In the latest issue of A World of Science, a group of experts on water politics provide an overview of the issues likely to dominate the International Year of Water Cooperation beginning in January, of which UNESCO is lead UN agency. The authors explain that arid climates are no more conflict-prone than humid ones, and that conflicts over water erupt in equal measure in rich and poor countries, democracies and autocracies, fortunately on rare occasions: over the past 70 years, incidences of cooperation have actually outnumbered conflicts by two to one.
A second story highlights some of the marvels of human ingenuity inscribed in the Memory of the World Register, to.mark the 20th anniversary of UNESCO’s eponymous program.
We learn from a third article that, in less than 50 years, countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea have nearly tripled their demand for natural resources. Today, all 24 countries are ecological debtors. These findings were revealed on 1 October by Global Footprint Network, at a regional meeting in Venice (Italy) organized jointly with UNESCO. UNESCO’s Venice office plans to encourage Southeast European countries to introduce the ecological footprint concept into school curricula, in order to help prepare pupils for their future role as responsible, active citizens.
On 30 November, synthetic biology was one of the themes discussed at a forum organized jointly by UNESCO’s Social and Human Sciences Sector and the French NGO Vivagora at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. Synthetic biologists, who borrow techniques from engineering to create entirely new life forms, are currently operating in a regulatory vacuum. In an interview, Eric Hoffman from the NGO Friends of the Earth confirms that products containing synthetic organisms are already on the market. He also highlights the risk of some engineered life forms – including viruses – ‘escaping’ from the lab to contaminate other species.
Among the news stories, the developed countries have agreed to double funding for biodiversity protection and Australia has just created the world’s largest marine protected area. Meanwhile, Nigeria is establishing an international biotech institute that will function under the auspices of UNESCO and Teri University in India is to host a UNESCO chair on climate science and policy.
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