Wednesday, November 30, 2005

UN Student Conference on Human Rights

The 8th Annual UN Student Conference on Human Rights, will take place on Thursday, December 1 and Friday, December 2.

This year's theme is "Water as a Human Right."

On Dec. 1, 2005, student delegates will meet at the United Nations
International School (UNIS) for presentations by speakers and to begin
drafting a Plan of Action. The meeting will be webcast from the UNIS web site at the following times:

10:00 to 12:30 (Eastern Standard Time)
15:45 to 17:00 (Eastern Standard Time)

On Dec. 2, 2005, the conference moves to UN Headquarters. The webcast
of this event will be available on the UN Cyberschoolbus web site

9:15am-12:15pm (Eastern Standard Time)
1:45pm-4:15pm (Eastern Standard Time)

The Poetry Archive

Go to the website of the Poetry Archive.

The Poetry Archive provides audio streaming of poets reading their work. It already has over seventy-five recorded readings. Its organizers plan to commission new, high-quality recordings from both established and emerging contemporary poets. The website also contains some hard-to-find, older recordings, some up to a century old, and there is a hope of obtaining others.

Seamus Heany, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, is the President. Andrew Motion, U.K. Poet Laureate, and Richard Carrington, audio producer, are its Directors.

The Poetry Archive seems to be limited to poets writing in English, but the idea is worthy of extension to poetry in other languages. As UNESCO seeks to protect cultural diversity, it might well consider supporting and expanding this initiative!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

"More masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity listed by UNESCO"

Read the full article on XINHUA online.:

"The Chinese government received certificates for two masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity nominated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), here Monday.

"The two masterpieces are the Art of Chinese Xinjiang Uyghur Muqam and the Pastoral Song of the Mongolian ethnic group.

"The list of masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity now counts 90 entries honoring oral expressions and traditions, music and dance, ritual and mythology, knowledge and practices about nature and the universe and traditional crafts."

Girls, Educational Equity and Mother Tongue-based Teaching

Read the publication on UNESCO's website.

"This new UNESCO publication argues that language, specifically the language used in schools, is one of the principal mechanisms through which inequality in education is reproduced. It shows how the learner’s mother tongue holds the key to making schooling more inclusive for all disadvantaged groups, especially for girls and women."

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

"World Digital Library Planned: Library of Congress Envisions Collection To Bridge Cultures"

Read the article by David A. Vise in today's Washington Post.

"The Library of Congress is launching a campaign today to create the World Digital Library, an online collection of rare books, manuscripts, maps, posters, stamps and other materials from its holdings and those of other national libraries that would be freely accessible for viewing by anyone, anywhere with Internet access.
Main Building Library of Congress

"This is the most ambitious international effort ever undertaken to put precious items of artistic, historical, and literary significance on the Internet so that people can learn about other cultures without traveling further than the nearest computer, according to James H. Billington, head of the Library of Congress......

"Google co-founder and President Sergey Brin said in an interview that he and Billington began discussions roughly one year ago about ways for the Library of Congress and Google to team up. Brin said he became intrigued after seeing a range of "beautiful" items in the Library of Congress collection during private meetings with Billington.......

"Brin and Billington said Google would only digitize materials from the Library of Congress that are in the public domain and therefore not subject to copyright protection.

"Brin said he will help raise additional private funds to finance the World Digital Library. Billington said the $3 million gift from Google will be used over the next few years to develop the details of the project and pay for global outreach.

"'Working with UNESCO, we want to encourage other countries to make use of our experiences in developing their own digitization projects,' Billington said."

Monday, November 21, 2005

The New Courier: Special UNESCO 60th anniversary issue

Read the issue online.

This issue examines UNESCO at 60 years of age. It contains focus sections discussing many of UNESCO's most important programs, including those dealing with:
* Education For All
* Oceans
* Heritage
* Copyright
* Bioethics
* Environment
* Cultural diversity
* Water
* Digital Divide
* Crises and emergencies

Some interesting tidbits from UNESCO's history (found in the issue):
* Céline Dion, the popular Canadian singer, was the first UNESCO Artist for Peace, appointed in 1999. The latest is French sculptor and poet Gérard Voisin in 2005.

* UNESCO issued its first commemorative medals, a set of three, in 1961 to celebrate its 20th anniversary. The newest medal was issued in October and commemorates UNESCO’s 60th anniversary.

* The diplomat and businessman Sheikh Ghassan I. Shaker was first UNESCO Good Will Ambassador to be appointed in 1990. Nelson Mandela, the former South African president, is the latest to join the ranks in 2005.

* In 1945, 37 countries signed the UNESCO Constitution, which came into force a year later after ratification by 20 signatories. They became the first founders of the Organization. With the entry of Brunei Darussalam in March 2005, the Organization now comprises 191 Member States and 6 Associate Members.

* The nomination of the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador was the first World Heritage site nomination to reach UNESCO in 1978, followed by 11 others in seven countries. Twentyfour new sites were inscribed in 2005, the latest being the Urban Historic Centre of Cienfuegos in Cuba. Today, the list comprises 812 sites from 137 States Parties to the World Heritage Convention.

* Alva Myrdal (1902-1986) directed UNESCO’s Department of Social Sciences from 1951 to 1955.

* People representing their countries at UNESCO governance meetings included Maria Montessori, Taha Hussain, Pablo Neruda, and Indira Ghandi.

* in 1953 UNESCO established the World Braille Uniformity Programme, which standardized literary codes, enabling blind people around the world to read the same Braille books, learn foreign languages, exchange ideas and experiences. This expanded later to include science, mathematics and music notations. UNESCO also launched the World Braille Council, thus providing an international venue for Braille matters to be discussed. Again in 1953, UNESCO published World Braille Usage, as well as the Braille Courier in English, French, Spanish and Korean.

