Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Editorial: A Suggestion for the Memory of the World Register

"Memory of the World" is UNESCO's program aiming at preservation and dissemination of valuable archive holdings and library collections worldwide. It maintains a register that lists documentary heritage which has been recommended by the International Advisory Committee, and endorsed by the Director-General of UNESCO, as corresponding to the selection criteria regarding world significance and outstanding universal value.

Currently, three entries are included in the register from the United States:
There are of course many archives and library collections in the United States. It is not clear to me by what process these three were chosen by our government as the most significant among them of the most outstanding universal value.

The United States (sometimes in cooperation with other nations) has currently suggested two archives for consideration for addition to the register:
Both of these appear strong candidates amply fulfilling the criteria for inclusion.

I have previously suggested that the U.S. Government recommend the archives of Eleanor Roosevelt's Papers at George Washington University for inclusion in the register. The papers are especially important because of Mrs. Roosevelt's critically important involvement in the creation of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They are especially relevant to UNESCO because of her support for that organization and the ideas that it represents.

This posting is to suggest that the U.S. Government recommend that the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress for inclusion in the Memory of the World Registry. Each year, the Library of Congress receives recommendations from the public as to which 25 movies ought to be included in the registry, which, with the 2010 crop, will include 550 films. This year those 25 films were selected from over 2,000 nominations. Films must be more than a decade old to be considered, and the current registry includes films a century or more old. The criteria for inclusion in the Library of Congress Registry are comparable to those of the UNESCO registry, the selection procedure is comparably strong, and the Library of Congress can be depended upon to preserve the films in the archive as well as any institution in the world. The U.S. film industry is globally important both because of its pioneering of the medium, and because of the huge impact American films have had globally over the past century.

Alternatively, the recommendation might be expanded to include the film archives of the Library of Congress Motion Picture Conservation Center, which currently holds and conserves more than 100 million feet of nitrate film donated by the major producers of the U.S. film industry and dating from the 1890s through 1950. These films were collected by the MPCC in collaboration with the American Film Institute, which maintains the Louis B. Mayer Library which has an important archive of books, scripts, research and other film materials, and which might be included in a recommendation to UNESCO providing an exceptional archive of films and film related materials.

John Daly
The opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Americans for UNESCO or any other organization.
The Library of Congress

Thursday, December 23, 2010

International Symposium on Freedom of Expression

UNESCO is holding an ‘International Symposium on Freedom of Expression‘ on 26 January 2011, with the support of the Swedish National Commission for UNESCO. The meeting will gather some 300 participants including government officials, policymakers and World Press Freedom Prize winners, representatives of major non-governmental organizations, and media professionals.

This event provides an excellent opportunity for UNESCO to reiterate its values and mandate, particularly its mission to promote the free flow of ideas by word and image. Indeed, the Organization has always promoted the value of information and communication for “advancing the mutual knowledge and understanding of peoples”, and has emphasized the links between the free flow of ideas and the broader objective of preventing wars and constructing the defenses of peace.

One panel session will focus on freedom of expression on the Internet. It is expected that the UNESCO publication from the Oxford Internet Institute, entitled ‘Freedom of Connection – Freedom of Expression‘, will be launched. A penultimate draft of the manuscript is online at SSRN, but a print version will be available by the date of the symposium.

Endangered Language Fund Announces Call for Applications

Deadline for Applications: April 20, 2011
The Endangered Language Fund provides grants for language maintenance and linguistic field work.
The fund is most likely to support work that serves both the native community and the field of linguistics. Work that has immediate applicability to one group and more distant application to the other will also be considered. Publishing projects are a low priority, although they will be considered for grants. Proposals can originate in any country. The language involved must be in danger of disappearing within a generation or two.
Grants in this round are expected to be less than $4,000 and to average about $2,000. Eligible expenses include consultant fees, tapes, films, travel, etc. Overhead is not allowed.
Grants are normally for a one-year period, though extensions may be requested
Researchers and language activists from any country are eligible to apply. Awards can be made to institutions, but no administrative (overhead, indirect) costs are covered.
Visit the Endangered Language Fund Web site for complete program guidelines and application procedures.

