Saturday, October 29, 2005

International symposium on UNESCO’s history

Visit the website for the symposium.

"On the occasion of its 60th anniversary, UNESCO is hosting, from 16th to 18th November 2005, an international symposium on the Organization’s history, which will take place at its Headquarters in Paris.

"More than sixty historians, anthropologists, philosophers and other scholars will speak at round table sessions or in plenary on major themes of UNESCO’s history, such as the birth of the Organization, the vision of humanism and peace, the race question, ideals challenged in the context of cold war and decolonisation, reconciliation, reconstruction, dialogues, education for all, cultural heritage and the social responsibility of the sciences.

"The objective of the symposium is to inspire research on topics relating to the history of the Organization. Rather than providing official answers and final conclusions, the symposium aims at multiplying approaches to UNESCO’s history in a critical and pluralistic spirit. A concluding session of the symposium will attempt to draw up the basis for a research agenda 2005-2010."

Cologne Cathedral to be spared blight by skyscrapers

Read the full story on Yahoo! News.

"UNESCO said it was likely to remove Cologne Cathedral in Germany from its list of World Heritage in Danger because a construction project which would have obscured views of the Gothic building looks set to be scaled down or shelved.

"'The biggest obstacle to returning the cathedral to the (normal) World Heritage List has been removed,' said Dieter Offenhaeusser, spokesman for the German commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

"Property developers had submitted plans for three office blocks which would have radically altered the skyline of the western city, which is currently dominated by the twin spires of the cathedral.

"The city's planning authorities look set to scrap plans for two of the towers but say one could still be built, but only if a tenant can be found."

Cultural Diversity: Canada's UN Victory

Read the full article in The Tyee. (Richard Warnica, October 28, 2005)

The Convention on the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.

"A project started by Canadians and championed by the French, the convention aims to opt cultural policies out of trade agreements; to define that books, magazines, songs and movies are not the same as lumber and t-shirts.

"But what the convention means and how it will be interpreted aren't clear. Economists, activists, academics and politicians disagree on its purpose, its scope and even its relevance in the digital age."

The Canadian Origins of the Convention

"Sheila Copps was Minister of Canadian Heritage for eight years from the late nineties until 2003. She was in her office in Ottawa last week when her old colleague in Paris called to congratulate her on the live birth of the convention she'd helped conceive seven years before.

"Copps laughed about the vehement U.S. opposition. "It's ironic, because if it wasn't for the U.S., we never would have had the instrument in the first place," Copps told The Tyee.

"In 1996, the U.S. challenged a Canadian tax on split runs -- American magazines with Canadian ads - at the World Trade Organization, launching what Copps called "the magazine wars."

"And when the WTO forced Canada to scrap the tax, it caused a panic in the culture community. It was the first time a Canadian cultural policy was challenged at a trade forum and no one really knew what would be next.

"The challenge, 'had nothing to do with magazines at all,' Copps said. 'It was a way of testing our resolve.' In other words, if in 1997 the WTO was scrapping a magazine tax, what would they be doing in 1998? How long before Canadian media ownership rules, Canadian content rules and even the CBC were challenged?"

The Networks

"A year after the WTO shot down the Canadian tariff, Copps invited culture ministers from around the world to a meeting in Ottawa to discuss cultural policy. It was the first in a series of meetings of the International Network on Cultural Policy (INCP).

"At the same time as the INCP was meeting in Ottawa, a group of artists and cultural groups got together to consult on the process. And in a tribute to the inexhaustible ability of international organizations to create confusing acronyms, they became the International Network on Cultural Diversity (INCD).

U.S. opposition

"By the end of the convention process, the most newsworthy part of the whole deal for much of the world was American isolation. Only Israel joined the United States in voting against the convention, while four other countries abstained.

"American opposition was hamstrung, though, because they weren't members, first of the INCP, where the convention started, and later of UNESCO where it ended up. (The US quit UNESCO in 1984, but rejoined in 2003, in time for the later stages of the convention debate)........

"What's ironic about the US opposition is that, according to a lot of people, the treaty won't really have that much impact......