* If not for UNESCO’s international campaign, the Aswan High Dam would have flooded the Nile valley, site of the most important Nubian temples. This was but one of 26 campaigns. In addition, operational projects have been launched protecting monuments and sites such as those in Angkor, Mostar and Ethiopia.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

World Heritage Forum

Go to Matthias Ripp's World Heritage Forum

This website is run by Matthias Ripp "to support the exchange of information on UNESCO World Heritage topics and UNESCO World Heritage Sites" and to serve as a starting point for people who are interested in these issues. The associated Weblog contains Ripp's reports about new developments, conferences, etc. in the field of UNESCO World Heritage.

Wikipedia: World Heritage Site

World Heritage Site #307

Go to the Wikipedia entry for World Heritage Sites.

Wikipedia provides a brief introduction to the World Heritage program of UNESCO, together with some photos of World Heritage sites, and links to a number of resources on the World Heritage program.

World Heritage Information Network

Go to the World Heritage Information Network website.

WHIN is a clearing-house for information about the natural and cultural sites identified as being of "outstanding universal value" and inscribed on the World Heritage List by the Intergovernmental World Heritage Committee. This list is established as part of the international implementation of the World Heritage Convention.

U.S. World Heritage Sites

Go to the National Park Service "World Heritage Sites"home page.

There are twenty (20) World Heritage sites in the United States (including two sites jointly administered with Canada). The U.S. Department of the Interior, in cooperation with the Federal Interagency Panel for World Heritage has identified many more sites (cultural and natural) as likely to meet the criteria for future nomination to the World Heritage List. This tentative list is available for viewing.

This website is a joint effort between the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) and the United States Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (US/ICOMOS). Throughout the world, national ICOMOS committees work to support the World Heritage Convention.

In the United States, the NPS serves as chief steward of the nation's natural and cultural patrimony. The Secretary of the Interior, through the National Park Service, is responsible for identifying and nominating U.S. sites to the list. The Service's Office of International Affairs provides staff support for U.S. participation in the World Heritage Convention.

The Organization of World Heritage Cities

Go to the OWHC website.

The Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC) is made up of 208 cities in which are located sites included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Of the member cities, 7 are located in Africa, 36 in Latin America, 20 in Asia and the Pacific, 123 in Europe and North America and 22 in the Arab States. At the moment there are also 4 Observer-members. These 208 World Heritage Cities have a combined population of 125 million. The OWHC’s headquarters are located in Québec City, Canada. The OWHC’s initiatives, which are geared to the implementation of the World Heritage Convention, include informing and the training municipal managers. The OWHC organizes symposia and seminars dealing with management and strategies pertaining to the development and preservation of historic sites. The OWHC also strives to heighten awareness among United Nations, UNESCO, World Bank and Council of Europe officials of the importance of better protecting historic cities in the event of armed conflicts. In the coming years, the Organization is to focus on the establishment of an electronic communications network linking member cities through the Internet and the creation of a data bank on historic cities.

World Heritage Site

Go to Els Slots World Heritage Site.

Els Slots, a Dutch woman, has provided this website (in English) with many excellent photos of the 194 World Heritage sites she has visited. The website has existed since 1997, and includes more than 1,000 comments from visitors. A newsletter is published by the webmaster.

The World Heritage Tour

Go to the World Heritage Tour website.

The WHTour website presents an image bank of printable panographies and online virtual tours for registered UNESCO World Heritage sites. Panographies are shot, assembled and uploaded on this website by Tito Dupret and Bijuan Chen. So far, the WHTour provides materials on World Heritage sites in: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Eastern Canada, China, Cambodia, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkmenistan, The Philippines, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

UNESCO Welcomes Cultural Diversity Endorsement

Read the full article in

"The Director-General of UNESCO, Ko�chiro Matsuura, today welcomed the endorsement by 176 States attending the World Summit on the Information Society (Tunis, November 16-18) of UNESCO?s vision of 'knowledge societies'. This vision is based on the four principles of freedom of expression, quality education for all, universal access to information and knowledge and respect for cultural and linguistic diversity. These principles are included in the Tunis Commitment and the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society adopted at WSIS today."

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Editorial: WSIS

The World Summit on the Information Society is finally over. Another good thing is that it has engendered public discussion on information and communications technology for development. Unfortunately, most of that discussion seems to have centered on the role of ICANN in the governance of the Internet, and on “A Laptop for Every Child”. Unfortunately, the key issues that should have been and sometimes were discussed at the Summit have been largely overlooked by the media.

The industrial revolution, which still has not reached all of the world’s population, transformed society by substituting power from engines for animal power, and by mechanizing tasks that previously had been done by hand. It marked the emergence of manufacturing industries over extractive industries as the drivers of development. It profoundly changed the nature of society.

The information revolution, which is just beginning to affect most of the world, transforms society by enabling affordable communication at a distance, and by automating tasks previously done in the minds of men – calculation, storage and retrieval of information, etc. It marks the emergence of service industries over manufacturing industries as the drivers of development. It will profoundly change the nature of society.

The age of the printing press, beginning in the 1450’s, was advanced by the industrial revolution allowing printed material to be produced in greater and greater amounts, more and more cheaply, and distributed more widely and economically. The age of the microchip, beginning five centuries later, is extending all of these benefits. The growth of knowledge in the age of the printing press has been exponential, and it seems likely that the age of the microchip will allow that exponential growth to continue. Knowledge is now the driving force not only of the economies of rich countries, but increasingly of social and political development.