2011: The International Year of Chemisty

IYC, organized by UNESCO and the International Union for Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), will celebrate chemistry's vital contributions. To launch the Year, eminent chemists including several Nobel laureates will attend a conference at UNESCO on 27 and 28 January.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

4 Directors General in one photo

UNESCO-International Council for Science

In July, a small International Council for Science (ICSU) delegation headed by the Executive Director Deliang Chen met with Gretchen Kalonji, the new UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, and her colleagues at UNESCO. Discussions centered on potential areas of cooperation between the two organizations, including the initiative emerging from the ICSU visioning process, Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR), the new Program on Ecosystem Change and Society (PECS), and science education. It was agreed that there is potential to hold joint regional workshops throughout 2011 in preparation for the UN Earth Summit in 2012 (Rio+20), and that ICSU and UNESCO need to show leadership regarding the contribution of PECS and DIVERSITAS to the new Intergovernmental Science-Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

Thursday, December 16, 2010


The House of UNESCO is a place. But it is also an idea that lies at the heart of our quest for a better world. 
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
On the sixty-fifth anniversary of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in Paris, 14 December 2010

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Transboundary Aquifers: Challenges and New Directions

This ISARM (Internationally Shared Aquifer Resources Management) conference marks the end of the first, ten-year, phase of the ISARM Programme and the start of the second. It aims to consider the challenges and new directions required for the sustainable development and management of transboundary aquifers.

ISARM is a UNESCO- and International Association of Hydrogeologists-led multi-agency effort aimed at improving the understanding of scientific and socio-economic issues related to the management of transboundary aquifers.

UNESCO's Priorities for the XXI Century

Friday, December 10, 2010

Asma Jahangir, 2010 UNESCO/Bilbao Laureate

December 10 = Human Rights Day

The theme for Human Rights Day 2010 – 10 December – is "Human Rights' Defenders who act to end Discrimination". Human rights' defenders acting against discrimination, often at great personal risk to both themselves and their families, are being recognized and acclaimed. At this occasion, the UNESCO/Bilbao Prize for the Promotion of a Culture of Human Rights will be awarded to Asma Jahangir (Pakistan) in recognition of her exceptional and courageous contribution to building a universal culture of human rights. The Award Ceremony will take place in Bilbao (Spain). More on the UNESCO celebration.......

When Eleanor Roosevelt presented the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the UN General Assembly, she proclaimed: "We stand today at the threshold of a great event, both in the life of the United Nations and in the life of mankind." On December 10, 1948, the world moved to recognize and protect the equal and inalienable rights of all people, inspiring individuals around the globe to claim the rights that are our common heritage.
Hillary Rodham Clinton

Monday, December 06, 2010

Congratulations to Professor Jillian BANFIELD

Professor Banfield was one of five laureates of the 2011 L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards. Each year, five outstanding women scientists – one per continent – are honoured for the contributions of their research, the strength of their commitments and their impact on society. The awards ceremony will take place on March 3, 2011 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. Each Laureate will receive US $100,000 in recognition of her contribution to science.

Dr. Banfield is Professor of Earth and Planetary Science, of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, and of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. She was honored "for her work on bacterial and material behaviour under extreme conditions relevant to the environment and the Earth."

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Ethics and Bioethics -- Our common future, Our planet, Our oasis

Gretchen Kalonji on the UNESCO Natural Science Program

Gretchen Kalonji was appointed Assistant Director General of UNESCO and placed in charge of its Natural Science Program earlier this year. She is the highest ranking American on the UNESCO staff.

She recently spoke at the SciTech Europe conference. I quote from the coverage of her remarks:
"We exist to serve our member states," Kalonji said at Public Service Events' SciTech Europe conference. "One of the strengths of UNESCO is that we house large-scale intergovernmental science programmes, most of which focus on areas of science that really can't be done by one nation alone."

Some 200 UNESCO chairs sit at universities across the world, creating a collaborative "network of networks", providing "a good neutral space for convening scientific discussions for issues that are often very difficult to address".

The organisation has, Kalonji explained, placed Africa at the forefront of its recent policies, and seeks to utilise indigenous knowledge wherever possible, an area that she is keen to pursue, along with disaster relief – an area she described as "important and ripe for innovation" – and improving gender equality.

But she expressed her concerns and frustrations that the organisation had struggled to widen its scope beyond working with governments.

She said: "UNESCO hasn't done a very good job, to date, in partnerships with other sectors of society.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Dow becomes first global partner of the International Year of Chemistry

The Dow Chemical Company Chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris has announced that the Company has partnered with the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) as the first global partner for the International Year of Chemistry (IYC) in 2011.

