Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Send UNESCO E-Cards to Ring in the New Year

Have a thought you want to send someone? Want to bring encouragement to loved ones to ring in the New Year? UNESCO has free education-themed e-cards you can give to brighten someone's day.

Click here for more information.

Happy 2009: The International Year of Astronomy

Massive Young Stars Trigger Stellar Birth

This UNESCO card recognizes that 2009 has been designated the International Year of Astronomy and UNESCO has been designated its lead agency in the United Nations system.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Electing the Next Director General

The process for the election of the next Director General of UNESCO is spelled out in a recent report by UNESCO's Executive Board.
  • Member states are to submit information on their candidates for the post by May 31, 2009.
  • The Secretariat will provide a list of candidates (in confidence) to the member states and Executive Board by the first week in June.
  • Candidates will then have until August 1st to submit statements of their views about the future of UNESCO.
  • At the 182nd session of the Executive Board (7-23 September 2009) the candidates are to be interviewed, and one is to be selected by secret ballot to be recommended to the General Conference (which is expected to meet 6 to 23 October 2009).
  • The General Conference is to elect the next Director General, but in the past the General Conference has always ratified the recommendation of its Executive Board.
Thus the race is getting hot. In 1999, when the current Director General was elected to his first five year term, there were eleven candidates for the post. Several have already been identified publicly (click on the "governance" tag below to see the list).

Al-Ahram in November had an interview with the Egyptian candidate.

Another Candidate for UNESCO DG

According to Topposts, Musa Bin Jaafar Bin Hassan has been nominated by Oman for the post of Director General of UNESCO. According to Wikipedia:
Ambassador Dr. Musa Bin Jaafar Bin Hassan is a career diplomat and academic. Dr. Hassan is one of the longest serving diplomat to UNESCO as Ambassador, Permanent Delegate of Oman from May 1984 to present. He has been decorated with 1 UNESCO Gold Medal, 3 UNESCO Silver Medals as well as the honorary title of "Ambassador for Peace."
He was President of the 33rd session of the General Conference, UNESCO's supreme governing body.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Pope Salutes UNESCO International Year of Astronomy

According to the Associated Press, Pope Benedict XVI in marking the 400th anniversary of Galileo's use of a telescope saluted UNESCO's World Year of Astronomy.

The United Nations has proclaimed 2009 the International Year of Astronomy (IYA 2009) and designated UNESCO as its lead agency.

The UNESCO Thematic Initiative “Astronomy and World Heritage” launched in support of this International Year aims to establish a link between science and culture with a view to highlighting the scientific value of cultural sites connected with astronomy.

Egyptian periodical reports a campaign to prevent Farouk Hosni becoming the next UNESCO director-general is taking shape

Source: "Settling scores," Nevine El-Aref, Al Ahram (Cairo), 18-24 December 2008, Issue No. 926.

I quote:
It was not an easy week for Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni and the members of his 2009 UNESCO election campaign committee. Hosni was caught up in yet another drive against his nomination for the post of UNESCO director-general and its impact lingers on.

Earlier this week a rumour began circulating suggesting that Israel had convinced the current US administration to oppose Hosni's nomination. According to leaks the Bush administration has already started a counter campaign and is keen to convince Barack Obama's incoming administration, as well as some European and Latin American countries, to follow its lead.
Read more....

Editor's note: I have no way of checking on this story, but thought it might be of interest to Americans interested in UNESCO. JAD

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Bookmarked References on UNESCO

I have posted links to more than 300 references relating to UNESCO on, a social bookmarking cite. You are more than welcome to use the bibliography. The following is a tag cloud from Tag Crowd for the bibliography.

created at

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ambassador Irina Bokova presents candidature for UNESCO director general in Belgrade

Source: Focus News Agency

Bulgaria’s ambassador to France, Irina Bokova, has presented her candidature for the position of UNESCO director-general according to the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry press office.

Earlier, Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov had announced her nomination in the following terms:
I avail myself the opportunity to inform you about the decision of the Bulgarian government to nominate Mrs. Irina Bokova – Bulgarian ambassador in France and Permanent Representative of Bulgaria to UNESCO, for Director General of UNESCO.

As a career diplomat in UN, UNESCO and a number of other international organizations ambassador Bokova has intense experience in the area of multilateral international relations. As Deputy Foreign Minister, as State Secretary and Minister of Foreign Affairs she has a longlasting managerial experience. She is skilled to held a dialogue and to reach a consensus for taking decisions at the highest level. I would like to express our hope that the countries from South Eastern Europe will support the nomination of Mrs. Bokova and I believe that she will contribute creatively for the promotion and strengthening the role of UNESCO in the area of education, science, culture and communication.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Rosental C. Alves Elected President of Orbicom

Rosental C. Alves, the Knight Chair in Journalism and UNESCO Chair in Communication at The University of Texas at Austin, has been elected president of Orbicom, a UNESCO network that links international communication leaders in an effort to affect social justice, democracy and good governance.

Alves, who was unanimously elected by the Orbicom board of directors, will serve a two-year term. He succeeds outgoing president Alain Modoux, a communication consultant from Geneva, Switzerland.

As the chairman of the board of Orbicom, Alves will work with the organization's secretariat based in Montreal, Canada, to coordinate the efforts of the network, especially in research of global communication issues.

