Thursday, May 31, 2007

President Bush Discusses U. S. International Development Agenda

Read the full speech made at the United States Global Leadership Council on May 31.

The President stressed the importance of trade, and of opening of trade relations. He described the effort made by the United States and other nations of the G8 to reduce the debt burden of poor nations. Since 2001 U.S. development spending across the world has increased
from about $10 billion in 2000, to $23 billion in 2006. It's the largest increase in development assistance since the Marshall Plan..... The first four years of my administration, we doubled our assistance to Africa. At the G8 summit in 2005, I promised our assistance to Africa would double once again by 2010.
President Bush described three key goals of foreign assistance:
  • to help developing countries build democratic and accountable institutions and strengthen their civil societies,
  • to improve education, and
  • to fight the scourge of disease in Africa and other parts of the developing world.
Here is the specific discussion of energy and climate change in the President's speech:
Bringing progress and prosperity to struggling nations requires growing amounts of energy. It's hard to grow your economy if you don't have energy. Yet, producing that energy can create environmental challenges for the world. We need to harness the power of technology to help nations meet their growing energy needs while protecting the environment and addressing the challenge of global climate change.

In recent years, science has deepened our understanding of climate change and opened new possibilities for confronting it. The United States takes this issue seriously. The new initiative I am outlining today will contribute to the important dialogue that will take place in Germany next week. The United States will work with other nations to establish a new framework on greenhouse gas emissions for when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

So my proposal is this: By the end of next year, America and other nations will set a long-term global goal for reducing greenhouse gases. To help develop this goal, the United States will convene a series of meetings of nations that produce most greenhouse gas emissions, including nations with rapidly growing economies like India and China.

In addition to this long-term global goal, each country would establish midterm national targets, and programs that reflect their own mix of energy sources and future energy needs. Over the course of the next 18 months, our nations would bring together industry leaders from different sectors of our economies, such as power generation and alternative fuels and transportation. These leaders will form working groups that will cooperate on ways to share clean energy technology and best practices.

It's important to ensure that we get results, and so we will create a strong and transparent system for measuring each country's performance. This new framework would help our nations fulfill our responsibilities under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. The United States will work with all nations that are part of this convention to adapt to the impacts of climate change, gain access to clean and more energy-efficient technologies, and promote sustainable forestry and agriculture.

The way to meet this challenge of energy and global climate change is through technology, and the United States is in the lead. The world is on the verge of great breakthroughs that will help us become better stewards of the environment. Over the past six years, my administration has spent, along with the Congress, more than $12 billion in research on clean energy technology. We're the world's leader when it comes to figuring out new ways to power our economy and be good stewards of the environment.

We're investing in new technologies to produce electricity in cleaner ways, including solar and wind energy, clean coal technologies. If we can get a breakthrough in clean coal technologies, it's going to help the developing world immeasurably, and at the same time, help protect our environment.

We're spending a lot of money on clean, safe nuclear power. If you're truly interested in cleaning up the environment, or interested in renewable sources of energy, the best way to do so is through safe nuclear power. We're investing in new technologies that transform the way we fuel our cars and trucks. We're expanding the use of hybrid and clean diesel vehicles and biodiesel fuel.

We're spending a lot of your money in figuring out ways to produce ethanol from products other than corn. One of these days, we'll be making fuel to power our automobiles from wood chips, to switchgrasses, to agricultural wastes. I think it makes sense to have our farmers growing energy, so that we don't have to import it from parts of the world where they may not like us too much. And it's good for our environment, as well.

We're pressing on with battery research for plug-in hybrid vehicles that can be powered by electricity from a wall socket, instead of gasoline. We're continuing to research and to advance hydrogen-powered vehicles that emit pure water instead of exhaust fumes; we're taking steps to make sure these technologies reach the market, setting new mandatory fuel standards that require 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels by the year 2017. It's a mandatory fuel standard. We want to reduce our gasoline consumption by 20 percent over the next 10 years, which will not only help our national security, it will make us better stewards of the environment. The United States is taking the lead, and that's the message I'm going to take to the G8.

Last week, the Department of Energy announced that in 2006, our carbon emissions decreased by 1.3 percent while our economy grew by 3.3 percent. This experience shows that a strong and growing economy can deliver both a better life for its people and a cleaner environment at the same time.

At the G8 summit, I'm going to encourage world leaders to increase their own investments in research and development. I'm looking forward to working with them. I'm looking forward to discussing ways to encourage more investment in developing nations by making low-cost financing options for clean energy a priority of the international development banks.
The speech concluded:

The initiatives I've discussed today are making a difference in the lives of millions; our fellow citizens have got to understand that. We're talking about improving lives in a real, tangible way that ought to make our country proud. That's why we've asked these folks to come. It's one thing for the President to be talking about stories; it's another thing for the people to see firsthand what our help has done.

I'm so proud of the United States of America. This initiative shows the good character and the decency of the American people. We are a decent people. We feel responsible for helping those who are less fortunate. And I am proud to be the President of such a good nation.

Crisis in the IOC

June has been proclaimed by President Bush as National Oceans Month, 2007.

The oceans are obviously central to the health of the planet earth. A large part of the world's population lives in coastal zones. We are only beginning to understand the enormous resources that the oceans can provide, and how those resources might be exploited. On the other hand, the oceans and coastal zones are already experiencing major environmental problems, including overfishing and pollution; global warming will put still more stress on ocean systems. Moreover, the oceans and the atmosphere are so intimately linked that we will not understand global warming if we do not understand oceanography.

It seems ironic therefore that the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), which the United States helped to create nearly half a century ago, is facing severe problems. Two years ago the assembly of the IOC considered a report titled "FINANCING AND OWNERSHIP OF IOC’S PROGRAMMES: 'WE HAVE A PROBLEM'”. It stated:
Given the reduction of 20% of UNESCO’s contribution to the IOC Regular Budget, Member States will have, as soon as possible, to collectively reflect on possible future scenarios as a possible basis for the reformulation of the Commission's medium- and long-term plans. To start that process, this document was prepared by Officer J.
Valladares, for the consideration of the Assembly at the present session; it assesses the overall funding for IOC, analyses the existing, and proposes new funding mechanisms including extrabudgetary contributions from Member States through a voluntary pledging system.
The Assembly of the IOC meets in June, and will consider a report which includes the following alternatives and recommendations:
Member States could elevate IOC to the status of a technical specialized agency within the UN. This would require an intergovernmental negotiation and the adoption of a protocol or convention that would include an agreement on assessed contributions. This option would be a major step forward in consolidating the mandate of IOC and in the commitment of Member States in support of its current mission.

Alternatively, or as a first step, arrangements could be considered in UNESCO to secure a more stable financial horizon. Options include either an agreement negotiated with UNESCO setting the long-term budget, or a new commitment from Member States. The latter may be done through a Convention or similar instrument.

We the Member States of IOC must make a careful assessment of these various options.