Designated by the United Nations, IYC is an initiative led by IUPAC and UNESCO. IYC events in 2011 will celebrate achievements in science and the potential of chemistry to address world challenges through education, innovation and international collaboration.

Dow has committed to leverage its science and technology expertise, sustainability focus and global network to support a range of events and activities that promote the role of chemistry in the advancement of human progress, environmental protection and economic development. As the first chemical company to establish a global partnership in this effort, Dow will support IYC at local, regional and national levels.

Eyes in the sky view climate change impact on natural and cultural heritage sites

© Cnes 2002 - Distribution 
Astrium Services/Spot Image

The impact of climate change on World Heritage sites, captured by satellite, is the focus on an exhibition set up in the streets of Cancun. The exhibition is one of several events organised by UNESCO for the United Nations Climate Change Conference taking place in the Mexican city from 29 November to 10 December 2010.

The Changing Landscape of Science: Challenges and Opportunities

The 2011 World Science Forum has now begun to take shape. This fifth meeting of the Forum is being organised by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in co-operation with UNESCO, the International Council for Science (ICSU), and publisher of Science magazine, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
The World Science Forum Steering Committee, a board of scientific experts, is headed by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences’ President, and the chief officers of UNESCO and ICSU, the Director General of AAAS, three Nobel Laureates, the President of the Brazil Academy of Sciences, the President of the Science Council of Japan, and the President of the European Academies Science Advisory Council.

UNESCO and Knight Center provided pilot training program for African journalism professors

The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas has completed an online course as part of an agreement with UNESCO to help journalism professors in Africa with training on digital media. More than 20 professors from Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe followed the course. All of them are from schools included in UNESCO's list of Potential Centres of Excellence and Reference in Journalism Education in Africa.

The course “Teaching Online Journalism” was taught, entirely on the Internet, by Prof. Mindy McAdams, the Knight Chair in Journalism Technologies and the Democratic Process at the University of Florida and an internationally recognized leading expert in digital journalism. 

Monday, November 22, 2010


The State Department has published a brief statement titled "U.S. Multilateral Engagement: Benefits to American Citizens". I quote the section relating to UNESCO:
The UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) helps to protect our cultural and natural property and landmarks, strives to keep sports doping-free, and promotes educational exchanges around the world. UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention attracts international visitors to our national parks and monuments, and helps ensure that those sites are protected for future generations. The International Convention Against Doping in Sport helps keep performance enhancing drugs out of sports, and ensure that only participants can bid to host the Olympic Games. The UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network, which includes more than 8,500 educational institutions in 180 countries, provides U.S. schools with opportunities to engage with their peers all over the world, including through programs on international understanding, intercultural dialogue, human rights education, and sustainable development.
The State Department limited its statement to four pages, and thus its discussion of UNESCO to one paragraph. Let me add a second paragraph to that statement.

UNESCO seeks to promote peace by building the defenses of peace in the minds of men and thus protects American security, it does this through its worldwide education programs and by its support for a culture of peace. It plays a key role in improving education worldwide, providing American firms with educated foreign consumers and all our citizens with educated foreign partners in solving a host of global problems. UNESCO helps Americans to express their generosity helping the poorest people and the poorest nations in the world.  It helps Americans promote democracy abroad by standing as a firm defender of freedom of the press. Not only does UNESCO help "to protect our cultural and natural property and landmarks," it helps to assure that those things are protected everywhere so that we Americans can see them when we travel and so that we can rest assured that those foreign sites will be there for our children and their children to know and enjoy. UNESCO has certified  a global system of university chairs and networks which helps to enrich higher education worldwide, linking American universities with those in other continents. UNESCO helps American scientists to network with their colleagues worldwide, providing benefits from better prediction of tsunamis and earthquakes that might endanger our citizens, to developing a global network of bioreserves to help understand how to protect against environmental threats.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Happy World Television Day

The United Nations has proclaim 21 November World Television Day, commemorating the date on which the first World Television Forum was held. More....

Saturday, November 20, 2010

UNESCO To Consider International Engineering Program

At its recent meeting, UNESCO's Executive Board directed the Secretariat to propose a new International Engineering Program in conjunction with its draft Program and Budget for the period 2012-2013. The program should "strengthen research, education and capacity-building in the field of engineering." The Board had considered a report by the Director General on the feasibility of creating such a program.