"For one, the convention's final language left its relationship to other trade agreements very ambiguous. Article 20 says both that it should not be subordinate, 'to any other treaty,' and that it won't modify 'rights and obligations of parties under any other treaty.' In other words, the treaty is both equal to all other international agreements, but doesn't alter them.

"Also, the treaty doesn't really have an effective way of solving disputes, according to Christopher Maule, an economist at Carleton University who has followed trade and culture for decades. 'There's no independent body that people have to adhere to,' Maule said. 'That's not an agreement with any teeth in it.'

"While the treaty does have a procedure for solving disputes, it doesn't punish anyone for ignoring those procedures. If you break a WTO commitment, you can be fined, but if you don't live up to your obligations under this convention, the worst that could happen would be a global finger-wagging."

Thursday, October 27, 2005

"Working in Partnership with UNESCO"

Read the full PDF report online.

The U.K.'s Department for International Development (DfID) published this report recommending ways that Great Britain could work in partnership with UNESCO. It might be of interest to us Yanks, as we too seek to put our recently renewed relationship on the best possible footing.

I reprint the Summary of the report in full:

The UK Government’s Goal for UNESCO

A1 The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) was established in 1945 because – in the words of its Constitution – “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed”. The organisation was mandated to promote universal respect for justice, the rule of law and human rights through international collaboration in education, science and culture. From the beginning education has been the keystone of UNESCO’s mission.

A2 While the organisation has traditionally covered a wide range of important issues, the breadth of its activities and a certain resistance to reform have hindered it from reaching its full potential. The reforms set in train by the new Director-General promise to refocus and reinvigorate UNESCO, but the organisation will need to guard against dispersing its efforts. UNESCO can forge a solid reputation if it concentrates, within its educational, scientific, cultural and communications mandate, on the promotion of greater social justice and progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.

A3 The UK Government’s goal is to see UNESCO transformed into an effective organisation with clear, focused objectives and strategies. Our key objective is the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Of those, the education goals are particularly relevant to UNESCO. We believe that the main thrust of UNESCO’s work should be a commitment to spread education opportunities to the 113 million children now without access to primary school and to the 880 million adults in the world who are illiterate. This objective is more important than ever at a time when information technology is driving the spread of knowledge and information, which are essential for development and for access to the benefits of the globalising world economy. In order to achieve a clearer focus for its work, and to make a more effective contribution to meeting the Millennium Development Goals, we believe that UNESCO should:

· fulfill its mandate within a well-defined poverty and sustainable development strategy;
· top priority to achieving the Millenniumm Development Goals for education;
· seek to improve the production of policy-relevant and internationally comparable statistics on education in developing countries and countries in transition;
· ensure that all programmes incorporate systems forr monitoring and show clear evidence of impact and assessment of outcomes;
· participate more fully in the wider UN reform agenda and seek effective partnerships with other agencies.

A4 The UK Government will seek to achieve this goal through the governing bodies of which it is a member, and by providing appropriate technical co-operation and financial assistance.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Zhang Xinsheng (China) elected Chairman of UNESCO’s Executive Board

Read the UNESCO News Release

"Zhang Xinsheng, Vice Minister of Education of China and the country’s representative to UNESCO’s Executive Board, was today elected Chairman of the Organization’s Executive Board for a period of two years.xinsheng_300.jpg Mr Zhang was elected in the first round of voting.

"Born in China in 1948, Mr Zhang graduated from China’s Military Institute of Technology in 1969 and from the University of Hangzhou where he studied English language and literature in 1977. He went on to complete the Advanced Management Programme (AMP99) of Harvard Business School in the 1980s and, in 2000, was awarded a Master’s Degree of Design Studies from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Mr Zhang chaired the 2004 session of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee in Suzhou (China), a city of which he was twice elected mayor. He holds the post of Vice Minister of Education and is an adjunct professor at the universities of Tongji and Nanjing."

Final Result of the election to the World Heritage Committee

Read the full list of the members of the World Heritage Committee.

The United States and Canada were both elected to membership in the World Heritage Committee at the recent General Conference of UNESCO.

More detailed information on the voting can be found here.

UNESCO World Heritage Centre - Home

The website of the World Heritage Center has been updated.