Member States should realise that the option of continuing with the present structure at the present level of funding can only be viable if expectations and demands of IOC are viewed in a stable and steady context and commensurate with the expected outcomes.

As Officers we ask the Member States to agree that fundamental structural changes are needed and to accept the challenge of identifying and committing to more effective future arrangements.
As we celebrate National Oceans Month, let us consider the alternatives proposed by the IOC, and let us encourage our government representatives to take vigorous action to assure that there are adequate funds to support the programs of the IOC, and an adequate intergovernmental mechanism to carry out its charter with an ambitious program!

James G. McCargar

James McCargar accepting the
Col. Michael Kovats Medal of Freedom
from the American Hungarian Federation

We regret to inform you of the death of James G. McCargar, a long time member of the Board of Directors of Americans for UNESCO. Mr. McCargar died on the afternoon of May 30, 2007.

A graduate of Stanford University, James McCargar, briefly a reporter on the San Francisco Call-Bulletin, was commissioned a Foreign Service Officer in 1942. He was Vice Consul at Vladivostok 1942-43, and Secretary of Embassy, Moscow, 1943. Assigned to the Dominican Republic in 1943, he was commissioned in the Naval Reserve in 1944, and served as Foreign Liaison Officer with the Soviet Navy and Merchant Marine at Akutan and Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Appointed Secretary of Legation, Budapest, in 1946, he was Chief of the Political Section and, under State Department authorization and orders, established an escape network in then-Russian-occupied territory which saved more than sixty democratic Hungarian and Romanian political leaders and pro-Western figures and their families in danger of arrest, deportation and/or death.

At Genoa during the Italian elections of 1948, McCargar was then detailed to the Office of Policy Coordination, in the CIA, where he served until 1950 as Chief, Division of Southeastern European Affairs. He served at the Paris Embassy as a member of the U.S. Delegation to the Allied Coordinating Committee, 1950-53. In 1955 he joined the Free Europe Committee in New York, as liaison with the United Nations and the Assembly of Captive European Nations. European Director at Paris of political, social and cultural programs for the Committee, 1956-58, he continued at Paris as a Consultant to the President of the Committee until 1960. That year he was co-founder and Secretary, Americans Abroad for Kennedy.

As Special Assistant to the Chairman, National Endowment for the Humanities, 1978-1982, McCargar was the Coordinator, Executive Branch, on cultural policy for the U. S. National Commission on UNESCO. He attended two UNESCO General Conferences as an expert, and in 1982 was a member of the U. S. Delegation to the Second UNESCO World Conference on Cultural Policy. At the invitation of the Norwegian National Commission for UNESCO, he was the U. S. Observer at the 1991 UNESCO European Regional Conference on Cultural Development at Oslo. He was a member of the Board of Directors of Americans for the Universality of UNESCO from 1985, and continues as a member of the Board of Americans for UNESCO.

From 1940 to the present McCargar published articles, fiction, and book reviews under his own name and as "Christopher Felix" in a dozen publications, and from 1960 on authored or co-authored four books. He was also ghostwriter for Men of Responsibility, the 1965 memoirs of Dirk U. Stikker, former Foreign Minister of The Netherlands, and Secretary-General of NATO.

Read this long letter by James McCargar published in Commentary magazine refuting an article on the U.S. departure from UNESCO.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Application of Remote Sensing for the Integrated Management of Ecosystems and Water Resources in Africa

The aim of this UNESCO project is to promote biodiversity conservation, so as to aid sustainable development and to help alleviate poverty in Africa. It seeks to develop a process that will enable African countries to access and use satellite data and information and communication technologies, including the Internet, Remote Sensing (RS) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to monitor, assess and manage Ecosystems and Water Resources.

The initial targeted participating countries are those hosting the relevant UNESCO Chairs and those with communications and remote sensing facilities, with a view of enlarging participating at a later stage.

The following countries are participating in the project: * Benin. * Botswana, * Côte d’Ivoire, * Democratic Republic of Congo, * Equatorial Guinea, * Guinea, * Mozambique, * Niger, * Nigeria, * Senegal, * South Africa, and * Zimbabwe.

Building digital library with WINISIS

The Thapar University in Patiala, India, hosted a workshop on WINISIS, from 14 to 18 May 2007 in collaboration with the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), Government of India and the UNESCO Office in New Delhi.

The ISIS for Windows (WINISIS) plays an important role for automation of library operations in developing countries, including India, because of its easy-to-use features, convenient availability, negligible cost of implementation, continuous development and support from UNESCO, and its large user community. Recent developments in WINISIS, such as web-enabled interface, tools for data conversions into bibliographic standards and handling of digital documents, have made it a potential tool for development and management of digital libraries.

Click here to go to the CDS/ISIS website where you can apply for a free copy of the software.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

UNESCO-SALIS e-Learning Portal for Awareness Raising on Information Literacy

UNESCO-SALIS workshop (6-10 November 2006, Chennai, India)
© UNESCO New Delhi

The Society for the Advancement of Library and Information Science (SALIS), India, in collaboration with UNESCO, has just launched a six-month project entitled Interactive E-Learning Portal on Information Literacy Competency Development Skills for South Asia.

The project aims to raise awareness and enhance information literacy competency skills of laymen as well as information professionals and educators. Its objectives are fully in line with UNESCO’s mandate to bridge the digital divide and UNESCO’s vision of Knowledge Societies.

The UNESCO Budget

UNESCO's budget for the next two years will be set in the meeting of the General Conference in October, on the basis of the draft budget prepared by the secretariat under the direction of the Director General and the Executive Board. The key decision will be on the core budget, which is funded through assessed contributions of the member states. (There are also extrabudgetary resources contributed by many member states, that are separately determined.) The budget is approved for two years, and implements a medium term strategy of six years. In three of the past four budgets, there as a zero growth policy. Only with the return of the United States to UNESCO was the budget allowed to grow in real terms. In the current draft, there are options of including a zero growth and a modest real growth budget. My colleague has sent the following message to many of us:


We must make a determined effort to see that the US supports the level of at least $648 million for UNESCO's next biennium,so that the organization can be effective in its vital mission.

Write Secretary Rice, Deputy Secretary Negroponte, President and Mrs. Bush, and the appropriate Congressional Members.and urge them to support the higher level for UNESCO's budget.

Sidney Passman
Comment: I must agree with Sid. UNESCO's is the lead agency for education, science, culture, and communications and information in the United Nations system. Its charter calls for it to strengthen these sectors worldwide, and to network vast communities. Yet its core budget is on the order of one-third of my local school district's. The United States at very little cost to the tax payer, could encourage the nations of the world to devote more resources to UNESCO's mission. To do so would help to overcome the clash of cultures and to advance peace. JAD

Decisions from the Executive Board

The decisions of the Executive Board of UNESCO at its meeting in April 2007 are available online.

Click here!

