Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Third World Congress of Biosphere Reserves

Tassili-n-Ajjer, Sahara - Algeria
© UNESCO/Jean Zucchet

What does the future hold for biosphere reserves? What measures must be taken for them to meet the challenges of today? These questions will be the focus of debates at the third World Congress of Biosphere Reserves which will take place in Madrid (Spain) from 4 to 9 February. The Congress will also take stock of the current Biosphere Reserves Programme and define objectives for the five years ahead.

Presentations by the Prince of Asturias, Felipe de Borbón y Grecia, and the Spanish Minister for the Environment, Cristina Narbona will open the meeting. The event will bring together environment ministers, UNESCO representatives, scientists, policy-makers and biosphere reserve managers. They will also attend the 20th International Coordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme which will take place at the same time as the Congress. In all, some 1000 participants from all over the world are expected.

Read more!

UNESCO marked Holocaust Remembrance Day at its Paris headqarters

The United Nations inaugurated the commemoration in 2005.

Against a backdrop of 180 yahrzeit candles. the program included speeches by UNESCO, French and philanthropic leaders. They included UNESCO's director, Gen. Koichiro Matsuura, and Simone Veil, a former French minister and Auschwitz survivor who is the honorary president of the Rothchild Foundation.

Survivors and members of the Sons and Daughters of Survivors Association headed by Serge Klarsfeld were among those who attended the ceremony, which featured the French army choir singing Jewish religious hymns. An exhibit assembled by the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem was inaugurated at the UNESCO complex.

UNESCO and The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Eleanor Roosevelt with a copy
of the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights

This year the United Nations, and indeed the whole world, are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The English Bill of Rights was passed in 1689. The French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen was adopted in 1789. The U.S. Bill of Rights was introduced as ten amendments to the Constitution in 1789 and ratified in 1791. Thus in three countries, political and civil rights were codified by the end of the 18th century. People were seen as having a right to participate in the governance of their nation, and to have natural rights that would be protected against the "divine rights" of kings and the aristocracy.

The social and economic rights of man took longer to recognize. However, with the increasing wealth of Western nations, people began to demand that all people in those nations had the rights to be free from hunger, that they shared with the rich the right to at least a basic education, and to some standard of care during their illness. In the Great Depression, the right to work, to a living wage, and to some form of social security for the young and old became evident, notably to the Government of the United States.

At the end of World War II, the United States was the world's super power militarily, economically, scientifically, culturally, and politically. The U.S. Government, serious in its concern to avoid the mistakes made after World War I, sought to establish with its allies a United Nations that would help to keep the peace. The United Nations would succeed where the League of Nations had failed. As the Bill of Rights was a needed complement to the U.S. Constitution, so the Universal Declaration of Human Rights would be a complement to the Charter of the United Nations.

The existence of the Universal Declaration is due in large part to the determination of non-governmental organizations (along with a number of smaller countries, particularly those from Latin America). A Pan-American conference held in Mexico City in February and March of 1945 consolidated Latin American determination to see human rights included in the UN Charter. Over 1,300 American non-governmental organizations joined together in placing newspaper ads calling for human rights to be an integral part of any future international organization. Individually and collectively, these advocates demanded that the United Nations Charter include a clear and substantive commitment to human rights.

Based on the recommendations of a commission chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, the UN’s Economic and Social Council established the official UN Commission on Human Rights in June 1946. The Council selected eighteen members to sit on the Human Rights Commission. U.S. Delegate Eleanor Roosevelt was elected Chairperson. Her role was crucial. Not only was she the widow of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, credited with leading the United States out of the Depression and to victory in World War II -- with enormous prestige among the allied nations -- but she had acted often for him due to his disability and in her own right in the defense of human rights. Moreover, she was an exceptionally capable leader in bringing people with divergent views together to agree on that which they could share.

A number of organizations prepared inputs to the process of writing the Declaration. UNESCO, specifically, was asked to examine whether there were in fact universally recognized human rights. Were human rights recognized only in the traditions of Western culture, or were they also recognized in Asian, African, and Middle Eastern cultures. Indeed, there was a great divide among those who felt that there were natural rights established at the creation of man, and those who felt that rights accumulated through a historical process and that the rights of man in the late 1940's differed from those of the past, and from those that would be recognized in the future.

