Wednesday, November 30, 2005

UN Student Conference on Human Rights

The 8th Annual UN Student Conference on Human Rights, will take place on Thursday, December 1 and Friday, December 2.

This year's theme is "Water as a Human Right."

On Dec. 1, 2005, student delegates will meet at the United Nations
International School (UNIS) for presentations by speakers and to begin
drafting a Plan of Action. The meeting will be webcast from the UNIS web site at the following times:

10:00 to 12:30 (Eastern Standard Time)
15:45 to 17:00 (Eastern Standard Time)

On Dec. 2, 2005, the conference moves to UN Headquarters. The webcast
of this event will be available on the UN Cyberschoolbus web site

9:15am-12:15pm (Eastern Standard Time)
1:45pm-4:15pm (Eastern Standard Time)

Sunday, November 27, 2005

"Radio Sagarmatha Forced to Close Down"

Read the full posting on United We Blog! for a Democratic Nepal

"The government of Nepal has closed down Radio Sagarmatha, the first South Asian non-government independent radio, alleging it of broadcasting ‘programs supporting terrorists or terrorism’. In a letter sent by Ministry of Information and Communication, the authority has ordered the community radio station not to resume broadcasting until next directives........

"The station established and being run by Nepal Forum of Environment Journalists since May 22, 1997 AD. The establishment was supported by UNESCO. NEFEJ is celebrating its 20th anniversary today."

Saturday, November 26, 2005

"Access for Africa: Tech summit in Tunisia ends with ideas and promises -- but little funding."

Read the full Associated Press article in MIT's Technology Review.

"A crucial summit on expanding Internet access around the world ended with a firm promise to narrow the digital divide -- but little in government funding to make it happen.

"The World Summit on the Information Society co-sponsored by ITU and UNESCO) originally was conceived to raise consciousness about the divide between the haves and have-nots, and to raise money for projects to link up the global village, particularly Africa and Asia and South America.

"Instead, it was overshadowed by a lingering resentment about who should oversee the domain names and technical issues that allow people" to use the Internet.

"'They have promised and promised and promised, and it's not the first time that they have promised this,' said Diallo Mohamadou, a telecommunications consultant from Senegal. 'In 2000, they promised to connect all the small villages far away from the big cities in Africa to the Internet. Five years later and nothing has happened.'

"Participants said more than 200 new initiatives were unveiled at the summit, but no exact dollar amount, said T. Kelly, head of the strategy and policy unit for the Geneva-based ITU."

Languages and the Internet

Go to the UNESCO webpage describing the evolution of languages on the Internet since 1996.

Go to the Global Reach website for more information.

According to data published by UNESCO, about one-third of all users of the Internet speak English, but more than two-thirds of the content on the Internet is in English.
(Click on the pie chart to expand the size.)

UNESCO has published a collection of papers by John Paolillo, Daniel Pimienta, Daniel Prado, and others titled Measuring Linguistic Diversity on the Internet.

Read an article about the languages of the Internet (in Spanish) on ElMundo.Es

BBC News on WSIS

Read the full article by David Reid on BBC News.

"At the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), international diplomats turned their attention to the most important question yet to face the net: who should control it?"

The article also addresses innovations introduced at WSIS:

"On this issue private companies are often more powerful than governments, so getting the right people involved means bringing in big businesses whose knowledge of markets often means a more subtle approach.

"Perhaps the $100 laptop is the sort of innovation that could make a difference.

"The aim behind this so-called Green Machine is to give one to every child. It could replace all of a child's text books, and at a similar cost, as John Ryan, from MIT's One Laptop per Child project, explained.

"'You can now provide an advanced text book in mathematics for a child that is really excelling in mathematics, and internet access and telecommunications and a computer that does calculations and so forth, within the existing budget.'"

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS)

Go to the UNESCO-EOLSS website.

Read an informative booklet on the UNESCO-ELOSS.

The Largest On-line Encyclopedia: A virtual dynamic library equivalent to 200 volumes

EOLSS presents a comprehensive, authoritative, and integrated body of knowledge of life support systems.
“A life support system is any natural or human-engineered (constructed or made ) system that furthers the life of the biosphere in a sustainable fashion. The fundamental attribute of life support systems is that together they provide all of the sustainable needs required for continuance of life. These needs go far beyond biological requirements. Thus life support systems encompass natural environmental systems as well as ancillary social systems required to foster societal harmony, safety, nutrition, medical care, economic standards, and the development of new technology. The one common thread in all of these systems is that they operate in partnership with the conservation of global natural resources.”
EOLSS is designed as a global guide to professional practice, education, and heightened social awareness of critical life support issues. "Natural and social sciences, humanities, engineering and technology, and management policies for sustainable use of life support systems are emphasized, together with issues of global change and their ecological, economic, social, ethical, cultural, and political dimensions. The EOLSS is intended to enhance the systematic development of knowledge that is essential for global stability, security, and peace. In particular, the EOLSS presents perspectives from worldwide regions and cultures, and is free from geographic, racial, cultural, political, gender, age, or religious bias."

- Encyclopedia of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
- Encyclopedia of Mathematical Sciences
- Encyclopedia of Biological, Physiological AND HEALTH sciences
- Encyclopedia of Social Sciences and Humanities
- Encyclopedia of Physical Sciences, engineering and Technology Resources
- Encyclopedia of Chemical Sciences, Engineering and Technology Resources
- Encyclopedia of Water Sciences, Engineering and Technology Resources
- Encyclopedia of Energy Sciences, Engineering and Technology Resources
- Encyclopedia of Environmental and Ecological Sciences, Engineering and Technology Resources
- Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Engineering and technology Resources
- Encyclopedia of Human Resources Policy and Management
- Encyclopedia of Natural Resources Policy and ManagemeNT
- Encyclopedia of Development and Economic Sciences
- Encyclopedia of Institutional and Infrastructural Resources
- Encyclopedia of Technology, Information, and Systems Management Resources
Governing bodies.

The EOLSS project is coordinated by the UNESCO-EOLSS Joint Committee and sponsored by Eolss Publishers, which is based in Oxford, United Kingdom. The UNESCO-EOLSS Joint Committee was established (a) to seek, select, invit and appoint Honorary Theme Editors (HTEs) for each Theme, (b) to provide assistance to the HTEs, (c) to obtain appropriate contributions for the different levels of the Encyclopedia, and (d) monitoring the text development.

The EOLSS International Editorial Council is a 1000-strong editorial advisory body which includes Nobel and UN Kalinga Laureates, World Food Prize Laureates, and several fellows of academies of science and engineering of countries throughout the world. The Configuration Control Board is a high-level body with membership chosen from the International Editorial Council (IEC).

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

"World Digital Library Planned: Library of Congress Envisions Collection To Bridge Cultures"

Read the article by David A. Vise in today's Washington Post.

"The Library of Congress is launching a campaign today to create the World Digital Library, an online collection of rare books, manuscripts, maps, posters, stamps and other materials from its holdings and those of other national libraries that would be freely accessible for viewing by anyone, anywhere with Internet access.

Main Building Library of Congress

"This is the most ambitious international effort ever undertaken to put precious items of artistic, historical, and literary significance on the Internet so that people can learn about other cultures without traveling further than the nearest computer, according to James H. Billington, head of the Library of Congress......

"Google co-founder and President Sergey Brin said in an interview that he and Billington began discussions roughly one year ago about ways for the Library of Congress and Google to team up. Brin said he became intrigued after seeing a range of "beautiful" items in the Library of Congress collection during private meetings with Billington.......

"Brin and Billington said Google would only digitize materials from the Library of Congress that are in the public domain and therefore not subject to copyright protection.

"Brin said he will help raise additional private funds to finance the World Digital Library. Billington said the $3 million gift from Google will be used over the next few years to develop the details of the project and pay for global outreach.

"'Working with UNESCO, we want to encourage other countries to make use of our experiences in developing their own digitization projects,' Billington said."