At one time UNESCO had a significant program in the Engineering Sciences but that program had been reduced in scope and impact due to reductions in its resources. The new International Engineering Program would presumably restore resources devoted to engineering.

UNESCO recently published its World Engineering Report.

Engineers play a vital role in developing and managing the infrastructure of modern life, including:
  • roads, railroads, airports and ports
  • potable water and sanitation systems
  • dams, canals, and irrigation systems
  • electric power systems
  • computer and information systems
Industrial engineers play a key role in planning and managing factory work. Biomedical engineers develop and maintain the complex equipment on which modern medicine depends. Aeronautical engineers design and maintain our fleets of aircraft. Mechanical and electrical engineers design the machines on which our modern society depends.

There is an acute need for more and better engineers in developing nations. Indeed, there is a major need for research and development of new engineering technologies to meet the needs of poor people, many of whom live in regions for which engineering solutions developed in rich nations in temperate climatic zones serve only poorly. Building engineering capacity will involve not only training new engineers and continuing education for all engineers and research and development, but also support for the the profession such as strengthening professional engineering societies and improving the dissemination of engineering professional information and tools.

In the United States, according to the most recent information from the National Science Foundation, there were some 1.5 million engineers employed in the country, compared to 2.9 million in computer and mathematical sciences, 258 thousand employed in the life sciences, 267 thousand in the physical sciences, and 291 thousand in the social sciences. While the U.S. practice is not representative of the global proportion of professionals in science and engineering fields, it does indicate that the engineering professions play a huge role in modern society.

It should be noted that other organizations in the United Nations system are concerned with specific fields of engineering. For example, WHO is concerned with biomedical engineering, FAO with agricultural engineering, and UNIDO with industrial engineering and other engineering professions concerned with industrial design and industrial equipment. Indeed, in its programs focusing on water, UNESCO already has programmatic activities dealing with engineering in water systems. However, there is no UN agency other than UNESCO with the charter to deal with engineering education and the general support for the engineering profession.

I would therefore suggest that UNESCO recognize that the importance of engineering is at least comparable to that of the natural sciences and the social and human sciences and draft a new International Engineering Program consonant with that responsibility. It is hard to see how that could be accomplished without either significant cuts in the resources devoted to other programs or an increase in the UNESCO resources.

One might expect that a program for the next biennium might be conceptualized as a modest step toward building a major program and as a step by which UNESCO could demonstrate its competence in building engineering capacity.

John Daly
The opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Americans for UNESCO.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

World Philosophy Day 2010

Celebrated at UNESCO’s initiative every third Thursday of November since 2002, World Philosophy Day takes place this year on 18 November 2010.
The events organized by UNESCO, or by its partners, provide an opportunity to make philosophical reflection accessible to all (professors and students, scholars and the general public, the young and the less young), thereby enlarging the opportunities and spaces for the stimulation of critical thinking and debate.
This year the day contributes to to the celebration of the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2010).

Simultaneous launching of the UNESCO Science Report 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Engineering: Issues and Challenges for Development

This is the first ever international report on engineering from UNESCO. It

  • Identifies issues and challenges facing engineering
  • Encourages better public understanding of engineering and its role in society, and
  • Highlights ways of making engineering and engineering education more attractive to young people, especially women
Engineers create knowledge, technology and infrastructure – our knowledge societies and economies were built by engineers and much of the history of civilisation is the history of engineering, which is perhaps the oldest profession.

Engineering is so successful and pervasive; however, that it can be taken for granted and is often overlooked by the public and policy makers. At the same time, less young people in many countries are going into engineering, and there are worldwide concerns about declining human capacity and the consequences for poverty reduction and sustainable development. Reports of shortages of engineers in key sectors are common. This is compounded by the brain-drain of engineers from developing countries and out of engineering. These issues are linked and provide an opportunity for change: the public perception of engineering reflects the changing needs for engineering, and need for engineering to change, and young people are concerned about global issues and attracted to engineering as a means to address them.

UNESCO Science Report 2010

Europe, Japan and the USA (the Triad) may still dominate research and development (R&D) but they are increasingly being challenged by the emerging economies and above all by China. This is just one of the findings of the UNESCO Science Report 2010.

