Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Statement by U.S. Ambassador David Killion to the 191st Executive Board

"My Administration continues to work with our Congress to resolve the issue so that we can meet our commitments to UNESCO.   Of course, I had hoped to be able to report at this Board that this was solved, but unfortunately that is not yet the case.  However, we will not give up.  On April 10, President Obama delivered his budget request to the Congress.  His budget includes a formal request for a waiver of the suspension of U.S. funding to UNESCO.  It also includes funding for this year and previous years.  We will keep pushing our rock up the hill until we reach the top because, we agree, the current situation is not sustainable."

The Transatlantic Slave Trade and Slavery: New Directions in Teaching and Learning

The Harriet Tubman Institute and the Slave Route Project have announced the launching on 16 April at UNESCO headquarters a new title in the Harriet Tubman Series on the African Diaspora: “The Transatlantic Slave Trade and Slavery: New Directions in Teaching and Learning”.

Edited by Paul E. Lovejoy and Benjamin Bowser, this book is an anthology of papers from an international workshop that the Slave Route Project jointly organized in November 2010 in Toronto, Canada, with the Harriet Tubman institute and the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, in order to define new approaches for teaching the slave trade and slavery and to examine the psychological consequences of this history.

Read more!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Two Important UNESCO Documents

Americans for UNESCO resolution to restore US UNESCO funding

U.S. Congressional Research Service 2013 report on UNESCO

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The United States Government Should Restore Funding to UNESCO

Countries that have recognized the State of Palestine.Source: Night w

The United States policy is that a two state solution is needed to resolve the long standing dispute between Israelis and Palestinians. According to Wikipedia, "of the 193 member states of the United Nations, 132 (68.4%) have recognized the State of Palestine as of April 2013.  On 29 November 2012, the General Assembly granted Palestine non-member observer state status in United Nations General Assembly resolution 67/19." UNESCO granted membership to Palestine in 2011.

U.S. law requires that the government withhold funding from any United Nations agency that accepts Palestine as a member state. Apparently, two decades ago when the legislation was passed and signed into law, it was felt that recognition of Palestine by UN agencies would militate against the successful negotiation of an agreement between Israel and Palestine settling their disputed border and the management of their territories.

The Need for the Legislation to Be Revised

The legislation is badly worded. The operative portion reads:
"The United States shall not make any voluntary or assessed contribution - (1) to any affiliated organization of the United Nations which grants full membership as a state to any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood, or (2) to the United Nations, if the United Nations grants full membership as a state in the United Nations to any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood, during any period in which such membership is effective."
It is not clear what constitutes "an affiliated organization of the United Nations". It seems likely that the term would include the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the other International Financial Institutions, the World Health Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization, and many other organizations. Nor is it clear what states fail to have "the internationally recognized attributes of statehood". Do Somalia and Syrian Arab Republic meet that definition in spite of their failed governments? Does Palestine not meet that definition in spite of the fact that most of the world's nations have recognized it as a state?

Given this lack of clarity in the provision, it might be that the U.S. Government would have to withhold funding from the World Bank (which includes both Somalia and the Syrian Arab Republic as member states) and other agencies critical to our nation/s interests.

The provision also has no sunset clause so no matter how conditions change in the future it will continue in force until there is an act of Congress to change or repeal it.

There is a simple solution to the revision of the legislation. Amend it to give authority to the President to waive the provision if he finds it to be in the nation's interest to do so. The Congress will of course continue to define the contributions to UN agencies through appropriations legislation and can withhold funding from any international agency that it chooses.

Restore Funding to UNESCO

Last week the administration requested funding for UNESCO in its FY2014 State and Foreign Operations budget proposal:

The Administration seeks Congressional support for legislation that would provide authority to waive legislative restrictions that, if triggered, would prohibit paying U.S. contributions to United Nations specialized agencies that grant the Palestinians the same standing as member states or full membership as a state. Should the Congress pass this waiver legislation, the FY 2014 funding specifically requested for UNESCO would cover the FY 2014 UNESCO assessment and the FY 2013 and FY 2014 Contingent Requirements funding would cover arrears which accrued in FY 2012 and FY 2013. 
 The administration is no doubt referring to UNESCO's programs in education, science, culture and communications. UNESCO has been notably supportive of U.S. policy objectives in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan implementing programs supported by voluntary contributions.