European Union on the Adoption of the UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity

Read the full EU release

"On 20 October 2005 the Unesco General Conference adopted the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, which was negotiated jointly by the European Commission, on behalf of the Community, and the Council Presidency, on behalf of the Member States. The Convention is the first of its kind in international relations, as it enshrines a consensus that the international community has never before reached on a variety of guiding principles and concepts related to cultural diversity. This text forms the basis of a new pillar of world governance in cultural matters."

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

U.S, Secretary of Education at UNESCO's General Conference

Read U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spelling's remarks to the Plenary Session, and the note she transmitted from the First Lady, Laura Bush.

An excerpt from the remarks:

"Together, we have helped countries move toward a more hopeful and sustainable future of freedom and prosperity. As we all know, the road to democracy starts with a commitment to education. In Iraq, UNESCO has led the effort to replace hateful propaganda in schools with math and science textbooks. And in Afghanistan, UNESCO has helped strengthen teacher training and literacy programs for women.

"Last spring, Mrs. Bush and I visited the new Women’s Teacher Training Institute in Kabul. The women at this school want to help spread literacy and opportunity to every corner of Afghanistan. They are anxious to learn and to have a voice in their nation’s future.

"Although we come from many different places, we all understand the importance of education. And we all agree that we must work together to achieve the goals of UNESCO’s Education for All effort. We know that literacy and education are the keys to success for individuals and for nations. And we face the challenge of ensuring everyone has access to them."

Secretary Spellings also spoke to the Ministerial Round Table on Education for All.

Information Society: The Next Steps

Read the entire Special edition on the Development Gateway's Information and Communications Technology for Development topic page.:

"The Information Society has produced a tantalizing array of new information and communication technologies (ICT) that today have transformed the approach to global development. Access to these technologies is spreading rapidly. In 2005, the number of Internet users in developing countries will cross the 500 million mark, surpassing industrial nations for the first time. By some estimates, more than 75 percent of the world’s population now lives within range of a mobile network. Yet the long-heralded promise of ICT remains out of reach for most of the developing world. For the information poor, economic and social gaps are in fact widening both within and between countries.

Following on the rapid expansion of the Information Society, the United Nations called for a World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) organized under the auspices of the International Telecommunication Union. The two-phase summit, begun in Geneva in 2003, concludes in November 2005 with WSIS Phase II in Tunisia. The goal of this meeting is to assess progress and prompt further global action to capture the promise of ICT for all. This Special Report 'Information Society: The Next Steps' looks at how the ICT landscape is changing in the developing world and what lies ahead. Experts from governments, donors, NGOs and the private sector speak out about effective policies, promising applications and innovative business models."

UNESCO is one of the organizing agencies for WSIS, and is to play a key role in implementing its recommendations. Indeed, it is the participation of UNESCO in the Summit (in addition to its co-organizer, the International Telecommunications Union) that assures that the focus will be not only on telecommunications, but on the broader issues of education, science, culture and communications fundamental to creation of just, effective Information Societies.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Choike,org on the UNESCO adoption of the Convention on Cultural Diversity

Read the full statement on the Choike website.

"The United Nations cultural body adopted an international treaty Thursday to protect cultural diversity, marking what experts say is a first but important moral victory in the long-running fight to preserve the world's cultural richness.

"After more than three years of sometimes cantankerous debates, the General Conference of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation), meeting at the Paris headquarters, adopted by overwhelming majority the Convention on the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions.

"In the Thursday vote, 148 countries approved the convention, two -- the United States and Israel -- voted against it, and four abstained. The new rules will enter into force three months after its ratification by 30 states.

"Although the treaty is seen as a triumph for developing and European countries in the struggle to preserve their unique cultural identities from domination by the so-called "entertainment industry", à la Hollywood, many experts see it as only a first step.

"'The adoption of this convention is a moral victory, but the real test is whether developing countries will resist U.S. pressure to commit their audiovisual services and information services during trade negotiations,' Sasha Constanza Koch, media expert with the coalition Communication Rights in the Information Society, told IPS."

Read Choike's materials published on its website in September in support of the Convention.

Choike is a portal dedicated to improving the visibility of the work done by NGOs and social movements from the South. It serves as a platform where citizen groups can disseminate their work and at the same time enrich it with information from diverse sources, which is presented from the perspective of Southern civil society.