Some of the decisions are shown below:

Report by the Director-General on the conclusions and recommendations of the Overall Review Committee for Major Programmes II and III (176 EX/7; 176 EX/66 Part I; 176 EX/67)

The Executive Board,
1. Recalling 33 C/Resolution 2 concerning the review of Major Programmes II and III,
2. Having examined document 176 EX/7 and its annexes,
3. Recognizing, as stated in document 176 EX/7, that the natural, social and human sciences are now universally viewed as the drivers of national economic and social development and as key contributors to poverty reduction and environmental conservation,
4. Acknowledging the need for natural, social and human sciences to contribute to the achievement of UNESCO’s mission,
5. Expresses its appreciation of the work of the Overall Review Committee for Major Programme II (Natural Sciences) and III (Social and Human Sciences) as a valuable and timely contribution to further the relevance and effectiveness of UNESCO’s activities in the field of natural, social and human sciences,
6. Recognizes the potential of the Organization to become the leading promoter within the United Nations system of the transformative power of scientific knowledge, building on its intellectual reputation, convening ability and global presence, which provide a solid foundation for its crucial roles as policy facilitator and capacity-builder in global, regional and country-level endeavours;
7. Takes note of the strengths as well as the weaknesses identified by the Committee;
8. Also takes note of the Director-General’s comments on the Committee’s recommendations;
9. Underscores that the Committee’s recommendations along with the Director-General’s comments should be taken into account in documents 34 C/4 and 34 C/5;
10. Takes note of the Committee’s findings that UNESCO needs some strategic reorientation of its activities and operational methods in the field of the natural, social and human sciences;
11. Taking into account the Director-General’s proposal that document 34 C/4 be considered as a rolling document,
(a) requests the Director-General to forward the report and recommendations of the Overall Review Committee for Major Programmes II (Natural Sciences) and III (Social and Human Sciences), as well as his comments on that report, to the governing bodies of the intergovernmental/international science programmes for their information, and to invite those bodies to transmit their comments thereon to the Executive Board;
(b) also requests the Director-General to conduct wide-ranging consultations on the possible implementation of the Review Committee’s recommendations, and to take appropriate steps in order to allow for informed decision-making regarding UNESCO’s core functions and competencies in the field of science, as indicated by the Director-General in his introduction to document 34 C/4.

Report by the Director-General on the evaluation of the first phase of the International Basic Sciences Programme (IBSP), and proposals regarding draft document 34 C/4 and draft document 34 C/5 (176 EX/11; 176 EX/66 Part I; 176 EX/67)

The Executive Board,
1. Recalling 172 EX/Decision 12,
2. Having examined document 176 EX/11,
3. Noting that the mandate of the International Basic Sciences Programme (IBSP), and the partnerships in capacity-building in science that IBSP promotes are reflected in the strategic programme objectives for the Organization to be set out in its draft Medium-Term Strategy for 2008-2013 (34 C/4), and are aimed at providing the science inputs to assist countries to attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),
4. Recognizing that IBSP is a response to a recommendation by the World Conference on Science, and that UNESCO has sole responsibility for the basic sciences within the United Nations system,
5. Calling for an enhanced partnership with International Council for Science (ICSU) scientific unions and the industrial sector in the framework of IBSP,
6. Recognizing the importance of joint work between governments, the private sector and international and regional organizations,
7. Referring to recommendations of the ministerial round table on “The Basic Sciences: the Science Lever for Development”, as well as to the decisions of the African Union Summit on science, technology and scientific research for development,
8. Takes note of the assessment of the initial phase of IBSP presented in document 176 EX/11, and recommends that it be submitted for information to the General Conference at its 34th session, together with the conclusions of the Executive Board;
9. Approves the proposals made by the Director-General regarding the future IBSP strategy;
10. Requests the Director-General to give priority consideration to projects from developing countries, mainly from the least developed countries and post-conflict countries, to be carried out in cooperation with regional science centres, and to consider how to support the submission of high-quality proposals from developing countries in the context of the IBSP strategy;
11. Recommends that Member States continue to inform the Director-General of activities
that they would propose for IBSP, and of complementary extrabudgetary support they may provide to reinforce the IBSP budget for the implementation of their proposals and that proposed activities should be in line with the five major priority actions of the new strategy;
12. Requests the Director-General to:
(a) take action for implementation of the strategy proposed in document 176 EX/11 for the development of IBSP activities in 2008-2013;
(b) encourage, within the Third UNESCO/ICSU Framework Agreement for 2008-2013, direct participation in IBSP of relevant scientific unions of ICSU;
(c) encourage the setting up of national committees for IBSP in order to increase the visibility and effectiveness of the Programme, joining together national scientific committees and institutional partners, as well as private partners, and to develop the committees’ networks;
(d) prepare and circulate to Member States, in 2008, an information document on IBSP and its functioning within the established strategy of action;
(e) submit to the Executive Board at its 181st session and then to the General Conference at its 35th session a report on the development and outcomes of IBSP during the first biennium of the Medium-Term Strategy, and on measures to be taken to promote the services and efficiency of IBSP.

Report by the Director-General on the feasibility study for the establishment of an international centre for South-South cooperation in science, technology and innovation in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as a category 2 centre under the auspices of UNESCO (176 EX/16; 176 EX/66 Part I; 176 EX/67)

The Executive Board,
1. Recalling the proposal submitted by the Malaysian Government to establish an international centre for South-South cooperation in science, technology and innovation in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, under the auspices of UNESCO,
2. Recalling 33 C/Resolution 23 (I.5(xi)), which authorizes the Director-General to follow up the Doha Plan of Action,
3. Aware of the importance of international cooperation for the promotion of science and technology innovation in developing countries, and of triangular North-South-South cooperation,
4. Welcoming the proposal of the Government of Malaysia,
5. Having examined the positive response by the Director-General to this proposal, as well as the feasibility study prepared by UNESCO in document 176 EX/16 in the light of the principles and guidelines for the establishment and functioning of UNESCO institutes and centres (category 1) and institutes and centres under the auspices of UNESCO (category 2) approved by 33 C/Resolution 90,
6. Takes note of the observations and conclusions of the feasibility study;
7. Deeming the considerations and proposals contained therein to be such as to meet the requirements needed for UNESCO to grant its auspices to the international centre,
8. Recommends that the General Conference approve, at its 34th session, the establishment of an international centre for South-South cooperation in science, technology and innovation in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, under the auspices of UNESCO (category 2), and that it authorize the Director-General to sign the Agreement contained in the Annex to document 176 EX/16.