Monday, November 21, 2005

The New Courier: Special UNESCO 60th anniversary issue

Read the issue online.

This issue examines UNESCO at 60 years of age. It contains focus sections discussing many of UNESCO's most important programs, including those dealing with:
* Education For All
* Oceans
* Heritage
* Copyright
* Bioethics
* Environment
* Cultural diversity
* Water
* Digital Divide
* Crises and emergencies

Some interesting tidbits from UNESCO's history (found in the issue):
* Céline Dion, the popular Canadian singer, was the first UNESCO Artist for Peace, appointed in 1999. The latest is French sculptor and poet Gérard Voisin in 2005.

* UNESCO issued its first commemorative medals, a set of three, in 1961 to celebrate its 20th anniversary. The newest medal was issued in October and commemorates UNESCO’s 60th anniversary.

* The diplomat and businessman Sheikh Ghassan I. Shaker was first UNESCO Good Will Ambassador to be appointed in 1990. Nelson Mandela, the former South African president, is the latest to join the ranks in 2005.

* In 1945, 37 countries signed the UNESCO Constitution, which came into force a year later after ratification by 20 signatories. They became the first founders of the Organization. With the entry of Brunei Darussalam in March 2005, the Organization now comprises 191 Member States and 6 Associate Members.

* The nomination of the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador was the first World Heritage site nomination to reach UNESCO in 1978, followed by 11 others in seven countries. Twentyfour new sites were inscribed in 2005, the latest being the Urban Historic Centre of Cienfuegos in Cuba. Today, the list comprises 812 sites from 137 States Parties to the World Heritage Convention.

* Alva Myrdal (1902-1986) directed UNESCO’s Department of Social Sciences from 1951 to 1955.

* People representing their countries at UNESCO governance meetings included Maria Montessori, Taha Hussain, Pablo Neruda, and Indira Ghandi.

* in 1953 UNESCO established the World Braille Uniformity Programme, which standardized literary codes, enabling blind people around the world to read the same Braille books, learn foreign languages, exchange ideas and experiences. This expanded later to include science, mathematics and music notations. UNESCO also launched the World Braille Council, thus providing an international venue for Braille matters to be discussed. Again in 1953, UNESCO published World Braille Usage, as well as the Braille Courier in English, French, Spanish and Korean.

* If not for UNESCO’s international campaign, the Aswan High Dam would have flooded the Nile valley, site of the most important Nubian temples. This was but one of 26 campaigns. In addition, operational projects have been launched protecting monuments and sites such as those in Angkor, Mostar and Ethiopia.

"Brazilian wins UNESCO prize for popularising science"

Read the full article on SciDev.Net.

"UNESCO has awarded Brazilian biologist Jeter Bertoletti the 2005 Kalinga prize in recognition of his work at the Science and Technology Museum in Porto Alegre, southern Brazil.

"The prize, created by the India-based Kalinga Foundation Trust, is awarded annually to a recipient who excels in engaging the public with science and technology.

"Bertoletti founded the museum in 1967, and built links between it and the Pontific Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul, where he is a professor."

Saturday, November 19, 2005

UNESCO Welcomes Cultural Diversity Endorsement

Read the full article in

"The Director-General of UNESCO, Ko�chiro Matsuura, today welcomed the endorsement by 176 States attending the World Summit on the Information Society (Tunis, November 16-18) of UNESCO?s vision of 'knowledge societies'. This vision is based on the four principles of freedom of expression, quality education for all, universal access to information and knowledge and respect for cultural and linguistic diversity. These principles are included in the Tunis Commitment and the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society adopted at WSIS today."

Editorial: WSIS

The World Summit on the Information Society is finally over. Another good thing is that it has engendered public discussion on information and communications technology for development. Unfortunately, most of that discussion seems to have centered on the role of ICANN in the governance of the Internet, and on “A Laptop for Every Child”. Unfortunately, the key issues that should have been and sometimes were discussed at the Summit have been largely overlooked by the media.

The industrial revolution, which still has not reached all of the world’s population, transformed society by substituting power from engines for animal power, and by mechanizing tasks that previously had been done by hand. It marked the emergence of manufacturing industries over extractive industries as the drivers of development. It profoundly changed the nature of society.

The information revolution, which is just beginning to affect most of the world, transforms society by enabling affordable communication at a distance, and by automating tasks previously done in the minds of men – calculation, storage and retrieval of information, etc. It marks the emergence of service industries over manufacturing industries as the drivers of development. It will profoundly change the nature of society.

The age of the printing press, beginning in the 1450’s, was advanced by the industrial revolution allowing printed material to be produced in greater and greater amounts, more and more cheaply, and distributed more widely and economically. The age of the microchip, beginning five centuries later, is extending all of these benefits. The growth of knowledge in the age of the printing press has been exponential, and it seems likely that the age of the microchip will allow that exponential growth to continue. Knowledge is now the driving force not only of the economies of rich countries, but increasingly of social and political development.

100 years from now, WSIS might be seen as a benchmark, as the first time the global community met to formally recognize the information revolution and information society. Of course, we barely recognize that we are at the beginning of such a transition, and we can not begin to predict its eventual ramifications. No wonder the participants at WSIS focused on small steps for men, rather than the giant step for mankind.

ICT and Poverty

The information society, as seen today by poor people in poor countries, is more a matter of radio and mobile phones than of computers and the Internet, although you would not appreciate the fact from the media coverage of WSIS. I do not belittle radio and telephones; they are a huge advance!

The unseen action of ICT on poverty is still more important. The extractive industries, agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, become more efficient as ICT is applied. Indeed, extractive industries benefit that we hardly consider as such, such as the “water industry”. Manufacturing too is transformed, albeit not at the level of the micro-enterprise in poor countries, by the application of ICT, from the design of plant and equipment, to the management of the process, to the marketing of goods. Transportation too becomes more efficient, as ICT is applied to the design and manufacture of vehicles of all kinds, to their operation, and to their management. Services, including governance, financial, health and educational services are perhaps even more able to achieve efficiency and coverage gains than the extractive and manufacturing industries. The transformation of economies by ICT is not accomplished by giving every poor person a computer, but rather by appropriate investments in technology where they will have the highest benefit-to-cost ratio. In societies with pro-poor policies, the rising tide of economic growth does in fact raise all boats including those of the poor. And indeed, I suggest, proper applications of ICT for development make those pro-poor policies more likely and more effective.

A $100 laptop

MIT’s media genius has grabbed the headlines, but in spite of the slogan “one laptop for every child”, MIT will be lucky to sell a million laptops in the next few years. MIT’s proposal is not only to revolutionize the market for educational computers in poor countries, but also to revolutionize educational software, and – perhaps more importantly – to revolutionize the pedagogy that surrounds the use of ICT in education and, still more generally, pedagogy itself. MIT will be lucky to produce any significant advances in e-learning in the next few years, much less to convince large numbers of teachers to utilize them.

But what happens if a million $100 laptops are put into place that would not otherwise be there? They would probably go to places with some economic possibilities, and would probably go to train kids who would eventually join an intellectual elite. They would probably go to places with educational administrators more adventurous than most, and indeed to classrooms with teachers more adventurous than most. The introduction of exciting new equipment and exciting new teaching methods and aids would be likely to improve the learning environment immeasurably. Getting a million kids into such an environment, and enabling them to join an intellectual elite in their nations after such an experience seems a great accomplishment to me.

John Daly

Thursday, November 17, 2005

News from WSIS

Read the full article from the International Herald Tribune.

More than 16,000 people from 176 countries are attending the three-day World Summit on the Information Society.

Microsoft Corp., unveiled a new network of learning centers in Tunisia that will train people to be teachers in technology. The effort is part of a joint push with UNESCO to make technology easier to understand and, ultimately, to spread its reach across Africa, Asia and the Middle East. "We welcome this project for its scope and potential," said Koichiro Matsuura, UNESCO's general director.

