Friday, October 31, 2008

SESAME and Argonne's Advanced Photo Source

As Guvenc Akgul goes about learning the finer points of x-ray spectroscopy from his colleagues at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Advanced Photon Source (APS) at Argonne National Laboratory, he represents a bridge between countries that, while separated by culture, distance, or regional factionalism, can find common ground in science at synchrotron x-ray research facilities.

Akgul, who hails from Adana in Turkey, is working toward his Ph.D. by doing hands-on research at the APS. He will use knowledge gained at the APS to help in the development of UNESCO's SESAME, the Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East light-source facility under construction in Jordan that is bringing together scientists from several Middle Eastern countries.

About SESAME: Located in Allan, Jordan, 30 km northwest of Amman, and scheduled for first light in 2011, SESAME is being developed under the umbrella of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The machine will be a third-generation synchrotron light source facility comprising a 22.5-MeV Microtron, an 800-MeV booster, and a 2.5-GeV storage ring. The ring is designed to store 400 mA and has an emittance of 26 nm-radians. The booster, which comes from the former BESSY-1 light source in Germany, has been upgraded with new power supplies, vacuum pumps, and controls system. The storage ring is completely new. Twelve straight sections will eventually be available for insertion devices, with Phase 1 calling for seven beamlines delivering x-rays that will span the electromagnetic spectrum from infrared to hard x-rays. A major milestone for SESAME is the “soft” inauguration, which will be held at the site on November 3, 2008. It will be presided over by the King of Jordan and the Director-General of UNESCO, with luminaries from around the world in attendance.

SHSviews 21

UNESCO Social and Human Sciences Sector Magazine

This issue of SHSviews covers topical issues from July to September 2008:
  • Dossier - Social and Human Sciences within National Commissions for UNESCO – Focus on Malawi
    SHSviews continues its round-the-world journey in a bid to explore the way social and human sciences are perceived within the National Commissions for UNESCO. After the Philippines and Canada, this issue is an opportunity to visit Malawi, where social and human sciences are not handled within a separate programme but contribute to all projects by participating in a "silent revolution of society". More … [PDF]

  • Interview with Bernard Loing: “NGOs are the cornerstone of civil society”
    A true global forum collecting opinions and suggestions from NGOs on the priorities of action of the United Nations, the annual NGO conference organized by the Department of Information of the United Nations will be held for the first time in its history at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, from 3 to 5 September 2008. On the eve of this important meeting, the President of the International Conference of the 310 NGOs accredited to UNESCO invites us to review human rights in terms of universality and globalization. Bernard Loing considers NGOs as “the cornerstone of civil society” and asserts that they must play a larger role in world governance. More … [PDF]

  • Human Rights: Nantes, crossroads of cities against racism
    In 2004, the World Forum of Human Rights was launched in Nantes (France), at the initiative of UNESCO. That same year, UNESCO launched an appeal to cities around the world so that they organize themselves to fight more effectively against all forms of discrimination. Four years later, while 6 regional coalitions had been created and the Nantes Forum confirmed its success, it is at the "Cité des Ducs" that the launch of an international coalition of cities against racism was announced. More … [PDF]

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Just Published: UNESCO and Research for Health

Published in advance of the upcoming Global Ministerial Forum on Research for Health (Bamako, Mali, 17-19 November 2008), UNESCO and Research for Health is now available online.

The report reflects the inter-disciplinary goals of the 2008 Forum, including the need to link the health sector and research, science and technology, higher education and the global innovation system to advance the goal of improving health for all. Highlighting UNESCO projects that impact health, priorities and calls to action outlined in the report include:

  • Establish a research university in each country;
  • Ensure that knowledge is shared with potential beneficiaries most in need; and
  • Help developing countries train and retain well-trained scientists to advise governments about priorities and the use of technology.

The report also draws attention to the health impacts of climate change, and discusses the link between literacy and health – noting the success of projects such as Operation Upgrade’s Kwanibela Project in South Africa offers an innovative approach to integrate information about HIV/AIDS into literacy programs.

Along with UNESCO, the 2008 Forum organizers include the Council on Health Research for Development, the Global Forum for Health Research, the Republic of Mali, UNESCO, the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The UNESCO Forum on Higher Education, Research and Knowledge

The UNESCO Forum on Higher Education, Research and Knowledge is an initiative focusing on research in and on Higher Education and Knowledge, with the objective to widen our understanding of systems, structures, policies, trends and developments in higher education, research and knowledge with a special focus on low and middle income countries. Related areas of interests are research on agriculture and health research, since they are important elements of the national research systems in low and middle-income countries.

