Tuesday, March 22, 2011

World Water Day 2011 – 22 March

Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Challenge
The objective of World Water Day 2011 is to focus international attention on the impact of rapid urban population growth, industrialization and uncertainties caused by climate change, conflicts and natural disasters on urban water systems.
This year’s theme, Water for cities: responding to the urban challenge, aims to spotlight and encourage governments, organizations, communities, and individuals to actively engage in addressing the challenge of urban water management.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Jillian Banfield profiled in L’Oréal-UNESCO video

Jillian Banfield, UC Berkeley professor of earth and planetary science, of environmental science policy and management and of materials science, was one of five women honored on March 3 at the 13th Annual L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards ceremony in Paris. The elaborate festivities included the showing of a video interview with Banfield, who discussed her research and her philosophy of science. Read more...

The Economist magazine interviews UNESCO Chief Irina Bokova

U.S., Caribbean to test tsunami warning system

"Following the devastating tsunami that struck Japan, the U.S. and 32 other countries are preparing to participate in the first full-scale simulated tsunami alert exercise in the Caribbean, UNESCO says.

"Caribbean countries will receive an alert concerning a fictitious earthquake of 7.6 magnitude off the coast of the U.S. Virgin Islands."

The University of Puerto Rico provides this great video on the threat of tsunamis in the Caribbean.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Congratulations to Jillian Banfield

Jillian F. Banfield, a UC Berkeley biogeochemist, geomicrobiologist and professor of materials science and engineering, will receive two prestigious awards -- the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Earth and Environmental Science and the L'Oreal-UNESCO "For Women in Science" award -- for her groundbreaking work on how microbes alter rocks and interact with the natural world.

Friday, March 04, 2011

UNESCO suspends cooperation with Libya

Source: The Associated Press via the Washington Post.
UNESCO's chief says the organization is stopping all cooperation with Libya's government and suspending a partnership with a charity group headed by Moammar Gadhafi's son.

The Paris-based United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization says director-general Irina Bokova took the measures after recent U.N. actions critical of Libya's human rights record.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

America, the UN and the Future of Communications

"In May of this year, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), and other UN organizations such as UNESCO, UNDP and UNCTAD, are scheduled to convene in Geneva to talk about regulation of the growth and development of the Internet......

"The fight over ICANN (the Corporation for Assigned Names and Number) -- a southern California corporation operating with a license from the U.S. Department of Commerce, which began in a conference in Tunis, Tunisia in the Mediterranean, sponsored by the UN and its sister agencies -- was only the opening salvo. It is not surprising that the idea of forming a special international agency to regulate ICANN failed at Tunis as the agenda and impetus for change was too narrow. This may change as nations around the world awaken to the importance of creating a robust communications infrastructure. They will likely be less dependent and less willing to accept what has been considered a one-way flow of information and communications goods and services from the United States.

"National regulators and policy makers worldwide are looking for some way to harness Internet growth and development, and of course, control the flow of communications in the world. Not surprisingly, concerns with the U.S.'s dominance of media flow do not extend to the developing nations alone. Europe and other developed nations have expressed frustrations too.

"So what will be the U.S. position? Indeed, what if anything is the U.S. doing to meet the challenges and concerns of the rest of the world? It isn't clear."

UNESCO does not fare well in UK review

The Department for International Development of the United Kingdom has just completed a review of the multilateral agencies it has been funding. Here is the summary table:

DfID also provided a comparison chart among the multilateral agencies that were evaluated:

The development objectives of the United Kingdom are very similar to those of the United States. The top graph indicates that. in the opinion of the evaluators, the organization has considerable room for improvement, The lower graph indicates that UNESCO was judged almost uniquely weak among a wide variety of development agencies.

The Government of the United Kingdom decided on the basis of this information to continue funding UNESCO, but to impose "special measures". Here is the statement it provided in its document "Taking Forward the Findings of the UK Multilateral Aid Review":
UNESCO contributes to a range of UK government objectives, including monitoring progress on Education for All. The UK’s membership of UNESCO also brings broader benefits to the UK, in Culture, Heritage, Education and Science. UNESCO’s new leadership team is committed to reform. DFID will continue to support UNESCO, including by funding the core assessed contribution, which will be about £16m in each of the next two years. DFID will reassess progress towards improved effectiveness, with other government departments, in autumn 2012. DFID is discussing with UNESCO, and its member states, what measures need to be taken to urgently improve its performance. 

Priorities include:-
  • Greater transparency
  • A more focused, evidence based programme
  • A focus on controlling transaction, administration and other costs
  • A major improvement in results based management.
If these measures are not implemented satisfactorily and performance does not improve, then the UK will consider whether it should continue to be a member of UNESCO, or whether there are more effective ways of supporting our objectives on education, culture and heritage.