Written by a team of independent experts who are each covering the country or region from which they hail, the UNESCO Science Report 2010 analyses the trends and developments that have shaped scientific research, innovation and higher education over the past five years, including the impact of the current global economic recession, which has hit the Triad harder than either Brazil, China or India. The report depicts an increasingly competitive environment, one in which the flow of information, knowledge, personnel and investment has become a two-way traffic. Both China and India, for instance, are using their newfound economic might to invest in high-tech companies in Europe and elsewhere to acquire technological expertise overnight. Other large emerging economies are also spending more on research and development than before, among them Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and Turkey.

If more countries are participating in science, we are also seeing a shift in global influence. China is a hair’s breadth away from counting more researchers than either the USA or the European Union, for instance, and now publishes more scientific articles than Japan.

Even countries with a lesser scientific capacity are finding that they can acquire, adopt and sometimes even transform existing technology and thereby ‘leapfrog’ over certain costly investments, such as infrastructure like land lines for telephones. Technological progress is allowing these countries to produce more knowledge and participate more actively than before in international networks and research partnerships with countries in both North and South. This trend is fostering a democratization of science worldwide. In turn, science diplomacy is becoming a key instrument of peace-building and sustainable development in international relations.

Taking up from where its predecessor left off in 2005, the UNESCO Science Report 2010 proposes a world tour of the status of science today that should enable ‘science watchers’ everywhere to decipher the trends that are shaping our rapidly changing world.

Special thanks to Tom Ratchford and Bill Blanpied for again taking on the responsibility of writing the chapter on science in the United States.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

A comment on the Obiang Prize controversy

I quote from Science magazine, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science:
A battle over a prize in the life sciences that honors Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, president and longtime dictator of Equatorial Guinea, has ended with the effective cancellation of the award. The executive board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has adopted a diplomatic compromise that would require "consensus," thus putting the award on indefinite hold. In an interview, an Obiang representative said the decision sends "the wrong message."

Friday, November 05, 2010

New Issue: A World of Science

A World of Science in October

The growing role of knowledge in the global economy

From 1996 to 2007, the world experienced an unprecedented period of rapid economic growth. This ‘growth spurt’ was driven by the widespread diffusion of digital technologies and the emergence of Brazil, China, India and South Africa as economic powers, among other factors. In this excerpt from the introductory chapter to the UNESCO Science Report 2010, we examine the broad trends that have characterized the support system for science in recent years, including the impact of the global economic recession on investment in knowledge.

Indonesia has imposed a moratorium on logging

Jatna Supriatna explains what Indonesia is doing to safeguard its remarkable biodiversity, four months after the announcement of a moratorium on logging and the discovery of several new species in the Foja mountains of New Guinea.

The rise of innovation in India

In India, growth in knowledge-intensive production now surpasses that of the economy overall. In this excerpt from the chapter on India in the UNESCO Science Report 2010, we explore the rise of innovation in India.

The adventures of Patrimonito

In this cartoon for children based on a true story, UNESCO’s World Heritage guardian embarks on an adventure to save the birds and animals living in the sub-Antarctic Islands from a horde of little pigs that have overrun one of the islands.

Link towards the electronic version of A World of Science Vol 8 N° 4

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Future of UNESCO is Being Planned Now!

Last year there was a comprehensive evaluation of UNESCO conducted by an independent committee of external evaluators. The purpose of the evaluation was "to provide actionable and timely recommendations to the Governing Bodies of the Organization and the Director-General in order to position the Organization for meeting future needs and challenges."

The Executive Board of UNESCO has decided to create a working group of 18 member states to follow up on the report of the Independent External Evaluation of UNESCO. The working group is to hold open ended meetings to allow all member states to participate in the follow up process. The first of those meetings is to be scheduled for December 19, 2010.

A general staff meeting is to be held in UNESCO on November 9, 2010 which according to Director General Bokova is "to pursue our reflection on the future of UNESCO."

This would seem an important time to provide information and suggestions to the governments of Member States and to UNESCO itself to help in the deliberations of the future of the Organization!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Tribute to the Krityanand UNESCO Club

Since the first UNESCO Club was founded in Japan, in 1947, UNESCO Clubs, Centres and Associations have been very valuable partners for the Organization. According to the most recent count, there were some 3.700 associations, centres and UNESCO clubs in more than 100 countries throughout the world.

Of course, these groups vary greatly one from another in the number and vigor of the activities that they conduct. I recently came across information on a club in India, the Krityanand UNESCO Club in Jamshedpur. Jamshedpur is an industrial city with a population of over one million people in eastern India.