Global Research Seminar:
Sharing Research Agendas on Knowledge Systems
Paris 28-30 November

The Global Research Seminar, an activity of the Forum, is to be an occasion to gather researchers and research organizations actively engaged in studying Research and Knowledge Systems in all regions of the world. The objective is to provide an arena for researchers to network, to present and discuss new and ongoing research, identify research gaps and suggest new research agendas on research systems, with a view to forge closer links between the research communities and UNESCO in these fields.

Friday, October 24, 2008

UNESCO publishes first world map of underground transboundary aquifers

UNESCO has published the first-ever world map of shared aquifers and a monograph assessing those water resources. The publications were timed to coincide with the submission to the General Assembly of the United Nations on 27 October of a draft Convention on Transboundary Aquifers.

According to the Environmental News Service, when the Convention (or multilateral treaty) comes fully into force, it will apply to 96 percent of the planet's freshwater resources - those that are to be found in underground aquifers, most of which straddle national boundaries. Underground aquifers contain 100 times the volume of fresh water found on the Earth's surface but they have been neglected under international law despite their environmental, social, economic and strategic importance.

Ambassador Oliver's Farewell to the Executive Board

Ambassador Louise Oliver concluded her remarks to the 180th meeting of UNESCO's Executive Board with the following words:
And now, as this will be my last Executive Board meeting, I would like to make some personal comments, starting with expressing my admiration and gratitude to our interpreters who somehow have always managed to keep up with my very rapid speech. Your professionalism and skills are, in the words of the next generation, awesome.

To the members of the Secretariat, let me say that I have enjoyed working with you. Though we have not always agreed on everything, I respect your commitment to this organization, as I hope you do ours.

To my colleagues in the delegations from all corners of the globe, thank you for your friendship, and for the open-minded way in which you listen to our ideas and concerns.

And finally let me express my profound gratitude to you Mr. Director-General for having successfully encouraged the United States to rejoin the UNESCO family. Your passion for UNESCO and its mandate is extraordinary, and it has made a big impact in my country.

So now it is time to turn our attention back to the challenges that face this Organization. Once again we have too many items on our agenda, and once again we will be tempted to say yes to everything we are asked to do. But if we do that, we will weaken the ability of this Organization to exert the kind of leadership that is expected of us. Instead let us rededicate ourselves to advancing our priorities, so that we can take full advantage of the great potential of this organization.

If we can transform UNESCO’s ideals into action, we will be able to help strengthen mutual understanding among the nations and peoples of the world, which is essential if we are ever to make progress towards our ultimate goal of peace and security worldwide.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.
Comment: Ambassador Oliver has served with distinction as head of the United States Permanent Delegation to UNESCO since the United States rejoined the organization. The country owes her a debt of gratitude for that service. I understand that she has managed to do a great deal assure that U.S. representatives at UNESCO governance bodies would receive the respectful attention the nation's representative deserve. JAD

UNESCO Symposium and exhibition on freedom of expression mark 60th anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights

U Win Tin
Laureate of the UNESCO
World Press Freedom Prize 2001
long term prisoner in Burma
has provided a video for the symposium

A symposium on Freedom of Expression: Development, Democracy and Dialog will be held at UNESCO Headquarters on 29 October as part of celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights whose 19th article enshrines freedom of expression as a fundamental, inalienable human right.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

United Nations Day

This Friday, October 24th, people around the world will celebrate UN Day, marking the 63rd anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, which was created with the far-sighted vision and leadership of the United States.

The United Nations was created by the allies who, having won World War II, recognized the need for an intergovernmental organization that could take the political actions needed to prevent future wars. The creators of the United Nations recognized that while the UN Security Council could take necessary short term political actions, that wars begin in the minds of men, and it is there that the long term defenses of peace must be constructed. Thus UNESCO was created in parallel with the United Nations and charged with education, science, culture and communications in order to build those long term defenses.

That founding vision remains as relevant today as it did in 1945.

Check out the Patriotism.Org site on United Nations Day in the United States.