Read the rest of the press release from the University of Texas at Austin.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Telephone Conference of U.S. National Commission for UNESCO

The United States National Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will conduct a meeting by telephone conference on Monday, December 22, 2008, at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

The open teleconference portion of the meeting will be approximately twenty minutes and will address a variety of issues and projects currently before the Commission. During this session, the Commission will accept brief oral comments or questions from the public or media. The public comment period will be limited to approximately ten minutes in total, with about three minutes allowed per speaker. Like other members of the public, media representatives who wish to present oral comments or listen to the conference call should make arrangements with the Commission by December 18, 2008.

The second portion of the teleconference meeting will be closed to the media and public to allow the Commission to discuss applications for the UNESCO Young Professionals Program. This portion is closed pursuant to Section 10(d) of the Federal Advisory Committee Act and 5 U.S.C. § 552b(c)(6)because of the likely discussion of information of a personal nature regarding the relative merits of individual applicants where disclosure would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.

For more information or to arrange participation in the open portion of the teleconference meeting, contact Andrew Doran, Deputy Executive Director of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, Washington, D.C. 20037. Telephone: (202) 663-0028; Fax: (202) 663-0035; E-mail:

The New Issue of the UNESCO Courier

Sixty years of views on the world

The UNESCO Courier is celebrating its 60th anniversary. An opportunity to explore the present while looking back at the past. A way, also, to highlight some developments in how we view and think about the world - each paper refers to an article from a back issue of the magazine.

You can read interviews with Wangari Maathai (Kenya), Martti Ahtisaari (Finland), Luc Montagnier (France), just to mention the three Nobel laureates who have contributed to this special issue, alongside other distinguished personalities.

Did you know UNESCO has online resources you can use?

Here are a couple of very useful resources free for you to download:

The UNESCO Thesaurus is widely used to standardize the terminology used to describe content in the areas of education, science, culture, social and human sciences, information and communication, and politics, law and economics. It also includes the names of countries and groupings of countries: political, economic, geographic, ethnic and religious, and linguistic groupings. Check it out!

Micro CDS/ISIS is an advanced non-numerical information storage and retrieval software developed by UNESCO since 1985 to satisfy the need of organizations to streamline their information processing activities by using modern (and relatively inexpensive) PC technologies.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Jane Lubchenco for NOAA

Jane Lubchenco is to head up President Obama's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admninistration (NOAA). She is an outstanding choice with a deep background in marine biology. Jane is also a past AAAS president, and past president of the International Council for Science and the Ecological Society of America. She founded the Aldo Leopold Leadership Program that teaches outstanding academic environmental scientists to be effective leaders and communicators of scientific information to the public, policy makers, the media and the private sector.
The Scientific and Technological Community should strengthen its cooperation and coordination with programs of the UN system, especially UNESCO and UNEP.
From a statement made to the U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development by Professor Lubchenco when she was President of the International Council for Science , 2004.
Dr. Lubchenco was one of two conveners of a workshop sponsored by UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission in June of this year.

Jane Lubchenco on Science Debate 2008

This is a very welcome appointment, and it bodes good things for international scientific cooperation in the Obama administration.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

International Migrant Day and Radio 1812

December 18 marks International Migrant Day; it also marks the third anniversary of a global radio marathon that highlights the struggles and achievements of migrants all over the world. It seeks to unite migrant groups and radio stations to produce, broadcast, and share content that will help build momentum and draw attention to migrant issues.

The event is supported by UNESCO and is organized by Radio 1812, which is an initiative developed by the Belgium-based NGO December 18. Since its start in 2006, the event has more than tripled in size. Over 50 radio stations broadcast in over 25 countries in 2006. Around 152 radio stations from 34 countries participated in the event last year, and organizers hope to link even more communities together in tomorrow's event. They are making the event increasingly visible as well via their Web site, its audio programs and other media publications, and even its Facebook page.

For more information on how to get involved or learn more about migration, visit Radio 1812's resource center. or UNESCO's International Migration and Multicultural Policies page.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

New Orleans: a Model Urban Biosphere

Christine Alfsen informed me that the City of New Orleans has endorsed the project "New Orleans: a Model Urban Biosphere". Ms. Alfsen is the Senior Program Specialist for Sciences at the UNESCO Office in New York.

The program has the following specific objectives:
  1. Actively conduct and network research linkages between social and ecological issues;
  2. Provide a forum for the general public to inform and create community-driven solutions;
  3. Facilitate development of action-based, multidisciplinary projects working at the interface of human security and management of the natural environment; and
  4. Provide technical expertise and inform policy to international initiatives, programs and projects.
Hurricane Katrina has set the stage for urban and rural ecological transformations in and around New Orleans on a scale never before witnessed in United States modern history.

The brochure describing the project notes:
UNESCO has partnered with the Center for Bioenvironmental Research of Tulane University and the Stockholm Resilience Center in post-Katrina New Orleans and coastal Louisiana to create a world-class program to research urban ecosystems at risk.
The work in New Orleans is one of a number of coordinated studies networked via ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability. You can see descriptions of the cases at this website.

Tulane/Xavier Center for Bioenvironmental Research Deputy Director, Douglas Meffert, serves as the New Orleans coordinator for UNESCOʼs Urban Biosphere International Partnership of Cities which also includes New York and Phoenix (USA), Stockholm (Sweden), Cape Town (South Africa), Istanbul (Turkey), and Canberra (Australia). Read more about the Center's UrbanEco effort.

UNESCO has been involved with a major effort on People, Biodiversity & Ecology for many years, built around the Man and the Biosphere Program. UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Urban Group is specifically backing this program in conjunction with the Urban Biosphere Network (URBIS), a collaboration between UNESCO and the Stockholm Resilience Center.