Late Wednesday, a text-book sized laptop boasting wireless network access and a hand-crank to provide electricity was unveiled by Nicholas Negroponte, Chairman of MIT Media Lab. The machines will sell for US$100, making them accessible to millions of school-aged children worldwide, he said.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Civil Society Protests Tunisian Human Rights Actions at WSIS

In the face of police repression, civil society cancels activities: Many international NGOs taking part in the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) collectively decided to cancel their activities planned for November 15, at WSIS. This measure was to make government, private sector and civil society delegates aware of the human rights violations over the previous two days, including beatings of journalists by police and the breaking-up of meetings since November 13. It was also a clear showing of solidarity with all independent NGOs in Tunisia.

Police Repression: At 09.30 am on Monday, November 14, 2005, at the Place d’Afrique in Tunis, more than 30 plainclothes policemen -- under the incredulous eyes of the participants at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) -- manhandled, insulted, and then violently beat journalists and human rights defenders.

Website Closed: The website of the Citizens' summit on the information society (CSIS) was effectively off-line to all internet users in Tunisia including delegates to the UN summit on the information society on November 14. It appears that Tunisian authorities have started to intensify their crackdown on legitimate initiatives related to the World Summit on the information Society (WSIS).

WSIS Newsroom

Click here for the newsroom of the Tunis Phase of the World Summit on the Information Society.

"US to keep control of domain names"

Read Andy Sullivan and Astrid Wendlandt's article on Reuters/Yahoo! News.

"The United States will keep control of the domain-name system that guides online traffic under an agreement on Wednesday seen as a setback to efforts to internationalize one of the pillars of the Internet."

"Negotiators at the United Nations' World Summit on the Information Society said they had agreed to set up a forum to discuss "spam" e-mail and other Internet issues and explore ways to narrow the technology gap between rich and poor countries.

"But oversight of the domain-name system will remain with the United States, a setback for the European Union and other countries that had pushed for international control of one of the most important technical aspects of the Internet......

"Under the agreement, a California nonprofit body known as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, will continue to oversee the system that matches addresses like '' with numerical addresses that computers can understand.

"Individual countries will have greater control over their own domains, such as China's .cn or France's .fr. Disputes have arisen on occasion between national governments and the independent administrators assigned to manage these domains by ICANN.

"Businesses, technical experts and human-rights groups will be allowed to participate along with governments in the forum, which will first meet in early 2006.

"'Internet governance requires a multi-stakeholder approach. This is why we have suffered such agonies in our discussions on Internet governance,' said Yoshio Utsumi, who heads the International Telecommunications Union, the UN organization that sponsored the summit."

UNESCO is one of the sponsors of WSIS. Internet governance was seen as potentially one of the most contentious issues of the meeting!

"A low-cost laptop for every child"

Read the full article by Christa Case in the Christian Science Monitor.

"Effort to link the world's rural poor to the Internet with a $100 computer gets a boost from the United Nations.

"In Cambridge, Mass., Nicholas Negroponte and his team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have been chipping away at a long-held dream: producing a laptop so cheap that governments could afford to link every child in the world to the Internet.....

"Mr. Negroponte, chairman of MIT's Media Lab, will unveil his brainchild with United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan at a technology meeting in Tunisia. The meeting of the UN's World Summit on the Information Society is aimed at beginning to put into effect its stated goals where "everyone, everywhere should have the opportunity to participate" in the benefits of information technology."

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Measuring Linguistic Diversity

Read the UNESCO book online.

Subtitle: "A collection of papers by: John Paolillo, Daniel Pimienta, Daniel Prado, et al."


"UNESCO has been emphasizing the concept of “knowledge societies”, which stresses plurality and diversity instead of a global uniformity in order to bridge the digital divide and to form an inclusive information society. An important theme of this concept is that of multilingualism for cultural diversity and participation for all the languages in cyberspace. There is a growing concern that in the efforts to bridge the digital divide, hundreds of local languages may be side-stepped, albeit unintentionally. Hence, the importance attached to linguistic diversity and local content as part of an Action Line of the WSIS Action Plan for which UNESCO has the responsibility of coordination.

"The issue of language diversity on the Internet proves to be central to the debate on the Information Society in a number of unexpected ways. At first glance the question seems to revolve around the communities using the Internet – allowing communities to talk to each other in their own mother tongues, but other questions quickly follow.

"Through what channels does communication happen across the Internet? The World Wide Web is a series of information sources which provide little interactivity. Discussion fora and email provide more direct interchange. However there is insuffi cient information about the languages used in email or discussion fora (see some discussion of this by Paolillo’s paper below Chapter 3 , including the work of Sue Wright). For most language analysis researchers therefore turn to Web pages. Here, as in all communication, we must consider the character of the audience. A Web page is only read by people who have Internet access. Thus while linguistic diversity might be served by having Web pages in the ‘vanishing’ language of a very remote tribe, few people would read them as it is unlikely that tribal members have Internet access. Pages about the language of the tribe in a more international language would however serve an important role in drawing attention to the cultural value of the language concerned, and perhaps attract support for the linguistic group concerned. It is in addition, a contribution to the preservation of endangered languages.

"The papers in this volume demonstrate that there are many technical problems in calculating language diversity on the Internet. We can easily produce a random count of Internet pages by using any number of commercial search engines, but we cannot judge how often Web pages are read or whether the reading of a page helped the reader in any way. Care has to be taken to ensure that the items searched for in different languages are equivalent in their value, meaning and usage (See Pimienta).

Monday, November 14, 2005

Celebration of UNESCO’s 60th Anniversary

Read the full UNESCO media announcement of the event.

Claude Levi-Strauss, one of the founders of contemporary anthropology, Federico Mayor and Amadou-Mahtar M’Bow, former Director-Generals of UNESCO, several Heads of State and Government and numerous other personalities will participate in a ceremony on November 16, 2005 (9.30 – 12.30) marking the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Organization’s Constitution. The ceremony will take place in the UNESCO heaquarters in Paris. It will be followed by an international symposium which will bring together some 60 historians, anthropologists and philosophers.

"On November 16, 1945, representatives from 37 countries gathered in London decided to create an organization dedicated to building peace through education, science and culture. Sixty years later, the Organization is undertaking a critical review of its past directions, activities and results in order to respond to the new challenges of the 21st century."

"UN ICT Task Force Series 8: The World Summit on the Information Society: Moving from the Past into the Future"

Read the full report from the UN ICT Task Force.

"Any world summit is challenging to design and to organize: the World Summit on the Information Society exceptionally so. This book describes, through the voices of some of its major actors, essential parts of the complex undertaking of the WSIS, from conception to realization. The work of many participants culminated in the Geneva Declaration and Plan of Action, as well as in the ICT4D Platform. When moving forward, it is important to remember history. WSIS already has a history of its own. This book is not a history book. But the stories, the contributors to this book tell us, are part of this history. The target audience of this book goes beyond the “usual suspects” and insiders, who has lived and worked in the 'WSIS spaceship' for more than two years. The book will reach out to a broader public, because the Information Society is for everybody. The individual articles of this book will enable readers to get a better understanding of the complex issues raised by the WSIS process. It gives the opportunity to see the different perspectives of different players and stakeholders, the controversies and conflicts, which will continue to exist when the process goes ahead. Readers will get firsthand information and personal impressions on how WSIS I was done by governmental negotiators, who have been heavily involved in the deal-making inside and outside the conference halls of the International Geneva Convention Center and the Palais des Nations where most of the sessions took place. Representatives of the private sector and civil society give their perspectives and write about the expectations they have when they discuss the future of the WSIS process. And academic observers add some theoretical analysis which helps to put single issues into a broader context."

"Control the Internet? A Futile Pursuit, Some Say"

Read John Markoff's full article in The New York Times. (Registration required.)

"A meeting sponsored by the United Nations this week in Tunis will take up a challenge to American authority over Icann, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. Icann was established in 1998 to manage the Domain Name System, or D.N.S., which assigns network names like and assures unique addresses.......