A Positive Step for Iraqi Education and Communication

Installation of a transmission unit

The Iraqi education and communication network received a large boost yesterday as UNESCO and the Education Minister of Iraq launched the Iraqi Educational TV Channel (IRAQ EDU). This channel will run 24 hours a day on NILESAT at 10775 Hz; it will broadcast programs based on Iraqi school curriculum. Its focus is primary and secondary students within and outside of Iraqi.

This project, funded by the European Union for US$6.5 million, aims to act as a way to counter the high security risks many students feel in attending school. These risks have led to high rates of absenteeism and the subsequent closing of schools. They have also contributed to low initial enrollments rates. In fact, data from UNICEF-Iraq show initial enrollment rates were around 46% in 2006, and the Ministry of Education reported only 28% of 17-year-olds sat for their final exams that same year.

However, there is much optimism about this new measure. It is particularly interesting to note that IRAQ EDU will emphasize peace and tolerance in its programs. Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, indicated this and the other contributions IRAQ EDCU will make could certainly"inspire initiatives in other countries and regions that are in conflict or post-conflict situations."

And it seems that there is certainly work to be done to restore the Iraqi educational system to its former regional eminence. In the early 1980s, the Iraqi educational system was seen as one of if not the best in the region. UNESCO reported Gross Enrollment Rates around 100% and illiteracy rates for ages 15 to 45 less than 10%; yet there has been constant instability ever since.

Yet the war with Iran in the mid-1980s, the Gulf War, and the instability beginning in 2003 have left the educational system tattered to say the least. Class size can average in size of 100 students, teachers face constant threats of violence, and the scheduled curriculum may be rarely finished or addressed. Although many positive programs have been enacted, much more clearly needs to be done. It is initiatives such as IRAQ EDU that may provide another way to access this deserving population: the children of Iraq.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Grand Canyon

Last week I visited Grand Canyon National Park, one of the places chosen by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. We visited the north rim of the canyon rather than the more frequented south rim.

One approaches the north rim, which is quite isolated, passing through the forests and meadows of the Colorado Plateau. As the above photo shows, in October the aspens found among the pine forests turn gold. From the road we saw herds of grazing deer, and even a coyote, as well as cattle grazing in the multiple use national forest adjacent to the national park.

We were told that the National Park Service and the Forest Service differ significantly as to the methods that are most appropriate for protection of this environment. Moreover it was suggested that there have been significant changes in the Plateau due to the management techniques applied, and that that fact is evident from the difference in forest structure on the isolated mesa tops left by the canyon which have not been managed versus the managed systems of the national park and national forest.

The two images above are taken from the lodge on the north rim. Reconstructed after a fire that destroyed the original building, it is again an imposing and interesting building, which we were told is important in the architectural history of the United States, representing a peak achievement of the arts and crafts movement. Certainly the first view of the Grand Canyon itself from the lobby of the lodge leaves an indelible impression.

Walking along a rim trail one sees great views across the ten mile expanse of the mile deep canyon framed by tall and graceful pines. The canyons have of course been formed by the Colorado River and its tributaries, and the canyon ecosystem has been radically changed by the taming of the Colorado by a series of dams. Efforts continue to develop management techniques that both help maintain the biodiversity and character of the canyon bottoms and serve the needs of downstream populations.

A road branches off that to the lodge, traveling for miles along the Colorado Plateau, with viewing points provided on the rim providing views such as those provided above.

One of the great successes of recent years has been the reintroduction of wild populations of California condors in the Grand Canyon. The largest American bird, with a wing span of nine feet, the condor was almost extinct some years ago when a program was started to save the species by captive breeding. In recent years condors have been reintroduced into the wild and are successfully breeding in the Grand Canyon. The fortunate visitor can see them soaring over the canyon.

Archaeologists have discovered many prehistoric sites within Grand Canyon National Park itself, and even today there are Native American communities above and below the national park on the Colorado River. Indeed the history of the region through the expansion of the United States has fascinated Americans, and the larger region surrounding the Grand Canyon has been the site of many western movies. Thus the region offers tempting opportunities for social scientists. It also offers significant challenges for multidisciplinary teams to find ways for the long term management of a park system that receives millions of visitors per year, and is subject to pressures of many kinds from developers. Moreover, the system includes a very complex ecology, due in part to the wide range of elevations and climates it includes, and its site on the border between the Colorado Plateau and deserts to the south.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Teaching Quality ITC Practices: UNESCO and Whiz Kids Workshop

UNESCO reported today on its partnership with Whiz Kids Workshop in training students to improve the quality of children's media in Ethiopia. Producers of the internationally-recognized program "Tsehai Loves Learning" train students; the goal is to improve the quality as well as to improve the diversity of children's media content.