The word Choike is taken from the language of the Mapuche, a tribe living in the southern South America, and refers to the Southern Cross -- the guidestar of the southern hemesphere.

UNESCO has prominent role in WSIS, says General Conference: UNESCO-CI

Read the full UNESCO news release. (10/21/05)

"Unanimous support to UNESCO’s active involvement in the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and its focus on knowledge societies was given by the Organization's General Conference at its 33rd Session yesterday in Paris.........

"In particular, the Member States endorsed UNESCO’s mandate and competence to act as a facilitator for the implementation of the Action Lines: “Access to information and knowledge”; “Capacity-building”; “E-learning and e-science (under ‘ICT applications’)”; “Cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and local content”; “Media”, and “Ethical dimensions of the information society” included in the Plan of Action adopted at the first phase of WSIS, in December 2003, in Geneva."

Saturday, October 22, 2005

"US official heads to France for talks on UNESCO convention"

Read the full Yahoo! News story.

"A top US official said she would meet her French counterpart and UNESCO officials in Paris as part of a diplomatic effort to prevent ratification of UNESCO's cultural diversity convention.

"The United States suffered a resounding diplomatic defeat Thursday when an overwhelming majority of UNESCO's 191 member-states approved the convention to protect and promote cultural diversity, which Washington fears will hit sales of American movies and music.

"'We want to try to prevent people from ratifying it,' said Kristin Silverberg, a top US State Department official for relations with UN bodies, following talks with Italian officials in Rome.

"'The biggest thing we can do is get countries to agree not to misuse it, that they not cite it in the Hong Kong talks in support of cultural exceptions,' said Silverberg, referring to the next major meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) "Doha Round" negotiations in December.

"Silverberg said she would take Washington's grievances to UNESCO Director General Koichiro Matsuura in a meeting in Paris on Monday."

Kristen Silverberg was recently appointed Assistant Secretary of State, and is in charge of the Bureau of International Organization Affairs. (Read her biography.) Prior to her current assignment, Ms. Silverberg worked in the White House. She is a lawyer, and served as a policy advisor on the 2000 presidential campaign in Austin, Texas.

Sparks fly over UNESCO bioethics pact

Read David Dickson's full article in SciDev.Net.

"The governing body of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has approved a controversial declaration setting out guidelines for protecting individuals against potential harm from bioscience developments.

"The text, adopted this week (19 October) in Paris, has sparked a huge debate. It is widely seen — by both supporters and critics — as a vehicle for persuading developing countries to adopt policies outlawing research involving human embryos, itself part of a wider campaign against human abortion..........

"At the heart of the document, however, is language that addresses — usually implicitly — the use of embryos in research. This is particularly significant for developing countries, given that a number of them — such as China, India and South Korea — are developing sophisticated capabilities in areas such as stem-cell research that might use human embryos.

"This part of the text, and the declaration's stress on the need to defend 'human dignity', for example, have been widely welcomed by conservative religious groups deeply opposed to abortion or embryo research. So too has the statement that 'the interests and welfare of the individual should have priority over the sole interest of science or society'.

"An advisor to the US delegation at the Paris meeting wrote on the website Christianity Today, 'These resonant assertions of the centrality of human dignity and the limitations of science give us hope and ammunition.'.......

"Many in the professional bioethics community have been less impressed. They argue that the recommendations in the declaration are too vague, and seek to impose unwarranted ideological constraints on areas of research that could have important medical and social benefits.

"It is remarkable that a policy document that is clearly untenable in crucial areas has been approved by the UNESCO general assembly," says Udo Schuklenk, co-editor of the journal Developing World Bioethics, which recently published several articles attacking a draft of the declaration.

"He adds, 'What is problematic, to me as a professional in the field of bioethics, is that as professionals we might be tainted by a document that so clearly should not be called 'bioethics' in the first place.'

"Richard Ashcroft, reader in biomedical ethics at Imperial College London, is similarly concerned. He says it is strange that the document was adopted without being amended after near-universal criticism of the draft declaration by academics."

Friday, October 21, 2005

Close of the General Conference of UNESCO

Read the full UNESCO message on the closure of the General Conference.