"The Tunis meeting, called the World Summit on the Information Society, will consider calls for an end to unilateral American oversight.

"'Everyone seems to think that the D.N.S. system is a big deal, but it's not the heartbeat of the Internet,' said Leonard Kleinrock, a computer scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who did pioneering research in data packet switching, the fundamental technique underlying networks. 'Who controls the flow of the ocean? Nobody controls it, and it works just fine. There are some things that can't be controlled and should be left distributed.'

"To varying degrees, the nine proposals to be considered by as many as 15,000 delegates convening Wednesday to Friday in Tunis call for replacing the United States as the overseer of Icann with a new international political structure, perhaps a treaty-based organization like the International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations agency.........

"In recent years, Icann has become a lightning rod, focusing opposition to American political and economic power. A group of countries, led by developing nations like Iran, China and Brazil, has put forward a range of proposals calling for Icann's management to be made international; most call for a shift to a group like the United Nations. Over the summer, a European Union commissioner offered a parallel proposal.

"At Tunis, "either there will be an agreement, or an agreement on how to go about getting an agreement," Arthur Levin, a representative of the International Telecommunication Union and the chief organizer of the meeting, said in a telephone interview on Friday..........

"'The idea of taking over Icann is a nonstarter,' said Robert Kahn........'There is nothing in there to control, and there are huge issues that the governments of the world really do need to work on.'"

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The World Summit on the Information Society

The second phase of WSIS will take place in Tunis hosted by the Government of Tunisia, from 16 to 18 November 2005. UNESCO is, of course, a sponsor of WSIS, and I previously posted information on UNESCO's participation in WSIS, including a link to UNESCO's WSIS website.

My friends at the Development Gateway have produced a highlight on the Information Society in honor of WSIS. Perhaps more important, the ICT for Development Community of the Development Gateway has created a database of (currently) 345 resources related to WSIS. This may help those seeking some perspective on how the discussions have evolved relative to WSIS over the last several years.

India to host Asian biotech training centre

Read the full article by Wagdy Sawahel in SciDev.Net.:

"India is to host a US$7 million centre to provide biotechnology training and research opportunities for scientists from across Asia.

"The centre, which was given official backing by UNESCO last month, will also be a hub for biotechnology research, promoting South-South cooperation.

"The Indian science ministry's department of biotechnology will run the centre, which is likely in the capital New Delhi, although this has not yet been confirmed.

"India is contributing core funding for the centre, but once it is set up, the government will seek additional funds from UN agencies and other international bodies."

The World Science Forum

Go to the Forum website.

The World Science Forum, organized by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, UNESCO and the International Council for Science (ICSU), was held November 10-12, 2005 in Budapest (Hungary). Some 400 scientists, political decision-makers, and representatives of non-governmental organizations and private enterprise attended the event, on the theme Knowledge, Ethics and Responsibility. The opening of the Forum coincided with the World Science Day for Peace and Development, celebrated each November 10.

Among Americans scheduled to attend were Peter A. Freeman, (Assistant Director, National Science Foundation), Peter D. Lax (Abel Laureate winning mathematician, New York University) and Alan I. Leshnet (CEO, American Association for the Advancement of Sciences).

UNESCO Awards Science Prizes

Read the full media release.

On November 11, 2005, the first day of the World Science Forum, seven UNESCO science prizes were awarded.

The 2005 Kalinga Prize for the Popularization of Science was awarded to Jeter Jorge Bertoletti (Brazil). Professor at the Pontific Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul (PUC-RS) Jeter Jorge Bertoletti is also founder and director of the university’s science and technology musem, which is now the biggest science museum in South America. In 2001, he launched the Itinerant Museum Project. This museum in a truck proposes exhibitions, experiments and conferences to communities in Rio Grande do Sul. Jeter Jorge Bertoletti has also published numerous articles in a range of reviews, periodicals and annals. The Kalinga Prize, created by the Kalinga Foundation Trust (India) is awarded annually to encourage dialogue between scientists and the general public.

The Carlos J. Finlay Prize for Microbiology has been awarded to Professor Khatijah Binti Mohamad Yusoff (Malaysia) from the Universiti Putra Malaysia, Selangor. She is involved in vaccine research and research on poultry virus and the Newcastle Disease Virus and is a member of numerous national and international scientific organizations. The Carlos J. Finlay Prize, is named after a famous 19th century Cuban biologist and is funded by a grant from the Government of Cuba.

The Javed Husain Prize for Young Scientists has been awarded to Professor Dong-Lai Feng (China), from the Fudan University in Shanghai. At the age of 33, he already leads the research group of complex quantum systems, which is part of the Shanghai Laboratory of Advanced Materials. His research covers superconductivity, strongly correlated systems, magnetism, nano-science and development of new techniques such as laser photo-emission and resonant soft x-ray scattering. He has made significant contributions to current understanding of high temperature superconductivity. The Javed Husain Prize for Young Scientists was established in 1984 with a donation by Professor Javed Husain of India. The prize is awarded in recognition of outstanding pure and applied research carried out by young scientists under 35 years of age.

The UNESCO Science Prize has been won this year by Professor Alexander Balankin (Mexico), from the National Polytechnic Institute, for his work on fractal mechanics and improving exploration techniques for the oil industry. A Mexican citizen born in Russia, he founded the National Interdisciplinary Research Group “Fractal mechanics” and the Escuela Superior de Ingeniería Mécánica y Eléctrica.

The Great Man-made River International Water Prize is awarded to Dr. Sayyed Ahang Kowsar (Iran) who has devoted his life to developing and implementing floodwater spreading and harvesting as a means of recharging aquifers and improving environmental quality. The prize is awarded in recognition of fundamental and substantial contributions to the assessment, development, management and/or use of water resources in arid and semi-arid areas. It is funded through a donation from the Government of Libya.

The Sultan Qaboos Prize for Environmental Preservation is awarded jointly to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority of Australia and to Dr Ernesto Enkerlin-Hoelflich (Mexico). The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is the principal advisory to the Australian Government on the planning and management of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Ernesto Enkerlin-Hoeflich is the President of the National Commission on Natural Protected Areas of Mexico. Under his leadership, five new Mexican biosphere reserves had been added to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. The Sultan Qaboos Prize for Environmental Preservation rewards outstanding contributions by individuals or groups of individuals, institutions or organizations in the preservation of the environment, and is funded through a donation from His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al-Said of Oman.

The Institut Pasteur-UNESCO Medal is awarded to Professor Mireille Carmen Dosso (Côte d’Ivoire). As Director of the Institut Pasteur of Côte d’Ivoire, she has been active in research and prevention activities in the area of HIV-AIDS as well as other tropical diseases like tuberculosis, malaria and poliomyelitis. The award is presented for outstanding and innovative contributions to health, fermentation, agriculture and food.

International Symposium on UNESCO's History

Go to the website for the Symposium.

UNESCO was born on November 16, 1945. On the occasion of its 60th anniversary, UNESCO is hosting, from 16th to 18th November 2005, an international symposium on the Organization’s history, which will take place at its Headquarters in Paris.

More than sixty historians, anthropologists, philosophers and other scholars will speak at round table sessions or in plenary on major themes of UNESCO’s history, such as the birth of the Organization, the vision of humanism and peace, the race question, ideals challenged in the context of cold war and decolonisation, reconciliation, reconstruction, dialogues, education for all, cultural heritage and the social responsibility of the sciences.

This is part of a 60 week long celebration of the anniversary. During the period, "UNESCO endeavours not so much to celebrate its accomplishments but to revive the power of the inspiration that guided its founding fathers. This means rekindling their sense of hope and vision with a view to the future.

Sixty themes were selected to punctuate the sixty weeks between 5 September 2005 and 4 November 2006, anniversary of the coming into force of the International Convention constituting the UNESCO.