Report by the Director-General on the feasibility study for the establishment of a sustainable energy development centre in Moscow, Russian Federation, as a category 2 centre under the auspices of UNESCO (176 EX/17 and Corr.; 176 EX/66 Part I; 176 EX/67)

The Executive Board,
1. Recalling 33 C/Resolution 90 concerning the creation of institutes and centres under
the auspices of UNESCO,
2. Having examined document 176 EX/17 and Corr. and its Annex,
3. Takes note of the observations and conclusions of the feasibility study;
4. Welcomes the proposal of the Government of the Russian Federation to establish the sustainable energy development centre under the auspices of UNESCO, which is in line with the principles and guidelines for institutes and centres under the auspices of UNESCO (category 2) as adopted by the General Conference in 33 C/Resolution 90;
5. Recommends that the General Conference approve, at its 34th session, the establishment of the sustainable energy development centre in Moscow, Russian Federation, as a centre under the auspices of UNESCO (category 2), and that it authorize the Director-General to sign the Agreement contained in the Annex to document 176 EX/17.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

History of UNESCO

A conference was held in 2005 titled:

60 Years of UNESCO’s History"

The conference website provides a lot of interesting information on UNESCO's history. For example (click on the title to read the paper):
Every ten years or so the UNESCO Courier publishes a special issue dealing with UNESCO's history. Those special issues are all online here!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

“Energy in a Changing World”

Oil refinery in Scotland
Source: UNESCO

UNESCO, in collaboration with the Ministry of Industry and Energy of the Russian Federation, will convene a Ministerial Conference entitled “Energy in a Changing World” at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris from 31 May to 1 June 2007.

This high-level consultation of Ministers of Energy will address the energy challenges facing the international community in the twenty-first century, the role of science in sustainable energy development and the reduction of energy poverty. The UN and other main international organizations concerned are to be also associated with this event.

Report by the Director General on the Feasibility Study for the Establishment of a Sustainable Energy Development Center in Moscow.
(176 EX_17.pdf)

UNESCO Can Spread Good Governance, State's Negroponte Says

Here is the announcement of the appearance.

Promoting good governance, ensuring the free flow of information and expanding global literacy are key international goals that the U.N. Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) can help advance, according to a senior U.S. official.
John Negroponte

U.S. Committees for the IHC and IOC

One of the high points of this weeks meeting of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO was the participation of members of the national committees for the International Hydrological Program and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. These committees have been brought under the umbrella of the U.S. National Commission, and bring to its service networks of experts in two of the most important fields of UNESCO's operations.

The U.S. National Committee for the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission held its first meeting on February 15, 2007 in Washington D.C. Eleven members got there in spite of a major snow storm that all but paralyzed the city. The International Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, with a budget during the current biennium of some $US 30 million (exclusive of staff costs), provides a mechanism of fundamental importance to member states for sharing of knowledge, information and technology through coordination of national programs. The IOC was created nearly 50 years ago, largely through the initiative of the United States.

The U.S. Committee for the International Hydrological Program includes members of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, U.S. government agencies, and external organizations with expertise in water resources. The International Hydrological Program, with a budget of some $13 million this biennium (exclusive of staff costs), plays an important role in helping the world prepare for a fast approaching crisis in water availability and distribution. It was created following the success of the International Hydrological Decade (IHD, 1965-1974), and has many projects of scientific and practical interest, guided by a number of international conferences. conducted during its six six-year phases. This is an especially important moment in the life of the program, as it prepares for the seventh phase, to take place from 2008 through 2013. That phase has been titled "Water Dependencies: Systems under Stress and Social Responses."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

U.S. National Commission for UNESCO meeting

The United States National Commission for UNESCO held its annual meeting Monday and Tuesday. The meeting was well attended, with the majority of the Commissioners present and perhaps 100 members of the public attending. Most of the meeting was devoted to parallel meetings of five committees devoted to the five major programmatic areas of UNESCO.

High points of the meeting were the presentations by Ambassador Louise Oliver and Deputy Director General Marcio Barbosa. Ambassador Oliver described the great success that was achieved by a drafting committee for a resolution on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The committee, in which she was a key participant, also included members from Egypt, Jordan and Israel, and dealt with a very contentious issue in a very constructive fashion.

An auditor's report detailing failures of UNESCO procedures in contracting for consultant services for the reorganization of the education sector of UNESCO was a hot topic at the recent UNESCO Executive Board meeting in Paris. The problems resulted in the resignation of the Assistant Director General for Education, who was at the time the highest ranking U.S. citizen in the Secretariat. Ambassador Oliver described the action of the U.S. delegation to the Executive Committee in joining with other delegations to demand the reform and improvement of UNESCO's administrative systems so that such problems would not occur in the future. She did not describe, as others have done in private, the success of the team she led in limiting the damage to the interests of the United States resulting from the situation. The Executive Board issued instructions with the full approval of the Director General, that the reforms of the Education Sector would go forth to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its programs.

The attendance at the National Commission meeting of Deputy Director General Barbosa indicated both the concern for UNESCO leadership has for the role of the United States in that organization and the importance UNESCO places on the National Commissions. In his remarks, he recognized the worldwide importance of the leadership provided by the educational, scientific, cultural, and communications communities of the United States and thus their roles in UNESCO. He and Ambassador Oliver both were enthusiastic about the reform that makes the medium term strategy for the next six years a rolling strategy, to be less rigid than in the past. He also described the importance of upcoming efforts to finalize the plan and budget for the next two years, and the follow-on work to develop detailed implementation arrangements for that plan.

The misfit between UNESCO's huge global responsibilities and its very limited resources continues to be a problem. In three of the last four biennium, there were zero growth budgets; only with the return of the United States to membership in UNESCO in the last eight years was there a significant increase in available resources. Unfortunately, the National Commission did not see fit to advise the U.S. government to change its position which still supports an inadequate budget for UNESCO.

The United States has increased its extrabudgetary contributions to UNESCO. In private conversation with Ambassador Oliver she acknowledged how important those contributions are in encouraging UNESCO into programs and projects deemed important by the United States. Still, the U.S. extrabudgetary contributions are much less than would be expected given the economic power of this nation, and indeed are much less than those of some other countries.

The Secretariat of the National Commission reported some success in finding qualified U.S. citizens for UNESCO employment, especially in finding suitable candidates for the young professional program, several of whom were hired. It also reported on the success of efforts to link the U.S. with UNESCO's programs, most notably the literacy initiative associated with first lady, Laura Bush.

Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte gave a strong keynote address, not only formally stating the importance the United States government gives to UNESCO, but symbolizing that fact through his presence and his obvious knowledge of UNESCO programs and their importance.

In short, this was another successful meeting of the National Commission. The State Department staff who organized the event are to be congratulated. Georgetown University provided great facilities for the meeting.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Launch of UNESCO's World Center for Language Documentation

Debbie Garside, CEO, WLDC

The World Language Documentation Center (WLDC), to include world-renowned experts in language technologies, linguistics, terminology standardization, and localization, was officially launched on 9 May 2007 at the offices of UNESCO in Paris.

The WLDC promotes multilingualism in cyberspace and the maintenance and sustainability of information about the languages of the world.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Meeting of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO

The U.S. National Commission for UNESCO will hold its annual meeting on

Monday, May 21, 2007
Tuesday, May 22, 2007

at the

Marriott Georgetown University Conference Center and Hotel,
3800 Reservoir Road, NW
Washington, DC.

The theme of this year's annual meeting is "UNESCO as Capacity Builder: Pursuing its mandate through Education, the Sciences, Culture and Communications."