UNESCO created a distinguished committee in 1947 to consider the matter. They in turn invited intellectual leaders from all over the world to provide inputs describing human rights, and indicating the sources of those rights in the traditions of their own cultures. The committee sent forward a report to the United Nations setting forth the grounds for the Declaration, a report which was quite influential in the final creation of the Universal Declaration. Importantly, the committee recognized that people everywhere recognized a right to life and dignity, certain freedoms, and aspirations for rights to at least a minimum standard of life. Even when people could not agree on the philosophical basis from which those rights were derived, they agreed that those rights did exist and should be recognized by nations.

A book was published from the committee's work titled Human Rights: Comments and Interpretations: A Symposium Edited by UNESCO. The book included an introduction by Jacques Maritain, and included contributions by Mahatma Gandhi, Harold Laski, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Chung-Shu Lo, Aldous Huxley, and Ralph Gerard. It illustrated the power of UNESCO which could provide a forum for intellectual leaders from different continents and traditions to discuss intellectual issues of global importance, and find ways to reach agreement.

Maritain, who headed the French delegation to the Second General Conference of UNESCO, in his introduction to the book, wrote looking back at his speech to the General Conference:
"How", I asked, "can we imagine an agreement of minds between men who are gathered together precisely in order to accomplish a common intellectual task, men who come from different cultures and civilizations, but are of antagonistic spiritual associations and schools of thought...? Because, as I said at the beginning of my speech, the goal of UNESCO is a practical goal, agreement between minds can be reached spontaneously, not on the basis of common speculative ideas, but on common practical ideas, not on the affirmation of one and the same conception of the world, of man and of knowledge, but on the affirmation of a single body of beliefs for guidance in action. No doubt this is little enough but it is the last resort of intellectual agreement. It is, nevertheless, enough for a great task to be undertaken, and it would do much to crystallize this body of common practical convictions.
UNESCO continues to include human rights actions as a central part of its concerns, including through its:

Monday, January 21, 2008

Seminar on Scientific World Heritage Sites

A three-day international workshop, designed to develop guidelines to identify future World Heritage Sites which represent advances in science and technology of global significance, will be hosted next week by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the UK National Commission for UNESCO on behalf of the World Heritage Committee.

The workshop, taking place from 21-23 January, brings together experts from 15 countries, representing the physical sciences and technology as well as those with detailed knowledge of the operation of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention.

The delegates will discuss ways to create a scientific framework, to help identify and recognize sites which represent the heritage of science and technology that could potentially become World Heritage Sites. The conclusions of the expert meeting will be presented to the World Heritage Committee for consideration at their next meeting this July in Quebec, Canada.

1. The program for the workshop can be found on the UK National Commission for UNESCO website at
2. There will be particular focus on four areas: astronomy, physical sciences, biological sciences and engineering and technology.
3. This workshop was organized at the UK's suggestion during the 31st session of the World Heritage Committee, held last July in Christchurch, New Zealand.
4. The outcome of this meeting will contribute to the development of guidelines for the identification of sites and a preliminary framework for the evaluation of properties of interest for the heritage of science and technology and their potential inscription on the World Heritage List. The recommendations of the Workshop will be submitted to the 32nd session of the World Heritage Committee. This session will be held from 2-10 July in Quebec, Canada.
5. The concept of World Heritage Sites is at the core of the World Heritage Convention, adopted by UNESCO in 1972, to which 184 nations belong. The Convention required the establishment of the World Heritage List, under the management of an inter-governmental World Heritage Committee, as a means of recognizing that some places, both natural and cultural, are of sufficient importance to be the responsibility of the international community as a whole. The UK ratified the World Heritage Convention in 1984.
Editorial Comment: Given American leadership during much of the last century in science and technology, I would think that the United States might proudly claim a number of such world heritage sites. How about Cape Canaveral, Edison's laboratory, the sites of the American System of Manufacturing, the University of Chicago site of the first nuclear reactor, a site linked to the invention of the Internet, etc. JAD

The World Science Forum

The World Science Forum (WSF) was created in 1999 at the World Science Conference. It serves as a forum on science for the nations of the world. the Forum met in Budapest, Hungary in 2003, 2005 and 2007, and is to meet again in 2009 on the tenth anniversary of the World Science Conference. Its website provides information on these meetings.

