Friday, March 17, 2006

UNESCO Projects on Slavery: St. Patrick' Day

Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was sold into slavery in the 5th century. After his escape he returned to Ireland, where he had been a slave, and brought Christianity to the island. On this day, dedicated to St. Patrick, it seems appropriate to spotlight UNESCO's concern for slavery.

Check out UNESCO's Lest We Forget: The Triumph Over Slavery Exhibit online.

The Slave Route is UNESCO's portal for a long term project with three major objectives:
* to break the silence surrounding the slave trade and slavery through the historical study of the causes and dynamics of the transatlantic slave trade
* to clarify of the consequences and interactions resulting from the slave trade
* to contribute to the establishment of a culture of tolerance and peaceful coexistence between races and peoples.
The UNESCO Office in the Caribbean also emphasized its Slave Route Project.

The Slave Trade Archives is a major project to break a silence and make universally known the issue of the transatlantic slave trade and slavery, its causes and dramatic results, by means of scientific work. Under this project historical records of the slave trade have been digitized and made available in new formats:
* The National Library of Brazil's project is considered a model of excellence.
* Haiti, in the middle of civil war, under the threat of death, lack of electricity and political instability, was able to finish on schedule the first CD-ROM.
* Senegal prepared the documents of former French West Africa and inscribed them on the Memory of the World Register.
* Colombia digitised over 150.000 images.
* The Museum of Barbados created an archive for the 14 English-speaking countries of the Caribbean.

2004 was dedicated by the United Nations as Slavery Abolition Year. UNESCO's portal for the commeroration describes its activities.

Unfortunately, involuntary servitude is still with us 1600 years after St. Patrick, and in spite of the progress made in the 19th and 20 centuries. UNESCO's efforts, helping to keep the issue before the public and to further scientific understanding of slavery, are an arm in the international effort to promote and protect human rights!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Water and Indigenous Peoples

Edited by R. Boelens, M. Chiba and D. Nakashima. Knowledges of Nature 2, UNESCO: Paris, 177 pp., March 2006.

To request a copy, email -

This book has been launched by UNESCO during the Fourth World Water Forum in Mexico City (March 2006). It is based on the papers delivered atf the Second and Third World Water Forums (The Hague in 2000 and Kyoto in 2003). It brings to the fore some of the most incisive critics from indigenous communities of international debates on water access, use and management, as well as indigenous expressions of generosity that share community knowledge and insight in order to propose remedies for the global water crisis.

Water and Indigenous Peoples
advocates a revision of international development efforts to fully embrace indigenous peoples' knowledge, values, land tenure, customary management, social arrangements and rights pertaining to water. Contributions cover a wide array of approaches and issues, ranging from 'worldviews' to 'rights-based struggles'.

Monday, March 13, 2006

"Education Makes News" training kit

UNESCO has launched a revised and improved the Education For All media training and resource kit titled “Education Makes News”. Education for All (EFA) is the international initiative to achieve education for all by 2015. The kit is to be used to encourage the communication media to highlight EFA goals locally, regionally and globally. The kit can be used to develop the interest, knowledge and skills of journalists and other media professionals in writing, reporting and investigating the EFA issues. It can help them to create stories from statistics and bring the EFA debate to the center stage. The revised kit has been updated with recent statistics, facts, and examples and newly organized contents. The technology used in the Computer Based Training (CBT) is simplified for easy use by learners/trainers.

Click here to downloaded the kit.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Philip Hall Coombs; Education Expert and Advocate

Read the obituary in the Washington Post, March 10, 2006.

Read the obituary in the New York Times, March 7, 2006.

Philip Hall Coombs, 90, the first assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, died Februar 15, 2006 in Chester, Conn.

Mr. Coombs worked for UNESCO's International Institute for Educational Planning in Paris. In 1970, he became vice chairman and then chairman of the International Council of Economic Development, focusing on improving education in developing countries.

His books include "The Fourth Dimension of Foreign Policy" (1964); "Education and Foreign Aid" (1965); "Attacking Rural Poverty: How Nonformal Education Can Help" (1974); and "The World Crisis in Education: The View From the Eighties" (1985).

"We praise education's virtues and count on it to help the new generation solve great problems which the older generation has failed to solve," Secretary Coombs told an international meeting in Washington in 1961. "But when it comes to spending more money for education, our deeds often fail to match our words."

Saturday, March 11, 2006

22 March - World Day for Water 2006: Water and Culture

Go to UNESCO's website for the World Day for Water 2006.

The United Nations General Assembly has declared that 22 March of each year is World Day for Water. States are invited to devote the Day, as appropriate in the national context, to concrete activities such as the promotion of public awareness through the publication and diffusion of documentaries and the organization of conferences, round tables, seminars and expositions related to the conservation and development of water resources and the implementation of the recommendations of Agenda 21.