The keynote address
will discuss the Department of State's Strategic Plan and Transformational Diplomacy Plan as it relates to IO and UNESCO.

The meetings will be open to the public, and those who wish to attend should contact the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO (202-663-0026;

Click here for the Agenda for the meeting.

Click here for more information on the meeting.

Click here for Directions to the Conference Center.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Session of the Integrated Global Observing Strategy Partners

The 14th Session of the Integrated Global Observing Strategy Partners is to take place 30 May 2007 in Paris. The meeting will take place at the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO.

Climate Change

Climate change is of concern to UNESCO, and UNESCO programs are helping to monitor climate change and protect world heritage sites from dangers imposed by climate change.

The UNESCO Global Climate Change Monitoring Program
UNESCO's network of Biosphere Reserves is set to have a new role - monitoring global climate change. Out of the 408 biosphere reserves in 94 countries, 138 are in mountain areas. And mountains are proving to be extremely sensitive to global warming. Melting glaciers have recently unleashed deadly mudslides, rare ecosystems are threatened, and a lack of snow is crippling economies that depend on winter tourism. While the data from these sites will enable scientists to draw a more accurate picture of global climate change, those data may also help to avoid or ameliorate catastrophes when hazardous conditions develop. In a partnership with the Mountain Research Initiative (MRI), the International Human Dimensions Program on Global Environmental Change (IHDP), and the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP), UNESCO is selecting biosphere reserve sites from each of the major mountainous regions of the world as the focus for this new global climate change monitoring program. And in addition to its assessment of environmental impacts, the program will also see how global change is affecting the socio-economic conditions of mountain people. UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura is to announce this initiative when he addresses the Global Mountain Summit, due to open in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) on October 29, the culminating event in the International Year of the Mountain.

UNESCO Case Studies on Climate Change and World Heritage
The report features 26 examples - including the Tower of London, Kilimanjaro National Park and the Great Barrier Reef - case studies that are representative of the dangers faced by the 830 sites inscribed on the World Heritage List. "The international community now widely agrees that climate change will constitute one of the major challenges of the 21st century," says the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, in his Foreword to the publication, calling for "an integrated approach to issues of environmental preservation and sustainable development." The publication, intended to raise awareness and mobilize support for heritage preservation, is divided into five chapters that deal with glaciers, marine biodiversity, terrestrial biodiversity, archaeological sites, and historic cities and settlements. One issue identified is the melting of glaciers around the world, which is affecting the appearance of sites inscribed for their outstanding beauty and destroying the habitat of rare wildlife species such as the snow leopard, in the Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal. These changes could also have disastrous effects on human lives with flooding resulting from glacial lake outbursts threatening human settlements. The establishment of monitoring and early warning systems and the artificial draining of glacial lakes are recommended to help avoid disasters.

World Information Society Day

May 17, 2007

World Information Society Day is celebrated each year on 17 May to raise awareness of the possibilities that the Internet and other information and communication technologies can bring to societies and their economies.

Click here to visit the UNESCO World Information Society Day website.

Click here to visit the International Telecommunications Union World Information Society website.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

G8 UNESCO Forum: Education, Research and Innovation: New Partnership for Sustainable Development

Trieste, Italy, 10-12 May 2007

The Forum builds on the discussion launched at the St. Petersburg summit on the interconnections between the three components of the triangle of knowledge—education, scientific research and technological innovation—from the perspective of sustainable development, and seeks to identify risks and opportunities for industrialized countries as well as developing and low-income countries.

The discussion will be presented by speakers of the highest level from the educational, scientific and entrepreneurial worlds, drawn from G8 countries as well as developing countries. Attention to developing countries will augment the Italian initiative with respect to discussions within the G8 framework. The Forum is intended as an opportunity for discussion and no final document is foreseen.

UNESCO Remembers Assassinated Journalists

This page is dedicated to journalists who were assassinated in the exercise of their profession. It remembers their contribution to freedom of expression, democracy and peace.

UNESCO is the only United Nations agency with a mandate to defend freedom of expression and press freedom. The Organization is required to “collaborate in the work of advancing the mutual knowledge and understanding of peoples, through all means of mass communication and to that end recommend such international agreements as may be necessary to promote the free flow of ideas by word and image…”

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Towards Wise Societies

In the preparations for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), UNESCO called for an emphasis to be placed not on the Information Society, but on the Knowledge Society. That was the genesis of its report titled Toward Knowledge Societies.

UNESCO staff felt that WSIS was too likely to be a conference about connectivity. More important issues than the availability of information involve the quality of that information, whether it is internalized, what is learned, and how that learning is put to use. The focus on Knowledge Societies was an improvement.

I have been thinking about UNESCO a great deal, and it occurs to me that the founders of that organization were thinking "towards wise societies". The world had just emerged from World War II, and people everywhere understood that society had to be wise enough to avoid another world war, one that would be fought with nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. The more farsighted among the leaders recognized that the inequities in the world distribution of power, wealth, income, and knowledge were unwise.

UNESCO was created with a unique mission and structure. It was to focus on the minds of men. Education was and remains a central focus of the organization. So too were the sciences. For Americans, it is not always clear what UNESCO means by the sciences, for they include not only the natural sciences and the social sciences, but the human sciences. That latter term reflects French thinking, and includes in the mission of UNESCO what Americans tend to think of as the humanities. Thus history and philosophy were and are key areas of concern for UNESCO. UNESCO's mission also included culture, again a field misunderstood by many Americans who think of "high culture" involving art, music, drama, literature, and dance. UNESCO does include these fields, and they clearly are critically important in determining our understanding of life and how to act. However, UNESCO also deals more holistically with culture, using a definition such as that employed by social scientists to include the entire body of knowledge and institutions that define a people or a society. Finally, UNESCO includes communication and information in its mandate, perhaps reflecting the early influence of William Benton, the advertising genius and State Department official who later became a U.S. Senator. UNESCO recognizes the need for libraries and a strong global information infrastructure, for book publishing and an intellectual property rights regime which encourages expression, as well as militating for freedom of expression everywhere.

If you think about this mandate, it is a mandate to work to make nations and peoples act more wisely!

Editorial: The Encyclopedia of Life

Chicago's Field Museum, Harvard University, the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, the Smithsonian Institution, the Biodiversity Heritage Library and the Missouri Botanical Garden have formed a consortium to document the world's 1.8 million named species in a massive new online "Encyclopedia of Life." The unprecedented effort aims to create separate Web pages on every known species within a decade. The pages housed at the Encyclopedia of Life will provide written information and, when available, photographs, video, sound, location maps, and other multimedia information on each species. Built on the scientific contributions of thousands of experts around the globe, the Encyclopedia will be a moderated wiki-style environment, freely available to all users everywhere.