The WSF convened in Budapest November 8-10, 2007 with the overarching theme "Investing in Knowledge: Investing in the Future." Attracting more than 400 scientists from over 60 countries. They included government officials and representatives of NGOs.

The WSF is a joint event of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, UNESCO and the International Council for Science. Its goal is to promote dialog and the exchange of ideas on key issues relevant to scientists and policymakers alike. The three-day program included sessions on "Science and Innovation as a Global Enterprise" (chaired by Dr. Alan Leshner in which both he and Dr. Arden Bement outlined the U.S. approaches to research funding in an increasingly interconnected global scientific environment."

Representing the United States at the 3rd Biennial World Science Forum (WSF) were Ambassador April H. Foley, the Director of the National Science Foundation, Dr. Arden Bement and the CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Dr. Alan Leshner.

Two from Roger Coate

Roger Coate, a long time member of the Board of Directors of Americans for UNESCO has published two important articles in The Interdependent Winter 2007-2008 issue. The Interdependent is the flagship publication of the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA).
  • Poverty Goals: The Possible, the Probable, the Unlikely
    The article points out that while the Millennium Development Goals are not likely to be met, their importance may not be so much in defining a specific development path as in creating a process by which the nations of the world focus on poverty and agree on means to combat it.

  • AID AND DEBT RELIEF: Development’s Bottom Line
    Coate shows that the donor community is lagging badly on its committments to provide financial assistance to developing nations. Moreover, that assistance is being focused on only a few countries, such as Iraq and Afghanistan. The lack of donor assistance, which is covered in MDG 8, is in part responsible for the shortfall in meeting the other Millennium Development Goals. So too is the international trade domain that does not allow developing nations equitable access to international markets. Coate notes that a bad as the failure to achieve the Millennium Development Goals might be, abandonment of the global effort to erradicate poverty would be much worse for the world.

Friday, January 18, 2008

International Year of Planet Earth

In late 2005, the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed 2008 as the International Year of Planet Earth. 2008 will be the central year in a Planet Earth triennium that will begin in January 2007 and end in December 2009. The implication of a UN proclamation is that all 191 UN nations have adopted the aims and ambitions of the IYPE and are willing to contribute to their implementation. Hence, this proclamation is the most ambitious scientific and outreach program ever designed in the geosciences, and provides an unprecedented opportunity to showcase to the world the relevance and socioeconomic importance of the Earth sciences.

This new international multidisciplinary Earth science initiative was conceived by the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS), which represents about 250,000 geoscientists from 117 countries. Planning for the IYPE began in 2000; twelve-organizations--IUGS, IUGG, IGU, AGI, INQUA, AAPG AAPG, ILP, IUSS, ISRIC, GSL, TNO, and AIPG -- were part of the initial effort to organize this special year for the Earth sciences and became Founding Partners.

They will share responsibility for activities in 2007-2009 with an IYPE Board of Officers and UNESCO.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize 2008

UNESCO has invited Member States and regional and international organizations, professional and non-governmental organizations working in the field of journalism and freedom of expression to nominate candidates for the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.

The purpose of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize is “to honour… a person, organization or institution that has made a notable contribution to the defense and/or promotion of press freedom anywhere in the world, especially if this involved risk.”

The prize is intended to reward journalists who have shown dedication in the name of freedom of expression and information and to afford them the international recognition they deserve. Awarded annually, the Prize is marked by a ceremony and the winner is presented with the sum of US$25,000.

Nominations for the Prize should be submitted by 30 January 2008 to UNESCO, Division for Freedom of Expression, Democracy and Peace.

Russian reporter Anna Politkovskaya

Anna Politkovskaya, the late Russian journalist, was the laureate of the 2007 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.
"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."

"Born in 1958, Ms Politkovskaya studied at the school of journalism of Moscow State University. She was a columnist for the Novaya Gazeta newspaper. An outspoken campaigner for human rights, Ms Politkovskaya was particularly well known for the hundreds of articles she published on the conflict in Chechnya. Her work was recognized nationally and internationally. She received the Golden Pen of Russia award, a Special Diploma of the Jury of the Andrei Sakharov Prize 'For the Life Sacrificed to Journalism"' and the Olof Palme Prize, to name but a few. She was killed in the entrance of her home in Moscow on October 7, 2006."