This project illustrates one of the ways in which the United States can benefit domestically from UNESCO's ability to form international networks in the sciences. The work of the scientists in New Orleans will be strengthened by their collaboration with researchers from other nations, and the combined body of knowledge from the comparative case studies will enrich our general understanding of urban ecology, and understanding which will in all probability improve the effectiveness of the reconstruction in New Orleans.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Editorial: UNESCO and the Rights to Scientific Knowledge

Sufferers have a human right
to access life-saving science
Flickr/Julien Harneis

David Dickson wrote an editorial for SciDev.Net making the important point that more should be done to enable people to exercise their rights to access to scientific information and the beneficial products of its application.
We must clarify the 'human right' to science — and remind governments of their contractual obligation to uphold it.
I agree completely!

The right is acknowledged in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
Article 27.

(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
Remember, the United States is not only a signatory to this Declaration, but encouraged its development and supported Eleanor Roosevelt as the chair of the committee that drafted the report.

It is also acknowledged in the United Nations in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights:
Article 11
2. The States Parties to the present Covenant, recognizing the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger, shall take, individually and through international co-operation, the measures, including specific programmes, which are needed:

(a) To improve methods of production, conservation and distribution of food by making full use of technical and scientific knowledge, by disseminating knowledge of the principles of nutrition and by developing or reforming agrarian systems in such a way as to achieve the most efficient development and utilization of natural resources;
Article 15
1. The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone:

(a) To take part in cultural life;

(b) To enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications;

(c) To benefit from the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

2. The steps to be taken by the States Parties to the present Covenant to achieve the full realization of this right shall include those necessary for the conservation, the development and the diffusion of science and culture.

3. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to respect the freedom indispensable for scientific research and creative activity.

4. The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the benefits to be derived from the encouragement and development of international contacts and co-operation in the scientific and cultural fields.
The United States ratified this Covenant in 1977, and thereby obligated to abide by its provisions.

What Needs To Be Done?

The rights to science must be understood in the context of the overall set of rights. Half the world's population is extremely poor by American standards. That poverty is not merely lack of income and wealth, it also involves poor education, poor health services, poor access to knowledge and education, poor access to technology, poor access to food and inadequate housing. Unless poverty is ameliorated, there will be no real access to science and its beneficial applications.

Everyone, even those of us fortunate enough to live in affluent societies, obtain our access to science via institutions, including importantly educational institutions. However, market institutions provide us to products produced by corporate institutions applying scientific knowledge in their production. Assuring people the rights to knowledge involves implanting the needed policies and building the needed institutions. It also involves educating not only the consumers of science and its products, but also the vast workforce needed to develop, disseminate, and utilize scientific knowledge.

There are still government policies that deny people access to scientific knowledge, censoring information that government officials feel would be dangerous for the public to know or censoring information generally catching scientific information in the net as part of the total injunction. I find the deliberate obstruction of access to scientific knowledge even more unforgivable than failure to take the positive steps needed to promote such access.


Not only does UNESCO seek to promote human rights through all of its programs, it has been intimately involved in the United Nations processes through which the nations of the world have agreed to honor those rights. Through its natural science programs it has fostered international cooperation in science. Its programs focusing on oceans, water, geology, and other sciences have helped to make information widely available on natural resources and their sustainable development.

Information from the social and human sciences is especially sensitive in many countries. While people must understand their societies and their economies if they are to progress, and indeed must understand human behavior, such knowledge can challenge traditional beliefs and threaten dysfunctional elites. UNESCO has been especially involved in improving the use of scientific knowledge in the policy making process.

Science education has been an important element of UNESCO's programs since its inception, involving both its educational programs and its science programs. UNESCO has focused not only on science in the pre-college years, but has also promoted university education, and indeed has helped establish post-graduate opportunities for students of the pure and applied sciences.

UNESCO's Communications and Information Program has worked to help developing countries to improve both the information and communications infrastructure and the content provided through that infrastructure. For many people in developing nations, the mass media are the most available means of access to scientific information, and thus it is critical that the content broadcast through the media be appropriate for their needs and interests.

Thus one way to promote peoples rights to scientific knowledge and its application is to support UNESCO and its programs.

John Daly
(The ideas expressed in this editorial are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Americans for UNESCO.)

Read about UNESCO's celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Monday, December 08, 2008

"Unfinished Business: A Comparative Survey of Historical and Contemporary Slavery"

Unfinished Business was commissioned by UNESCO’s Slave Route project and prepared by Joel Quirk of the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation (WISE, U.K).

The publication is divided into five chapters:
  • defining slavery in all its forms;
  • presenting data on the scale of slavery, slave trading and other forms of human bondage;
  • examining differences and similarities between historical and contemporary practices;
  • identifying, via case studies in the United States, Saint Domingue/Haiti, Great Britain and Portugal, the main paths through which abolition of slavery has historically occurred; and,
  • through a further series of case studies, exploring the key limitations of the legal abolition of slavery.
This book combines history and sociology to provide the reader with an understanding of the current problems of slavers (and there are tens of millions of slaves in the world) in their historical context.
Slavery may have been legally abolished around the world, but it remains “a widespread and deeply rooted component on contemporary life” concludes the first-ever comparative analysis of historical slave systems and modern forms of human bondage, published online today by UNESCO.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Editorial: UNESCO Withdraws from RWB Online Free Expression Day

Reporters Without Borders last week launched the "Online Free Expression Day".
“From now on, we will organise activities every 12 March to condemn cyber-censorship throughout the world,” Reporters Without Borders said. “A response of this kind is needed to the growing tendency to crack down on bloggers and to close websites."
The organization has issued an updated list of “Internet Enemies” as part of its actions to mark this day.
There are 15 countries in this year’s Reporters Without Borders list of “Internet Enemies” - Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zimbabwe. There were only 13 in 2007. The two new additions to the traditional censors are both to be found in sub-Saharan Africa: Zimbabwe and Ethiopia.