100 years from now, WSIS might be seen as a benchmark, as the first time the global community met to formally recognize the information revolution and information society. Of course, we barely recognize that we are at the beginning of such a transition, and we can not begin to predict its eventual ramifications. No wonder the participants at WSIS focused on small steps for men, rather than the giant step for mankind.

ICT and Poverty

The information society, as seen today by poor people in poor countries, is more a matter of radio and mobile phones than of computers and the Internet, although you would not appreciate the fact from the media coverage of WSIS. I do not belittle radio and telephones; they are a huge advance!

The unseen action of ICT on poverty is still more important. The extractive industries, agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, become more efficient as ICT is applied. Indeed, extractive industries benefit that we hardly consider as such, such as the “water industry”. Manufacturing too is transformed, albeit not at the level of the micro-enterprise in poor countries, by the application of ICT, from the design of plant and equipment, to the management of the process, to the marketing of goods. Transportation too becomes more efficient, as ICT is applied to the design and manufacture of vehicles of all kinds, to their operation, and to their management. Services, including governance, financial, health and educational services are perhaps even more able to achieve efficiency and coverage gains than the extractive and manufacturing industries. The transformation of economies by ICT is not accomplished by giving every poor person a computer, but rather by appropriate investments in technology where they will have the highest benefit-to-cost ratio. In societies with pro-poor policies, the rising tide of economic growth does in fact raise all boats including those of the poor. And indeed, I suggest, proper applications of ICT for development make those pro-poor policies more likely and more effective.

A $100 laptop

MIT’s media genius has grabbed the headlines, but in spite of the slogan “one laptop for every child”, MIT will be lucky to sell a million laptops in the next few years. MIT’s proposal is not only to revolutionize the market for educational computers in poor countries, but also to revolutionize educational software, and – perhaps more importantly – to revolutionize the pedagogy that surrounds the use of ICT in education and, still more generally, pedagogy itself. MIT will be lucky to produce any significant advances in e-learning in the next few years, much less to convince large numbers of teachers to utilize them.

But what happens if a million $100 laptops are put into place that would not otherwise be there? They would probably go to places with some economic possibilities, and would probably go to train kids who would eventually join an intellectual elite. They would probably go to places with educational administrators more adventurous than most, and indeed to classrooms with teachers more adventurous than most. The introduction of exciting new equipment and exciting new teaching methods and aids would be likely to improve the learning environment immeasurably. Getting a million kids into such an environment, and enabling them to join an intellectual elite in their nations after such an experience seems a great accomplishment to me.

John Daly

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

"A low-cost laptop for every child"

Read the full article by Christa Case in the Christian Science Monitor.

"Effort to link the world's rural poor to the Internet with a $100 computer gets a boost from the United Nations.

"In Cambridge, Mass., Nicholas Negroponte and his team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have been chipping away at a long-held dream: producing a laptop so cheap that governments could afford to link every child in the world to the Internet.....

"Mr. Negroponte, chairman of MIT's Media Lab, will unveil his brainchild with United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan at a technology meeting in Tunisia. The meeting of the UN's World Summit on the Information Society is aimed at beginning to put into effect its stated goals where "everyone, everywhere should have the opportunity to participate" in the benefits of information technology."

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Measuring Linguistic Diversity

Read the UNESCO book online.

Subtitle: "A collection of papers by: John Paolillo, Daniel Pimienta, Daniel Prado, et al."


"UNESCO has been emphasizing the concept of “knowledge societies”, which stresses plurality and diversity instead of a global uniformity in order to bridge the digital divide and to form an inclusive information society. An important theme of this concept is that of multilingualism for cultural diversity and participation for all the languages in cyberspace. There is a growing concern that in the efforts to bridge the digital divide, hundreds of local languages may be side-stepped, albeit unintentionally. Hence, the importance attached to linguistic diversity and local content as part of an Action Line of the WSIS Action Plan for which UNESCO has the responsibility of coordination.

"The issue of language diversity on the Internet proves to be central to the debate on the Information Society in a number of unexpected ways. At first glance the question seems to revolve around the communities using the Internet – allowing communities to talk to each other in their own mother tongues, but other questions quickly follow.

"Through what channels does communication happen across the Internet? The World Wide Web is a series of information sources which provide little interactivity. Discussion fora and email provide more direct interchange. However there is insuffi cient information about the languages used in email or discussion fora (see some discussion of this by Paolillo’s paper below Chapter 3 , including the work of Sue Wright). For most language analysis researchers therefore turn to Web pages. Here, as in all communication, we must consider the character of the audience. A Web page is only read by people who have Internet access. Thus while linguistic diversity might be served by having Web pages in the ‘vanishing’ language of a very remote tribe, few people would read them as it is unlikely that tribal members have Internet access. Pages about the language of the tribe in a more international language would however serve an important role in drawing attention to the cultural value of the language concerned, and perhaps attract support for the linguistic group concerned. It is in addition, a contribution to the preservation of endangered languages.

"The papers in this volume demonstrate that there are many technical problems in calculating language diversity on the Internet. We can easily produce a random count of Internet pages by using any number of commercial search engines, but we cannot judge how often Web pages are read or whether the reading of a page helped the reader in any way. Care has to be taken to ensure that the items searched for in different languages are equivalent in their value, meaning and usage (See Pimienta).

Monday, November 14, 2005

Celebration of UNESCO’s 60th Anniversary

Read the full UNESCO media announcement of the event.