The Washington Post quotes Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson, who helped initiate the project, estimating
that humans have cataloged just 10 percent of the world's species, and much of the information is fragmented. The encyclopedia will create a reservoir of knowledge akin to the Human Genome Project.
According to OneWorld.Net Dr. James Edwards, currently Executive Secretary of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), has been named Executive Director of the Encyclopedia of Life. The GBIF is an international organization that is working to make the world's biodiversity data accessible anywhere in the world. GBIF members are countries and international organizations who have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that they will share biodiversity data and contribute to the development of increasingly effective mechanisms for making those data available via the Internet. The United States has sent the GBIF secretariat a letter of intent to sign the MOU.

The completion of an inventory of all of the species of animals, plants, and microbes on the earth will require a huge investment of time and resources in coming decades. Still the development of a coherent, online encyclopedic description of the 1.8 million currently known species should be done now in such a way as to not only provide a framework for the complete catalog in the future, but to make that information available now. By mid-century, if not earlier, the Encyclopedia could be completed.

How useful will that information be? I suspect no one knows at this point. It should of course have scientific benefits for all those involved in systematic biology and ecology. It should be a boon to those seeking to protect the environment and prevent the loss of biodiversity. It should help bioprospectors to discover species, genes, and natural products of benefit to medicine, agriculture and industry. It should be an invaluable resource for educators at all levels, for the media, and for those individuals seeking simply to better understand the world we live in. As with all great adventures of the human mind, we will discover the true value in the future as mankind explores and creates uses for the encyclopedia.

This effort has been initiated by some of America's greatest institutions of science and learning. However, this clearly must be a global effort, and must serve all of the nations and peoples of the world. It already appears to involve the GBIF as its platform. The Encyclopedia should be supported by the United Nations family of organizations.

UNESCO should give this initiative its full support. UNESCO's Man in the Biosphere Program (MAB) has long been stimulating the development of networks for systematic biology and ecology. UNESCO's Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems is a similar and complementary initiative to create an encyclopedic resource on the global systems. UNESCO's Microbial Resources Centers (MIRCEN) network already forms a global network for systematic biology of microorganisms, and the WFCC-MIRCEN World Data Center for Microorganisms (WDCM) provides a comprehensive directory of culture collections, databases on microbes and cell lines. UNESCO as the lead agency in the United Nations system for both the natural sciences and for communication and information should create a major, intersectoral program in support of this initiative.

I strongly recommend that the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, which is meeting this month, consider recommending a major U.S. initiative in conjunction with UNESCO in support of the Encyclopedia of Life. Only the United States among nations has the scientific and technological capacity to provide global leadership in support of this effort.

The National Commission might consider recommending that the United States offer to create and support an International Institute for the Encyclopedia of Life, to be based on the current consortium. The Institute might be distributed in form, taking advantage of Internet infrastructure to create a virtual organization distributed in centers of learning across the nation. Such an Institute might enjoy support of public and private donors. The National Science Foundation, USAID and the National Institutes of Health in the past jointly supported the International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups (ICBG), which might serve as a model for the public sector support. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is already supporting the Encyclopedia of Life, and has in the past created consortia with other foundations, such as Ford and Rockefeller for support of major initiatives. So too is the Sloan Foundation already supporting the Encyclopedia of Life.

The United States could use this occasion to mark its return to UNESCO with a major initiative. The creation of a major Institute based in the United States would be of suitable magnitude. While the U.S. provides 22 percent of UNESCO's core funding, it provides much less than one percent of its extra-budgetary financing, and support for an Institute for the Encyclopedia of Life would redress the balance. The leadership provided by the current consortium would guarantee the scientific and technological quality of such an effort. A U.S. resolution at the upcoming UNESCO General Conference that the Conference support the creation of a study of such an Institute would symbolize the importance the United States gives to UNESCO, to the environment, to the natural sciences, and to multilateral cooperation.

A resolution by the National Council might be a good start on the creation of such an initiative from the United States as well as on the involvement of UNESCO in the Encyclopedia of Life effort.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Building Partnerships for the Knowledge Society

I attended a presentation on this topic today by Abdul Waheed Kahn, the Assistant Director General of UNESCO for Communication and Information. Dr. Kahn is responsible for the newest, and one of the smallest sectors of UNESCO -- a sector that was created only in 1990. Of course, UNESCO's interests in information and communication technologies extends back to the origins of the organization in the 1940's, but with the Information Revolution, it has grown stronger.

The meeting was sponsored by the State Department and UNESCO, and was attended by several member of the National Commission for UNESCO, as well as members of civil society organizations. The U.N. Foundation provided the facilities for the meeting, in their elegant headquarters at 1800 Massachusetts Ave.

The Assistant Director General was able to stop in Washington on his return from Medellin, Colombia, where he had attended the activities in honor of World Press Freedom Day. He mentioned that each year the Guillermo Cano Prize is given to a reporter who has led in the battle for press freedom (and each year, UNESCO angers the home government of that reporter, which had usually tried to suppress press freedom.

Dr. Kahn stressed that UNESCO is a very strong advocate of Freedom of the Press, and indeed informed the leaders of the World Summit on the Information Society that WSIS would be considered a failure by UNESCO if it did not proclaim the importance of freedom of the press. UNESCO succeeded in making WSIS about building knowledge societies, and not simply a meeting about increasing connectivity. It has been given the responsibility as lead agency in many of the follow-up programs of WSIS.

Dr. Kahn mentioned programs managed under his authority:
* The International Program for the Development of Communications, and

* The Information for All Program
In the new biennium, the Communication and Information program may devote as much as 22 percent of its budget to inter-sectoral efforts, such as ICT for Education the applications of ICT to science.

The ADG said that he would put his power point presentation on the Internet soon.

I was struck by the Malthusian dilemma that UNESCO's faces, and faces most acutely in its CI sector . Not only is the world population growing, but mankind's stock of knowledge is growing more rapidly than ever before. Knowledge is increasingly the key factor in economic production, and is increasingly seen as the key factor in institution building and in good governance. Telephone and Internet connectivity is growing exponentially, and the availability of knowledge online is growing at a truly fantastic rate. Cultures are in unprecedented proximity as a result of the Information and Transportation revolutions, but the technology has barely been applied to helping cultures understand each other and value cultural diversity. Yet UNESCO is living in a zero-growth environment imposed by its member nations.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

New Edition of the NatCom Newsletter

Comments from the Executive Director:
The first part of 2007 has been particularly productive for the United States and its involvement with UNESCO. As you will see, the articles in this issue clearly demonstrate the high level of participation in two of our priorities - literacy and water. In addition, we are pleased to see the progress of the development of the U.S. World Heritage Candidate List, the success of the L'Oreal Women in Science Awards Program, and the honoring of the 200th anniversary of the end of the transatlantic slave route. Finally, enjoy the article about "A Celebration of Jazz", a well-attended event that took place immediately prior to the Executive Board, and hosted by our Mission. Here in Washington, the attention of the Commission Secretariat is now focused on preparations for our upcoming 3rd Annual Meeting, to be held May 21-22, in Washington DC. The theme of the meeting is "UNESCO as Capacity Builder: Pursuing its Mandate through Education, the Sciences, Culture, and Communications".
Click here to read the newsletter online.
Volume 3, Issue 1, January/February/March/April 2007


"U.S. Fights Off Bid to Punish UNESCO Official"

Read the full article subtitled "Former Congressman Accused of Giving 'Preferential Treatment' on Contract to Chicago Firm" by Colum Lynch in The Washington Post of May 6, 2007.
The United States and its key allies last week fended off a campaign by developing countries to discipline UNESCO's highest-ranking U.S. official, Peter Smith, a former Republican congressman from Vermont. Smith resigned in March after an audit found he granted "preferential treatment" to a Chicago-based consulting firm that received $2.15 million in contracts -- often without competitive bidding.