UNESCO designated lead agency for the International Year of Astronomy 2009

The United Nations has proclaimed 2009 the International Year of Astronomy (IYA 2009) and designated UNESCO as its lead agency. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) will act as implementing body.

Seminar: indicators for mapping and comparing national research systems

Where and how is research generated, transmitted, received and used in today’s knowledge society? These are fundamental questions that are being addressed at a symposium hosted by the UNESCO Forum for Higher Education, Research and Knowledge in Paris from 16 to18 January.

UNESCO and partners help teachers bring technology to the classroom

UNESCO initiated, in 2006, a project aimed at providing core standards for the integration of information and communication technology (ICT) into the classroom. Competency Standards for Teachers (CST) were launched on 8 January 2008 after two years of development, at the Moving Young Minds conference, an international seminar gathering 100 education ministers from around the world to discuss the role of technology in enhancing education.

  • ICT competency standards for teachers: policy framework
  • ICT competency standards for teachers: competency standards modules
  • ICT competency standards for teachers: implementation guidelines: version 1.0
  • UNESCO takes Mini-laboratories and Microscience to the Middle East

    For a decade now, UNESCO has been introducing the methodology for microscience into the education systems of both developed and developing countries. One of UNESCO’s key partners in this endeavour is the RADMASTE Centre, Witwatersrand University, South Africa. Training workshops in microscience have been organized in some 84 countries and recently, UNESCO has turned its attention to the Middle East.

    In collaboration with the Islamic Organization for Education, Science and Culture (ISESCO), UNESCO has introduced the microscience project into Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories and Syria. As project coordinator at UNESCO, Maria Liouliou took part in the first training workshops in Beirut and Ramallah, in November 2006 and February 2007.

    The microscience methodology gives primary and secondary school pupils and university students alike an opportunity to conduct practical scientific experiments in physics, chemistry and biology using kits that come with a textbook. These kits are veritable mini-laboratories. They are perfectly safe, insofar as pupils never need to use more than a couple of drops of chemicals for each experiment. The kits are also affordable and far cheaper than conventional laboratory material. Each kit is compact, can be reused and is unbreakable because made of plastic. In addition, the small quantities of chemicals used make it environment-friendly.

    Monday, January 14, 2008

    USTTI Course Catelog Is Now Out

    Normally this blog focuses on information more directly relevant to UNESCO. We make an exception in announcing the new catalog for USTTI, because it provides such a great opportunity for people in developing nation National Commissions for UNESCO who are interested in communications and information. USTTI offers an affordable opportunity for people from developing countries to develop knowledge and skills about information and communications technologies though study in the United States.

    The United States Telecommunications Training Institute is a non-profit public-private partnership between senior federal officials and leaders of the U.S. information and communication technology (ICT) and broadcast industries. The goal of this collaborative effort is to share the United States' technological and managerial advances with women and men who regulate and maintain the IT and communications infrastructures throughout the developing world.

    I was involved in a formal evaluation of USTTI many years ago, and was greatly impressed by its programs, and the positive perception that they had in the minds not only of their sponsors and teachers, but also their graduates.

    In 2008, USTTI will offer 83 courses. Each of these courses is described in this 2008 course catalog. The catalog also includes information about how to apply, and funding. Since the courses are offered without tuition to developing country participants, and since in some cases funding for travel and living expenses in the United States is available, the courses are often quite affordable.

    A group of Indian Ocean emergency communications students from the U.S. Telecommunications Training Institute (USTTI) during a visit to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. They visited the Center other NOAA facilities in the Pacific and Alaska Regions to learn how the United States conducts tsunami preparedness and mitigation. UNESCO of course is sponsoring the development of tsunami warning systems through it Intergovernmental Oceanographic Program. Source: NOAA NWS Focus

    Sunday, January 13, 2008

    UNESCO's Natural Sciences Newsletters

    Through its newsletters, the UNESCO Natural Sciences Sector promotes its activities in science worldwide and provides a platform for the exchange of information among people and institutions around the world.