Claude Levi-Strauss, one of the founders of contemporary anthropology, Federico Mayor and Amadou-Mahtar M’Bow, former Director-Generals of UNESCO, several Heads of State and Government and numerous other personalities will participate in a ceremony on November 16, 2005 (9.30 – 12.30) marking the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Organization’s Constitution. The ceremony will take place in the UNESCO heaquarters in Paris. It will be followed by an international symposium which will bring together some 60 historians, anthropologists and philosophers.

"On November 16, 1945, representatives from 37 countries gathered in London decided to create an organization dedicated to building peace through education, science and culture. Sixty years later, the Organization is undertaking a critical review of its past directions, activities and results in order to respond to the new challenges of the 21st century."

"African heritage sites to go digital"

Read the full article from xinhuanet via Africast.

"Scientists in South Africa are digitizing Africa's rich cultural heritage sites to provide a virtual tour to those who cannot visit in person, while benefiting preservation of the sites.

"Using the latest laser-scan and computer technology, they are creating 3D models and virtual landscapes of the sites in Sub-Saharan Africa, including a coral-stone fortress in Tanzania, an ancient mosque in Timbuktu, Mali, and Great Zimbabwe, Sunday Times reported.

"These digital models and historical resources will be stored in an African cultural heritage and landscapes database that African scholars, libraries and universities will be able to use free of charge......

"The team has already finished models for four World Heritage sites, including Kilwa Great Mosque, dated about 1200 AD, and Kilwa Kisiwani Fortress (1503) in Tanzania; St Giyorgis, a rock-hewn church at Lalibela (dating back to the 11th to 13th century) in Ethiopia; and the Grand Mosques of Djenne and Djingereiber in Timbuktu in Mali (14th and 20th centuries).

"UNESCO convened the 29 session of the World Heritage Committee July in Durban, South Africa, finding that 16 of 33 endangered World Heritage sites are in Africa due to conflicts, lack of fund and protection."

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The History Channel: The World's Most Endangered Sites

Go to the History Channel's Most Endangered Sites website.

"Save Our History is The History Channel's global campaign dedicated to historical preservation and history education. The History Channel has partnered with UNESCO's World Heritage Center to help preserve some of the world's most endangered sites."

The History Channel's map of the sites.

Design 21 prizes

Read the full UNESCO media release.

"Seven young designers will be awarded the international DESIGN 21 prizes during a ceremony at Headquarters on November 14 (Segur Hall, 6.30 pm). UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura and Kazuhiko Yazaki, President of the Felissimo Group, will present the awards for the fifth edition of this international contest. Launched in 1995 by UNESCO and the Felissimo Group (Japan) the contest encourages young amateur designers between 18 and 35 years of age to submit projects linked to daily life: the home, fashion, new technologies, tools and gadgets in the area of communication, work, domestic tasks, travel, and alimentation.

"The theme 'Love/Why?' was chosen for this year’s contest to stimulate thinking on the need to imagine new concepts adapted to today’s lifestyles, and based on understanding and harmony between people and peoples. This theme also illustrates the main objective of the DESIGN 21 project to favour human relationships through design.

"The US$10,000 Grand Prize was awarded to Tamar Meshulam from Israel. The jury also awarded three first prizes of US$3,000 each to Kunio Osawa from Japan, Zhanar Turekulov from Kazakhstan, and Carla Tennenbaum from Brazil. Karen Olze & Gisa Wilkens from Germany and David Altit from Israel received, respectively, the Special Jury Prize and the Special Felissimo Prize, each worth $1,000."

International Symposium on UNESCO's History

Go to the website for the Symposium.

UNESCO was born on November 16, 1945. 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.

This is part of a 60 week long celebration of the anniversary. During the period, "UNESCO endeavours not so much to celebrate its accomplishments but to revive the power of the inspiration that guided its founding fathers. This means rekindling their sense of hope and vision with a view to the future.

Sixty themes were selected to punctuate the sixty weeks between 5 September 2005 and 4 November 2006, anniversary of the coming into force of the International Convention constituting the UNESCO.

Note especially these two websites, "60 Years of Culture", and "60 Years of Education".

Saturday, November 12, 2005

"Education for All: Global Monitoring Report 2006"

Read the full report online.

The 2006 report has just been published. The following is taken from UNESCO's media release on the report:

"Governments and donor countries are curtailing progress towards Education for All (EFA) – and broader poverty reduction – by according only marginal attention to the 771 million adults living without basic literacy skills, says the fourth edition of the EFA Global Monitoring Report, “Literacy for life”.* “Literacy is a right and a foundation for further learning that must be tackled through quality schooling for all children, vastly expanded literacy programmes for youth and adults, and policies to enrich the literate environment,” says Nicholas Burnett, the Report’s director.

"This three-fold strategy places literacy at the core of Education for All. It calls for measures to accelerate progress towards universal primary education, to scale up literacy programmes for youth and adults and to support libraries, the media, book publishing and access to information.

"'The powerful links that exist between adult literacy and better health, higher income, more active citizenship and children’s education should act as strong incentives for governments and donors to be much more proactive on addressing the literacy deficit,' says UNESCO’s Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura.

"According to the Report, three-quarters of the world’s adult illiterates live in 12 countries. South and West Asia has the lowest regional adult literacy rate (58.6%), followed by Sub-Saharan Africa (59.7%), and the Arab States (62.7%). Countries with the lowest adult literacy rates in the world are Burkina Faso (12.8%), Niger (14.4%) and Mali (19%).

"Reflecting deep-seated gender inequalities in many societies, women account for 64% of the adults worldwide who cannot read or write with understanding. This figure is virtually unchanged from 63% in 1990.

