Wednesday, June 08, 2005

U.S. National Commission for UNESCO Annual Conference

The first annual meeting of the new U.S. National Commission for UNESCO was held Monday and Tuesday of this week. The event began with breakfast with the First Lady, Laura Bush. Speakers included the chiefs of virtually every government agency dealing with education, science, and culture:

Margaret Spellings (Secretary, U.S. Department of Education)
John Marburger (Science Advisor to the President)
Bruce Cole (Chairman, National Endowment for Humanities)
Dana Gioia (Chairman, National Endowment for the Arts)
James Billington (Librarian of Congress)
R. Terrell Miller (Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Global Issues)

Arden Bement (Director of the National Science Foundation) also participated in the meeting as a Commissioner. Ambassador Louise Oliver (U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO) was also in attendance, having flown in from Paris for the meeting.

The National Commission of course includes representatives of the key civil society organizations in the United States with interests in UNESCO. Commissioners appeared very well represented, as did the public. I would estimate that there were 200 to 300 people in attendance.

The meeting was most importantly a briefing by government officials for the Commission, emphasizing government activities related to UNESCO. Commissioners used the meeting as an opportunity to get to know each other, to learn what is expected of the committee, and to begin to make their concerns known to State Department officials.

The meeting was exceptionally well managed, and the sites provided by Georgetown University were beautiful and appropriate to the needs of the event. Marguerite Sullivan, Executive Director of the Commission, is to be congratulated on the job she and her staff had done.

The meeting was transcribed in full, and is to be reported on the website of the National Commission.

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