The move placed the United States -- which has long called for greater transparency and accountability at the United Nations -- in the awkward position of opposing an initiative to improve accountability and fiscal integrity in the global body. Louise Oliver, the U.S. representative to UNESCO, recently told foreign delegates it is time to put the matter to rest and implement reforms Smith put in place before he left the Paris-based U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The UNESCO Thesaurus

The UNESCO Thesaurus is a controlled and structured list of terms used in subject analysis and retrieval of documents and publications in the fields of education, culture, natural sciences, social and human sciences, communication and information. Continuously enriched and updated, its multidisciplinary terminology reflects the evolution of the Organization's programs and activities.

The UNESCO Thesaurus contains 7,000 terms in English and in Russian, 8,600 terms in French and in Spanish.

The UNESCO Thesaurus
is also available on CD-ROM,

Comment: A thesaurus, such as the UNESCO Thesaurus, is required for the definition of key words to describe documents in a library of data base. It imposes a hierarchical structure on fields of knowledge. Colleagues who know about such things tell me that the UNESCO Thesaurus is the gold standard in the fields it covers, and is used all over the world. JAD

Biosphere Reserves in Action: Case Studies of the American Experience

UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere program (MAB), involves interdisciplinary research aiming to improve the relationship of people with their environment globally. Launched in the early 1970s, it studies the ecological, social and economic dimensions of biodiversity loss and the reduction of this loss. It uses its World Network of Biosphere Reserves as vehicles for knowledge-sharing, research and monitoring, education and training, and participatory decision-making.

The United States has participated in the MAB program since its creation. Indeed, the participation in the global network of biosphere reserves continued even when the U.S. states withdrew from UNESCO. Thus Biosphere Reserves in Action: Case Studies of the American Experience by Dean Bibles (Chair of the U.S. National Committee for the Man in the Biosphere Program) was published in 1995. The case studies include biosphere reserves in the Central Californian Coast, the Rocky Mountains, the Sonoran Desert, the New Jersey Pinelands, and the Virginia Coast. The report concludes:
The 12 case studies presented here represent only a few of the possible evolutions of a biosphere reserve in its efforts to reach out to the local and regional community. As you have read, some have had great success, while others consider their successes almost negligible. All document tremendous effort from many people to improve the communication among landowners, land managers, scientists, and any others interested in the health and well-being of the natural and human environment of the biosphere reserve.

U.S. MAB, through its scientific and biosphere reserve directorates, will continue to strive to integrate the best ideals of development, conservation, and scientific investigation. We will continue to learn and create new opportunities for progress toward a sustainable world in the early 21st century.

Great Smoky Mountains
Source: National Park Service

Another paper, by Charles Van Sickle and Robert S. Turner, recounts the history of the Southern Appalachian Man and the Biosphere (SAMAB) Program. The mission of SAMAB is to promote the environmental health and stewardship of natural, economic, and cultural resources in the Southern Appalachians. The concept of a regional biosphere cooperative began in the mid-1970s. By then, three separate Biosphere Reserves within the Southern Appalachian region had been recognized by the MAB Program. These were places that were highly regarded for their special character and were already protected by existing statute or regulation—the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory of the Forest Service, and the Walker Branch Watershed on the Oak Ridge Department of Energy Reservation.

Van Sickle and Turner conclude their conference presentation with the following:
The work of SAMAB continues, and there is much to learn from our experiences. A few observations may be useful to others who might be interested in a similar regional program.

Probably the most valuable contribution of SAMAB so far is that it has provided experience in working together across administrative and political boundaries. At times progress has been slow and difficult. It certainly isn't possible to make all the players happy. But those involved in SAMAB feel strongly that the work that SAMAB is doing is an essential ingredient for environmentally sound economic development and sustainability.......

The real value of a regional cooperative is to approach resource issues from a broad strategic perspective. When it comes to funding and implementation however, it is usually much easier to find support on a more local basis. Agencies want to fund projects. Granting institutions want to know where the money will go. Political leaders want to direct money into specific constituencies. Perhaps a modification of the old political maxim would be appropriate--"all action is local".

Finally, to get back to the theme of this conference, we all know that science is essential for good resource management and planning--science in the form of scientific knowledge and in the form of a scientific approach to decision making. Nevertheless, without an organizational framework to transfer science to application, the potential benefit of science will not be adequately fulfilled. Organizations such as SAMAB are needed to make that happen.
Read a fact sheet on the U.S. biosphere reserves produced by the Congressional Research Service in 1997.

Tsunamis: Monitoring, Detection, and Early Warning Systems

Read the report of the Congressional Research Service, which discusses tsunami early warning systems for the United States, with references to UNESCO's International Oceanographic Commission.

Some in Congress are concerned about the possible vulnerability of U.S. coastal areas to tsunamis and about the adequacy of early warning for coastal areas of the western Atlantic Ocean. This stems from the December 26, 2004, tsunami that devastated many coastal areas around the northern Indian Ocean, where few tsunami early warning systems currently operate. Caused by a strong underwater earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, the earthquake and ensuing tsunami together are estimated to have claimed as many as 300,000 lives. Affected nations, assisted by others, are pursuing multilateral efforts through the UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) to develop a regional tsunami detection and warning network to alert coastal populations around the Indian Ocean. Those efforts coincide with President Bush's plan for upgrading and expanding U.S. tsunami detection and early warning capabilities, which was released in December 2005. Some developed countries bounded by the Indian Ocean already have operating tsunami warnings systems. However, in some areas of these and in neighboring countries, there is no emergency management infrastructure to receive tsunami warnings. Local officials are incapable of rapidly alerting the public to evacuate or to take other safety precautions. However, most disaster management experts assert that an emergency management infrastructure is not just issuing tsunami warnings but also educating indigenous people and visitors about the potential dangers in the area; communicating evacuation options clearly; adapting to potential risks through construction of public shelters; conducting periodic evacuation drills; and producing tsunami inundation maps for guiding future land-use planning. Although the cost of the expanded network for the United States will run into millions of dollars for instrumentation and long-term maintenance, some suggest the benefits would far outweigh the costs. Others have questioned whether the risks of tsunamis outside the Pacific Basin justify the investment. To leverage costs international science agencies have suggested that global or regional warning networks be built upon existing ocean data collection systems, marine data buoys, tide gauge networks, coastal and ocean observation networks, the global seismic network, and use international telecommunications systems. Still, a global tsunami warning system would be most useful in countries that also have expansive national emergency management capability. President Bush pledged $37.5 million for upgrading the U.S. tsunami early warning system through 2007, which would expand a network of 10 deepwater tsunami detection buoys now operating to 32 for the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea. P.L. 109-13 provided emergency appropriations for FY2005 to procure, deploy, and maintain a comprehensive U.S. tsunami early warning network, and is supplemental to FY2006 appropriations. Tsunami-related legislation in the 109th Congress would support long-term systems operations and maintenance, public education, and modes of adaptation. Administration officials and some in Congress consider an upgraded U.S. system a first step toward building a global tsunami warning capability. This report will be updated as warranted.

