal groups.

The Krityanand UNESCO Club has earned recognition as an institution (Organization) of repute from state Government of Jharkhand, India International agencies or organization such as the United Nations and its system, and various International NGOs. The organization contributing relevant education and Research work.

The club maintains a Facebook site. Here are links to descriptions of some of its projects and activities.
The Krityanand UNESCO Club would appear to be exceptionally active, deeply involved in programs to help people in its environment. As such it would seem to be a credit to the UNESCO network of clubs and other organizations.

    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    Mary Futrell Elected President of Americans for UNESCO

    Mary Hatwood Futrell has been elected President of Americans for UNESCO. She has served for some years on the Board of Directors of AU. Dr. Futrell specializes in reform policy, professional development, and diversity issues in education.

    Andre Varchaver now joins Richard Arndt as Presidents Emeritus of the organization.

    Dr. Futrell has recently stepped down from the post of Dean of the School of Education and Human Resource Development of George Washington University. She is a recipient of the Jan Amos Comenius Medal, one of UNESCO’s most prestigious awards honouring outstanding achievements in the fields of education research and innovation.

    Dr. Futrell has been president of the National Education Association (NEA). In 2004, she completed her term as president of Education International (EI), a global federation of 30 million educators from 152 countries that works with governmental and non-governmental organizations in advocating education for all. She also is the former president of the World Confederation of Organization of the Teaching Profession.

    Sunday, October 24, 2010

    UNESCO and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Conference of the Parties (COP 10)

    At its 10th meeting the CBD COP 10 is due to adopt a revised and updated Strategic Plan including new biodiversity target(s) for the post-2010 period as well as the International Regime on Access and Benefit-sharing.

    UNESCO is contributing to COP 10 by highlighting specific UNESCO-relevant biodiversity issues through side-events (exploring traditional knowledge; cultural and biological diversity; and the involvement of youth); and by presenting the Japanese version of the UNESCO-led official IYB travelling exhibition.

    More links to UNESCO biodiversity related activities:

    • International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD)

      Official video of the International Year of Biodiversity 2010

      Thursday, October 21, 2010

      UNESCO drops prize sponsored by E.Guinea's Obiang

      AFP reports today that the UNESCO Executive Board has decided to put a controversial science award on hold "and continue consultations among all parties concerned, in a spirit of mutual respect and until a consensus is reached."

      The award which was made possible by a donation of $3 million, was to be named after the President of Equatorial Guinea. When the award was announced, a firestorm of protest came from human rights organizations and intellectual leaders dismayed by the potential of naming a prize after a man most known as a dictator of a country with a poor human rights record.

      Wednesday, October 20, 2010

      A Center of Excellence for the Islamic World

      At the opening of the plenary session of the Executive Board of UNESCO, Director General Bokova announced a project for the development of centers of scientific excellence in the Islamic world as a partnership between UNESCO and the New York Academy of Sciences. You may read the announcement (in French) here on page 6.

      Director General is amazingly multilingual. She delivers talks in English, French and Spanish in headquarters meetings, while doing so also in Russian in the recent meeting in Moscow; all this in addition to her native language of Bulgarian. Reports from observers are extremely impressed with her encylopediac knowledge and understanding of the programs of UNESCO, her ability to put those programs in the larger framework of the United Nations system, as with her leadership in setting programmatic directions for the Organization, and with the leadership team she has gathered for her administration of the Organization.

      The United States Reengages with Multilateral Development Institutions

      As President, I have made it clear that the United States will do our part. My national security strategy recognizes development not only as a moral imperative, but a strategic and economic imperative. Secretary of State Clinton is leading a review to strengthen and better coordinate our diplomacy and our development efforts. We’ve reengaged with multilateral development institutions. And we are rebuilding the United States Agency for International Development as the world’s premier development agency. In short, we’re making sure that the United States will be a global leader in international development in the 21st century.
      President Barack Obama
      September 22, 2010

      Tuesday, October 19, 2010

      Leveraging innovation, investing in sustainability, tracking development outcomes, and enhancing mutual accountability

      I’d like to take a moment and talk a little bit more, specifically, about the Millennium Development Goals...........Now, as you know, the next week’s session begins with a high-level plenary meeting on the MDGs, the Millennium Development Goals, which will occur during the first three days of next week. This will be an important opportunity for the United States to elaborate the President’s development agenda as well as our approach to the Millennium Development Goals. We will focus on core principles of leveraging innovation, investing in sustainability, tracking development outcomes, and enhancing mutual accountability.
      Esther Brimmer
      Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs
      "U.S. Goals and Priorities at the United Nations General Assembly"
      September 17, 2010
      (W)hile the world has made strides in meeting some of the MDGs, including significant reductions in rates of extreme poverty and improved access to primary education, that progress has been uneven. The remaining MDG challenges will require a determined, strategic, and analytically-grounded approach, guided by four imperatives:
      • Leverage innovation
      • Invest in sustainability
      • Track development outcomes, not just dollars; and
      • Enhance the principle and practice of mutual accountability, including transparent and effective management of development resources.
      Esther Brimmer
      "The U.S. at the U.N. and Beyond: A World of Transnational Challenges"
      Remarks delivered at the Johns Hopkins School of International Studies
      September 15, 2010