I came across the following description of the club's activities:
The Krityanand UNESCO Club was established in 1992. Since then the organization has been expanding continuously in terms of its social development service. It has worked for the promotion of sustainable, equitable and participatory development, social welfare and social justice through:
  • A Program for social work,
  • Human Resources Management
  • Health service and other human service
  • Through social research and dissemination of socially relevant knowledge
  • Social intervention through training and field action
  • Contribution to social and welfare policy and programs at state, National and International levels
Over the years, the organization has made a significant contribution to planning, action strategies and Human Resource Development in several areas, ranging from sustainable rural and urban development to education, health, agriculture, and Human Rights. In all cases the focus has been on the disadvantaged and marginalized sections of societies, such as women, children and tribal groups.

The Krityanand UNESCO Club has earned recognition as an institution (Organization) of repute from state Government of Jharkhand, India International agencies or organization such as the United Nations and its system, and various International NGOs. The organization contributing relevant education and Research work.

The club maintains a Facebook site. Here are links to descriptions of some of its projects and activities.
The Krityanand UNESCO Club would appear to be exceptionally active, deeply involved in programs to help people in its environment. As such it would seem to be a credit to the UNESCO network of clubs and other organizations.

    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    Mary Futrell Elected President of Americans for UNESCO

    Mary Hatwood Futrell has been elected President of Americans for UNESCO. She has served for some years on the Board of Directors of AU. Dr. Futrell specializes in reform policy, professional development, and diversity issues in education.

    Andre Varchaver now joins Richard Arndt as Presidents Emeritus of the organization.

    Dr. Futrell has recently stepped down from the post of Dean of the School of Education and Human Resource Development of George Washington University. She is a recipient of the Jan Amos Comenius Medal, one of UNESCO’s most prestigious awards honouring outstanding achievements in the fields of education research and innovation.

    Dr. Futrell has been president of the National Education Association (NEA). In 2004, she completed her term as president of Education International (EI), a global federation of 30 million educators from 152 countries that works with governmental and non-governmental organizations in advocating education for all. She also is the former president of the World Confederation of Organization of the Teaching Profession.

    Sunday, October 24, 2010

    UNESCO and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Conference of the Parties (COP 10)

    At its 10th meeting the CBD COP 10 is due to adopt a revised and updated Strategic Plan including new biodiversity target(s) for the post-2010 period as well as the International Regime on Access and Benefit-sharing.

    UNESCO is contributing to COP 10 by highlighting specific UNESCO-relevant biodiversity issues through side-events (exploring traditional knowledge; cultural and biological diversity; and the involvement of youth); and by presenting the Japanese version of the UNESCO-led official IYB travelling exhibition.

    More links to UNESCO biodiversity related activities:

    • International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD)

      Official video of the International Year of Biodiversity 2010

      Thursday, October 21, 2010

      UNESCO drops prize sponsored by E.Guinea's Obiang

      AFP reports today that the UNESCO Executive Board has decided to put a controversial science award on hold "and continue consultations among all parties concerned, in a spirit of mutual respect and until a consensus is reached."

      The award which was made possible by a donation of $3 million, was to be named after the President of Equatorial Guinea. When the award was announced, a firestorm of protest came from human rights organizations and intellectual leaders dismayed by the potential of naming a prize after a man most known as a dictator of a country with a poor human rights record.

      Wednesday, October 20, 2010

      A Center of Excellence for the Islamic World

      At the opening of the plenary session of the Executive Board of UNESCO, Director General Bokova announced a project for the development of centers of scientific excellence in the Islamic world as a partnership between UNESCO and the New York Academy of Sciences. You may read the announcement (in French) here on page 6.

      Director General is amazingly multilingual. She delivers talks in English, French and Spanish in headquarters meetings, while doing so also in Russian in the recent meeting in Moscow; all this in addition to her native language of Bulgarian. Reports from observers are extremely impressed with her encylopediac knowledge and understanding of the programs of UNESCO, her ability to put those programs in the larger framework of the United Nations system, as with her leadership in setting programmatic directions for the Organization, and with the leadership team she has gathered for her administration of the Organization.