    A World of Science is UNESCO's quarterly science journal. It is published in January, April, July and October each year in English, French, Russian and Spanish.

    UNESCO Venice Newsletter
    is a quarterly newsletter published in English by the UNESCO Office Venice - UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe (BRESCE)

    News from the Biosphere World Network provides a regular overview of the new initiatives, events and publications related to the biosphere reserve activities and scientific achievements of the Man in the Biosphere (MAB) Program.

    Related links:
    :: Bangkok Office Newsletter
    :: Beijing Office Publications
    :: Currents: newsletter of the World Water Assessment Program (WWAP)
    :: Harmful Algae News
    :: Jakarta Newsletter
    :: Nairobi Office Newsletter
    :: News from ICTP
    :: Señal: Montevideo Office Newsletter
    :: UNESCO-Quito Newsletter
    :: Water Portal's Newsletter

    Science and technology for the well-being of all

    Within the framework of UNESCO's 60th anniversary celebrations, a 60 minute presentation on Science and Technology for Development highlighted the use of small technology and renewable energies in poverty reduction and sustainable development and presented an outstanding example in the Sahel.

    The Session was complied of an introduction was followed by the three presentations:
    • Small is Working by Tony Marjoram, responsible for engineering sciences in UNESCO's Basic and Engineering Sciences Division;
    • Renewable Energies for Sustainable Development by Osman Benchikh, responsible for energy and renewable energy in UNESCO's Basic and Engineering Sciences Division;
    • The Sahel project - an example of using science and technology for development by Ms Chifa Tekaya, responsible for coordinating the Cross-Cutting Theme programme on poverty reduction in UNESCO's Social and Human Sciences Sector.

    Friday, January 11, 2008

    UNESCO releases a user's guide to community radio

    Community Radio: A user’s guide to the technology” is a guide to technical parameters of community radio in India. Produced for potential community radio operators, this technical manual takes into account the intention of the Government of India to establish 4000 community radio stations by 2008.

    The publication aims to accompany interested organizations in the demystification of each piece of equipment usually found in community radio stations, its role and function within a wider social context, advantages and disadvantages of its usage. For others, who dare to be technically more adventurous, detailed notes on equipment are also provided.

    Read the full Guide (PDF format)!

    Read the news release on the Guide.

    Editorial Comment: Why, you might ask, is this interesting to Americans? Well of course, we have a community radio movement in this country, and those broadcasters can use the guide too.

    More importantly, we depend on a world of informed people, and believe in freedom of information. For the speakers of the vast majority of the world's 6,000 living languages, radio and television broadcast things they can not understand. The community radio solves that problem, with the broadcaster serving as a gatekeeper between the local community and its language, and the larger national and international flow of news and intervention.

    UNESCO is the U.N. Agency that deals with communication and information, and it is important to us that it focuses on the community radio movement. With new, low cost, portable, easy to operate stations that movement is exploding in Africa and Asia, where it is most needed. JAD

    Tuesday, January 08, 2008

    UNESCO photo contest on The Changing Face of the Earth

    UNESCO’s International Geoscience Program (IGCP) is running a photo contest on the theme of The Changing Face of the Earth, to raise awareness among youth of the state of the planet. There are several cameras and 40 book prizes to be won. Entries close on 30 June 2008.

    Happy One-hundred Years, Unesco!

    LIEN / LINK, the journal of the former employees of UNESCO, has just published its 100th issue. Jacques Richardson has written an interesting article for the issue titled "Happy One-hundred Yeats, UNESCO." His abstract:
    Just as the world’s educational, scientific and cultural atmosphere helped shape Unesco’s programs during the 20th century, so would certain emergent factors help lend new form and dynamism to the Unesco of the first half of the 21st century and its future.

    Here is the story of how this happened.

    Ecosystems: acting for sustainable land-water-habitat management

    The variety of life on Earth is disappearing at an increasing rate. UNESCO's MAB Program is an intergovernmental initiative originally created to set up the scientific basis for improving people's relationships with nature, linking the natural and social sciences. In particular, MAB aims at increasing our understanding on the structure, functioning and dynamics of ecosystems and people's roles therein. Assessing global change impacts on ecosystems and promoting appropriate management of freshwater resources in these systems have become key issues in recent years for the MAB program.

