Tuesday, January 31, 2006

UNESCO: Technical and vocational education

Arts and crafts training for Ethiopian girls
Photographer: Niamh Burke

UNESCO assists governments to provide education that prepares young people for the world of work. It also reaches out to marginalized and excluded groups to engage them in income-generating livelihoods.

Technical and vocational education under scrutiny

Experts agree: skill training enhances productivity and sustains competitiveness in the global economy. But what are the progress made by countries in promoting technical and vocational education and training. Over 100 experts from around the world examined this issue during the meeting titled "Learning for Work, Citizenship and Sustainability". The meeting took place in Bonn, Germany, from 25 to 28 October 2004.

UNESCO's New York Office

UNESCO maintains an office in New York City.

Americans for UNESCO Board Meeting

A meeting of the Board of Directors of Americans for UNESCO took place yesterday.

Andre Varchaver was elected to replace Dick Arndt as Chair. Arndt, after four years of arduous service, will move over to become Co-Chair of the Advisory Council.

The Treasurer reported that the recent fund raising campaign had proven reasonably successful, with donations received from the public as well as members of the Board and the Advisory Council. It was agreed that the organization would seek to account for in kind donations, which include large amounts of time donated to the organization's activity.

Progress on the renewal of the Americans for UNESCO website was reported. The UNESCO news blogs have received nearly 5,000 visits since December, 2004, and some 8,000 page views.

UNESCO Literacy Portal

Go to the Literacy Portal.

The Literacy Portal aims to provide a platform for information-sharing on literacy projects and activities undertaken around the world and enhance UNESCO’s capacity in coordinating the United Nation Literacy Decade (UNLD) in building partnership at all level.

This portal will be developed progressively through the contribution of all literacy actors; including UNESCO Field Offices, UN Agencies, bilateral and multilateral Organizations, Member States, Institutions, Non-governmental Organizations and Literacy workers. It will be a working tool to provide them more visibility and networking possibilities.

A major task for UNESCO is to support Member States in policy reforms, especially the design and implementation of EFA policies and action plans as well as of legal instruments for promoting universal access to basic education. One way of implementing the right to education is to work towards literacy.

Faced with an increasing gap between literates and illiterates in terms of social, civic and economic opportunities, UNESCO focus its efforts towards achieving literacy for all, targeting principally girls and women. On the other hand, emphasis is placed on an education that helps to meet the challenges of poverty and exclusion by promoting life skills and access to the world of work, in particular through technical and vocational education.

UNESCO recommends several strategies for literacy work at the country level with a view towards achieving education for all – recommendations also articulated in the International Plan of Action for the United Nations Literacy Decade. These are:

1. placing literacy at the centre of national education systems and development efforts;

2. giving equal importance to formal and non-formal education modalities;

3. promoting an environment supportive of literacy and a culture of reading in schools and communities;

4. ensuring community involvement in literacy programmes as well as their local ownership;

5. building partnerships particularly at the national level, but also at sub regional, regional and international levels, between government, civil society, the private sector and local communities;

6. developing at all levels systematic monitoring and assessment supported by research and data collection.

Fulbright Fellowship at UNESCO

The United Nations Foundation, a private organization, supports professional internships under the U.S. Fulbright program at UNESCO headquarters. I understand that there are currently nine Fellows in residence under the program, and that it is expected to appoint six more for the comming year.

The program is to allow selected grantees to contribute to the advancement of the work of the United Nations and UNESCO, learn from UNESCO staff, and gain valuable professional experience to cap off their Fulbright program abroad. While all degree levels are considered, recent graduates and master's degree applicants have been encouraged to apply.

INTERNSHIP AREAS: Include communications and the Media/Communications, Cultural & World Heritage, HIV/AIDS Education, Basic Education, Quality of Life Education, Sustainable Development and Global Tsunami Warning Systems. INTERNSHIP STIPEND: A travel and settling-in allowance and a monthly stipend to cover housing, meals, and incidental expenses will be provided.

The program is implemented by the International Institute for Education. This website provides information on the 2005 - 06 program.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Measuring Linguistic Diversity on the Internet

Read the report in English or French on its UNESCO website.

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.