Friday, May 04, 2007

The Role of the National Commission for UNESCO

National Commissions for UNESCO are intended to play a major role in UNESCO's activities.

A letter from UNESCO's Director General to Ministers of the member states in charge of relations with UNESCO which states in part:
I have regularly drawn the attention of the Member States to the importance and further potential of the network of National Commissions for UNESCO.

A unique network within the United Nations system, National Commissions now emerge as central actors whose comparative advantage as a catalyst for mobilizing civil society in support of democracy and social inclusion can be put to much greater use through their multiple roles in UNESCO's programming, visibility, outreach to partners and decentralization.
Another UNESCO document notes the expansion of the role of national commissions over the decades since UNESCO's creation:
* 1945: The UNESCO Constitution (Article VII): a unique creation, result of a compromise
The UNESCO Constitution stipulates that the National Commission shall act in a consultative and liaison role (Article VII). They are the only UNESCO partners mentioned in the Constitution, apart from the Member States from which they emanate.
* 1966: Resolution 14C/5.21: expansion of the field of action
At its 14th session in 1966, a new role was recognized to National Commissions as information and execution organs. The General Conference, through Resolution 14C/5.21, invited Member States "to make increasing use, within the framework of their national legislation, of the National Commissions as advisory, liaison, information and executive bodies at the national level".
* 1978: Adoption of the Charter of National Commissions for UNESCO: respective attributions of the Member States and the Secretariat
The Charter of National Commissions for UNESCO, adopted by the General Conference at its 20th session in 1978, confirms the functions of the National Commissions in the elaboration, execution and evaluation of UNESCO programme activities. The Charter also defines the responsibilities of the Member State vis-à-vis its National Commission and of the Secretariat vis-à-vis the National Commissions as a whole.
* 1989: Resolution 25C/15.212: the world is becoming more complex; the National Commissions must undertake more
An important turning point the General Conference at its 25th session, considered that "UNESCO [would] have to respond to new challenges and for that purpose call increasingly upon National Commissions, which will have greater responsibilities".
The key documents are contained in Legal Texts on the National Commissions for UNESCO.

Resources for National Commissions

National Commissions and UNESCO's staff
© UNESCO/Michel Ravassard

National Commissions play a crucially important role, linking UNESCO with the educational, scientific, cultural and communications and information communities in member states. They also help those communities articulate their interests and concerns so that they may be expressed by their governmental representatives in UNESCO's governing bodies.

In light of this importance, UNESCO provides a number of resources to help National Commissions. These include:
* Learning from One Another: Four Pilot Inter-regional and Sub-regional Projects

* Charter of National Commissions for UNESCO

* Good Practices of National Commissions for UNESCO: A Compendium

* Architecture of National Commissions

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Annual Meeting of The U.S. National Commission For UNESCO

The U.S. National Commission for UNESCO will host its annual meeting on Monday, May 21 and Tuesday, May 22, 2007 at the Marriott Georgetown University Conference Center and Hotel, 3800 Reservoir Road, NW in Washington, DC.

The theme of the conference is "UNESCO as Capacity Builder: Pursuing its mandate through Education, the Sciences, Culture, and Communications."

The Commission will have a series of informational plenary sessions and subject-specific committee breakout sessions on Monday, May 21, and the morning of Tuesday, May 22. The Commission will meet in plenary session to discuss its recommendations on Tuesday, May 22, 2007, from 1:45 PM until 4:00 PM.

The meetings will be open to the public, and those who wish to attend should contact the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO (202-663-0026; no later than Wednesday, May 16th, for further information about admission, as seating is limited.

World Press Freedom Day

Anna Politkovskaya
laureate of the 2007 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano
World Press Freedom Prize
Assassinated because of her work.

Today, May 3, is World Press Freedom Day.

Check out the website of the U.S. Permanent Mission to UNESCO to see the special material organized for the day.

"Free and open societies are not infallible, but they are accountable. A free press, acting as a conduit among a country’s leaders and its citizens, forms the backbone of an open society and is an important part of the democratic process. In the United States, and in many countries, the press provides opportunities for active debate, investigative reporting, and a forum to express views, particularly on behalf of those who are marginalized in society.

"It is an unfortunate reality that the press is also a target for retaliation by those who feel threatened by freedom and transparency. Journalists are often the first to uncover corruption, observe from the front lines of conflict zones, and highlight wrongdoing by governments. This work places many journalists in danger, and it is the duty of governments and citizens to speak out for the protection of journalists and their role in society. "
The United States stands with these courageous individuals who boldly have sought to report the truth, often under difficult circumstances.
"Anna Politkovskaya showed incredible courage and stubbornness in chronicling events in Chechnya after the whole world had given up on that conflict. Her dedication and fearless pursuits of the truth set the highest benchmark of journalism, not only for Russia but for the rest of the world. Indeed, Anna's courage and commitment were so remarkable, that we decided, for the first time, to award the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize posthumously."

The New Edition of the UNESCO Courier is Out

Read the fourth edition for 2007 on the theme

Control of the media has always been a temptation. Repressive regimes without a free press go to extreme lengths to silence journalists. New media are harder to control than traditional media, but so is the quality of the information they put out.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Congressional Interest in Tsunamis in 2005

In December, 2004 a massive earthquake in Indonesia triggered tsunamis that swept across the Indian Ocean, doing enormous damage and causing great loss of life. The event triggered the creation of an Indian Ocean tsunami warning system by UNESCO's International Oceanographic Commission and its partners. It also triggered interest by the U.S. Congress in other tsunami warning systems, especially those that might protect the United States. Given the key role of UNESCO in catalyzing networks of international cooperation in oceanography and seismology, it is not surprising that its programs came up for discussion in the hearings.

The U.S. National Interest and UNESCO

Dick Nobbe, who has served on the U.S. Permanent Delegation to UNESCO, as Deputy Executive Secretary to the the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, in the UNESCO Directorate of the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, and as a long time member of the Board of Directors of Americans for UNESCO has provided a copy of this report from 1992.

The report summarizes the importance of UNESCO to U.S. international interests. It is especially interesting in the extensive bibliography it provides on UNESCO, and the list of organizations that have participated in the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO in the past. The report is not only of historical interest, but remains a fine introduction to UNESCO and its importance to the United States.

Read the full report online. (PDF, 4.6 MB)