Saturday, September 30, 2006

Planning Policies for Early Childhood Development: Guidelines for Action

Download Planning Policies for Early Childhood Development: Guidelines for Action by Emily Vargas-Baron, UNESCO/UNICEF/ADEA, 2005.

This is an Early Childhood Development (ECD) toolkit intended to help governments and other stakeholders to collaborate in establishing policies that will ensure all children achieve their full potential.

Emily is one of the Directors of Americans for UNESCO (as well as a friend and long time colleague). JAD

UNESCO also publishes a series of Policy Briefs on Early Childhood and the UNESCO Early Childhood and Family Policy Series.

Click here to go to the facet of the UNESCO website devoted to Early Childhood.

UNESCO and Non Governmental Organizations

Download "UNESCO and NGOs" (two pages in PDF format).

Since its foundation, UNESCO has given great importance to partnership with civil society organizations, in particular NGOs. Relations between UNESCO and NGOs are essentially intellectual and moral. The Organization maintains a website promoting collaborative linkages with Non Governmental Organizations and Foundations as well as a list of UNESCO sectoral focal points for NGOs.

Many NGO's have long term relations with UNESCO, and have established formal organizational links with the Organization. (Click here for a list of those organizations.) UNESCO regards these NGOs as "valued partners owing to their active presence and concrete action in the field, the expertise they represent, and their ability to channel the concerns of the people." Requests for establishment of such a formal partnership can be made by an NGO to the Director-General of UNESCO at any time and will be processed as quickly as possible.

An NGO International Conference takes place every other year and includes all NGOs maintaining official relations with UNESCO. The NGO-UNESCO Liaison Committee, elected by the NGO International Conference, is responsible for permanent coordination and continuity of this collective cooperation. It is based at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.

National Commissions act as a liaison body for all matters of concern to UNESCO. Their task is to involve in the work of the Organization all the different ministerial departments, services, institutions, organizations and citizens in their country working for the advancement of education, science, culture and communication. In the case of the U.S. National Commission, many NGOs are represented directly on the Commission, and its Secretariat is available to help other NGOs with contacts with UNESCO.

For the Education sector, there is a specific NGOs Reflexion Group on Education for All. The Reflection Group provides a mechanism for UNESCO to inform and generate action with NGO's involved in EFA. It works on both conceptual aspects of EFA and their practical application.

Here is a link to the "Evaluation of Non-Governmental Organizations as UNESCO’s Programme Delivery Mechanisms," D. Daniels and Associates, June, 2006.
The evaluation found that there are NGOs that are relevant to achieving nearly all UNESCO programmes objectives and to advancing each of UNESCO’s functions. NGO contributions are identified for each of the UNESCO functions with their contribution being greatest in capacity building and least in contributing to standard setting.

All programme sectors work with some kind of NGO but the level of involvement with NGOs appears to be greatest in the Education, Culture and Social and Human Sciences programmes.

UNESCO: What It Is. What It Does.

This nine page, easy to read brochure provides a great introduction to UNESCO. It describes its history, and each of its five major programs.

"Strategic Foreign Assistance: Civil Society in International Security"

Strategic Foreign Assistance: Civil Society in International Security by A. Lawrence Chickering, Isobel Coleman, P. Edward Haley, and Emily Vargas-Baron, 2006.

One of the Directors of Americans for UNESCO and my long time colleague and friend, Emily Vargas-Baron, is one of the coauthors of this important new book on foreign policy.

Book Description:
Stopping terrorism at its source The emergence of global terrorism has created a new reality in national and international security. Governments and peoples must come together to encourage economic, political, legal, and social change within weak societies in which terrorists take refuge and to assist deadlocked governments in overcoming the explosive legacies of religious and ethnic conflict. In Strategic Foreign Assistance the authors show that, to do this, the United States must develop a strategic international cooperation and assistance policy that fosters strong civil societies. The book details the key role that civil society organizations (CSOs) could play in mitigating the conditions that promote terrorists and terrorism. The authors reveal how CSOs can help nations overcome internal conflicts by attacking the roots of violence and empowering people directly affected by the conflict to develop culturally appropriate strategies to pacify violent regions. They explain the value of informal society-based, nonstate initiatives--including initiatives aimed at religious leaders--in recruiting a country's citizens in the efforts for peace. And they show how CSOs can help accomplish strategic objectives for promoting social development and changing state policies in such critical areas as economic and educational policy reform, empowerment of women, property rights for the poor, and other vital areas. A. Lawrence Chickering is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. Isobel Coleman is a senior fellow in U.S. foreign policy and director of the Women and U.S. Foreign Policy Program of the Council on Foreign Relations. P. Edward Haley is the Wm. M. Keck Professor of International Strategic Studies at Claremont-McKenna College. Emily Vargas-Baron directs the Institute for Reconstruction and International Security through Education. "This is a profound and greatly useful exposition on a critical question yet strangely unexamined: how to use civil society to advance strategic objectives abroad, especially when government-to-government relations are incapable of moving adversaries away from conflict. The approach is useful and challenging and original, at once profoundly conservative and yet bound to be deeply appealing without regard to party to the most perceptive of those responsible for American foreign policy."
Emily tells me that you can buy this book at a discount at Amazon.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Celebrate Reading this Saturday, September 30th!

The 2006 National Book Festival, organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress and hosted by First Lady Laura Bush, will be held on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2006, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., between 7th and 14th streets from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (rain or shine). The festival is free and open to the public.