"Although adult literacy rates doubled in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Arab States and South and West Asia from 1970 to 2000, the rate of progress has slowed considerably since 1990. On present trends, only 86 percent of the world’s adults will be literate by 2015, up from 82 percent today.

"Severe poverty correlates strongly with low literacy rates: in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Mozambique and Nepal, where three-quarters or more of the population live on less than US$2 per day, adult literacy rates are below 63% and the number of illiterates exceeds 5 million.

"Driven by the expansion of schooling, the literacy rate for those aged between 15 and 24 in developing countries rose from 66% to 85% between 1970 and 2000-2004. Worldwide, however, more than 132 million people in this age group are still unable to read and write even at a minimum level."

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Another View of the Convention on Cultural Diversity

Read the full IrelandOn-Line article from October 17, 2005.

I am posting excerpts this article from last month because it gives a view of the deliberations from Ireland, a strong ally of the United States which has both a strong policy for preservation of Gaelic culture and an open economy.

"Culture clash pits US against allies"

"The US today found itself isolated at the UN?s cultural agency, with even traditional ally Britain in the opposing camp over a proposed pact on cultural diversity that the US ambassador said could be used to erect trade barriers against cultural exports.

?'This has been a very disappointing experience, both in terms of the process and the substance. This is not the way most negotiations go in multilateral international organisations,' US Ambassador to Unesco Louise Oliver said........

"The majority of Unesco?s member states support the project, including Britain. British ambassador Timothy Craddock said the draft text was 'clear, carefully balanced, consistent with the principles of international law and fundamental human rights.'

"He also said the European Union believes that the convention was 'frequently and thoroughly negotiated by all parties, most of whom have made several compromises during this process.'

"He spoke on the EU?s behalf because Britain currently holds the 25-nation bloc?s rotating presidency.........

"French Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres hailed the text as a recognition of France?s long-held contention that cultural activities should be given separate consideration in trade talks and are 'not a merchandise like any other.'.........

"Asked if the US is again thinking of withdrawing from Unesco, Oliver said: 'That?s not under discussion.'.........

"She told the Unesco meeting that negotiations seemed to have been driven by 'a desire for speed, rather than a demand for a quality consensus text.'

?'The door to negotiations that might have led to consensus ... was slammed shut in the face of unresolved, legitimate and reasonable US concerns,' she said."

Fears that the United States may withdraw from UNESCO over Convention on Cultural Diversity

Read the full story published by Embassy (Canada's Foreign Policy Newsweekly).

"UNESCO Cultural Treaty On the Rocks, Fearing U.S. Withdrawal"

"A new international pact to protect creative expression from the threat of globalization is so strongly opposed by the United States that a diplomat in Ottawa fears Washington may withdraw from UNESCO for the second time.

"'We are very worried that U.S. foreign policy is rowing against the current,' says Carlos Carrasco, Bolivia's Ambassador to Canada. 'There are rumours that the United States might drop out [of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization] or withhold funds.'

"For 18 years Mr. Carrasco was his country's representative to UNESCO in Paris, and then director for Latin America and the Caribbean. Last month in France he represented Bolivia at UNESCO's general meeting where 148 countries approved a new instrument that preserves the right of nations to promote and support their own audiovisual industries, such as film, music and literature. Two nations -- the United States and Israel -- voted against the treaty, four abstained, and dozens of other countries failed to attend the vote, which Mr. Carrasco describes as a move to appear neutral in a polarizing debate.

"The United States argues the treaty could be used to build trade barriers to cultural trade and services, and that trade agreements and World Trade Organization rules enjoy supremacy over UNESCO conventions. The U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO, Louise Oliver, also says it could be used to justify censorship. She stopped short of saying her objection to the treaty could cause the U.S. to quit the organization or withhold funding.

"'I would say that we're not currently considering any such possibilities, but obviously this process is going to raise some questions that will have to be discussed when I get back to Washington,' says Ms. Oliver, according to an Associated Press article."

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO Louise Oliver With Foreign Journalists

Read the transcript of Ambassador Oliver's videoconference of October 21, 2005.

QUESTION: Ambassador, I'm Jyri Raivio, Helsingin Sanomat of Finland. You mentioned that U.S. was not able to support the acceptance of the UNESCO budget but what's the practical consequence of this decision? And how big the part of this budget does the U.S. take?

AMBASSADOR OLIVER: The budget is -- we have program and budget for the next two years. UNESCO is on a two-year cycle so this is the $610 million program and budget for the next two years. In order to be adopted, two-thirds of UNESCO's member states need to support the program and budget. That did occur. So therefore, this program and budget will be used as a basis for UNESCO's work for the next two years.

The fact that we voted no on this budget, again, emphasizes the fact that we are unhappy with the budget in terms of the fact that it does support a Convention that we oppose. But as I said in my statement a few minutes ago, we also do not think that UNESCO has gone far enough in terms of focusing on activities, focusing on its priorities so that it can have quality programs that really make a difference around the world. Almost every country in UNESCO has stated over and over again, in the last two years since we've been part of this organization, that education is the priority of priorities. And so we are saying put resources in education, put resources in areas -- science and other areas, which are areas where UNESCO could really make a difference -- put funds, put resources in real natural and cultural preservation. And there are programs in UNESCO that do that.

Our question has been a broader question, which is, what is the role of UNESCO's programs versus its normative instruments -- a well thought out normative instrument, a well thought declaration or convention that achieves consensus, can perhaps do something real and positive.

But, I repeat, a convention that was negotiated quickly, that seemed to be more interested in being negotiated as quickly as possible so that it could be adopted at this General Conference, where speed seems to be something that people cared about more than quality -- well, that is something that we would -- we do have concerns about.