“This is not at all surprising as these regimes regularly hound the traditional media,” Reporters Without Borders says in the introduction to its report.“Internet penetration is very slight, but nevertheless sufficient to give them a few nightmares. They follow the example of their seniors and draw on the full arsenal of online censorship methods including legislation, monitoring Internet cafés and controlling ISPs.”

There is also a supplementary list of 11 “countries under watch.” They are Bahrain, Eritrea, Gambia, Jordan, Libya, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. Unlike the “enemies,” these countries do not imprison bloggers or censor the Internet massively. But they are sorely tempted and abuses are common. Many of them have laws that they could use to gag the Internet if they wanted. And the judicial or political authorities often use anti-terrorism laws to identify and monitor government opponents and activists expressing themselves online.
Simultaneously, RWB reported:
Reporters Without Borders learned last night that UNESCO has withdrawn its patronage for today’s Online Free Expression Day. We were notified of the decision by the director of its Freedom of Expression, Democracy and Peace Division. Defending the move, UNESCO said it gave its patronage for the “principle of this day” but could not support the various demonstrations organised to mark it.
UNESCO's charter calls for it to support freedom of information and the press, and UNESCO has supported RWB in the past:
More than a third of the world's people live in countries where there is no press freedom. Reporters Without Borders works constantly to restore their right to be informed.
I was unable to find an explanation on the UNESCO website of its withdrawal, and indeed I was unable to find any mention of "Online Free Expression Day." However, the Latin American News Agency (headquartered in Havana, Cuba) Prensa Latina reports:
A UNESCO diplomatic source told Prensa Latina on Wednesday that the UN body had made the decision based on RSF´s "reiterated lack of ethics" and its attempts to discredit a given number of countries.

UNESCO"s profile or purposes are not in line with RSF"s performance for sensationalist interest nor it is acting as a court of inquisition for developing nations, the source said.

For this and other causes the UN body definitely declared the relation with RSF closed, and excluded any kind of collaboration in the future.
Editorial comment: It has always seemed to me that Reporters Without Borders is a highly reputable organization, performing an important function. I agree that the analysis by RWB is probably correct:
“We are not fooled,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Several governments on today’s updated list of 15 ‘Internet Enemies’ put direct pressure on the office of the UNESCO director general, and deputy director general Marcio Barbosa caved in. UNESCO’s reputation has not been enhanced by this episode. It has behaved with great cowardice at a time when the governments that got it to stage a U-turn continue to imprison dozens of Internet users.”
The United States Government should investigate UNESCO's conduct in this matter. If indeed UNESCO has yielded to the pressures of countries identified by RWB as impinging on freedom of expression on the Internet and is withdrawing from its charter responsibilities to safeguard freedom of expression the U.S. Government should make the strongest possible protest.

John Daly
(The opinion is that of the author and does not necessarily represent that of Americans for UNESCO.)

Friday, December 05, 2008

UNESCO Supports Environmental Journalism in Central Asia

Journalists from across Central Asia learned the basics of covering environmental issues on the web at a workshop in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in late November.

The Digital Informational Network on Environment and Sustainable Development in Central Asia and Russia (CARNet) organized the regional training of trainers workshop, launched within the framework of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) project Training in Central Asia in Reporting Environmental News Online. Fifteen journalists from five Central Asian countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan), participated to acquire the skills necessary to practice environmental journalism on the web – and spread the knowledge to more journalists in their countries.

The workshop drew widespread praise in Central Asia. The environmental ministers of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan signed a letter supporting the goal of advancing trainers on education for sustainable development within the framework of UNESCO activities. The Interstate Commission on Sustainable Development for Central Asia (ICSD) formally backed the course as well, noting that the organization of such events will greatly enhance implementation of the Aarhus Convention, increase public awareness and improve the quality and timeliness of reporting on environmental issues.

The Chairman of the Tajik Government Committee on the Environment, Mr. Khursandkul Zikirov, voiced his support for the effort as well: “In my country, we are constantly looking for ways to improve interaction amongst journalists. For example, we organize press conferences for journalists twice a month in Tajikistan. But unfortunately the use of Internet technologies is not yet sufficiently widespread. I very much hope that with the support of UNESCO and through this initiative to improve the skills of journalists, we will address this issue and facilitate the rapid dissemination of information.”

UNESCO’s IPDC supported participants from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Trainers from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan participated with co-financing from the Regional Environment Centre for Central Asia.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

UNESCO commemorates the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

On 10 December 2008, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will be 60 years old. UNESCO and all of its networks are organizing numerous events around the world to promote the rights contained in this Declaration and to offer a better understanding of the contribution made by UNESCO to develop the 4 rights which fall within its fields of competence.