"The adoption of three standard-setting texts and the re-election of Ko�chiro Matsuura as Director-General of UNESCO marked the 33rd session of UNESCO’s General Conference, which closed today. The texts adopted are: the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions; the International Convention Against Doping in Sport; and the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights. A day of reflection about human dignity, as well as two Ministerial Round Tables – one on Education for All (EFA), another on the basic sciences – and an exhibition about EFA, were also organized during the 33rd session. Every two years the General Conference, UNESCO’s highest decision-making body, brings together representatives from all Member States (191, since Brunei Darussalam joined the Organization recently). Eight heads of state and more than 200 ministers1 were among the 3,700 participants of the session, held at UNESCO Headquarters from October 3 to 21.........

"For 2006-2007, the General Conference adopted a budget of US$610 million - in keeping with the scenario proposed by the Director General – to which are to be added US$25 million in extra-budgetary voluntary funding to reinforce activities in priority areas. Education – 'priority of priorities,' according to Mr Matsuura – received a budget of US$107 and will benefit from the lion’s share of the extra budgetary funding. The Natural Sciences sector is to receive close to US$56 million, and the Social and Human Sciences close to US$31 million. The Culture Programme was allocated US$50.5 million, and the Communication and Information Programme close to US$33 million."

In an unusual step, the U.S. Delegation called for a vote on the budget at the General Conference, and voted against the budget. An observer reported that the U.S. delegation said its negative vote was because of: (1) lack of program concentration on priorities, and (2) funding of the Cultural Diversity Convention is in the budget, which the U.S. thinks will do harm. The vote was 126-1, with no abstentions.

The U.S. Mission to UNESCO has provided links to statements on issues raised in the General Conference on its website, as well as on the Executive Board Meeting that preceeded the General Conference, and on the Science Round Table held in conjunction with the General Conference.

Google Map links for Unesco World Heritage Sites

Google Map links for Unesco World Heritage Sites

Brad Templeton has created this website on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is complementary to UNESCO's own website. Go to any country that interests you, and click on the site. You will see a satellite image of the region from Google, and you can zoom into or out of the picture to see the site in more detail or in its larger context. Google also provides maps, and combinations of the map and satellite images.

Templeton was the founder and publisher of ClariNet Communications Corp., the world's first ever ".com" company (founded in 1989) and which was also the net's first and for a long time largest electronic newspaper.

Media Coverage of the Convention on Cultural Diversity

Check out the links to current articles.

MediaTradeMonitor editor, Sasha Costanza-Chock, has posted links to a number of articles on the Convention on the Social Bookmarking website,

UNESCO approves convention on cultural diversity | Media Trade Monitor

Visit the Media Trade Monitor website on the Convention on Cultural Diversity

"UNESCO has approved the Convention on Cultural Diversity (CCD), after several years of negotiations. The CCD (formally known as the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions) is meant to provide legal backing to the principle that culture cannot be reduced to a commodity. Concretely, it is meant to allow each country to exclude its cultural policies, including 'audiovisual services' - otherwise known as the mass media - from 'free trade' deals like the WTO.

"During the negotiations, progressive NGO networks like the International Network on Cultural Diversity and the campaign for Communication Rights in the Information Society called for broad civil society support for the CCD, but warned that it must not be subordinated to the WTO and must be written to support cultural and media diversity inside countries, not only between them. In addition, they successfully lobbied for the elimination of language that would have supported the current extremist copyright regime, but failed to insert references to the importance of the public domain, fair use, and the creative commons."

Media Trade Monitor is a partnership between Free Press, the International Network for Cultural Diversity (INCD), and the campaign for Communication Rights in the Information Society (CRIS).

The Cultural Diversity Convention Coverage in the Washington Post

Read the full article in the Washington Post.

"In a vote cast as a battle of global conformity vs. cultural diversity, delegates to a U.N. agency turned aside strong U.S. objections Thursday and overwhelmingly approved the first international treaty designed to protect movies, music and other cultural treasures from foreign competition.

"The 148 to 2 vote at the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization emerged as a referendum on the world's love-hate relationship with Hollywood, Big Macs and Coca-Cola......