      The United States Reengages with Multilateral Development Institutions

      As President, I have made it clear that the United States will do our part. My national security strategy recognizes development not only as a moral imperative, but a strategic and economic imperative. Secretary of State Clinton is leading a review to strengthen and better coordinate our diplomacy and our development efforts. We’ve reengaged with multilateral development institutions. And we are rebuilding the United States Agency for International Development as the world’s premier development agency. In short, we’re making sure that the United States will be a global leader in international development in the 21st century.
      President Barack Obama
      September 22, 2010

      Tuesday, October 19, 2010

      Leveraging innovation, investing in sustainability, tracking development outcomes, and enhancing mutual accountability

      I’d like to take a moment and talk a little bit more, specifically, about the Millennium Development Goals...........Now, as you know, the next week’s session begins with a high-level plenary meeting on the MDGs, the Millennium Development Goals, which will occur during the first three days of next week. This will be an important opportunity for the United States to elaborate the President’s development agenda as well as our approach to the Millennium Development Goals. We will focus on core principles of leveraging innovation, investing in sustainability, tracking development outcomes, and enhancing mutual accountability.
      Esther Brimmer
      Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs
      "U.S. Goals and Priorities at the United Nations General Assembly"
      September 17, 2010
      (W)hile the world has made strides in meeting some of the MDGs, including significant reductions in rates of extreme poverty and improved access to primary education, that progress has been uneven. The remaining MDG challenges will require a determined, strategic, and analytically-grounded approach, guided by four imperatives:
      • Leverage innovation
      • Invest in sustainability
      • Track development outcomes, not just dollars; and
      • Enhance the principle and practice of mutual accountability, including transparent and effective management of development resources.
      Esther Brimmer
      "The U.S. at the U.N. and Beyond: A World of Transnational Challenges"
      Remarks delivered at the Johns Hopkins School of International Studies
      September 15, 2010

      Building the Defenses of Peace in the Minds of Men

      It has been said before, but it needs to be said again: “While UNESCO has several mandates, it has but one mission – that of constructing peace”. When discussing detailed questions relating to the programmes, activities and functioning of our Organization, it is right that we set aside a moment to reflect on UNESCO’s fundamental purposes so as to focus on the goal that must shape and inform our particular policies and projects.

      Happy Birthday UNESCO

      This week UNESCO celebrates the 65th anniversary of its founding!

      Friday, October 15, 2010

      More About the Obiang Prize Controversy

      Here are links to some articles on the controversy over the proposed Obiang Prize for the Biological Sciences that is being debated at UNESCO's Executive Board.
      I understand that a committee has been appointed to work during the current session of the Executive Board to produce a draft resolution, and that a final vote on the matter may not occur until the final day of the 185th session on October 25th.

      Thursday, October 14, 2010

      "Decision Time at UNESCO"

      There is an important Special Report in The American Spectator by Louise Oliver, the former U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO. The article summarizes the controversy over the proposed "UNESCO-Obiang Nguema Mbasogo International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences." While the UNESCO Executive Board agreed to accept a donation from Equatorial Guinea to fund a major prize, the decision was opposed by several members during the debate (including by Ambassador Oliver who at the time was on the Executive Board), and was greeted by an outpouring of criticism by non-governmental organizations and others who felt that UNESCO should not honor "Obiang, the president of Equatorial Guinea, (who) is thought to be one of the most corrupt dictators in Africa" by attaching his name to a UNESCO prize. (See for example this posting by the Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.) Director General Bokova suspended the award earlier this year, requesting that the Executive Board reconsider its decision. The Board is about to meet with the opportunity to do so.

      Ambassador Oliver concludes:
      If the Executive Board is serious about using prizes to enhance UNESCO's visibility and prestige, it must reverse its earlier decision and reject the Obiang prize. It should also encourage Equatorial Guinea to spend the $3 million it has allocated for the prize on improving the lives of the suffering people in its own country -- which ranks near the bottom of the UN human development report, and where 20 percent of the children die before reaching the age of five. 
      Ms. Bokova is right: UNESCO's reputation is on the line. If the Executive Board does not reject the prize at its October meeting, it will forfeit the respect of the international community. This should be an easy one, but the Executive Board's tradition of consensus and collegiality will make taking a principled stand difficult. Will they do it? Don't hold your breath.

      Monday, October 11, 2010

      The New Issue of the UNESCO Courier is Out

      Rebirth for Haiti

      How can Haitian society be rebuilt? What is the role of culture, education, the economy, in its rebirth? These are the questions raised in this issue of the UNESCO Courier.