World Water Day (WWD) 2006 will be guided by the theme 'Water and Culture' under the leadership of UNESCO.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Laura Bush calls for promoting education with advanced teachers Training

Read the full article in the Pakistan Times.

"US First Lady Laura Bush on Saturday stressed the need for promotion of education in Pakistan, with special focus on advanced skill training for teachers.

"'Education is an issue of concern worldwide,...and we (United States) want Pakistan to shift from simple qualifications to advanced methodology in the educational field. This can help people to lead life with success,' she said in a roundtable talk with the representatives of UNESCO, Federal Directorate of Education, Children Resource International (CRI) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) at US Embassy here."

"UNESCO: Sixty Years of Standard-Setting in Education, Science and Culture"

Go to the Conference website.

This Symposium is is to take place 9-10 March 2006 in Paris at the UNESCO Headquarters. It has been organized by UNESCO's Office of International Standards and Legal Affairs.

UNESCO has adopted over the last sixty years 35 conventions, 31 recommendations and 13 declarations in the fields of education, science and culture.
* What has become of all these instruments ?

* Have they contributed to the realization of the principles and objectives of UNESCO as laid down in its Constitution ?

* What is their impact on national laws and policies of Member States ?

* Have they become part of international law ?
This symposium on UNESCO’s standard-setting activities - the first of its kind - is organized in the context of the sixtieth anniversary of the Organization. It brings together eminent international legal scholars and practitioners to address the above issues, and to assess the impact of UNESCO’s standard setting-activities in the realization of the mandate of the Organization.

Two experts from U.S. universities are included among the distinguished participants:
* Prof. Ruth OKEDIJI from the University of Minnesota, and

* Prof. Jerome H. REICHMAN from Duke University.

International Women's Day 2006

Today is International Women's Day. Check out UNESCO's website describing the events taking place at UNESCO in honor of the occasion.

Every year on 8 March, both at and away from Headquarters, UNESCO celebrates International Women’s Day, a flagship event which highlights at the international level questions relating to the empowerment of women and the promotion of gender equality.

UNESCO Holds Conference on Arts in Human Development

UNESCO Holds Conference on Arts in Human Development

A conference on the role of arts in human development sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) began on Monday in the Portuguese capital.

The four-day meeting drew 750 experts from around the world including teachers, researchers and other experts in visual arts, dance, music, theatre, creative writing and poetry.

Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio opened the conference with UNESCO Director General Koichiro Matsuura.

Strategies for Teacher Training in ICT

UNESCO Bangkok provides a page of links to several studies of pre- and in-service teacher development programs intended to effectively integrate information and communication technologies into school and university curricula. Examples include Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, South Korea and Costa Rica. UNESCO also has a link to a Professional Development Model for Online Course Development.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Inter-Agency Peace Education Programg

Read the booklet online.

This new UNESCO publication describes a program for the introduction of peace education and conflict minimization for refugee and returnee children. The program is designed to enable people to think constructively about living together and about solving problems that arise in their communities through peaceful means. It also allows the learners to practice these skills.

The program described is currently being implemented in eleven countries in Africa, and has been integrated into complementary programmes in Kosovo, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

It is run by UNESCO in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

U.S. Public Opinion on International Relations

"America's Place in the World 2005: An Investigation of the Attitudes of American Opinion Leaders and the American Public About International Affairs"

This is a study produced by the Pew Center for the People and the Press in association with the Council on Foreign Relations. It is the latest of a series. It is perceived by many to indicate a shift toward isolationism on the part of the American Public.

Peter Beinhart wrote last month, for example:
Public isolationism has jumped sharply since 2002. Even more striking is the change in elite opinion. According to a recent Pew study, the percentage of security experts who say the United States should be highly assertive around the world has dropped from 75 percent in 1993 to 53 percent today. Among leading scientists and engineers, it has dropped from 55 percent to 32 percent. Among top religious leaders, it has fallen from 57 percent to 36 percent.

Larry Seaquist, a member of the Board of Directors of Americans for UNESCO, provided a column by David Brooks of the New York Times, in which he takes an alternative view:
A polling analyst, Ruy Teixeira, has taken the closest look at the data over at his Web site, Donkey Rising. Teixeira argues that instead of seeing a turn to isolationism, what we are seeing in poll after poll is public opinion returning to normal post-World War II levels, after the unusual 9/11 blip.

Much of the isolationist talk started when a Pew survey found that 42 percent of Americans believe that the U.S. should mind its own business internationally, a 12-point rise over three years. But Teixeira points out that the 42 percent number puts Americans back where they were throughout the Clinton years, when Americans supported more foreign interventions than ever before.