Read more about:

U.S. Database of World Heritage and Other Protected Area Images

The Global Land Cover Facility of the University of Maryland maintains The World Database of Protected Areas.
The WDPA Consortium provides a focal point through which information and ideas are both pooled and shared. The Consortium members through their own projects and programmes and by tapping into a network of in-country expertise, perform a vital information-gathering role. After such information has been entered into the WDPA, the Consortium provide a quality control function by cross checking/evaluating data holdings and suggesting improvements.
The areas covered include:
  • UNESCO World Heritage Natural and Mixed Sites
  • UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserves
  • Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar)
  • ASEAN Heritage Declaration Sites
  • International Maritime Organization (IMO) Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas
as well as sites designated within many individual countries.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

JAXA to Monitor World Heritage Sites

World Heritage sites have another valuable watchdog to monitor them from space per an agreement signed yesterday. Director General of UNESCO Koïchiro Matsuura and Dr. Keiji Tachikawa, president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), signed an agreement that indicates JAXA will assist UNESCO in using space technology to examine and protect World Heritage sites such as the Great Wall.

This agreement brings the latest satellite technology to UNESCO member states and adds a significant member to the "Open Initiative on the use of space technologies for World Heritage sites” formed in 2001. The inclusion of JAXA in this group also mobilizes the Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS or also known as the Daichi) for the study and protection of World Heritage sites. For the full article and information on other space initiatives, click here.

Engineering Report Soft Release at the World Engineering Convention

The first ever international report on engineering from UNESCO, and it is intended to:
  • Identify issues and challenges facing engineering
  • Promote better public understanding of engineering and its role in society, and
  • Highlight ways of making engineering and engineering education more attractive to young people, especially women
The report had a "soft launch" this week at the World Engineers’ Convention in Brasilia on 2-6 December 2008, and be published at UNESCO in spring 2009.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The U.S. Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System

The U.S. Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System (IOTWS) Program was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented from August 1, 2005, to March 31, 2008. The $16.6 million US program involved several partner agencies with specialized expertise and technical resources for the region. In addition to USAID, these agencies included:
  • the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),
  • the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS),
  • the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Forest Service (USDA/FS), and
  • the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA).
USAID’s Regional Development Mission for Asia (RDMA) in Bangkok managed the program with the coordination support of a contractor that served as the Program Integrator (PI), a consortium of technical organizations led by the IRG-Tetra Tech Joint Venture and including the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) and the University of Rhode Island.

The objective of the U.S. IOTWS Program was to provide strategic support to the international effort led by UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission to develop an operational IOTWS that provides integrated end-to-end capabilities at the regional, national, and local levels within a multi-hazard framework.

Following the December 2004 Tsunami, the international community took a series of steps to initiate a coordinated effort to develop an Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (IOTWS). Working through a series of meetings convened by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), the governments of the region agreed to develop an IOTWS within an interconnected network to be coordinated through an Intergovernmental Coordination Group (ICG) under the auspices of the IOC.

Following completion of the Program, U.S. Government agencies and Program partners will continue to provide technical guidance and capacity building through to help ensure the long-term sustainability of Program tools, products, and initiatives.

Click here for further information on the Program activities, outcomes, and plans for sustainability.

International Conference on Water Scarcity, Global Changes and Groundwater Management Responses

The UNESCO International Conference on Water Scarcity, Global Changes and Groundwater Management Responses is taking place December 1-5 at the University of California-Irvine.

Conference attendees will attempt to develop innovative technologies and approaches to address water scarcity and the effects of global climate change on water availability and quality.

The event brings together leading water management and climate change experts, scientists, engineers, policy-makers, lawyers, economists, and executives of water services from local and regional authorities.

International Conference on Water Scarcity, Global Changes and Groundwater Management Responses

The UNESCO International Conference on Water Scarcity, Global Changes and Groundwater Management Responses is taking place December 1-5 at the University of California-Irvine.

World AIDS Day 2008

UNESCO is committed to reducing the impact of the HIV epidemic. As one of the founding members of UNAIDS and one of the ten Cosponsor organizations, its response to HIV and AIDS is one of its key priorities.

UNESCO’s contribution is interdisciplinary. Efforts to combat HIV and AIDS are driven by the scientific discovery, research and scientific knowledge of the virus. The Organization therefore has a vital role to play in the promotion and support related to the dissemination of scientific information on:

  • the biology of infectious organisms generally, and specifically about HIV
  • advances in basic research in the area of HIV and AIDS and its role in combating the pandemic.

Related links:
:: Message from UNESCO Director-General (.pdf)
:: UNESCO's activities to commemorate the World AIDS Day 2008 (More)
:: UNESCO's activities worldwide (More)
:: UNESCO Intersectoral Programme (More)
:: UNESCO Education and HIV and AIDS (More)
:: UNESCO Natural Sciences and HIV and AIDS (More)
:: UNESCO Culture in response to and HIV and AIDS (More)
:: UNESCO Communication and Information on HIV and AIDS (More)


Science magazine recently covered the meeting of the Third World Academy of Sciences, noting that there had been considerable interest in South-South scientific cooperation. With the scientific growth of China, India and Brazil there is an increasing capacity for such cooperation.
Mambillikalathil G. K. Menon, a TWAS founder who advises India's Space Research Organization, is calling for projects funded by developing nations that might parallel Europe-wide ventures such as the European Space Agency and CERN......

One such regional effort seems likely to succeed, says Moneef R. Zou'bi, director general of the Islamic World Academy of Sciences: the Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East (SESAME). It brings together scientists from 10 Middle Eastern countries to conduct experiments at a relocated German synchrotron that will start operating next year in Jordan.
SESAME was created under the auspices of UNESCO, and came into existence as an intergovernmental organization (IGO) on 15 April 2004.