Friday, January 27, 2006

"'African UNESCO' gets go-ahead"

Read the full atricle by Wagdy Sawahel in SciDev.Net. (27 January 2006)

"The African Union (AU) has backed plans to create a scientific and cultural branch modelled on the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

"The AU council gave the proposal, from Sudan, the green light at its summit last week (21 January) in the Sudanese capital Khartoum.

"Among its aims, the proposed African Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (AFESCO) intends to boost the continent's scientific capacity, promote international cooperation and protect African cultures."

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Thanks to Seabreeze Travel!

The folks at Seabreeze Travel have donated three desktop computers to Americans for UNESCO, filling a real need as we work to get the organization back online. Many thanks!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

UNESCO, big business join forces against AIDS

Read the full article in AFP via Yahoo!News.

UNESCO and The Global Business Coalition (GBC) on HIV/AIDS signed the agreement on Monday, January 15. The Global Business Alliance invludes 200 companies that have committed themselves to fighting AIDS. Many of the coalition's members, including DaimlerChrysler, GlaxoSmithKline, Total, L'Oreal, Volkswagen, Johnson and Johnson, and Unilever have already implemented anti-AIDS strategies, mostly in Africa. UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura stressed the need for cooperation between institutions and the private sector to fight the "scourge" of HIV/AIDS.

Monday, January 16, 2006

"Preservation: Sure, It's a Good Thing, but.."

Girls on parade in Izamal
Janet Jarman; The New York Times

Go to the multimedia piece by Seth Kugel for the New York Times. (January 15, 2006)

"The phrase Unesco World Heritage site has been crossing from the lips of travel agents and popping up more and more on travel Web sites. That's no coincidence: the list has grown steadily from the first 12 in 1978 to 812 today, and includes everything from the Statue of Liberty, the Taj Mahal and Angkor Wat to the Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland and the Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape in Mongolia.

"But as the list expands each year, many, including Unesco staff members, are left wondering: is this rapid growth watering down the list's meaning? And by drawing both tourism and development that's often left unchecked, can the honor do as much harm as good to those places so anointed?"

Seth Kugel has produced this thoughtful piece for the New York Times, questioning UNESCO's World Heritage Site list, and indirectly the process by which sites are added and deleted from that list.

Today was marked in Washington by a story in the Washington Post on the destruction of a historic astronomical observatory. Two 1890 telescope buildings designed by one of the fathers of American architecture, Richard Morris Hunt, are being torn down. According to the Post, "precise, astronomical measurements -- celestial and equatorial readings that gave Naval warships their bearings and the world's clocks their precision -- had been made inside these buildings for much of the 175-year history of the U.S. Naval Observatory."
"No ship sailed, no missile fired, no mission to outer space was ever launched without help from the star positions marked by the telescope observations made in these buildings," said Gail S. Cleere, a Washington historian who wrote a book about the observatory.

My point is that the 812 sites on the UNESCO list are far from exhausing the number of natural and man made sites that constitute the heritage of man. UNESCO, with its very limited budget and staff can not preserve man's heritage, but it can and does serve as a venue for the nations of the world to discuss that preservation. UNESCO's World Heritage Center draws attention to sites that are clearly very important, and that attention encourages communities and nations to protect their local heritage for us all.

The multimedia show on this website, documenting the Times visit to Chichén Ítza and Campeche in Mexico's Yucatán peninsula, are well worth visiting!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Whither UNESCO? Science, Poverty, and Peace

There has been a change in the speaker lineup for this symposium on UNESCO to be held as part of the AAAS Annual Meeting in St. Louis. The correct information follows:

DATE: Friday, February 17, 2006
TIME: 8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
ORGANIZER: Irving Lerch, Americans for UNESCO

Laurel Baldwin-Ragaven (Moderator), Trinity College

Marcio Barbosa* (Speaker), United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Paris
The View from UNESCO

Walter Erdelen* (Speaker), UNESCO
The Impact of the UNESCO Science Program

Marguerite Sullivan (Speaker), U.S. Department of State
The View from the U.S. Government

Bruce Alberts (Speaker), University of California, San Francisco
The Role and Viewpoint of the National Academies

Rita Colwell (Speaker), University of Maryland and Canon U.S. Life Sciences Inc.
The Role and Expectation of the Learned and Professional Societies

Laurel Baldwin-Ragaven is the Henry R. Luce Professor of Health and Human Rights in Trinity College, and current Chair of the AAAS Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility.