"U.S. officials say the measure could be used to unfairly obstruct the flow of ideas, goods and services across borders. Films and music are among the United States' largest exports -- the foreign box-office take for American movies was $16 billion in 2004. Assuring access to overseas markets for these products has been a prime U.S. goal at the World Trade Organization..........

"The vote came less than a month after delegates at a U.N.-organized summit in Geneva sided against the United States to try to remove technical control of the Internet from U.S. hands. Talks deadlocked after the European Union refused to support the United States, in a move that stunned American officials.

"'In the battles over issues critical to shaping the globe in the 21st century,' French sociologist Eric Fassin said, 'each side is defending its own best interests.' Most of the world, he said, is asking: 'Is there only one way to look at things?'

"Proponents are uncertain how the convention would be enforced or how potential conflicts with the free-trade rules of the World Trade Organization would be resolved. The convention states that it is not intended to overrule existing treaties but would have equal force with future ones."

From the blogosphere:

Accidental Deliberations: "While the U.S. position was based on a claim to freedom of information (in this case, the freedom to dump whatever information it wants whenever and wherever it pleases), the real question was whether local languages and cultures could be defended and allowed to survive when faced with well-funded foreign influences - whether from the U.S. or otherwise. It's only appropriate that the U.N. nearly unanimously chose the right side of that question."

Thursday, October 20, 2005

"UNESCO adopts culture convention despite opposition from US"

Read the full Xinhuanet story. (China)

"The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Culture Organization (UNESCO) adopted Thursday to the great displeasure of the United States a convention aiming at protecting and promoting the diversity of cultural expressions.

"Out of 154 countries represented at the two-yearly General Conference of UNESCO, 148 voted the text seen by most of UNESCO's 191 member states as an important tool to protect local languages,arts and culture against English-speaking globalisation and US 'cultural imperialism'.

"Only the United States and Israel voted against it and four countries abstained."

Ministerial Round Table "Education for All"

View a Webcast On-demand

More than 50 education ministers and high-ranking officials responsible for education met to take stock of the main challenges of Education for All at UNESCO Headquarters on October 7 and 8, 2005.

UNESCO provided releases with supporting materials:
- on the first day of the meeting; and
- on the second day of the meeting.

Click here to see the communiqué issued by 90 education ministers and high-ranking officials present at UNESCO’s headquarters for the Ministerial Round Table.

There was also a Parlementary Round Table on the subject, held October 12, 2005.

Koïchiro Matsuura appointed to a second term as Director-General of UNESCO

Read the UNESCO announcement.:

"Koichiro Matsuura was re-elected as Director-General of UNESCO by the Organization’s General Conference and is to take office in a ceremony on October 21. He was first elected in 1999 to a six-year term. This time he will serve for four years, following a reform instituted by the 29th session of the General Conference. Mr Matsuura was born in 1937 in Tokyo. He studied law at the University of Tokyo and economics at Haverford College (Pennsylvania, U.S.A.) and began his diplomatic career in 1959. Posts held by Mr Matsuura include those of Director-General of the Economic Co-operation Bureau of Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1988); Director-General of the North American Affairs Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1990); and Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs (1992-1994). He was Japan’s Ambassador to France from 1994 to 1999. After one year as the Chairperson of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, he became UNESCO’s ninth Director-General on November 12, 1999."

There will be a live Webcast - Friday 21 October - of the Ceremony for the installation of the Director-General. It will take place from 10 a.m to 1 p.m. (GMT 1), and will include a performance by Chico Bouchikhi (founder of Gipsy Kings), UNESCO Artist for Peace. The site for the live webcast is:

UNESCO General Conference adopts International Convention Against Doping in Sport

Read the full UNESCO press release.

"The International Convention Against Doping in Sport was adopted unanimously by the UNESCO General Conference meeting in Paris for its 33 d session. This is the first time a legal instrument aimed at eradicating doping is both binding and universal. A global response to a global problem, such is the challenge put to the new Convention. It supplies governments with a legal framework for an international harmonization of efforts in the fight against a scourge that flouts the ethical and social values of sport while putting the health of athletes at risk."