The World Water Assessment Program

Click here to go to the WWAP website.

UN Water has undertaken a collective UN system-wide continuing assessment process, the World Water Assessment Program (WWAP). The Program is to evolve with the World Water Development Report (WWDR) at its core. Thus there will be a need to include:
- data compilation (geo-referenced meta-databases);
- supporting information technologies;
- data interpretation;
- comparative trend analyses;
- data dissemination;
- methodology development and modelling.

The program involves collaboration among agencies across the United Nations system. UNESCO is the lead agency for: Sharing water resources and for Ensuring the knowledge base. It is a collaborating agency for: Managing risks and for Protecting ecosystems.

After the World Water Assessment Programme was approved, letters were sent by the United Nations and UNESCO inviting member countries to participate The United States is included in the list of countries whose governments have responded. While many countries have designated national focal points, no focal point is identified for the United States. However, the WWAP website provides 81 links to U.S. water assessment websites.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

UNESCO's International Hydrological Program

The IHP website.

Following UNESCO's major role in the International Hydrological Decade (IHD, 1965-1974) the International Hydrological Program (IHP) was created in 1975. The program has achieved progress on methodologies for hydrological studies and training and education in the water sciences. Now, however, greater emphasis is being put on the role of water resources management for sustainable development and on the adaptation of the hydrological sciences to cope with the expected changing climate and environmental conditions. Another important objective is to integrate the developing countries into the worldwide ventures of research and training.

IHP is a long-term program executed in phases of a 6-year duration. It functions through working groups, symposia, workshops, publications and extra-budgetary projects, the latter especially through the UNESCO Regional Offices where Regional Hydrologists are located.

IHP, over the decades has gone through a profound transformation from a single discipline to a multi-disciplinary programme. Recently, with the increased presence of the social science component, IHP has become a truly inter-disciplinary programme, capitalizing on the recognition that the solution of the world water problems is not just a technical issue.

The current IHP program, IHP-VI, covering the period 2002-2007, is devoted to "Water Interactions : Systems at Risk and Social Challenges".

The Intergovernmental Council of the IHP is a subsidiary organ of the UNESCO General Conference. The Council is composed of 36 Member States. Member States (22) elected at the 32nd session of the General Conference are: Algeria, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Egypt, Eritrea, Germany, Iceland, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Turkey, and Yemen. Those elected (14) at the 33rd session of the General Conference are: Australia, Benin, Costa Rica, Haiti, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Nepal, Slovakia, South Africa, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

The National Committees have been set up by the respective governments. Where no National Committee has been established, a Focal Point or National Correspondent in the form of an organization or individual has been identified for channeling information about IHP to and from the country. The United States is represented by Dr. John E. Schefter of the U.S. Geological Survey. The website specified for the U.S. participation is the of the USGS Water Science for Schools website.

Editorial: U.S. Membership in UNESCO's Scientific Governing Bodies

The science program of UNESCO is government not only by UNESCO's General Conference and Executive Board, but by a number of intergovernmental councils that deal with specific programs. The United States, due to its 19 year absence from UNESCO, is not represented in many of these bodies. In the 33rd General Conference, the United States was nominated only for the Intergovernmental Council of the International Hydrological Program, and failed to be elected to that position.

I recommend that the U.S. scientific community work with the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO and the Department of State to elect U.S. representatives to other, appropriate UNESCO scientific councils.

To help in that effort, I am beginning a series of short postings in this blog about the scientific programs of UNESCO and their governance.

UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Program

Click here to go to the MAB Program website.

"UNESCO’s Programme on Man and the Biosphere (MAB) develops the basis, within the natural and the social sciences, for the sustainable use and conservation of biological diversity, and for the improvement of the relationship between people and their environment globally.

"The MAB Programme encourages interdisciplinary research, demonstration and training in natural resource management. MAB contributes thus not only to better understanding of the environment, including global change, but to greater involvement of science and scientists in policy development concerning the wise use of biological diversity.

"Over the next decades, MAB is focusing on new approaches for facilitating sustainable development, through promoting conservation and wise use of biodiversity. By taking advantage of the transdisciplinary and cross-cultural opportunities of UNESCO’s mandate in the fields of education, science, culture and communication, MAB is promoting both scientific research and information gathering, as well as linking with traditional knowledge about resource use. It must serve to help implement Agenda 21 and related Conventions, in particular the Convention on Biological Diversity."

The International Co-ordinating Council of the MAB Program, the ICC, is composed of 34 elected representatives of Member States of UNESCO. The are:

Austria** Belarus* Chile** Congo** Cuba** Czech Republic* Dem. People's Rep. of Korea* Denmark* Dominica* Ethiopia** Gabon** Germany* Ghana* Israel** Italy* Lebanon** Mexico* Mozambique* Myanmar* Nicaragua* Nigeria* Peru* Philippines** Republic of Korea* Romania** Russian Federation* Saudi Arabia* Sri Lanka* Sudan** Sweden** Syrian Arab Republic** United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland** United Republic of Tanzania* Vietnam**

* Members until 34th session of the General Conference, 2007
** Members until 35th session of the General Conference, 2009

Many nations, including the United States, have organized MAB National Committees. Such a committee is responsible for the activities making up the national contribution of a country to the MAB program.

· In co-operation with the UNESCO National Commissions, it serves as a liaison between the different institutions and ministries concerned by the MAB Programme and UNESCO (MAB Secretariat, Division of Ecological Sciences and field offices).
· It also serves to liaise with the national structures responsible for the other UNESCO programmes in environment and development, i.e. the IGCP, IHP, IOC and MOST, with a view to develop joint activities, as appropriate.
· It ensures the national participation, as a member or as an observer, whenever appropriate, in the sessions of the MAB International Co-ordinating Council.

The United States' MAB National Committee is chaired by Dr Barbara Weber of the USDA Forest Service.

"Showdown looms over control of Web"

Read Andy Sullivan's full article on Reuters/Yahoo! News.

"The United States is headed for a showdown with much of the rest of the world over control of the Internet.

"Countries like China, Brazil and Iran don't like the fact that the world's only superpower oversees the system that guides traffic across the global computer network, and have pushed for an international body to take over that role.

"The United States believes such a body would slow the pace of online innovation to a crawl, requiring entrepreneurs to win permission from a cumbersome bureaucracy before introducing services like Internet telephony.

"'It would be akin to having more than 100 drivers of a single bus. Right now we have a driver, and the driver's been doing a good job,' said Assistant Commerce Secretary Michael Gallagher, the U.S. official who oversees the domain-name system.

"Much of the business and technical community that actually runs the Internet agrees with Gallagher. But those groups will be relegated to the sidelines and the United States will find few allies among other governments at the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis, Tunisia next week."

"EU takes swipe at U.S. Internet oversight"

Read the full Reuters/Yahoo! News article.

"The European Commission on Friday took a swipe at U.S. oversight of the Internet but offered no concrete alternatives, in advance of an international summit on how the Internet should be run......

"The U.S. Commerce Department has ultimate control of the root zone file, and Washington made clear recently it intends to maintain that role.

"The U.S. Commerce Department was expected to surrender its control of ICANN, but said in July it would 'maintain its historic role in authorizing changes or modifications to the authoritative root zone file.'

"Europe cried 'foul,' arguing Washington changed the rules of the game and plans to keep permanent control of the system.

"'There was an agreement that the Department of Commerce control would be phased out but this summer the United States announced they would maintain this oversight function,' a Commission official said.

"A second European official added: 'We just say this needs to be addressed in a more co-operative way ... under public policy principles.'

"Both officials asked not to be identified."

"APC's Recommendations to the WSIS on Internet Governance, November 2005"

Read the 14 page PDF document.

Since UNESCO is one of the sponsors of the World Summit on the Information Society, and since Internet governance is one of the hot issues before WSIS, this resource may be of interest to the readers of this blog. The Association for Progressive Communication is an international network of NGOs, and its recommendations tend to oppose the position of the U.S. government.