      Building the Defenses of Peace in the Minds of Men

      It has been said before, but it needs to be said again: “While UNESCO has several mandates, it has but one mission – that of constructing peace”. When discussing detailed questions relating to the programmes, activities and functioning of our Organization, it is right that we set aside a moment to reflect on UNESCO’s fundamental purposes so as to focus on the goal that must shape and inform our particular policies and projects.

      Happy Birthday UNESCO

      This week UNESCO celebrates the 65th anniversary of its founding!

      Friday, October 15, 2010

      More About the Obiang Prize Controversy

      Here are links to some articles on the controversy over the proposed Obiang Prize for the Biological Sciences that is being debated at UNESCO's Executive Board.
      I understand that a committee has been appointed to work during the current session of the Executive Board to produce a draft resolution, and that a final vote on the matter may not occur until the final day of the 185th session on October 25th.

      Thursday, October 14, 2010

      "Decision Time at UNESCO"

      There is an important Special Report in The American Spectator by Louise Oliver, the former U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO. The article summarizes the controversy over the proposed "UNESCO-Obiang Nguema Mbasogo International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences." While the UNESCO Executive Board agreed to accept a donation from Equatorial Guinea to fund a major prize, the decision was opposed by several members during the debate (including by Ambassador Oliver who at the time was on the Executive Board), and was greeted by an outpouring of criticism by non-governmental organizations and others who felt that UNESCO should not honor "Obiang, the president of Equatorial Guinea, (who) is thought to be one of the most corrupt dictators in Africa" by attaching his name to a UNESCO prize. (See for example this posting by the Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.) Director General Bokova suspended the award earlier this year, requesting that the Executive Board reconsider its decision. The Board is about to meet with the opportunity to do so.

      Ambassador Oliver concludes:
      If the Executive Board is serious about using prizes to enhance UNESCO's visibility and prestige, it must reverse its earlier decision and reject the Obiang prize. It should also encourage Equatorial Guinea to spend the $3 million it has allocated for the prize on improving the lives of the suffering people in its own country -- which ranks near the bottom of the UN human development report, and where 20 percent of the children die before reaching the age of five. 
      Ms. Bokova is right: UNESCO's reputation is on the line. If the Executive Board does not reject the prize at its October meeting, it will forfeit the respect of the international community. This should be an easy one, but the Executive Board's tradition of consensus and collegiality will make taking a principled stand difficult. Will they do it? Don't hold your breath.

      Monday, October 11, 2010

      The New Issue of the UNESCO Courier is Out

      Rebirth for Haiti

      How can Haitian society be rebuilt? What is the role of culture, education, the economy, in its rebirth? These are the questions raised in this issue of the UNESCO Courier.

      It reflects the Forum held at UNESCO on 24 March 2010 that brought together experts and intellectuals from Haiti and elsewhere. Articles are signed by Raoul Peck, President of La FĂ©mis film school in Paris; Wole Soyinka, Nigerian laureate of the Nobel prize for literature; Jacky Lumarque, rector of Quisqueya University and Alex Dupuy, American sociologist.

      UNESCO's Research Featured in The Economist

      Map of the world's groundwater resources

      There is an article in the current issue of The Economist on efforts to protect aquifers that cross national borders. I quote:
      Aquifers, like fish stocks, are most at risk when they cross national borders, making property rights weaker. Groundwater provides about a fifth of the planet’s water needs and half its drinking water. In arid countries such as Libya or Saudi Arabia, that figure is close to 100%. Almost 96% of the planet’s freshwater resources are stored as groundwater, half of which straddles borders. UNESCO, a United Nations body, estimates that 273 aquifers are shared by two or more countries.
      The United Nations passed a resolution in 2008 on creating a legal regime for aquifers (it may become a full convention next year). Now sampling and monitoring have resumed, under the aegis of the International Atomic Energy Agency (which has a sideline in environmental monitoring).
      Such scientific work is crucial because aquifers are still poorly understood. Until a UNESCO inventory in 2008, nobody knew even how many transboundary aquifers existed. Experts are still refining the count: the American-Mexico border may include 8, 10, 18 or 20 aquifers, depending on how you measure them. Defining sustainability vexes hydrologists too, particularly with ancient fossil aquifers that will inevitably run dry eventually. Estimates for the life of the Nubian sandstone aquifer range from a century to a millennium.

      What Does UNESCO Do?