Ruy Teixeira, on his website "Donkey Rising", in fact wrote:
Is the US public moving toward isolationism? Last week, I cited the John Mueller article on “The Iraq Syndrome” that suggested a trend among the public toward isolationism was likely in reaction to the Iraq debacle. Partial confirmation of this trend is provided by data from a new Pew Research Center/Council on Foreign Relations study, “American’s Place in the World, 2005". I say partial confirmation for two reasons: (1) There are counter-trends that suggest the public mood cannot easily by typecast as simply isolationist; and (2) The move away from internationalism, such as it is, is mostly relative to the post-September 11, 2001 surge in internationalism. Therefore, the public is mostly returning to the status quo ante–the post Vietnam era of qualified internationalism--rather than true isolationism.

Brooks seems clearly to have wrongly interpreted Teixeira, who thinks that the level of isolationism is returning to post Desert Storm levels, not post WWII levels. The key finding from the Pew study is shown in the graph below:

The report itself states:
Fully 42% of Americans say the United States should “mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own.” This is on par with the percentage expressing that view during the mid-1970s, following the Vietnam War, and in the 1990s after the Cold War ended.
Thus, on the basis of this one indicator, public opinion appears more isolationist not only than after WWII, when the failure of isolationism was fresh in the minds of the public, but than at any time other than right after Viet Nam and right after Desert Storm.

Teixeira also writes:
Data on the UN are somewhat contradictory. On the one hand, favorability toward the UN has nosedived, so it is now 29 points lower than it was just prior to September 11, 2001. And sentiment that the “The United States should cooperate fully with the United Nations” is now at just 54 percent, down 13 points from just before 9/11 and 6 points since 2002 (though this is still substantially higher than the previous low of 46 percent in 1976). But views on whether “strengthening the UN” should be a top priority (40 percent) are just about the same as they were before 9/11 and quite a bit higher than they were in 1997 (30 percent).

However, consider the results from "Americans on Addressing World Poverty of June 2005":
A large majority of Americans favors the US committing to the goal of devoting seven-tenths of one-percent of GDP to reducing world poverty, provided that other developed countries do so as well. An equally large majority favors the US committing up to $50 a year per taxpaying household to meet the Millennium Development Goals by the year 2015—once again, provided that other developed countries do so as well.

I suggest that public opinion polls show a reduction in support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the related policies in the Middle East and West Asia. The changing views of the United Nations, especially if ascertained in the context of the wars, are probably also related to the conflict. Few opinion leaders and few in the public would distinguish the United Nations and its peace keeping functions, from the IAEA and its non-proliferation functions, from the decesntralized agencies such as UNESCO.

In fact I suppose there is great public support for some U.N. agencies. Thus the concern for a possible avian flu pandemic has required leadership on a global level from the World Health Organization, and I would guess that there is practically no isolationism expressed in terms of waiting for the pandemic to hit the United States, rather than working through multilateral channels to stop the disease where it breaks out in the human population.

I would suggest that UNESCO represents a special case. Opinion leaders and the public should be very supportive of its efforts toward Education for All. They should see international cooperation in science to be a public good, promoted effectively by UNESCO. But due to the long period that the United States was out of UNESCO, Americans know even less about it than about other U.N agencies. At a time when Americans for UNESCO is seeking to promote more linkages between UNESCO and its natural consitituencies in the United States, and to promote better understanding of UNESCO, those efforts might well be endangered by fall-out criticism of other international policies or of the United Nations.

UNESCO at the African Union Summit

The African Union held a Summit meeting in Khartoum, Sudan in January.

UNESCO provided a documentary exhibition describing the works of UNESCO in the service of culture, science and technology on the continent. Click here to see the exhibit.

Mr. Koichiro Matsuura, Director General of UNESCO addressed the heads of government and other attendees at the meeting. Click here to read his remarks.

Among other decisions, the Summit:
* Proclaimed the period 2006 – 2015, the Second Decade of Education for Africa;

* Endorsed the framework of the Plan of Action of the Second Decade of Education for Africa;

* Called upon Member States to devote sufficient resources for the implementation of the Plan of Action;

* Adopted the revised Charter for the Cultural Renaissance of Africa;

* Appealed to Member States for the speedy signing and ratification of the revised Charter;

* Adopted statutes for the establishment of the African Academy of Languages;

* Invited UNESCO and other relevant partners to provide support to both ministries of culture and education in their efforts to strengthen the interface between culture and education;

* Declared 2006 as the Year of African Languages; and

* Requested that the Commission (in cooperation with a Group of Experts) consider further the establishment of an African Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (AFESCO).