Friday, November 11, 2005

An African View of the Upcoming World Summit on the Information Society

Read the full Daily Champion (Lagos) article online at

"Efforts at making the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS-05), also otherwise tagged the 'summit of solutions' may have proved successful, reports REMMY NWEKE from Germany............

"Interesting thing, however, is that the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) as lead agency of other arms of UN and in alliance with the UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and possibly the UN Development Programme; have resolved not to set up any new body to manage the follow-up, as they have to contribute resources for the follow-up to be kept alive via coordinated meetings of coordinators and reporting of implementation on country levels.

"According to ITU's position paper on implementation and follow-up, (WSIS-11/PC3/contro/97-E), there is a widespread agreement that the multi-stakeholder nature of WSIS should be maintained through the overall implementation and follow-up process after Tunis."

Thursday, November 10, 2005

US against multinational role in Internet: France

Read the full Reuters/Yahoo!News article.

"The United States will not heed requests by the European Union and other countries to accept a multinational approach to running the Internet, a French government official said on Thursday.

"An international summit next week on how the Internet should be run was likely to end in stalemate, the official said.

"A U.N. report has put forward the multinational approach to running the Internet which serves a billion users worldwide, saying this would be more democratic and transparent, a view the 25 nations of the EU share.

"But the United States believes an international body running the Internet would slow the pace of innovation.

"A final round of talks on the report starts on Sunday to seek a global agreement on Internet governance before the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis on November 16-18.

"'It is possible that we only reach a consensus on the fact that discussions need to be pursued,' Jean-Michel Hubert, the French government's representative to the WSIS summit, told reporters in Paris in a pre-summit briefing."

Fears that the United States may withdraw from UNESCO over Convention on Cultural Diversity

Read the full story published by Embassy (Canada's Foreign Policy Newsweekly).

"UNESCO Cultural Treaty On the Rocks, Fearing U.S. Withdrawal"

"A new international pact to protect creative expression from the threat of globalization is so strongly opposed by the United States that a diplomat in Ottawa fears Washington may withdraw from UNESCO for the second time.

"'We are very worried that U.S. foreign policy is rowing against the current,' says Carlos Carrasco, Bolivia's Ambassador to Canada. 'There are rumours that the United States might drop out [of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization] or withhold funds.'

"For 18 years Mr. Carrasco was his country's representative to UNESCO in Paris, and then director for Latin America and the Caribbean. Last month in France he represented Bolivia at UNESCO's general meeting where 148 countries approved a new instrument that preserves the right of nations to promote and support their own audiovisual industries, such as film, music and literature. Two nations -- the United States and Israel -- voted against the treaty, four abstained, and dozens of other countries failed to attend the vote, which Mr. Carrasco describes as a move to appear neutral in a polarizing debate.

"The United States argues the treaty could be used to build trade barriers to cultural trade and services, and that trade agreements and World Trade Organization rules enjoy supremacy over UNESCO conventions. The U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO, Louise Oliver, also says it could be used to justify censorship. She stopped short of saying her objection to the treaty could cause the U.S. to quit the organization or withhold funding.

"'I would say that we're not currently considering any such possibilities, but obviously this process is going to raise some questions that will have to be discussed when I get back to Washington,' says Ms. Oliver, according to an Associated Press article."

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is awarded today to Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn

Read about the award on the Google blog.

"The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian award given in the United States, and our own Vint Cerf (photo on the right) has been recognized with this honor. He and Robert Kahn (photo on the left) will be recognized in a White House ceremony next Wednesday.

"Together, Vint and Bob designed the architecture and protocols 30+ years ago that are used today to implement and operate the Internet. The White House statement puts it succinctly: "Dr. Cerf and Dr. Kahn have been at the forefront of a digital revolution that has transformed global commerce, communication, and entertainment."

Robert Kahn is married to Patrice Lyons, a member of the Board of Trustees of Americans for UNESCO.

Congratulations to Drs. Cerf and Kahn!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO Louise Oliver With Foreign Journalists

Read the transcript of Ambassador Oliver's videoconference of October 21, 2005.

QUESTION: Ambassador, I'm Jyri Raivio, Helsingin Sanomat of Finland. You mentioned that U.S. was not able to support the acceptance of the UNESCO budget but what's the practical consequence of this decision? And how big the part of this budget does the U.S. take?

AMBASSADOR OLIVER: The budget is -- we have program and budget for the next two years. UNESCO is on a two-year cycle so this is the $610 million program and budget for the next two years. In order to be adopted, two-thirds of UNESCO's member states need to support the program and budget. That did occur. So therefore, this program and budget will be used as a basis for UNESCO's work for the next two years.

The fact that we voted no on this budget, again, emphasizes the fact that we are unhappy with the budget in terms of the fact that it does support a Convention that we oppose. But as I said in my statement a few minutes ago, we also do not think that UNESCO has gone far enough in terms of focusing on activities, focusing on its priorities so that it can have quality programs that really make a difference around the world. Almost every country in UNESCO has stated over and over again, in the last two years since we've been part of this organization, that education is the priority of priorities. And so we are saying put resources in education, put resources in areas -- science and other areas, which are areas where UNESCO could really make a difference -- put funds, put resources in real natural and cultural preservation. And there are programs in UNESCO that do that.

Our question has been a broader question, which is, what is the role of UNESCO's programs versus its normative instruments -- a well thought out normative instrument, a well thought declaration or convention that achieves consensus, can perhaps do something real and positive.

But, I repeat, a convention that was negotiated quickly, that seemed to be more interested in being negotiated as quickly as possible so that it could be adopted at this General Conference, where speed seems to be something that people cared about more than quality -- well, that is something that we would -- we do have concerns about.

Editorial: Expand the Functions of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO

I have sought not to insert personal opinions on this blog, but only to provide information on UNESCO. I depart from that practice on this occasion, invoking blogger’s privilege, to editorialize. The following opinions are mine alone.

The Mission of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO (NatCom) as currently defined is too narrow. The NatCom is an exceptional resource for the nation, and we should broaden its functions in order to utilize its capabilities more fully. UNESCO’s multilateral approach serves U.S. interests in the fight for peace, the war against poverty, and the effort to control terrorism. A strong, fully-functioning U.S. National Commission can help to realize UNESCO’s mission and help to achieve U.S. foreign policy objectives.

A more fully involved U.S. NatCom is fully appropriate to this nation’s open, democratic government, and the leading role civil society has played in the nation’s life. As the United States promotes democracy in other nations, we stress the importance of civil society. A participatory network of National Commissions for UNESCO with strong civil society participation is vital to U.S. interests in the governance of UNESCO, and serves as an ally too in our global democratization efforts. It would set a very poor precedent were the U.S. Government to limit the role of civil society in the U.S. NatCom!

UNESCO was created in the aftermath of World War II by political leaders who believed then, as I believe now, that war is created in the minds of men and so too must a lasting peace be created in the minds of men. UNESCO’s role was then to work with the educators, the scientists, the cultural leaders, and the communicators in all nations, bringing them together in order to improve mutual understanding, and to advance peace.

UNESCO’s network of National Commissions is a unique feature within the entire U.N. system. When the Constitution of UNESCO was adopted in November 1945, Article VII stipulated that
“each Member State shall make such arrangements as suit its particular conditions for the purpose of associating its principal bodies interested in educational, scientific and cultural matters with the work of the Organization, preferably by the formation of a National Commission broadly representative of the government and such bodies”.
In the six decades since the founding of UNESCO, global efforts to fight poverty have come to the forefront. Poverty too must be fought in the minds of men. Most recently, the United States has embarked on a global war against terrorism. Terrorism too is born in the minds of men, and the ways of thinking of terrorists and their supporters must change if terrorism is to be controlled.

