Monday, September 29, 2008

UNESCO and Libraries

The 21st century
Library of Alexandria
Largest in Africa

Libraries are essential to the free flow of ideas and to maintaining, increasing and spreading knowledge. As repositories of books and other printed material, they are key to promote reading and writing. With the advent of the Internet, new opportunities and new challenges have been created for libraries, especially in developing nations. UNESCO has promoted the work of libraries since it was created. More....

UNESCO and Global Climate Change

UNESCO, with more than 40 activities in programs all over the Organization addressing climate change, provides a unique forum for addressing climate change and its impacts on the environment and human society. In January 2008 an Intersectoral Platform, "UNESCO Action to address climate change", was created to coordinate and foster UNESCO activities in this domain.

Related links:

:: UNESCO Strategy for Action on Climate Change (180 EX/16)
:: Brochure on the UNESCO Strategy

International training workshop in the development of high-tech clusters

The Training Workshop will be held

9-11 October

UNESCO and the World Technopolis Association (WTA) are organizing a training workshop during the WTA General Assembly. The workshop is part of the UNESCO- WTA Cooperative Project, which is designed to help developing nations build technological capacity by providing them with technical support and policy advice in the development of high-tech clusters. The training workshop is being held in Daejeon Metropolitan City in the Republic of Korea. For details of the workshop, click here.

A World of Science (October–December 2008)

The new issue of the UNESCO Natural Science Program flagship publication is out.


In focus
2 Megacities of tomorrow

11 Benin first to host African Virtual Campus
11 UNESCO nominated to AMCOST
12 Poland rewards architect of molecular biology centre
12 UNCLOS gives countries breathing space
13 Kanawinka joins global geopark network
13 Launch of European Ocean Acidification Project
14 GRAPHIC Africa kicks off
14 Geological gems join World Heritage

15 Patricia Glibert on why scientists are taking a stand against ocean fertilization with urea

17 Mayangna knowledge deep in the heart of Mesoamerica
20 A geotropical paradise

Quick link to PDF document

Friday, September 26, 2008

The UNESCO/IOC global tsunami website

The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO was established in 1960 and has successfully coordinated the Pacific Tsunami Warning System (PTWS) for the Pacific Ocean since 1968. After the Sumatra tsunami on December 26, 2004, the IOC received the mandate to help all UNESCO Member States of the Indian Ocean rim to establish their own Tsunami Early Warning System (IOTWS).

At the same time IOC began coordinating the establishment of similar Early Warning Systems (EWS) for tsunami and other ocean-related hazards in the Caribbean (CARIBE-EWS) and the Mediterranean and Northeast Atlantic Ocean and connected Seas (NEAMTWS).

To provide immediate interim coverage for tsunami warnings in all other oceans, advisory systems have been established under the aegis of the IOC of UNESCO, in cooperation with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) from the USA and the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) from Japan.

The UNESCO/IOC global tsunami website is a one-stop resource for all tsunami-related information.

Why Do We Need Bioethics?

Henk A.M.J.ten Have, MD, PhD, director of the Division of Ethics of Science and Technology at UNESCO and an advocate for bioethics, explored the history of bioethics and its resurgence as a global activity on Friday, September 19, 2008, at The City Club of Cleveland.

The DG and First Ladies

Laura Bush and other First Ladies with Mr Matsuura
© White House/Chris Greenberg

UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura attended the Global Campaign for Education event in New York this week, where the new coalition was launched to galvanize action towards achieving the Education for All Goals by the target date of 2015.

Myanmar releases U Win Tin, laureate of 2001 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano Press Freedom Prize

U Win Tin after his release

Source: UNESCO Communications News Service (24-09-2008)

Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, expressed his “immense joy” over the release by the authorities of Myanmar of U Win Tin, the 2001 laureate of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano Press Freedom Prize, after 19 years in prison.

Aged 79, U Win Tin is the former editor of the daily Hanthawati newspaper, vice-chair of Myanmar's Writers' Association and a founder of the National League for Democracy, which is led by Aung San Suu Kyi who remains under house arrest.

He was arrested in July 1989 and was accused of belonging to the banned Communist Party of Myanmar. Condemned to 14 years jail, he received an additional sentence of five years in 1996 for breaking prison regulations prohibiting the possession of writing materials.

UNESCO promotes freedom of expression and freedom of the press and fosters media independence and pluralism as part of its fundamental mission. It does so primarily by providing advisory services on media legislation and by making governments, parliamentarians and other decision-makers aware of the need to guarantee free expression.