Editorial: Expand the Functions of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO

I have sought not to insert personal opinions on this blog, but only to provide information on UNESCO. I depart from that practice on this occasion, invoking blogger’s privilege, to editorialize. The following opinions are mine alone.

The Mission of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO (NatCom) as currently defined is too narrow. The NatCom is an exceptional resource for the nation, and we should broaden its functions in order to utilize its capabilities more fully. UNESCO’s multilateral approach serves U.S. interests in the fight for peace, the war against poverty, and the effort to control terrorism. A strong, fully-functioning U.S. National Commission can help to realize UNESCO’s mission and help to achieve U.S. foreign policy objectives.

A more fully involved U.S. NatCom is fully appropriate to this nation’s open, democratic government, and the leading role civil society has played in the nation’s life. As the United States promotes democracy in other nations, we stress the importance of civil society. A participatory network of National Commissions for UNESCO with strong civil society participation is vital to U.S. interests in the governance of UNESCO, and serves as an ally too in our global democratization efforts. It would set a very poor precedent were the U.S. Government to limit the role of civil society in the U.S. NatCom!

UNESCO was created in the aftermath of World War II by political leaders who believed then, as I believe now, that war is created in the minds of men and so too must a lasting peace be created in the minds of men. UNESCO’s role was then to work with the educators, the scientists, the cultural leaders, and the communicators in all nations, bringing them together in order to improve mutual understanding, and to advance peace.

UNESCO’s network of National Commissions is a unique feature within the entire U.N. system. When the Constitution of UNESCO was adopted in November 1945, Article VII stipulated that
“each Member State shall make such arrangements as suit its particular conditions for the purpose of associating its principal bodies interested in educational, scientific and cultural matters with the work of the Organization, preferably by the formation of a National Commission broadly representative of the government and such bodies”.
In the six decades since the founding of UNESCO, global efforts to fight poverty have come to the forefront. Poverty too must be fought in the minds of men. Most recently, the United States has embarked on a global war against terrorism. Terrorism too is born in the minds of men, and the ways of thinking of terrorists and their supporters must change if terrorism is to be controlled.

The network of NatComs has grown over the past years as the number of nations belonging to UNESCO has grown. So too, have the roles and responsibilities of National Commissions evolved over the years. Initially entrusted with the tasks of consultation and liaison by the Constitution of UNESCO in 1945, National Commissions were later called upon to take up the functions of information and execution by the General Conference at its 14th session in 1966. The Charter of National Commissions for UNESCO, adopted in 1978, was an important milestone in the evolution of National Commissions. That Charter states:
1. The function of National Commissions is to involve in UNESCO’s activities the various ministerial departments, agencies, institutions, organizations and individuals working for the advancement of education, science, culture and information, so that each Member State may:
(a) Contribute to the maintenance of peace and security and the common welfare of mankind by participating in the activities of UNESCO which aim to advance the mutual knowledge and understanding of peoples, give fresh impulse to popular education and to the spread of culture, and preserve, increase and diffuse knowledge;
(b) Play an ever-increasing role in UNESCO’s work, and particularly in the formulation and execution of its programmes.
2. For this purpose, National Commissions:
(a) Cooperate with their governments and with services, organizations, institutions and individuals concerned with questions within UNESCO’s competence;
(b) Encourage participation of national, governmental and nongovernmental institutions and various individuals in the formulation and execution of UNESCO’s programmes so as to secure for the Organization all the intellectual, scientific, artistic or administrative assistance that it may require;
(c) Disseminate information on the objectives, programme and activities of UNESCO and endeavour to arouse public interest in them.
3. In addition, and depending on the requirements and arrangements of each Member State, National Commissions may:
(a) Participate in the planning and execution of activities entrusted to UNESCO which are undertaken with the assistance of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and other international programmes;
(b) Participate in the search for candidates for UNESCO posts financed under the regular programme or from extra-budgetary sources, and in the placement of UNESCO fellowship holders;
(c) Participate with other National Commissions in joint studies on matters of interest to UNESCO;
(d) Undertake on their own initiative other activities related to the general objectives of UNESCO.
4. National Commissions collaborate with each other and with UNESCO’s regional offices and centres in fostering regional, subregional and bilateral cooperation in education, the sciences, culture and information, particularly through the joint formulation and execution of programmes. This cooperation may bear upon the preparation, implementation and evaluation of projects and may take the form of joint surveys, seminars, meetings and conferences and exchanges of information, material and visits.
According to the Charter of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, however, the functions of the U.S. NatCom are very limited:
The functions of the Commission shall be advisory, and any determination to be made or action to be taken on the basis of Commission recommendations shall be made or taken by appropriate officers of the Untied States Government. The Commission shall offer recommendations with respect to the consideration of issues related to education, science, communications and culture, and the formulation and implementation of U.S. policy toward UNESCO.
It might be argued that a broader role for the NatCom is not allowed by the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). However, FACA in Section 9 specifically permits advisory committees to undertake other functions when those functions are “specifically provided by statute or Presidential directive”. The NatCom charter must be renewed after two years, and I recommend that the Presidential directive for the renewal specifically include the broader functions envisioned in the UNESCO documents. The current NatCom members should be asked now for advice on the revision of their Charter.

John A. Daly

Friday, November 04, 2005

"UNESCO honors 'Zorba the Greek' composer"

Read the full report from AFP/Yahoo! News.

"UNESCO awarded its International Music Prize 2005 to 'Zorba the Greek' composer Mikis Theodorakis for his contributions to understanding between cultures and the advancement of peace.