    Click here for an overview of strategies and projects undertaken by UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Program in a few significant ecosystems.

    UNESCO: A key actor in the fulfilment of the global biodiversity agenda

    "Biodiversity, the variety of life on Earth, is disappearing at an unprecedented and most likely increasing rate. This situation contradicts the international "2010 Biodiversity Target", which aims at significantly reducing the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010. Science and governance for conserving and sustainably and equitably using biodiversity are key elements to decrease the rate of its loss.

    Since its early days, UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Program has initiated programmes and activities focusing on the diversity and the resources provided by nature, humans' impacts on biodiversity, as well as how biodiversity affects human activities. These initiatives are intended to contribute to the fulfillment of a global biodiversity agenda."

    Relative Loss of Biodiversity of Vascular Plants between 1970 and 2050 as a Result of Land Use Change for Different Biomes and Realms in the Order from Strength Scenario.
    Source: Greenfacts

    Sunday, January 06, 2008

    UNESCO Clubs distribute relief among cyclone victims

    The National Association of UNESCO Clubs in Bangladesh has been carrying out a relief operation in the cyclone-hit Jhalakathi district in cooperation with Korean National Federation of UNESCO Clubs and Associations recently.

    The clubs distributed food, baby food, utensils and old clothes to the affected people of Kathalia and sadar upazila of the district. Members of UNESCO Club of Bagerhat also distributed rice, water purifying tablet, oral saline, old clothes and utensils among the affected people of Morelganj upazilla.

    UNESCO has a network of thousands of clubs that spans the globe, although there are relatively few UNESCO clubs in the United States. Americans for UNESCO participates for the United States in the
    World Federation of UNESCO Clubs, Centers and Associations (WFUCA).

    What do you think about Americans for UNESCO taking a strong role in helping to create UNESCO clubs in the United States? American UNESCO clubs could take part in UNESCO's efforts, and could help their counterparts in developing nations as the Korean clubs have recently done in Bangladesh.

    Leave us a comment with your answer!

    Wednesday, January 02, 2008

    The UN declares 2009 the International Year of Astronomy

    The United Nations 62nd General Assembly has proclaimed 2009 the International Year of Astronomy. The Resolution was submitted by Italy, Galileo Galilei's home country. The International Year of Astronomy 2009 is an initiative of the International Astronomical Union and UNESCO.

    The International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009) celebrates the first astronomical use of the telescope by Galileo — a momentous event that initiated 400 years of astronomical discoveries and triggered a scientific revolution which profoundly affected our worldview.

    State Department Seeks Applications for a New U.S.-UNESCO Center

    People don't think much about hydrology until something goes wrong due to a failure of the science; dikes fail flooding a city or flooding out crops due to flood conditions greater than had been predicted, or ground water is polluted due to errors in understanding the flow of pollutants, or an aquifer runs dry, or civil engineering works such as roads or bridges are washed out.

    As important as hydrology is now, it is going to be even more important in the future. Climate change is going to change the availability of water resources. Population growth and movement, together with economic growth are going to increase demands on water resources -- probably to a degree that there will be chronic water shortages for many regions and many people in this century.

    UNESCO's Natural Science program is the lead program in the United Nations system for hydrology. Much of its efforts are conducted through a network of centers. Indeed, since most of these centers are Category II, not receiving resources from UNESCO directly, the International Hydrological Program is importantly a network of self-financed institutions located in countries around the world.

    The network of Category II water science centers is continuing to grow. The recent General Conference endorsed the establishment of the following (category II water science centers under the auspices of UNESCO:
    • Regional Centrefor Shared Aquifer Resources Management (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya);
    • International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre (Netherlands);
    • Regional Centre for Water Management Research in Arid Zones (Pakistan);
    • International Centre on Hydroinformaticsfor Integrated Water Resources Management (Itaipú Binaciónal: Brazil–Paraguay);
    • Institute on a Partnership for Environmental Development (Italy).
    The establishment of an International Centre of Water for Food Security at Charles Sturt University (Australia) was approved in principle, the final decision on the terms of the agreement being delegated to the Executive Board.