However, the Director General is a constant voice protesting violence against or imprisonment of journalists. The World Press Freedom Prize (named in honor of assassinated Colombian journalist Guillermo Cano) is awarded annually on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day. While, as the long prison term of U Win Tin illustrates, UNESCO is not always successful in protecting journalists, it is an important element in the global effort to assure freedom of the press.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Meeting of UNESCO's Executive Board - 30 September to 17 October

UNESCO's Executive Board, chaired by Ambassador Olabiyi Babalola Joseph Yaï (Benin), will meet from 30 September to 17 October in Paris for its 180th session. In addition to the regular oversight of the UNESCO program carried out by the Executive Board, there is to be a thematic debate on the protection of indigenous and endangered languages and on the role of language in promoting Education for All and sustainable development.

The UNESCO Remote Sensing Program

Iguaçu National Park, Brazil

The main goal of the Remote Sensing efforts, administered within UNESCO's natural science program, is to assist Member States to improve knowledge, interpretation, and presentation of our natural and cultural heritage: World Heritage sites and Biosphere Reserves.

The International Social Science Journal

The International Social Science Journal was initiated by UNESCO in 1949. It is currently published by Wiley Interscience. The most recent issue -- Volume 59 Issue s1 (September 2008) -- is on Human Security.

The journal's purpose is to bridge diverse communities of social scientists, working in different problems and disciplines and in different parts of the world. It provides information and debate on subjects of interest to an international readership, written by an equally international range of authors. The ISSJ has a particular interest in policy-relevant questions and interdisciplinary approaches. It serves as a forum for review, reflection and discussion informed by the results of relevant research, rather than as an outlet of “first publication” for the results of individual research projects.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Training-the-Trainers in Information Literacy

Information Literacy is the set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information.
The American Library Association
Information and media literacy enables people to interpret and make informed judgments as users of information and media, as well as to become skillful creators and producers of information and media messages in their own right. UNESCO encourages the development of national information and media literacy policies, including in education.

In September 2007, the Bureau of the Intergovernmental Council for the Information for All Program (IFAP) decided to fund a global scale-up project on information literacy and agreed on a series of regional Training-The-Trainers workshops in information literacy.

The project foresees to organize a series of 11 Training-the-Trainers workshops in information literacy, to be held from 2008 to 2009 in several institutions of higher education covering all regions of the world.

A Book On Biosphere Reserves in Preparation

An egret from the Bolinas Lagoon Preserve
Audubon Canyon Rance Bioresrve, California

The UNESCO/MAB Secretariat is now preparing a book on biosphere reserves, which is to be a global compilation of information on all the biosphere reserves in the world. The MAB Secretariat and the Spanish Ministry of Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs have agreed to produce the book.

Potential contributors are invited to send a one-page description of your biosphere reserve to be included in the book to this address: You should also obtain the template for submissions from the UNESCO secretariat.

The State Department provides a list of U.S. Biosphere Reserves on its website with links to their websites. has a useful short discussion of UNESCO's biosphere reserves program. The George Wright Society has a useful facet of its website about the Man and the Biosphere program, which is UNESCO's umbrella program under which the World Network of Biosphere Reserves has been organized. (The GWS, headquartered in Michigan, is a nonprofit association of researchers, managers, administrators, educators, and other professionals who work on behalf of the scientific and heritage values of protected areas.) You might also be interested in an earlier book published by UNESCO on biosphere reserves.

Since the U.S. Man and the Biosphere Committee is now inactive, it is suggested that interested parties in the United States contact the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura to Visit U.S.A.

UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura will attend the 63rd session of the United Nations General Assembly. During his visit to New York, 21 - 25 September. He will meet UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and participate in a series of high-level events:

  • 22 September: White House Symposium on literacy; luncheon hosted by First Lady Laura Bush; high-level meeting on Africa’s development needs

  • 23 September: meeting of the five UN agencies responsible for the Education For All (EFA) program; host lunch on “Financing Education for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)”, and present Rumi Medal to Afghanistan President Karzai

  • 24 September: side event hosted by United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Spain on the MDG Achievement Fund

  • 25 September: act as rapporteur in Roundtable on Education and Health.

MAB Nomination Deadlines: September 30, 2008

The Man and the Biosphere Program (MAB) is an important element in UNESCO's overall People, Biodiversity and Ecology effort, which is in turn part of the organizations Major Program in the Natural Sciences.Since its creation in 1968, MAB has acted to encourage and facilitate protection of endangered ecosystems and sustainable approaches to development.

Biosphere reserves are sites recognized under UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Program which innovate and demonstrate approaches to conservation and sustainable development. They are under national sovereign jurisdiction, yet share their experience and ideas nationally, regionally and internationally within the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. There are 531 sites worldwide in 105 countries.

The U.S. State Department makes a website available describing the U.S. contributions to the Man and the Biosphere program.

Three deadlines, described in the following paragraphs, come on September 30 related to MAB. Since the U.S. Man and the Biosphere Committee is inactive it is suggested that interested parties contact the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO secretariat or the Permanent Mission of the United States to UNESCO.