"The 80-year-old known to most Greeks simply as 'Mikis' accepted the award in the western city of Aachen saying he "could never have been anything else but a musician". He was chosen among 40 nominees for the prize, initiated in 1975."

Read the UNESCO media release on the award.

Launch of the Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2006 : “Literacy for Life”

Go to the media release from UNESCO

The Report is to be launched on Wednesday, November 9, 1 p.m, in London.

Literacy suffers severe neglect in national and international policy, keeping hundreds of millions of adults on the sidelines of society and limiting progress towards the six Education for All goals and overall poverty reduction, says the new edition of the EFA Global Monitoring Report. The Report focuses on the world’s 771 million adults living without minimal literacy skills, and points out that while the challenge is predominant in developing regions, significant numbers of young people and adults possess weak literacy skills even in highly developed countries.

The report maps this global challenge and suggests priorities for scaled-up programmes for youth and adults. It also analyses progress towards universal primary education and gender parity: despite steady advances in some of the world’s poorest countries, the pace of progress remains insufficient.

The Report's Education for All Development Index ranks 123 countries according to their progress towards the six EFA goals set at the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal, in 2000.

"The goals are still achievable, states the Report. However, reaching them will require an immediate acceleration of activity in developing countries and an approximate doubling of the international community’s aid to basic education, even above the levels implied by the G8 pledges made at Gleneagles in July 2005."

UNESCO International Symposium: Cultural diversity and East-West dialogue

Read the full UNESCO media release.

An International Symposium on 'Cultural Diversity and Transversal Values: East-West Dialogue on Spiritual-Secular Dynamics' will take place at UNESCO from November 7 to 9. The meeting will focus on the origins and nature of cultural values shared by East Asia and the West through concrete examples of intercultural meetings throughout history. It is to bring together scholars, intellectuals and philosophers of different cultures to reflect and debate on the themes of cultural diversity and the East-West dialogue.

The Symposium is organized jointly by UNESCO and the Research Centre for Moral Science (Japan), in partnership with the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (EPHE) and the International Council for Philosophy and Humanistic Studies (ICPHS) as well as the Permanent Delegation of Japan to UNESCO and the French National Commission for UNESCO.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

"Students’ perceptions of science and technology"

Read the full article in the current edition of Connect, UNESCO's International Science, Technology and Educational Newsletter.

This is a very interesting article on the attitudes of 15 year old students in a number of countries on science and technology. The graphs plotting the differences in attitudes among countries are especially striking. Unfortunately, students from the United States were not included in the study, but it seems likely that they would share many of the opinions expressed by students from other developed nations. Excerpts from the article follow.

"In most OECD countries there is a concern about the lack of interest among young people to pursue studies and careers in science, engineering and technology (SET). Many wealthy nations ‘solve’ their recruitment problems by importing able students from poorer countries. About half of the PhD students in SET in the US come from such countries, mainly from Asia2.

"Such a ‘brain drain’ has positive as well as negative effects on both parts, and will not be discussed here. It is, however, noteworthy that the recent preoccupation with the ‘fight against terror’ has complicated the migration of these able students, in particular to the US.

"It is a paradox that the most SET driven economies in the world experience a lack of interest in SET studies and careers among young people. The economic significance for a country to have a high number of skilled scientists and engineers is well accepted.

"But young people do not choose their studies or careers because it is good for the economy of their country. They base their choices (when they have them) on their own interests, values and priorities. It is obvious that SET studies and jobs do not have the same appeal to students in wealthier countries as they used to some decades ago.

"The lack of interest in SET in schools and further studies is not only a problem for the economy. It is also a threat to democracy, since most decisions in modern societies are highly dependent on considerations that involve weighting scientifi c arguments against value judgements. A scientifi cally illiterate voting population can easily be manipulated by propaganda in a voting process.

"From the above perspectives, it becomes urgent to get to know the SET-related attitudes, priorities and interests of the young generation. The ROSE-study has the ambition to do so."

ROSE (The Relevance Of Science Education)

"ROSE is an international comparative study that taps into the diversity of interests, experiences, priorities, hopes and attitudes that children in different countries bring to school (or have developed at school). The underlying hope is to stimulate an informed discussion on how one may make science education more relevant and meaningful for learners in ways that respect gender differences and cultural diversity. It is also hoped that light will be shed on how students’ interest in choosing SET-related studies and careers can be stimulated. Through deliberations that involved science educators from all continents, ROSE has developed an instrument with around 250 single items that tries to map out attitudinal or affective perspectives as seen by 15 year old learners. All items are simple in wording and the responses are given on a 4-point Likert scale. This justifies the use of standard statistical methods like calculations of means, correlations etc. About 40 000 students from 35 countries are taking part in ROSE on whose data 10 students from different countries will base their theses. A full report on the project rationale, development and logistics is available which includes reports on data collection from the participating countries. Data collection for international reporting is now finalized. Several articles and international reports with comparisons will be published during 2005 and the following years. Networks of science educators like ESERA (European Science Education Research Association); NARST (National Association for Research in Science Teaching) – US-based but with international outreach - and in particular, IOSTE (International Organization for Science and Technology Education), have been used to establish the network of research partners."

UNESCO World Report: Towards Knowledge Societies

This is the first in a new series of UNESCO reports, to be published every two years, focusing on subjects at the heart of the Organization’s mission.

"Towards Knowledge Societies clearly makes the distinction between knowledge societies and the information society. While the information society is based on technological breakthroughs, knowledge societies “encompass broader social, ethical and political dimensions.” The Report focuses in particular on the foundations on which knowledge societies that will optimize sustainable human development are constructed.