      It reflects the Forum held at UNESCO on 24 March 2010 that brought together experts and intellectuals from Haiti and elsewhere. Articles are signed by Raoul Peck, President of La Fémis film school in Paris; Wole Soyinka, Nigerian laureate of the Nobel prize for literature; Jacky Lumarque, rector of Quisqueya University and Alex Dupuy, American sociologist.

      UNESCO's Research Featured in The Economist

      Map of the world's groundwater resources

      There is an article in the current issue of The Economist on efforts to protect aquifers that cross national borders. I quote:
      Aquifers, like fish stocks, are most at risk when they cross national borders, making property rights weaker. Groundwater provides about a fifth of the planet’s water needs and half its drinking water. In arid countries such as Libya or Saudi Arabia, that figure is close to 100%. Almost 96% of the planet’s freshwater resources are stored as groundwater, half of which straddles borders. UNESCO, a United Nations body, estimates that 273 aquifers are shared by two or more countries.
      The United Nations passed a resolution in 2008 on creating a legal regime for aquifers (it may become a full convention next year). Now sampling and monitoring have resumed, under the aegis of the International Atomic Energy Agency (which has a sideline in environmental monitoring).
      Such scientific work is crucial because aquifers are still poorly understood. Until a UNESCO inventory in 2008, nobody knew even how many transboundary aquifers existed. Experts are still refining the count: the American-Mexico border may include 8, 10, 18 or 20 aquifers, depending on how you measure them. Defining sustainability vexes hydrologists too, particularly with ancient fossil aquifers that will inevitably run dry eventually. Estimates for the life of the Nubian sandstone aquifer range from a century to a millennium.

      What Does UNESCO Do?

      Every Day UNESCO
      • PROMOTES EDUCATIN FORALL, now impacting 1.5 billion children, youth and adults
      • Monitors World Heritage properties in 151 countries and intangible heritage in 130 countries
      • Fosters sustainable development through 564 biosphere reserves in 109 countries
      • Combats violations of press freedom and condemns harassment, imprisonment and killings of journalists
      • Monitors some 2500 endangered languages and tracks some four million translated works in over 1000 languages.
      • Leads 26 UN agencies in assessing freshwater resources leads 121 countries in developing Tsunami warning systems
      • Runs the only global database on bioethics, environmental ethics, and science and technology ethics.
      • Fights discrimination through sic regional coalitions of 4858 "Cities Against Racism."
      • Promotes conservation of documentary heritage with items from 84 countries on the Memory of the World Register.

      Sunday, October 03, 2010

      A Role for UNESCO Assuring the Ethical Treatment of Laboratory Animals

      Source: "ANIMAL RESEARCH: Long-Fought Compromise Reached On European Animal Rules," Gretchen Vogel, Science 24 September 2010: Vol. 329. no. 5999, pp. 1588 - 1589

      The European Parliament gave its final approval on 8 September to a new directive spelling out rules governing animal research in academic and industrial labs. The directive will take effect through laws enacted by each member country of the European Union. The rules cover research with all vertebrates and extend coverage for the first time to cephalopods, which include octopi and squid; all research using such animals must pass an ethical evaluation that takes into account possible alternatives and refinements that could improve the welfare of the animal subjects. The directive also sets out for the first time minimum housing and care standards for dozens of the most common animals used in research. The previous E.U. rules on animal research date from 1986, and officials have been working on the new regulations since 2001.

      The United States, with a research program comparable in size to that of the European Union, has a complex system of rules governing animal research in laboratories. There are separate rules for non-human primates and other mammals. (There are also rules for research involving livestock outside the laboratory and animals involved in research in the wild.)

      UNESCO is the only United Nations Organization with charter authorizing general oversight for science; it has a broad program dealing with the natural sciences as well as a program dealing with the ethics of science and technology. However, other U.N. agencies -- notably WHO, FAO and the UNDP -- also deal with research that involves laboratory animals.

      Perhaps this is a time in which UNESCO could play a useful role by convening a working group of U.N. Agencies to discuss the role of the United Nations system in promoting rules that assure the ethical treatment of laboratory animals. Such a group might provide a useful service to the world by creating an online observatory of such rules that exist in individual nations and in regional organizations such as the European Union.

      John Daly
      The opinions expressed in this posting are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of Americans for UNESCO or any other organization.