The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is responsible for the administration of TWAS finance and staff, based on an agreement between the two organizations and the Italian government which provides the Academy with its core funding. TWAS collaborates closely with UNESCO's Natural Sciences Sector. Together with ICSU and UNU/IAS, TWAS and UNESCO co-sponsor the joint visiting scientist programme. UNESCO also provides financial support for the TWAS associateship programme at centres of excellence in the South.

"Shift on U.N. Seen in Rice Nomination"

Susan Rice
Paul J. Richards
Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Washington Post
today analyzes the implication of the appointment of Susan E. Rice to be U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Dr. Rice was a senior foreign policy advisor to Barack Obama during two years of his campaign, and was expected by many to be appointed to a position in the White House.
But Obama decided instead to put her in New York, in a more visible role -- ambassador to the United Nations -- and thereby send a message to the world's diplomats: The United States will look more kindly, come Jan. 20, on multilateralism and U.N. peacekeeping missions.

Obama said yesterday that he is restoring Rice's position to a Cabinet-level rank, an indication that he views the job as central to his goal of fostering more international cooperation.......

U.N. officials welcomed the selection of Rice, an unapologetic proponent of multilateralism, and said the decision to upgrade the post to Cabinet rank showed the Obama administration meant to pay greater attention to the world body.

"She's a woman of intellect, a woman of passion and somebody who would like to get things done," said Ibrahim Gambari, a senior U.N. troubleshooter who first met Rice when he was Nigeria's U.N. ambassador during the military rule of Sani Abacha.
Read Dr. Rice's biographical sketch in the New York Times.

Comment: Dr. Rice is obviously brilliant, with experience in the White House and State Department, and an apparently close relationship with the president elect. All to the good. Best of all, her appointment and inclusion in the Cabinet apparently signals an intention of the new administration to return to multilateralism, including strong involvement with the United Nations family of organizations. JAD

Monday, November 24, 2008

Places of Wonder and Discovery

Places of Wonder and Discovery is a “coffee table book” that provides magisterial images of World Heritage sites. My wife describes it as "National Geographic on steroids", as the book combines great photography with a broad geographic educational content. Ten photographers made the images. David Muench, my favorite living American nature photographer, made those of Yellowstone and Mesa Verde, as well as those of Uluru in Australia.

The World Heritage list currently includes 878 sites of cultural and/or natural importance. Each has been nominated by the government of the country in which it is situated, provided with a detailed management and conservation plan by that country, and subjected to extensive review before being authorized for inclusion on the list by the oversight committee of UNESCO’s World Heritage Center. They represent a heritage for all mankind.

This is the first book published by Our Place, a New Zealand firm, and is the first in a series of ten books it is to produce in collaboration with the UNESCO World Heritage Center. The book includes 350 original photographs of 50 World Heritage sites in 35 countries.

Many of the sites included in the book were familiar to me and will be to almost all readers: the Acropolis, the Taj Mahal, the Egyptian pyramids, Petra, the Lagoon of Venice, and Yellowstone National Park are all included.

Other sites were previously unknown to me. The stone circles of Senegal and the Gambia include some 29,000 stone monoliths of ancient origin. Tongariro in New Zealand is truly a place of wondrous natural beauty.

The book is thoughtfully designed. A few pages are devoted to each site, combining text and images. The photos are varied in style and content, providing not only large scenic views of the sites but smaller images that stirred the artists interests and provide variety for the reader.

If I were to have a quibble with the book, it is that it lacks a list of image titles indexed by page number, making it hard to identify the large images that are found at the start and end of the book.

For the many fans of UNESCO’s World Heritage program, the book will be a great find. I recommend that libraries consider it and the remaining books of the series as they are published for their collections; certainly this first book in the series has both artistic and reference value. Indeed, I suspect that many people will want a copy of the book for their personal collection, and it may indeed influence their travel plans for years to come.

Tongariro National Park, Chris Morton

Places of Wonder and Discovery

320 pages
Publisher: Our Place Publishing (October 22, 2008)
ISBN-10: 186953669X
ISBN-13: 978-1869536695 lists the book as available new from two U.S. companies for about $70 including shipping and handling.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bipartisan U.S. Foreign Policy Leaders Urge Obama Administration To Revitalize U.S.-UN Relationship

A bipartisan coalition of over three dozen senior foreign policy leaders in the United States issued a public statement today urging the incoming Obama Administration to help lead a new era of international cooperation by strengthening the U.S.-UN relationship. The signatories include four former Cabinet Secretaries, eight former Senators, four former UN Ambassadors, three former National Security Advisors and two former Governors. The statement was released by the United Nations Foundation and Partnership for a Secure America.

Read more!

Editor's note: I would suggest that the statement applies to decentralized agencies of the United Nations systems, such as UNESCO. JAD

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Getting On Board: Promoting E-Government Via Bus

E-government has many wonderful benefits for citizens in promoting transparency of activities, troves of information, and new ways to participate as well as to express opinion. Citizens, however, must first be equipped with the access and skills to take advantage of e-government. And for that, UNESCO's Information for All Programme (IFAP) are urging people to get on the bus.

All this month, citizens in Quito may take chivas, popular Equadorian buses, from busy neighborhoods to public Internet access centers called cybernariums. These cybernariums will hold training workshops of 25 people each that will focus on explaining and promoting e-government services to spread the word about what is available for the community.