October 24 -- UN Day

Read the United Nations Association discussion of UN Day

The U.N. Charter went into effect on October 24, 1945. Two years later the U.N. General Assembly adopted a U.S.-sponsored resolution declaring October 24th United Nations Day, to be commemorated annually by all member-states of the United Nations. Since 1947, U.N. Day has been observed in nations large and small around the world.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

"US isolated over cultural diversity"

Read the full Financial Times article.:

"A United Nations treaty to protect and promote cultural diversity is likely to be overwhelmingly approved on Thursday in the face of lonely opposition from the US, which fears the impact on exports of US films and television programmes.

"In an emotional debate in Unesco (the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) that preceded Thursday's vote, supporters of the treaty - led by France and Canada - said it would help countries defend domestic culture from the homogenising influence of globalisation.

"In a preliminary vote this week, 151 countries backed the pact, with the US and Israel the sole opponents. Australia and the Pacific island of Kiribati abstained."

U.S. v. the World, Again - The U.N. Convention on Cultural Diversity

Read the entire entry from Opinio Juris

"Sometimes, the U.S. government seems at odds with all of its allies. The most recent example is the battle over the Convention for the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions sponsored by UNESCO, the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO Louise Oliver criticizes the draft treaty, and UNESCO in general, for failing to deal seriously with the issues in the treaty:

"'The preliminary text addresses a number of very complex issues. They involve culture, development, intellectual property rights, trade, and most important of all, human rights. Have we discussed all of these issues thoroughly? Is this preliminary text coherent, with clearly defined obligations and objectives? Are we convinced that there are no potentially negative consequences that may result from the provisions of this convention? For us the answers to these questions unfortunately are no, no, and no.'"

Sunday, October 09, 2005

World Heritage Forum

Check out the blog.

Matthias Ripp has provided a blog "to support the exchange of information on UNESCO World Heritage topics and UNESCO World Heritage Sites". It is intended as a starting point for people who are interested in these issues.

This is a very nicely produced blog. For example, this is one of Ripp's photos of Machu Pichu.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

"FEDERAL ADVISORY COMMITTEES: Additional Guidance Could Help Agencies Ensure Independence and Balance"

Read the full GAO Report.

"In recent years, controversies regarding the federal advisory committee system have included concerns about the appointment of specific individuals to committees and agency decisions to create or terminate some committees. Although a variety of concerns have been raised, the overarching concern was that ideological bias was influencing the selection of experts for scientific and health advisory panels. Publications such as Science, The Lancet, and Chemical and Engineering News have published editorials and articles containing criticisms of decisions seen as injecting ideology into a committee system that should be nonideological. Further, some current and potential federal advisory committee members reported being asked about their political views in the context of decisions regarding their appointment or reappointment to committees." (pages 7 & 8)

"Generally composed of individuals from outside of the federal government, federal advisory committees play an important role in the development of public policy and government regulations by providing advice to policymakers on a wide array of issues. In fiscal year 2003, 54 agencies sponsored approximately 950 committees with about 62,000 members to provide advice by performing peer reviews of scientific research; developing recommendations on specific policy decisions; identifying longrange issues facing the nation; and evaluating grant proposals, among other functions. Their advice—on issues such as stem cell research, space exploration, trade policy, drinking water standards, and drug approvals—can enhance the quality and credibility of federal decision making." (page 14)

"To address controversial and other important matters, scientific and technical advisory committees—which are the primary focus of this report—play a number of different roles on behalf of agencies. One role of science committees is to advise agencies on how to address a set of particular problems." (page 15)

"OGE and GSA governmentwide guidance and the policies and procedures of the nine departments and agencies we reviewed have limitations that reduce their effectiveness in ensuring that advisory committee members are independent and that advisory committees are, and are perceived as being, balanced." (page 17)

What GAO Recommends:

"GAO recommends that GSA and/or OGE, as appropriate, give direction to agencies on: the proper use of representative appointments; information that would help ensure committees are, and are perceived as, balanced; and practices that would better ensure independence and balance and enhance transparency in the advisory committee process. GSA agreed with GAO’s findings and agreed to work with OGE to implement the recommendations. OGE agreed that representative appointments need review but disagreed that its guidance has limitations. GAO continues to believe the guidance could be improved to better ensure that agencies are appropriately appointing committee members." GAO Highlights

This report, of the U.S. General Accounting Office, includes descriptions of the practices and measures by which several U.S. government agencies and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences use to ensure independence and balance and to promote transparency in the federal advisory committee system. Some practices, the report suggessts, should be more widely adopted, such as obtaining nominations from the public and making public information about how members are identified and screened.
Wider use of these practices—particularly for committees addressing sensitive or controversial topics—could reduce the likelihood that committees are, or are perceived as being, biased or imbalanced.