"The Report analyses the increasingly important role played by knowledge in economic growth and advances that it can serve as a new springboard for development in the countries of the South. It also presents a detailed analysis of the factors blocking the access of many countries to the opportunities offered by information and communication technologies, especially the growing digital divide and restrictions on freedom of expression. Finally, it makes a series of recommendations to improve the situation."

The report is now available for sale (Click here to transfer to the UNESCO website), priced at € 25.00.

Table of Contents

List of boxes, figures and tables, p. 11
List of abbreviations and acronyms, p. 14
Introduction, p. 17
Overview, p. 24

1. From the information society to knowledge societies, p. 27
Knowledge societies as a source of development, p. 27
Digital solidarity, p. 29
Freedom of expression as the touchstone of knowledge societies, p. 36

2. Network societies, knowledge and the new technologies, p. 45
Knowledge economy in network societies, p. 45
The impact of the new technologies on knowledge networks, p. 47
From memory-based societies to knowledge societies? p. 52

3. Learning societies, p. 57
Towards a culture of innovation? p. 57
Learning, a key value of knowledge societies, p. 60
The availability of knowledge, p. 63

4. Towards lifelong education for all? p. 69
Basic education for all, p. 71
Lifelong education for all, p. 76
New inputs for education: institutional reform, pedagogical research, teacher training and quality of education, p. 81
“E-learning”: new technologies and distance education, p. 84

5. The future of higher education, p. 87
Towards a market in higher education? Issues of funding, p. 87
University networks yet to be invented, p. 91
The new missions of higher education, p. 95

6. A research revolution? p. 99
New research locations, p. 99
The new frontiers of science, p. 111
Research and development: future challenges, p. 114

7. Science, the public and knowledge societies, p. 119
A good governance for science and technology, p. 119
A crisis in science education? p. 126
Fostering a scientific culture, p. 128

8. Risks and human security in knowledge societies, p. 133
Knowledge as a risk panacea? Foresight and disaster anticipation, p. 133
Knowledge societies, a source of new risk? Global risks, strategic risks and new forms of criminality, p. 137
Knowledge societies, human security, human rights and the fight against poverty, p. 139
Towards sustainable development societies? p. 142

9. Local and indigenous knowledge, linguistic diversity and knowledge societies, p. 147
Preserving local and indigenous knowledge, p. 148
Linguistic diversity and knowledge societies, p. 151
Pluralism, translation and knowledge sharing, p. 156

10. From access to participation: towards knowledge societies for all, p. 159
From the knowledge divide to knowledge sharing, p. 159
Women in knowledge societies, p. 167
Universal access to knowledge: knowledge sharing and intellectual property protection, p. 169
The renewal of democratic public forums in knowledge societies, p. 178

Conclusion, p. 185
Recommendations, p. 191
References, p. 195
Notes, p. 211

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Go to the UNESCO website for its WSIS participation.

16-18 November 2005, Tunis, Tunisia

At the Summit meeting in Tunis in November 2005, UNESCO is to be an active participant and contributor organizing three events and an exhibitoin building on UNESCO’s concept of “knowledge societies”:

* A High-Level Round Table on “Shaping the Future through Knowledge”.
(17 November 2005, 3-6 p.m.)

* A Round Table on the "Role of UNESCO in the Construction of Knowledge Societies through the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme”.
(18 November 2005, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.)

* A Workshop on "ICT and Persons with Disabilities". The workshop will look at policies that promote accessibility in the digital world, especially in developing countries, and at how access to cyberspace for people with disabilities can be enhanced.
(16 November 2005, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.)

* A stand showing how UNESCO is contributing to the implementation of the WSIS Action Plan and a space for meeting colleagues and friends and for exchanging ideas and experiences on how to build knowledge societies.
(Throughouth WSIS, ICT4All Exhibition)

High Level Round Table: Shaping the Future through Knowledge

Visit UNESCO's website for the Round Table.

Date: 17 November 2005
Hour: 3-6 p.m.
Place: Tunis, Tunisia

The UNESCO High-Level Round Table “Shaping the Future through Knowledge“ is to discuss how to build equitable and inclusive knowledge societies; in particular, how the potential of knowledge can be harnessed and released for sustainable development of all the world’s peoples.

Heads of government and state, eminent scientists, visionaries and leaders from civil society and the private sector will share experience and visions on how knowledge can influence, if not drive human and societal development towards a fair, equitable and inclusive future. Leadership at all levels and in all walks of life will be critical.

Construction of Knowledge Societies

Go to the Round Table website.

A Round Table on the Role of UNESCO in the Construction of Knowledge Societies through the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Program is to take place as part of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), on November 10, 2005 in Tunis. WSIS is sponsored by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). UNITWIN is UNESCO's Universities Twinning and Networking Scheme.

The Round Table will address the role of higher education in the construction of knowledge societies and the challenges facing university systems in effectively contributing to the social, economic and cultural development of nations.

"A number of crucial challenges will be discussed, such as:
* equity and quality of higher education,
* barriers to harnessing ICT in education,
* under-development of research,
* diminishing government financial support to higher education,
* the brain drain,
* language barriers preventing access to information on the Internet, and
* bridging the knowledge gap."

The round table will be conducted in three languages - Arabic, English and French - with simultaneous interpretation.

WSIS Prepcom to Resume in November

PrepCom-3 of the Tunis phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) will be reconvened on 13 November 2005, in Tunis, for a three-day session (13-15 November 2005). The resumed PrepCom-3 will start with a short organizational Plenary meeting. The modalities of work of the resumed PrepCom-3 will follow the Rules of Procedure of the PrepCom, including the participation of observers in Plenary and Subcommittee meetings.