Radio and television spots will additionally promote awareness of the initiative; the population of focus will consist of secondary school students, leaders of organizations or neighborhoods, and housewives.
This initiative is part of UNESCO's IFAP "E-government Model for World Heritage Cities" project, which is sponsored by the Spanish government. The cities of focus are Cartagena de Indias (Colombia), Quito (Ecuador), and Cusco (Peru).
Projects like this and others regarding Latin American e-government promoted by the Spanish government and UNESCO certainly have tremendous potential for change on a global level. For more information, see UNESCO's e-government news as well as the World Bank's e-development publication.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Baltic states nominate Marciulionyte for post of UNESCO head

The Baltic states officially presented their candidate, Ambassador Ina Marciulionyte, permanent delegate of Lithuania to UNESCO, for the post of the UNESCO Director General for the term of 2009-2013.

Ambassador Marciulionyte was elected to the committee that oversees the World Heritage program in 2004, and headed this committee in 2005-2006. Currently, the ambassador holds the posts of:
  • deputy chair of the Executive Board of UNESCO,
  • chair of the Headquarters Committee, and
  • deputy chair of the Intergovernmental Committee of Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.
She also is the head and member of various UNSECO working groups.

Ambassador Marciulionyte studied Lithuanian Language and Literature at the University of Vilnius. She worked as a correspondent and editor for Lithuanian newspapers and magazines. In 1991, Ambassador Marciulionyte co-founded the Open Society Fund Lithuania (OSFL), where she subsequently acted as Director of the Cultural Program and of the Fund House. As Vice Minister of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania from 1999 until 2003, Ambassador Marciulionyte was responsible for culture heritage. She also served as the Chairperson of the Cultural Committee of the Lithuanian Commission for UNESCO.

Emily Vargas-Baron informs me that Ambassador Mirciulionyte has been
deeply involved in educational planning, reform and child development. She is very highly regarded by close colleagues who are internationals, among them U.S. citizens. They feel she would be an excellent DG. And, I might add, some one with whom our new administration could work well.


Responding to the Challenge of Global Climate Change through Public Engagement and Social Innovation

5th Annual Ename International Colloquium
18th - 20th March 2009 in Ghent and Ostend, Belgium

UNESCO has issued a call for papers to be presented at t
his three-day colloquium that is to focus on the impacts of global climate change to the Low Countries, namely rising sea levels and increased river flooding.

Image source: "Climate Change: Coastal Mega-Cities in for a Bumpy Ride," by Srabani Roym, CommonDreams.Org News Center.

World Philosophy Day 2008

World Philosophy Day, an annual celebration of philosophy initiated by UNESCO in 2005, continues to extend its scope. This year, the event will be held in Palermo (Italy) on November 20 and 21, while umerous other initiatives will take place at UNESCO Headquarters and in over 80 countries around the world.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tell the Obama Transition Team About UNESCO

The Office of Barack Obama as President Elect has created a website,, with news, information on the Transition Team, and information on the transition process. It also provides a site for anyone to share a vision of America.

UNESCO was created to build the defenses of peace in the minds of men by improving the global dissemination of education, promoting social and natural science, promoting cultural understanding, and helping to assure an adequate communication. For six decades it has sought to do so with considerable success. Since the Bush administration led the United States to rejoin the organization, our representatives in Paris have done much to reestablish American prestige and influence with respect to UNESCO.

Many have suggested that we will not win the "war on terror" if we fail to "win the war of ideas". They have suggested that the United States must improve its soft diplomacy and its public diplomacy. If you agree that UNESCO should play an active role as a venue for soft and public diplomacy, and that the new administration should facilitate greater involvement of the U.S. educational, scientific and cultural communities in UNESCO and its global networks, let the transition team know your ideas.

Clemson Joins UNESCO Trace Element Network

The Clemson University trustees have approved the creation at that university of an Education and Research Satellite Center in Trace Elements for UNESCO. Vincent Gallicchio, Clemson Associate Vice President for Research, recently represented the international network of 25 UNESCO Trace Element centers at the UN-Rotary Day at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

The Trace Element Institute for UNESCO and its network of satellite centers seek to promote:
  • Analytical chemistry
  • Geo-environmental studies - the influence of the ecosystem: industrialised countries versus developing countries
  • Scientific co-operation to reduce avoidable ill-health
  • Sustainable development
The analysis of trace elements, the chemical elements found in trace amounts in a substance, is an integral part of environmental science, the study of soil, air and water. Trace element concentrations in man, animals and plants iare a function of their environment, and determine their health and development. Problems can be caused by either an excess or a deficiency of a trace element.

The development of science education in the field of trace elements is interdisciplinary including chemistry, biochemistry, pharmacology, toxicology, genetics, epidemiology, therapeutics and also nutrition, agronomy and veterinary sciences.

UNESCO's Central Institute for Trace Element Research is located in
in the South of Lyon, France.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Editorial: The Obama administration should embrace UNESCO in its public diplomacy

Applying this successful Cold War “war of ideas” model to the present national security challenge in the Middle East could effectively drive out extremist ideology that may give rise to terrorist behavior while strengthening the United States’ stature in the international community.

The U.S. Marine Corps Small Wars manual, which details tactics and strategies for operations combining military force and diplomatic pressure, and on which the “Global War on Terror” is based, famously notes that such “wars are battles of ideas and battles for the perceptions and attitudes of target populations."

Winning the war of ideas and creating better relations with the Muslim world require more than tired tactics, immobility, and budgetary pocket change (the current $50-million cost is less than 1/10,000th of our Iraq-related expenditures). The next president should designate this effort as a matter of the highest national security importance. The campaign as a whole should be self-critical, regularly evaluating its own performance and ready and willing to change in response to evaluation results.