The U.S. National Commission for UNESCO is a duely constituted Federal Advisory Committee, and its charter would seem to include the wide range of scientific and technological issues that engage UNESCO. Thus, the GAO report might well bo of interest to the NatCom members and staff.

Moreover, UNESCO itself as an important function under its charter, gathers scientific and technological advisory groups. Americans are often invited to participate in such groups, and indeed the NatCom may be expected in the future to have a role helping UNESCO to find such participants, as well as to encourage UNESCO toward independence, balance, and transparency in the selection of participants. Note especially, that scientific and technological expertise in the topics under discussion are critical, but not sufficient. U.S. agencies seek scientific balance, as well as geographic, ethnic and gender balance. The GAO report might well also be of interest to UNESCO staff and advisors.

"Science and Technology in the National Interest: Ensuring the Best Presidential and Federal Advisory Committee Science and Technology Appointments"

Read the full National Academy of Sciences report online.

"With regard to appointing scientists and engineers to federal advisory committees, charges have surfaced recently that the process of making these appointments has become politicized and results in a skewing of the impartial perspective critical to independent advice. It is essential that the government’s capacity to consider and incorporate S&T information as part of the basis for public-policy decisions not be compromised by unnecessary obstacles."

This is the report of a very distinguished group, including former Science Advisors to U.S. Presidents, produced by the National Academies of Science in 2005. Key recommendations are:

-When a federal advisory committee requires scientific or technical proficiency, persons nominated to provide that expertise should be selected on the basis of their scientific and technical knowledge and credentials and their professional and personal integrity. It is inappropriate to ask them to provide nonrelevant information, such as voting record, political-party affiliation, or position on particular policies.

- Presidential administrations should make the process for nominating and appointing people to advisory committees more explicit and visible and should examine current
federal advisory committee appointment categories to see whether they are sufficient to meet the nation’s needs.

- To build confidence in the advisory committee system and increase the willingness of scientists and engineers to serve, department and agency heads should establish an appointment process supported by explicit policies and procedures and hold staff accountable for its implementation.

The U.S. National Committee for UNESCO is a "federal advisory committee" and the recommendations of this report would appear to be directly applicable to it. However, the spirit of the report might also be extended to science and technology appointments made to UNESCO advisory committies. Certainly, one would expect the U.S. government to use this advice itself, and encourage UNESCO to use it in the relevant appointment processes.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Latest on the $100 per child laptop

This is a major initiative of MIT's Media Laboratory, including Nicholas Negroponte and Symore Papert, that should have major implications for UNESCO:

A non-profit association, One Laptop per Child (OLPC), has been created to implememt the initiative launched early this year by the MIT Media Lab. Currently, the proposed $100 machine is to be a Linux-based, full-color, full-screen laptop that will use innovative power (including wind-up), a flash memory, and puts all the components behind the screen. It is to be WiFi- and cell phone-enabled, and have multiple USB ports. The machines current specifications are: 500MHz, 1GB, 1 Megapixel. Currently the estimated price has come down to $130, but apparently the design effort is continuing. Low hardware cost is to be achieved by simplifying systems, using novel display technology, and economies of scale by producing these machines by the million. When the machines pop out of the box, they are to immediately make a mesh network of their own, peer-to-peer, and it is intended also to connect them to the Internet at very low cost. Five initial companies are reported to have committed to this project: AMD, Brightstar, Google, News Corporation, and Red Hat, as well as the 2B1 Foundation. The Economist magazine reports that China, Brazil, Egypt, Thailand and South Africa have said they will buy one million of the machines each, and that the Governer of Massacheusetts said the state would purchase one for every secondary school student when they became available.

Read the article in the Economist (subscription required)

and an Interview with Nicholas Negroponte