    There is no Category II center in the United States of any kind, in part because the United States was not a member of UNESCO for so many years. Now however, the State Department has announced that it will accept applications for a U.S. water center that would perform theoretical and experimental research and advanced training, contribute to the execution of UNESCO's program, and increase the participation of national and regional institutions in UNESCO's efforts.

    Applications for IHP Category II centers are considered on a biennial basis. The deadline for applications is next week (January 8th). The applications will first be reviewed by the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO. Those which are endorsed by the Commission and the Government will be passed to UNESCO, where they will be be the subject of feasibility studies, and ultimately considered by the next General Conference.

    The U.S. National Committee for IHP has highlighted the following key aspects of the UNESCO IHP as priorities for U.S. collaboration:
    • Three focus areas: advocacy (of IHP programs and aims), research, and capacity-building
    • Three thematic areas: safe drinking water; global climate change; and water hazards
    • Support existing IHP programs: e.g. WWAP, PCCP, HELP, FRIEND, ISARM, IFI
    • Support UNESCO Category II Centers: Collaborate with existing Centers

    A diagram of the hydrological cycle.

    Science Tightens its Belts

    I quote from A World of Science (January-March 2008)
    The approved biennial budget amounts to US$631 million. Of this, US$20,857,600 (3.3%) is allocated to activities in Natural Sciences – US$1,015,000 of which will go directly to the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics. The budget envelope for staff costs in Natural Sciences amounts to US$35,416,700 (5.6%). The second (category 1) UNESCO science institute, the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, is funded exclusively from extrabudgetary resources.

    Within the first biennial priority for science, there is to be stronger coordination between the International Hydrological Programme, the UNESCO-IHE and other water-related centres, as well as with UNESCO Chairs. Biosphere reserves are to be used increasingly as learning platforms for sustainable development, including ecotourism, and for environmental management and monitoring. In tandem, UNESCO’s role in geosciences and in Earth observation is to be developed to monitor changes in land, water and oceans, and improve understanding of climate change and its impact. UNESCO will continue to foster a culture of disaster preparedness, including via implementation of the Global Tsunami Warning System.

    Within the second biennial priority for science, the programme will develop a culture of science education at all levels that is inclusive of girls; it will foster capacity-building in science, technology and innovation (STI) via collaboration with scientific networks, centres of excellence and NGOs, encouraging South–South and triangular North–South–South cooperation. Countries will continue to receive assistance and support in formulating and implementing STI policies. Access to knowledge and basic services via cutting-edge technologies will be promoted and energy policies for sustainable development devised.
    Editorial Note: Here are some tips for understanding UNESCO jargon.

    UNESCO receives funds from assessments of its member states, and from voluntary contributions which are termed "extrabudgetary resources". The extrabudgetary resources are almost as large as the regular budget for the organization as a whole.

    Category I centers receive funding from UNESCO, and there are relatively few of them. Category II centers are associated with UNESCO but do not receive money from the Organization.

    UNESCO continues to budget its staff costs separately from its program costs, which is part of the reason that only 3.3% of the regular budget is allocated to the Natural Sciences. Funds are separately allocated to the Human and Social Sciences. A relatively larger portion of total program funding comes from extrabudgetary rather than assessed contributions in the Natural Science program.

    Still, however, the amount of money allocated to the Natural Science program of UNESCO is very modest when compared to the global gross product allocated to research and development in the Natural Sciences, and the lack of resources severely constrains UNESCO's abilities to build science and technology capacity in developing nations.

    Tuesday, January 01, 2008

    Israeli Science Feted at UNESCO

    Prof. Aaron Ciechanover lectures
    at the scientific conference.

    An event saluting the Israel's Technion and Israeli science took place in mid December at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, under the auspices of French President Nicholas Sarkozy, and with the participation of scientists from the Technion and France. The event was held to mark Israel’s 60th anniversary.

    At the scientific event, dozens of Israeli and French professors lectured before an audience numbering some 400 persons. At the festive reception in the evening, the Philharmonic Orchestra performed, conducted by two French academics – Jacques Attali and Daniel Cohen. The audience of some 1,200 was treated to an appearance by Nobel Prize Laurette, Prof. Aaron Ciechanover of the Technion’s Rappaport Faculty of Medicine.