Five students were selected from over 400 applications to enter into a two-month training that covers all aspects of children's media programming. These students are from the Amhara, Tigray, Oromo, and Hadiya groups and come from various faiths. According to Whiz Kids Workshop co-founder Bruktawit Tigabu, this program reflects the goal of increasing the different cultures and languages represented in Ethiopian children's media.

Whiz Kids Workshop co-founder Shane Etzenhouser further indicated the work these students do will "empowers the students to raise-up their voices for a better world for Ethiopia’s children."

The training program itself has been in existence for two years but has just been redesigned to offer a more hands-on experience for its participants. Students will complete one episode of "Tshehai Loves Learning" by the completion of the program.

The collaborative efforts between UNESCO and Whiz Kids Workshop began in 2005 with developing educational children's programs focused on the environment. Since then, UNESCO and Whiz Kids Workshop have joined efforts in producing children's programs and trainings regarding HIV and AIDS as well as numerous aspects of education.

The show "Tshehai Loves Learning" is an Amharic language education show featuring talking giraffe puppets that began airing in September 2006. It targets preschool and kindergarten-aged children and seeks to raise awareness about social issues and promote positive personal values and development.

For the full article, click here.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

A Universal Requirement, Not an Empty Slogan...

Science and Technology Education is a vital part of the future. This is a fact that is not often debated and one that has been actively championed by UNESCO. So how then, with the world becoming increasingly flat and the need for leaders to reverse the environmental damage and increase sustainability, is the interest, support, and pursuit of science education declining? Our current environmental standing has made science education is increasingly more vital and with the growing digital divide in a technology dependant world the vulnerability of our future is exposed. The fluency of students in both science and technology education is dwindling as student choose to pursue degrees in fields that produce more financial stability and provide more comfortable work hours.

In December of 2004 UNESCO acknowledged the increasing need for more science and technology proficient leaders to emerge from our education systems. They also highlighted the decline in graduates entering into the science and technology fields as careers at a time when both had become pivotal contributing foundations in our society and economy. UNESCO noted this paradox in a four page dossier:

"Britain’s Royal Society recently warned parliament about a sharp drop in the number of secondary school students taking mathematics, physics and chemistry at A-level (end of secondary cycle) and at university. The same trend can be seen in France, Germany and other industrialized countries. Students in developing countries are also increasingly disinterested, says Orlando Hall-Rose, head of UNESCO’s Science and Technology Education Section. 
In fact, most countries are facing the biggest lack of student interest in science over the last thirty years. According to the OECD, the number of science and engineering graduates is falling, just as demand for scientific advances and technological innovation is increasing. A strange paradox, since no period in history has been more penetrated by and dependent on the natural sciences than the twentieth century."

UNESCO strives to ensure that education continues to be a basic human right in this ever-evolving flatting of the world. The realization that science and technology should be remain at the forefront of core content to ensure the sustainability of our societies urged UNESCO to utilize their own organization to impact the declining numbers. The acting assistant Director-General for Education, Aïcha Bah Diallo, addressed this concern along with the connection between Education for All (EFA) and science and technology education. His bottom line, science and technology education is a universal requirement and if it isn’t we need to make it so.

"Two sectors within UNESCO –Education and Natural Sciences –have developed a joint programme through which they are assisting policymakers, curriculum developers, trainers and educators,empowering them to improve the quality, relevance and attractiveness of their science and technology education policies and adapting them to the needs of students and teachers.

Emphasis is being placed on adapting programmes to the local socio-cultural contexts. These programmes need to have a bearing on what is happening in the community, whether it is desertification, over-population, pollution, diseases, lack of water or energy resources, etc.

Science and technology education contributes to three of the Education for All goals: attainment of life skills for youth (Goal 3), elimination of gender disparities in education (Goal 5) and enhancement of the overall quality of education (Goal 6).

It is above all about ensuring sustainable development. Science and technology education is a universal requirement, not an empty slogan."

Monday, October 06, 2008

UNESCO and Inter-American Development Bank

The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, and the President of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Luis Alberto Moreno, signed today in Paris a Memorandum of Understanding for a Strategic Partnership to expand existing cooperation between the two organizations.