* Please note that UNESCO Deputy Director General Barbosa and UNESCO Assistant Director General Erdelen are listed as unconfirmed speakers. This is due to the fact that hard commitments cannot be made long before the event. However, the organizers have been assured of their desire to attend and participate in this discussion.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Robinson Miller Upton: 1916-2005

Read the obituary in The Chicago Tribune.

Miller Upton, who served for 21 years as president of Beloit College, died December 19, 2005, at his home in Fontana, Wis. He was 88. Mr. Upton was president of many organizations, including the Council of Protestant Colleges and Universities, the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the Wisconsin Association on Higher Education and the American Finance Association. Mr. Upton also served on the board of directors for various companies, including what is now M&I Bank in Beloit, Snap-On Tools Corp., American General Series Portfolio Co., Affiliate Artists Inc., Sears Roebuck Foundation and Household International Inc.

Mr. Upton had a passion for working with international organizations on how to advance education. He was chairman of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO from 1971 to 1974.

Emily Vargas-Baron provided the following comments on Miller Upton:

He and his wife June have been dear friends. I first met him when, as the director of the U. S. National Commission to UNESCO, he gave a marvelous speech at a General Conference. He received a standing ovation, and at first he did not realize how unusual this was...

Miller was a dynamic, gentle and highly effective leader. He fully supported Jack Fobes, and for years contributed in many ways to AAU. I am glad he lived to see the United States return to UNESCO.

Through the U.S. National Commission, he helped ensure the broad participation of civil society in UNESCO and its programmes. As President of Beloit College, he orchestrated the provision of an excellent liberal arts programme. Both activities were a reflection of his deep commitment to ideals of peace, democracy, the rule of law, and education for all. I am sure many of you will join me in missing Miller greatly.

For your information, Beloit College has established the Miller and June Upton Scholarship Fund.

Friday, January 06, 2006

"UNESCO grants $125,000 for Shalamar Gardens’ restoration"

Read the full article by Shoaib Ahmed in The Daily Times (Pakistan), January 06, 2006.

"The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and Getty Foundation have given US$ 125,000 fund for the restoration and conservation of the Shalamar Gardens, which will be closed for about a month for heavy restoration work, Punjab Archaeology Department (PAD) sources told Daily Times on Thursday.

"Sources said the UNESCO released US$ 50,000 as emergency assistance for the gardens’ restoration whereas the Getty Foundation released US$ 75,000 for the first phase of the documentation and master plan. Amidst the restoration work being carried out at the Shalamar Gardens under the PAD, sources said the department would soon issue an order with the consultation of senior officials to close the garden for a month........Sources said the next grant expected from the Getty Foundation was US$ 250,000."

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Why the United States Rejoined UNESCO

Read the full Fact Sheet on the website of the U.S. Embassy in Paris.

As a symbol of our commitment to human dignity, the United States will return to UNESCO. This organization has been reformed and America will participate fully in its mission to advance human rights and tolerance and learning.

George W. Bush
57th UN General Assembly, September 12, 2002

Why the United States is Rejoining UNESCO
• UNESCO’s mission and programming reflect and advance a wide range of U.S. interests. For example, UNESCO manages the “Education for All” program, which promotes universal basic education and literacy. This initiative advances U.S. educational goals worldwide and closely parallels the U.S. “No Child Left Behind” program.
• UNESCO advocates education that promotes tolerance and civic responsibility. This is a key to building democracy and combating terrorism.
• UNESCO helps countries protect their natural and cultural heritage. It promotes adoption of sound scientific standards. These efforts are important in maintaining a healthy balance between continuity and imperatives for change.
• UNESCO promotes press freedom and independent media, essential foundations of democracy.
• UNESCO brings countries together to address issues that have significant implications for the future, such as bioethics and cultural diversity. The United States intends to be a full and active participant in these deliberations.

“Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.”

American poet Archibald MacLeish
Preamble of the UNESCO Constitution