Perhaps more important is the fact that there is a huge network of people and organizations worldwide that affiliate themselves with UNESCO's objective of building the defenses of peace in the minds of men. Those networks include national commissions for UNESCO, people and organizations supporting World Heritage sites, educators implementing Education for All, scientists involved in UNESCO's network of biosphere reserves, those involved in UNESCO's regional tsunami warning systems, scientists involved in UNESCO's many water centers and programs, and many others. It is important that the United States continue to show its support for UNESCO's mission so that these people will retain their respect for the United States.

Kensington Maryland Celebrates UNESCO's International Day of the Book

Saturday, April 13, 2013

UNESCO should get more emotional and less cerebral! -- the need for peace demands it do so.

Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed......
The States Parties to this Constitution, believing in full and equal opportunities for education for all, in the unrestricted pursuit of objective truth, and in the free exchange of ideas and knowledge, are agreed and determined to develop and to increase the means of communication between their peoples and to employ these means for the purposes of mutual understanding and a truer and more perfect knowledge of each other’s lives;
In consequence whereof they do hereby create the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization for the purpose of advancing, through the educational and scientific and cultural relations of the peoples of the world, the objectives of international peace and of the common welfare of mankind for which the United Nations Organization was established and which its Charter proclaims. 

The UNESCO Constitution
UNESCO, in keeping with its Constitution, takes a very cerebral approach to building the defenses of peace in the minds of men. How about people's emotions?

Huynh Cong "Nick" Ut photo via

THREE IMAGES: The Effects of Photojournalism on the Protest Movement during the Vietnam War

As I recall the U.S. public response to the war in Vietnam, it differed from that to previous 20th century wars because we saw it covered on television. Pictures, especially moving pictures affect the brain differently than do written words and statistics. If UNESCO wants to create defenses of peace in the brains of men, not just in their minds, then it must complement its cerebral approach with an approach that is also emotional.

Cognitive science has advanced a great deal since the time of the birth of UNESCO. We understand that people are not simply rational. We think with our brains and our thought is not just logical and rational, but also emotional. Some of our decisions are made slowly and based on analysis, others are made quickly and based on intuition. Some of our intuitions seem to be hard wired and others learned. UNESCO more than any other UN organization should understand the advances in science and their implications for how it is to go about its mission.

Indeed, we must recognize that learning has emotional aspects as well as cerebral and moral; science may be cerebral, but scientists are emotional. The sites and objects of our cultural heritage have not only aesthetic content, but affect us emotionally. Communications have emotional content. UNESCO should be emotional as well as cerebral.

There are fewer that 2000 people employed in UNESCO's secretariat. There are many, many more people who are affiliated with UNESCO's purpose though its National Commissions, associated schools, UNESCO clubs, world heritage sites, and other UNESCO networks. I hope and believe this larger network of people advance the defenses of peace in the brains of men (and women and children) using all the available means.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Successful Caribbean test demonstrates progress in regional tsunami readiness

Over 44,000 people from 30 Members States and 15 of the territories* in the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions participated in the second full scale regional tsunami exercise held on March 20, 2013. The goal was to test the Tsunami and other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions (CARIBE EWS), which was established in 2005 by the countries of the region in collaboration with UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), ensuring that the national focal points responsible for the dissemination of the alert and first responders receive timely warning.

The exercise was initiated with a first dummy message issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) and the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center (WC/ATWC), at 13:02 UTC (9:02 AST) and disseminated over its standard broadcast channels to all its stakeholders and focal points. The message was issued according to schedule to the official Tsunami Warning Focal Points, and none of the institutions have reported issues with the reception of the message from the Tsunami Warning Center.
The Puerto Rico Seismic Network and other national and regional organizations also issued messages for its areas of responsibility. Sirens, emails, emergency alert systems, text messages, media outlets, NOAA weather radio, and social media were used by many focal points to further disseminate the messages. In addition to the communication tests, exercises were conducted at various additional levels of magnitudes and sophistication and included seminars, table top exercises, video/web conferencing and drills.   

Allison Sharpe Wright Appointed Executive Director of the National Commission for UNESCO