According to the agreement UNESCO and the IDB will be able to undertake joint activities in Latin America and the Caribbean in the following areas:
  • capacity building for the achievement of Education for All (EFA) goals;
  • the use of information technologies (ICTs) in education;
  • ethics of science and technology;
  • strengthening of national science and technology capacities;
  • youth violence prevention; protection and promotion of biological and cultural diversity, including the promotion of multilingualism;
  • prevention of natural disasters;
  • protection and safeguarding of natural and cultural heritage, including intangible cultural heritage;
  • development of cultural industries; and
  • urban development.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

UNESCO and the Investigation of Human Rights Abuses

UNESCO investigates alleged violations of human rights in its fields of competence, namely education, science, culture and communication. This procedure is set out in 104 EX/Decision 3.3 of the Executive Board, and is known as "Procedure 104". The investigations are implemented by a subsidiary organ of the Executive Board, the Committee on Conventions and Recommendations.

Last week the Committee had a special program in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the creation of Procedure 104. Participatin in the event were such luminaries as Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali (President of the National Council for Human Rights of Egypt and Former Secretary-General of the United Nations) and Dr. Torsten Wiesel (1981 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine).

Farouk Hosni: Candidate for UNESCO Director General

Farouk Hosny -- 2001 -- Acrylic on Canvas - 105x205 cm
Zamalek Art Galary

Farouk Hosni, having served for two decades as Egyptian Minister of Culture, has been nominated by his government to be the next Director General of UNESCO, and is considered to be a leading candidate. He is also know internationally as an abstract artist. One of his paintings is reproduced above. The second term of office of the current Director General, Koïchiro Matsuura, ends in October 2009.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Add the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project to the Memory of the World

Eleanor Roosevelt and United Nations 'Universal Declaration of Human Rights'

Eleanor Roosevelt was a great American in her own right as well as in the role of spokesperson for her husband. Among her greatest accomplishment was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She chaired the United Nations Committee that drafted the Declaration. Her enormous prestige, in my opinion, made the Declaration possible. Her skill in the chair brought people together who were otherwise seldom able to negotiate successfully. It was her recognition that, while cultures differ as to why people have these rights, they can agree on a fundamental set of rights which must be regarded as universal.
"Once more we are in a period of uncertainty, of danger, in which not only our own safety but that of all mankind is threatened. Once more we need the qualities that inspired the development of the democratic way of life. We need imagination and integrity, courage and a high heart."
Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt was a lifelong supporter of the United Nations and of UNESCO. Not only did she chair the U.N. Human Rights Committee from 1946 to 1952, but she wrote a book to encourage people to support the United Nations, and contributed to the UNESCO Courier. (see "The Children Fight for Life" and "Partners: The United Nations and Youth")

UNESCO's Memory of the World Program seeks to guard against collective amnesia, calling upon the preservation of the valuable archive holdings and library collections all over the world ensuring their wide dissemination. The Memory of the World Register lists documentary heritage which has been recommended by the International Advisory Committee, and endorsed by the Director-General of UNESCO, as of world significance and outstanding universal value. Currently, the only U.S. contribution included in the Register is The Wizard of Oz.

The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers
is a project, hosted at George Washington University, dedicated to bringing Eleanor Roosevelt's writings (and radio and television appearances) on democracy and human rights before an audience as diverse as the ones she addressed. Thus there is not only an organization responsible for maintaining the documentary legacy of this great woman, but one that is actively promoting the dissemination of her works and their use in education.

I can think of no more appropriate collection for the United States to nominate for inclusion in UNESCO Memory of the World Register. Not only do they qualify as of outstanding universal value, there is no better collection that would symbolize the U.S. efforts to create UNESCO as a means for international cooperation to advance peace and human rights.

If you agree, contact the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO and second this suggestion.

Eleanor Roosevelt hosting UNESCO visit to Val-Kill in Hyde Park, NY, 1948

The New Issue Of The UNESCO Courier Is Out

Wall painting at Nagra Silassie Church, detail
© UNESCO/Jasmina Šopova

Ethiopia: three millennia of legend and history

In honour of the recent reinstallation of the Aksum Obelisk in its original location in northern Ethiopia, the UNESCO Courier revisits a few of the country’s cultural sites.

Along this off-the-beaten path itinerary, another treasure is unveiled, less monumental than the castles of Gondar, less visible than the Lalibela rock-hewn churches, but just as impressive: Ethiopia’s intangible heritage.