The network of NatComs has grown over the past years as the number of nations belonging to UNESCO has grown. So too, have the roles and responsibilities of National Commissions evolved over the years. Initially entrusted with the tasks of consultation and liaison by the Constitution of UNESCO in 1945, National Commissions were later called upon to take up the functions of information and execution by the General Conference at its 14th session in 1966. The Charter of National Commissions for UNESCO, adopted in 1978, was an important milestone in the evolution of National Commissions. That Charter states:
1. The function of National Commissions is to involve in UNESCO’s activities the various ministerial departments, agencies, institutions, organizations and individuals working for the advancement of education, science, culture and information, so that each Member State may:
(a) Contribute to the maintenance of peace and security and the common welfare of mankind by participating in the activities of UNESCO which aim to advance the mutual knowledge and understanding of peoples, give fresh impulse to popular education and to the spread of culture, and preserve, increase and diffuse knowledge;
(b) Play an ever-increasing role in UNESCO’s work, and particularly in the formulation and execution of its programmes.
2. For this purpose, National Commissions:
(a) Cooperate with their governments and with services, organizations, institutions and individuals concerned with questions within UNESCO’s competence;
(b) Encourage participation of national, governmental and nongovernmental institutions and various individuals in the formulation and execution of UNESCO’s programmes so as to secure for the Organization all the intellectual, scientific, artistic or administrative assistance that it may require;
(c) Disseminate information on the objectives, programme and activities of UNESCO and endeavour to arouse public interest in them.
3. In addition, and depending on the requirements and arrangements of each Member State, National Commissions may:
(a) Participate in the planning and execution of activities entrusted to UNESCO which are undertaken with the assistance of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and other international programmes;
(b) Participate in the search for candidates for UNESCO posts financed under the regular programme or from extra-budgetary sources, and in the placement of UNESCO fellowship holders;
(c) Participate with other National Commissions in joint studies on matters of interest to UNESCO;
(d) Undertake on their own initiative other activities related to the general objectives of UNESCO.
4. National Commissions collaborate with each other and with UNESCO’s regional offices and centres in fostering regional, subregional and bilateral cooperation in education, the sciences, culture and information, particularly through the joint formulation and execution of programmes. This cooperation may bear upon the preparation, implementation and evaluation of projects and may take the form of joint surveys, seminars, meetings and conferences and exchanges of information, material and visits.
According to the Charter of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, however, the functions of the U.S. NatCom are very limited:
The functions of the Commission shall be advisory, and any determination to be made or action to be taken on the basis of Commission recommendations shall be made or taken by appropriate officers of the Untied States Government. The Commission shall offer recommendations with respect to the consideration of issues related to education, science, communications and culture, and the formulation and implementation of U.S. policy toward UNESCO.
It might be argued that a broader role for the NatCom is not allowed by the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). However, FACA in Section 9 specifically permits advisory committees to undertake other functions when those functions are “specifically provided by statute or Presidential directive”. The NatCom charter must be renewed after two years, and I recommend that the Presidential directive for the renewal specifically include the broader functions envisioned in the UNESCO documents. The current NatCom members should be asked now for advice on the revision of their Charter.

John A. Daly

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Director of Royal Botanic Gardens, a World Heritage Site, is Resigning to Return to the United States

Read the full AScribe release.

"Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003, Kew Gardens holds the world's largest collection of living plants, with more than seven million specimens. Kew employs more than 650 scientists and other staff, and its Millennium Seed Bank project has developed partners in 17 nations to secure the long-term conservation of more than 20,000 plant species."

Kew's director, Sir Peter Crane, has announced that he will resign his position there to accept a faculty appointment in the University of Chicago's Department of Geophysical Sciences effective July 1, 2006. Sir Peter served for seven years at Kew, and is an Associate of the National Academy of Sciences.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

U.S. Science in a UNESCO World Heritage Site

"When we think of "Life in the Treetops" goats may not spring immediately to mind. But the Moroccan Argan Tree is a veritable 3 dimensional meadow." (The-Tree.Org.UK)

The Argan Tree (Argania spinosa) is locally known as The Tree Of Life, because it helps to make life possible for many creatures in the semi-arid desert of south Morocco. Its roots travel deep to find water and help to bind the soil. Tree root systems also facilitate water infiltration and aquifer replenishment.

According to the New York Times,* "for centuries, the Berbers in this stark coastal corner of North Africa have followed the goats around as they climbed the spiny, evergreen argan trees to eat their leaves and leathery olive-sized fruit. They collect the undigested pits that the goats spit up or excrete and split them to extract the bitter kernels inside, which they grind and press to make a nutty oil used in cooking and cosmetics. The oil was sold in Moroccan markets even before the Phoenicians arrived, yet the hardy argan tree, called the Moroccan ironwood by some people, has been slowly disappearing."

Unfortunately, overgrazing by goats and over-harvesting by a growing, wood-hungry local population have whittled the number of surviving argan trees down to less than half of what it was 50 years ago.

However, now the Argon Forest area has been made a "World Heritage Site". Moreover, Smith recounts, "Unesco declared a 10,000-square-mile swath of land between the Atlantic and the Atlas Mountains a 'biosphere reserve' and provided money to manage the trees' preservation."

Mark Dafforn of the National Academy of Sciences informs me that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), through its CDR/MERC program has been supporting argan research for a few years, and it has made significant inroads especially regarding propagation. The U.S. Israel Cooperative Development Research Program (CDR) and the Middle East Regional Cooperation Program (MERC) are long standing programs which promote peaceful cooperation between Israel and other nations by funding collaborative research.

Thus we see behind the scenes synergies between bilateral and multilateral efforts supported by the United States.
*Smith, Craig S., "Hungry Goats Atop a Tree, Doing Their Bit for Epicures," The New York Times, October 27, 2005.

"The U.N. Isn't a Threat to the Net"

Read Kofi Annan's opinion piece in today's Washington Post.

"The main objective of the World Summit on the Information Society to be held this month in Tunisia is to ensure that poor countries get the full benefits that new information and communication technologies -- including the Internet -- can bring to economic and social development. But as the meeting draws nearer, there is a growing chorus of misinformation about it.

"One mistaken notion is that the United Nations wants to 'take over,' police or otherwise control the Internet. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The United Nations wants only to ensure the Internet's global reach, and that effort is at the heart of this summit."

Thursday, November 03, 2005

"Students’ perceptions of science and technology"

Read the full article in the current edition of Connect, UNESCO's International Science, Technology and Educational Newsletter.

This is a very interesting article on the attitudes of 15 year old students in a number of countries on science and technology. The graphs plotting the differences in attitudes among countries are especially striking. Unfortunately, students from the United States were not included in the study, but it seems likely that they would share many of the opinions expressed by students from other developed nations. Excerpts from the article follow.

"In most OECD countries there is a concern about the lack of interest among young people to pursue studies and careers in science, engineering and technology (SET). Many wealthy nations ‘solve’ their recruitment problems by importing able students from poorer countries. About half of the PhD students in SET in the US come from such countries, mainly from Asia2.

"Such a ‘brain drain’ has positive as well as negative effects on both parts, and will not be discussed here. It is, however, noteworthy that the recent preoccupation with the ‘fight against terror’ has complicated the migration of these able students, in particular to the US.

"It is a paradox that the most SET driven economies in the world experience a lack of interest in SET studies and careers among young people. The economic significance for a country to have a high number of skilled scientists and engineers is well accepted.

"But young people do not choose their studies or careers because it is good for the economy of their country. They base their choices (when they have them) on their own interests, values and priorities. It is obvious that SET studies and jobs do not have the same appeal to students in wealthier countries as they used to some decades ago.

"The lack of interest in SET in schools and further studies is not only a problem for the economy. It is also a threat to democracy, since most decisions in modern societies are highly dependent on considerations that involve weighting scientifi c arguments against value judgements. A scientifi cally illiterate voting population can easily be manipulated by propaganda in a voting process.

"From the above perspectives, it becomes urgent to get to know the SET-related attitudes, priorities and interests of the young generation. The ROSE-study has the ambition to do so."