Biosphere reserve nominations for 2008. The deadline for submission of new biosphere reserve nominations is 30 September 2008. The MAB National Committees are invited to submit biosphere reserve nominations (and/or extensions to existing biosphere reserves) in hard copy with the original signatures of endorsement and original maps, and also in electronic form as well as periodic review reports. Countries wishing advice may contact the MAB Secretariat or the Field Offices. The nomination and periodic review forms are available in English, French and Spanish. More
Contact: MAB Secretariat

30 September 2008
The MAB Young Scientists Award Scheme encourages young scientists to conduct interdisciplinary research on ecosystems, natural resources and biodiversity, in line with the MAB Program's focus on sustainable people and biosphere interactions. Applications for the 2009 Awards are due before 30 September 2008. More
Contact: MAB Secretariat

30 September 2008
Call for 2009 Michel Batisse Award for Biosphere Reserve Management. Each country may submit one case study from for the Michel Batisse Award for Biosphere Reserve Management before 30 September 2008. More
Contact: MAB Secretariat

International Day of Peace, 21 September 2008

Each year the United Nations system celebrates the International Day of Peace on September 21st. As part of the observation of the day, this week UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura awarded the 2008 UNESCO Prize for Peace Education to the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (South Africa) in recognition of its outstanding efforts in building sustainable reconciliation through education and in addressing systemic injustice in Africa.

HP-UNESCO Partnership

Scientists at the Cheikh Anta Diop University (UCAD) in Dakar (Senegal) are now better placed to cooperate with researchers overseas thanks to the installation of the first computing grid at the university, the fruit of a joint effort by the UNESCO/Hewlett-Packard project “Reversing Brain Drain into Brain Gain for Africa” and the Grid Computing Institute of France’s National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS).

The project aims to provide universities in five African countries with grid computing technology so as to reduce migration of African university graduates by giving them the tools they need for their research.

The joint project “Reversing Brain Drain into Brain Gain for Africa” follows the successful implementation of a similar UNESCO/Hewlett-Packard initiative for Southeast Europe, launched in 2003.

Read more!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

UNESCO Intersectoral Platforms

In the 2008-2009 biennium, UNESCO is implementing a dozen "intersectoral platforms" that focus on key global challenges. The platforms promote an interdisciplinary approach through the combined action of UNESCO's five major programs: education, natural sciences, social and human sciences, culture, communication and information.

The programs are:
  1. Science education
  2. HIV and AIDS
  3. Education for sustainable development
  4. Contribution to the implementation of the Mauritius Strategy for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (SIDS)
  5. Fostering ICT-enhanced learning
  6. Strengthening national research systems
  7. Languages and multilingualism
  8. Contributing to the dialogue among civilizations and cultures and a culture of peace
  9. Support to countries in post-conflict and disaster situations
  10. Priority Africa: coordinating and monitoring the plan of action to benefit Africa
  11. UNESCO action to address climate change
  12. Foresight and anticipation

The UNESCO Intersectoral Platform: Strengthening national research systems

This intersectoral platform involves four Major Programs (Education, Natural Sciences, Social and Human Sciences and Communications and Information) and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) and builds on the results of the UNESCO Forum on Higher Education, Research and Knowledge. The program seeks to strengthen research and knowledge management as a driver of economic and social development in Member States and for the pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals, especially poverty eradication and sustainable development.

The platform shall also draw on the contribution of the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs program, the results of the UNESCO-supported policy dialog and capacity-building for the formulation of national science, technology and innovation policies, the strengthening of research-policy linkages in the field of the social and human science policy elaboration, efforts to build knowledge societies and the implementation of relevant recommendations of the 2005 UNESCO World Report on Towards Knowledge Societies.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The International Basic Sciences Program (IBSP)

The International Basic Sciences Program (IBSP) seeks to strengthen national capacities in the basic sciences and science education. It fosters region-specific actions that involve a network of national, regional and international centers of excellence or benchmark centers in the basic sciences. The Program promotes North-South and South-South co-operation. It is carried out by UNESCO in partnership with the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS), scientific unions of the International Council for Science (ICSU), the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and other science centers, intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The International Basic Sciences Program:

Harnessing Cooperation for Capacity Building in Science

and the Use of Scientific Information

UNESCO Courier: Claude Lévi-Strauss

A recent issue of the UNESCO Courier is devoted to remembrance of Claude Lévi-Strauss, the great Anthropologist who published often in The Courier, was very close to UNESCO during his life, and was even in his 90's an active participant in the celebrations of UNESCO's 60th anniversary in 2005.