Simply put, there is a glaring need for the United States to undertake a proactive strategy aimed at restoring long-term security through the presentation of our principles as part of U.S. foreign policy. The tools of public diplomacy and strategic communications are the most valuable weapons in America’s arsenal. It is not too late to wield them.

Hady Amr and Peter W. Singer
"Engaging the Muslim World: How to Win the War of Idea"
American Constitution Society for Law and Policy
The quotations shown above are from a paper provided for the Obama administration as it takes office, published by a think tank with close ties to the Democratic party. The authors make a number of very good points and the paper is worth reading by anyone interested in public diplomacy. They stress the need to complement our military actions with a far more effective program of public diplomacy. They emphasize that the effort must be sincere, and that we must work to better implement our ideals at home and abroad if our public representations are to be believed.

The new administration should realize that UNESCO is an important venue in which the United States can wage "the war of ideas", and that UNESCO has considerable influence in Muslim countries. The Bush administration has helped reestablish U.S. prestige in the halls of UNESCO, and the new administration can build on that start.
  • UNESCO's education programs can help to build understanding among cultures;
  • Its social science programs can help develop valid information on which such understanding can be built;
  • Its natural science programs not only provide means to encourage cooperation among scientists in Islamic countries and the United States, but can help to defuse potential conflict over natural resources;
  • Its cultural programs can promote a peaceful dialog among cultures, and help people to learn to respect cultures other than their own;
  • Its information and communications programs can help to improve the quality of media in the Muslim world.
The United States should of course provide its assessed contributions to UNESCO in a timely fashion, and encourage our best professionals to seek positions in UNESCO. The government should seek opportunities to make voluntary contributions to UNESCO where they can promote projects that contribute to our public diplomacy. Importantly, the U.S. Government should revitalize the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, using it to empower our educational, scientific and cultural communities to work more actively and effectively with UNESCO.

John Daly
(The opinions expressed above are those of the author, and don't necessarily reflect those of Americans for UNESCO or other organizations.)

"Aren’t There Enough Trails?"

Image Source: Bison in winter at Old Faithful; Richard Lake, National Park Service

In response to a court ruling throwing out a plan allowing 540 snowmobiles a day into Yellowstone, the Department of the Interior now proposes a compromise: 318 machines a day. "The National Park Service’s own scientists — studying air pollution, noise pollution and the effect on the park’s animals — have consistently found that the best solution is low-emission, higher-capacity snow coaches. The new plan would allow 78 of those a day."

"This new plan is a bad and barely acceptable compromise. It is well past time for snowmobilers to confine themselves to the thousands of miles of trails on public lands outside Yellowstone."

The public has until Monday, November 17th to comment.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Awarding ICTs in Education

UNESCO announced Monday that its 2008 UNESCO King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa Prize for the Use of Information and Communication Technologies will be awarded to Shanghai TV University as well as to Dr. Hoda Baraka of the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology in Egypt. These laureates were selected by an international jury and will be recognized in a ceremony in Paris at UNESCO Headquarters on January 14, 2009. They will also receive a diploma and US $25,000 from Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura.

These laureates were selected from 67 projects focused on ICTs in education. One of the winners, China's Shanghai TV University, was recognized for its project Turning the Digital Divide into Digital Opportunity: The Project for Building the Digital Lifelong Learning System in Shanghai. The project seeks to spread educational resources such as teacher training and lifelong learning materials through extensive satellite and network systems. It reaches 230 community learning centers and over four million Shanghai residents as well as an equal number of area migrant workers.

The other recipient, Dr. Hoda Baraka of the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology in Egypt, was rewarded for her superior leadership efforts in promoting many ICT initiatives across Egypt. She has steered ICT projects to promote quality, equitable education and to fight illiteracy. Baraka has greatly impacted thousands across the country with her efforts.

The King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa Prize for the Use of Information and Communication Technologies prize itself was created in 2005; its objective is to reward projects and activities for superior models, practices, or creativity in using ICTs to augment and promote education. The award is sponsored by the Kingdom of Bahrain and is awarded annually. Application information as well as information about previous winners can be found here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

World Science Day for Peace and Development

10 November

The role of the sciences in forging a better world. Make the effective mobilization of scientific knowledge more fundamental than ever. More

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The New Issue of the UNESCO Courier

© UNESCO/Ariane Bailey
Memory, a key to human rights.

Human Rights : a thorny path

The UNESCO Courier, 2008 No. 9

Human rights, viewed through the prism of memory, constitute the theme of this issue marking the 60th anniversary of the 1948 declaration. Stéphane Hessel explains what makes it unique and why it must remain universal. Pierre Sané reviews the status of the dignity of the individual in the world today.

Monday, November 03, 2008

"It is the knowledge (not digital) divide that matters"

Abdul Waheed Khan, the Assistant Director General of UNESCO for Information and Communications, has published this article in A World of Science in the Developing World. He writes:
Thanks to advances in ICTs, knowledge has never been easier to process, share and analyse. Having said that, it is important to note that the issue is not 'how' but 'what' information is communicated. That is why I prefer to use the term 'knowledge divide' instead of 'digital divide".
The book is published by Nature magazine and is available freely on the Internet. It commemorates the 25th anniversary of the Third World Academy of Sciences and its work building the scientific capacity of developing nations.

Dr. Kahn's participation in this publication is symbolic of the importance of UNESCO to the development of science in the third world, and illustrates the close cooperation between UNESCO and other agencies building scientific capacity.