ROSE (The Relevance Of Science Education)

"ROSE is an international comparative study that taps into the diversity of interests, experiences, priorities, hopes and attitudes that children in different countries bring to school (or have developed at school). The underlying hope is to stimulate an informed discussion on how one may make science education more relevant and meaningful for learners in ways that respect gender differences and cultural diversity. It is also hoped that light will be shed on how students’ interest in choosing SET-related studies and careers can be stimulated. Through deliberations that involved science educators from all continents, ROSE has developed an instrument with around 250 single items that tries to map out attitudinal or affective perspectives as seen by 15 year old learners. All items are simple in wording and the responses are given on a 4-point Likert scale. This justifies the use of standard statistical methods like calculations of means, correlations etc. About 40 000 students from 35 countries are taking part in ROSE on whose data 10 students from different countries will base their theses. A full report on the project rationale, development and logistics is available which includes reports on data collection from the participating countries. Data collection for international reporting is now finalized. Several articles and international reports with comparisons will be published during 2005 and the following years. Networks of science educators like ESERA (European Science Education Research Association); NARST (National Association for Research in Science Teaching) – US-based but with international outreach - and in particular, IOSTE (International Organization for Science and Technology Education), have been used to establish the network of research partners."

UNESCO World Report: Towards Knowledge Societies

This is the first in a new series of UNESCO reports, to be published every two years, focusing on subjects at the heart of the Organization’s mission.

"Towards Knowledge Societies clearly makes the distinction between knowledge societies and the information society. While the information society is based on technological breakthroughs, knowledge societies “encompass broader social, ethical and political dimensions.” The Report focuses in particular on the foundations on which knowledge societies that will optimize sustainable human development are constructed.

"The Report analyses the increasingly important role played by knowledge in economic growth and advances that it can serve as a new springboard for development in the countries of the South. It also presents a detailed analysis of the factors blocking the access of many countries to the opportunities offered by information and communication technologies, especially the growing digital divide and restrictions on freedom of expression. Finally, it makes a series of recommendations to improve the situation."

The report is now available for sale (Click here to transfer to the UNESCO website), priced at € 25.00.

Table of Contents

List of boxes, figures and tables, p. 11
List of abbreviations and acronyms, p. 14
Introduction, p. 17
Overview, p. 24

1. From the information society to knowledge societies, p. 27
Knowledge societies as a source of development, p. 27
Digital solidarity, p. 29
Freedom of expression as the touchstone of knowledge societies, p. 36

2. Network societies, knowledge and the new technologies, p. 45
Knowledge economy in network societies, p. 45
The impact of the new technologies on knowledge networks, p. 47
From memory-based societies to knowledge societies? p. 52

3. Learning societies, p. 57
Towards a culture of innovation? p. 57
Learning, a key value of knowledge societies, p. 60
The availability of knowledge, p. 63

4. Towards lifelong education for all? p. 69
Basic education for all, p. 71
Lifelong education for all, p. 76
New inputs for education: institutional reform, pedagogical research, teacher training and quality of education, p. 81
“E-learning”: new technologies and distance education, p. 84

5. The future of higher education, p. 87
Towards a market in higher education? Issues of funding, p. 87
University networks yet to be invented, p. 91
The new missions of higher education, p. 95

6. A research revolution? p. 99
New research locations, p. 99
The new frontiers of science, p. 111
Research and development: future challenges, p. 114

7. Science, the public and knowledge societies, p. 119
A good governance for science and technology, p. 119
A crisis in science education? p. 126
Fostering a scientific culture, p. 128

8. Risks and human security in knowledge societies, p. 133
Knowledge as a risk panacea? Foresight and disaster anticipation, p. 133
Knowledge societies, a source of new risk? Global risks, strategic risks and new forms of criminality, p. 137
Knowledge societies, human security, human rights and the fight against poverty, p. 139
Towards sustainable development societies? p. 142

9. Local and indigenous knowledge, linguistic diversity and knowledge societies, p. 147
Preserving local and indigenous knowledge, p. 148
Linguistic diversity and knowledge societies, p. 151
Pluralism, translation and knowledge sharing, p. 156

10. From access to participation: towards knowledge societies for all, p. 159
From the knowledge divide to knowledge sharing, p. 159
Women in knowledge societies, p. 167
Universal access to knowledge: knowledge sharing and intellectual property protection, p. 169
The renewal of democratic public forums in knowledge societies, p. 178

Conclusion, p. 185
Recommendations, p. 191
References, p. 195
Notes, p. 211

Human Rights at the heart of UNESCO programming

The quarterly SHS Newsletter provides information on the work of UNESCO in the field of social and human sciences. The just published issue, September-November 2005, focuses on "Human Rights at the heart of UNESCO programming."

Download it now!

World Science Day for Peace and Development

10 November 2005

"Every year, World Science Day for Peace and Development provides an opportunity for special attention to be paid to the contribution of science to achieving sustainable development and enhancing the prospects for peace. From agricultural production to medicine, from sustainable energy to water management, scientific and technological advances play a key role in social and economic development through a diverse range of applications."

Read the full Message from Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of World Science Day for Peace and Development.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

UNESCO: Promoting Advancement of Scientific Knowledge

Read the UNESCO Fact Sheet on its efforts to promote scientific knowledge. (Two pages, PDF format.)

"The world is undergoing a fundamental transformationdriven by science and science-based technologies.Most far-reaching innovations originate from advancesin the basic sciences."


Go to the UNESCO website for its WSIS participation.

16-18 November 2005, Tunis, Tunisia

At the Summit meeting in Tunis in November 2005, UNESCO is to be an active participant and contributor organizing three events and an exhibitoin building on UNESCO’s concept of “knowledge societies”:

* A High-Level Round Table on “Shaping the Future through Knowledge”.
(17 November 2005, 3-6 p.m.)

* A Round Table on the "Role of UNESCO in the Construction of Knowledge Societies through the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme”.
(18 November 2005, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.)

* A Workshop on "ICT and Persons with Disabilities". The workshop will look at policies that promote accessibility in the digital world, especially in developing countries, and at how access to cyberspace for people with disabilities can be enhanced.
(16 November 2005, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.)

* A stand showing how UNESCO is contributing to the implementation of the WSIS Action Plan and a space for meeting colleagues and friends and for exchanging ideas and experiences on how to build knowledge societies.
(Throughouth WSIS, ICT4All Exhibition)

High Level Round Table: Shaping the Future through Knowledge

Visit UNESCO's website for the Round Table.

Date: 17 November 2005
Hour: 3-6 p.m.
Place: Tunis, Tunisia

The UNESCO High-Level Round Table “Shaping the Future through Knowledge“ is to discuss how to build equitable and inclusive knowledge societies; in particular, how the potential of knowledge can be harnessed and released for sustainable development of all the world’s peoples.

Heads of government and state, eminent scientists, visionaries and leaders from civil society and the private sector will share experience and visions on how knowledge can influence, if not drive human and societal development towards a fair, equitable and inclusive future. Leadership at all levels and in all walks of life will be critical.

UNESCO Round Table: Construction of Knowledge Societies

Go to the Round Table website.

A Round Table on the Role of UNESCO in the Construction of Knowledge Societies through the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Program is to take place as part of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), on November 10, 2005 in Tunis. WSIS is sponsored by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). UNITWIN is UNESCO's Universities Twinning and Networking Scheme.

The Round Table will address the role of higher education in the construction of knowledge societies and the challenges facing university systems in effectively contributing to the social, economic and cultural development of nations.

"A number of crucial challenges will be discussed, such as:
* equity and quality of higher education,
* barriers to harnessing ICT in education,
* under-development of research,
* diminishing government financial support to higher education,
* the brain drain,
* language barriers preventing access to information on the Internet, and
* bridging the knowledge gap."

The round table will be conducted in three languages - Arabic, English and French - with simultaneous interpretation.