“The efforts of science should not only enable mankind to surpass itself; they must also help those who lag behind to catch up.”
“No doubt we take comfort in the dream that equality and fraternity will one day reign among men, without compromising their diversity.”
“Nothing indicates racial prejudices are diminishing and indications are not lacking to suggest that after brief local respites, they surge up again elsewhere with renewed intensity. Which is why UNESCO feels the need periodically to take up again a struggle whose outcome is uncertain, to say the least.”
“But who better than UNESCO can draw the attention of scientists and technicians to the fact (which they so often tend to overlook) that the purposes of science are not only to solve scientific problems but to find answers to social problems as well.”

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

UNESCO Audiovisual Resources: About Knowledge Societies

UNESCO's Communication and Information Sector’s audiovisual resources website offers a unique access point to audiovisual material in the area of communication and information, which has been produced, sponsored or supported by UNESCO: documentaries, audio recordings, speeches, podcasts of meetings, etc.

An example of the online resources

Welcome message by the Deputy Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information to the online version of the UNESCO’s stand at the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis, December 2005.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

“Water and Peace for the People”

What if the countries in the Middle East had no choice but to get along in order to share the region’s meagre water resources? This is the starting premise of Jon Martin Trondalen’s book “Water and Peace for the People”, which will be launched on 11 September at UNESCO.

“Water and Peace for the People”, released by UNESCO Publishing, offers a practical guide that suggests concrete ways to resolve these crises. Analyzing what is at stake in each situation while releasing new information, the author examines the conflicts in the Upper Jordan River between Israel and Syria around the Golan Heights, between Israel and Lebanon over the Wazzani Spring, and the longstanding water dispute between Palestinians and Israelis. Challenges confronting Turkey, Syria and Iraq in sharing water of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers are also assessed.

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

The 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is being commemorated in a year-long campaign by the UN system. UNESCO, like the rest of the agencies of the system, is evaluating its progress in respecting and promoting human rights. The motto of this campaign is “Dignity and Justice for All of Us”.

In addition, the 61st Annual Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), which was held at UNESCO Headquarters from 3 to 5 September 2008 by the United Nations Department of Public Information, focused on the commemoration of the Declaration’s 60th anniversary.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

About the UNESCO Website

Alexa, a company providing information about website use, reports that 0.014 percent of global internet users visit the UNESCO website. Consequently, at the moment, UNESCO's website ranks number 8,136 in cyberspace in terms of traffic. (By comparison, the Americans for UNESCO website ranks 9,968,024; the AU education and culture blog ranks 5,434,393; the AU science and communications blog ranks 5,790,834.) Alexa also reports that the percentage of global Internet users who used UNESCO's website has gone down over the past three months. On the average, a visitor to the UNESCO website downloads about 2.5 pages of material.

10.7 percent of the visitors to the UNESCO website are from the United States.

The most visited pages are:

Monday, September 01, 2008

U.N. Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations

For the first time in its 60 year history the annual meeting of some 1,700 non-governmental organizations affiliated with the United Nations will take place outside of the United Nations headquarters in New York.

More than 2000 delegates are to meet at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris from 3 to 5 September 2008 under the banner of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Declaration was signed in Paris, and it was therefore considered fitting that the NGO meeting be held there. UNESCO played a key role in the deliberations leading to the Declaration, carrying out a landmark study to demonstrate that indeed, all cultures did recognize common human rights.

The Conference will provide:
  • background on the human rights treaty system (Day 1);
  • perspectives on the implementation of human rights in the context of on-going challenges as well as emerging issues worldwide (Day 2); and
  • outlooks on how to make better use of existing mechanisms for the protection of human rights at the international and national levels, as well as to examine ways to empower civil society at the local level (Day 3).
It will be opened by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon via video-conference at 10:00 a.m. on 3 September 2008.

The UNESCO Courier: 2008 - number 7

Literacy is the best remedy

Finishing primary school makes it five time more likely that the person is informed about HIV and AIDS. Malaria, which kills a million people a year, is most deadly among the illiterate. Literacy and good health are inseparable. This is the theme of International Literacy Day (8 September) and the 2008 UNESCO International Literacy Prizes.

Read the new issue of the UNESCO Courier focusing on literacy and health!

Forum: Longevity and Quality of Life

The Forum is to be held at UNESCO Headquarters on 16 September 2008

Six million people worldwide are over 60 today; in 2050 there are expected to be two billion in this age group. Q
As we live longer, how can we preserve our mental, physical, visual and other faculties for as long as possible? Within their specific research areas, scientists are discovering how to slow down the aging process and stop the development of geriatric diseases They are also working on the genetic underpinning of longevity. This Forum will provide up-to-date information on these research topics.

Presentations are to begin at 3 p.m. (Paris time) with a talk by geneticist Axel Kahn, “How long a life are we programmed for?” Five Round Tables will follow: ageing of the brain, changes in the eye and vision, mobility complaints, staying young longer, and the search for longevity genes. The French Minister of Health, Roselyne Bachelot, will close the Forum at 6.30 p.m.

The Forum will be broadcast live on the internet in English and in French via a new web TV magazine at