      Every Day UNESCO
      • PROMOTES EDUCATIN FORALL, now impacting 1.5 billion children, youth and adults
      • Monitors World Heritage properties in 151 countries and intangible heritage in 130 countries
      • Fosters sustainable development through 564 biosphere reserves in 109 countries
      • Combats violations of press freedom and condemns harassment, imprisonment and killings of journalists
      • Monitors some 2500 endangered languages and tracks some four million translated works in over 1000 languages.
      • Leads 26 UN agencies in assessing freshwater resources leads 121 countries in developing Tsunami warning systems
      • Runs the only global database on bioethics, environmental ethics, and science and technology ethics.
      • Fights discrimination through sic regional coalitions of 4858 "Cities Against Racism."
      • Promotes conservation of documentary heritage with items from 84 countries on the Memory of the World Register.

      Sunday, October 03, 2010

      A Role for UNESCO Assuring the Ethical Treatment of Laboratory Animals

      Source: "ANIMAL RESEARCH: Long-Fought Compromise Reached On European Animal Rules," Gretchen Vogel, Science 24 September 2010: Vol. 329. no. 5999, pp. 1588 - 1589

      The European Parliament gave its final approval on 8 September to a new directive spelling out rules governing animal research in academic and industrial labs. The directive will take effect through laws enacted by each member country of the European Union. The rules cover research with all vertebrates and extend coverage for the first time to cephalopods, which include octopi and squid; all research using such animals must pass an ethical evaluation that takes into account possible alternatives and refinements that could improve the welfare of the animal subjects. The directive also sets out for the first time minimum housing and care standards for dozens of the most common animals used in research. The previous E.U. rules on animal research date from 1986, and officials have been working on the new regulations since 2001.

      The United States, with a research program comparable in size to that of the European Union, has a complex system of rules governing animal research in laboratories. There are separate rules for non-human primates and other mammals. (There are also rules for research involving livestock outside the laboratory and animals involved in research in the wild.)

      UNESCO is the only United Nations Organization with charter authorizing general oversight for science; it has a broad program dealing with the natural sciences as well as a program dealing with the ethics of science and technology. However, other U.N. agencies -- notably WHO, FAO and the UNDP -- also deal with research that involves laboratory animals.

      Perhaps this is a time in which UNESCO could play a useful role by convening a working group of U.N. Agencies to discuss the role of the United Nations system in promoting rules that assure the ethical treatment of laboratory animals. Such a group might provide a useful service to the world by creating an online observatory of such rules that exist in individual nations and in regional organizations such as the European Union.

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

      U.S. Prize Winner May Hold Promise for UNESCO Tsunami Warning System

      Liquid Robotics Inc., based in Sunnyvale, Calif., won the Wall Street Journal Technology Award in the category of Robotics for developing an unmanned seagoing craft propelled by the power of ocean waves. According to the WSJ:
      Most unmanned ocean craft can remain at sea for only a short time, relying on batteries to power propellers or pumps. The heavier their payload, the less time they have.

      Thanks to its propulsion system, Liquid Robotics' Wave Glider avoids those limits.

      The craft, which consists of a surface buoy and a submerged glider with wing-shaped panels, converts the up-and-down motion of waves into forward thrust, making it possible to propel the buoy indefinitely without relying on batteries or other power sources.

      The craft can be controlled remotely via satellite over an Internet connection. Instruments are powered by a solar panel on the surface of the floating buoy.
      The technology should be of interest to UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, since it can be used for be used for observing weather and ocean conditions. Since it can also be used to monitor tsunamis, it could be especially interesting to the IOC Tsunami Program which supports Member States in improving capabilities for tsunami risk assessment, implementing early warning systems and enhancing preparedness of communities at risk.

      Friday, October 01, 2010

      UNESCO and the Smithsonian sign a Memorandum of Understanding for cultural and natural heritage

      On 17 September, UNESCO Assistant Director General for Culture Francesco Bandarin signed a three-year Memorandum of Understanding with Francine C. Berkowitz, Director of International Relations of the Smithsonian Institution. This is an unprecedented agreement between the two institutions for cooperation on cultural and natural heritage programs.

      Together the Smithsonian and UNESCO will develop programs and work together on a wide range of projects, including a travelling exhibition and an international conference on the 40th anniversary of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention in 2012. Other initiatives will be directed to conserving natural World Heritage sites, developing outreach on World Heritage and indigenous issues, conducting research on the means of preserving the world's languages, activities for the dissemination of traditional music, and aiding in the recovery of Haiti's cultural heritage following January 12 earthquake.

      The Smithsonian Institution with its 19 museums and 137 million objects, artworks and specimens in its collections is not only "America's attic" but one of the great scientific and curatorial institutions in the world.
      Francesco Bandarin and Francine C. Berkowitz