Click here to view our related posting
Photo© Library of Congress

The decolonization of words

René Depestre is a Haitian writer, the author notably of the award-winning “Hadriana dans tous mes rêves” (“Hadriana in All My Dreams”). He was present at the First International Congress of Black Writers and Artists organized in Paris. He was also participating in the commemoration of its 50th anniversary. He looks back on the historical 1956 event.

The First Congress was held at a time when African countries were still colonies. What did it represent for you?
First of all, an extraordinary opportunity. It allowed me to encounter and know the ideas of intellectuals I hadn’t heard of. It allowed me to better understand the diversity of black experience in relation to slavery and colonization, and to realize that the various historical journeys of Africa and its Diaspora didn’t always match. In my case, I had a particular experience. Dictatorships in Haiti made it such that “my adversary” wasn’t a white man, he was a Haitian, like me. I didn’t entirely agree with the tenets of Negritude, because I was afraid it would end up as a form of essentialism, totalitarianism or fundamentalism. At the same time I was confident, because I knew that men like Léopold Sédar Senghor and Alioune Diop from Senegal and the Martiniquais Aimé Césaire were engaging in a cultural struggle of decolonization.

What is your perspective now on the First Congress?
It was the first gathering of its kind in the French-speaking world. “Présence Africaine”, the journal and the publishing house founded in Paris by Diop, Senghor, Césaire, were the pioneers that swept my generation into the movement. This Congress, held at the Sorbonne, cradle of European knowledge, restored our self-confidence. At the same time it showed the world a black intelligentsia existed. Beyond that the Congress produced a creative effervescence that found expression in historiography, anthropology, literature and poetry. All that work did not make racism disappear, but since 1956 we have been better prepared to stand up to it.

But for me colonization isn’t over. There has been decolonization of institutions, and of the relations between the old colonial empires and their African, Asian and American colonies. There has also been a certain decolonization of mentalities.
Yet there is a more subtle colonization that we should have achieved: it is the decolonization of semantics, at the level of words, starting with “black”, “white”, “yellow”. This means that 50 years after the Congress, young people, particularly in the suburbs, hang on to myths supposedly related to identity, based on skin colour. They form “black” associations. This phenomenon is a regression in relation to the progress made by the generation of Senghor and Césaire, mine and the one that followed.

What is the role today of the intelligentsia of Africa and the Diaspora?
Today it is not a question of affirming black cultures versus others. The colonial or racial question has been replaced by the issue of globalization. If the latter remains strictly financial, we are heading for disaster. To have ultramodern airports is not sufficient if we don’t have the Airbuses of the imagination to take off. What is cruelly lacking in globalization is “globality” – in other words the totality of the values of different civilizations. All civilizations are concerned. Some panic and fall into fundamentalism. Others make the transition with much greater ease and joie de vivre. Some have bigger obstructions, like Africa, like Haiti. Globalization should also provide the opportunity to raise the level of solidarity in the world for those who have been left behind.
Interview by Jasmina Sopova
Photo: © UNESCO/ M. Ravassard

Cultural Unification: A Pertinent Instrument of African Unity

As part of the conclusions reached at the Cultural Diversity for Social Cohesion and Sustainable Development international conference held September 11th-15th in Sun City, South Africa, cultural unification appears to be a powerful tool when considering the corrosive impact of globalization on indigenous culture.

The Conference, attended by cultural professionals from Africa and the Diaspora, focused on UNESCO member states and relevant civil society agents to examine and ratify the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of The Diversity of Cultural Expressions, adopted in October 2005.

“The convention has great implications for the whole of the developing world in particular. It highlights the need for national governments to develop a coherent policy for cultural industries and to synergize its approaches within the appropriate ministries involved in creative entrepreneurship.
In this regard, a liaison between ministry of culture and ministry of trade, culture and education, culture and tourism, culture and external affairs need to be reinforced. The convention seeks to provide measures needed to balance the current imbalances in the trade of cultural products and also to enhance capacity building for areas of the cultural sector in the developing world.
Personally, I regard Article 4, 1-3 of the convention as being extremely significant to Africa because it recognizes oral tradition, heritage and indigenous knowledge system as part of cultural capacity. This is very important to some of us who decry the corrosive effects of globalization on our indigenous culture”, said George Ngwane**, a civil society cultural advocate from Cameroon, and party to the conference.

When asked about what he came out with the Sun City Conference, Mr. Ngwane’s response was:

“We were able as civil society actors, government departments and isolated cultural practitioners to lobby for the establishment of national cultural policies in our respective countries. What this implies is that countries would have to convene all partners in the cultural sector to a kind of forum.”

He also expressed a need for reviving the national commission for UNESCO in Cameroon, and mentioned the successful cooperation of the National Commission for UNESCO in South African with the South African Department of Arts and Culture and University of South Africa that has created a transcontinental platform of Africans and the Diaspora. The platform is expected to develop a common position on issues like bilateral partnerships on cultural diversity and regional strategies and the role of culture in effecting social cohesion, human rights, democracy and social justice.

“Someone described culture as the fourth pillar of sustainable development and this has been recognized by the UNESCO Convention, AU, NEPAD and Art Moves Africa. But the successes of these global or continental cultural charters depend on the integration of national and sub regional cultural policies. Cultural unification is a vital instrument for African unity. Hence, the urgency for countries and more so African countries to follow the example of Togo, Madagascar, Mauritius and Djibouti in ratifying the UNESCO Convention and establishing the structures identified in it.”

*UNESCO and Cultural Diversity
*21 May: World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development
*International Network for Cultural Diversity

**George Ngwane was interviewed by Walter Wilson Nana for the Post, Cameroon's English- language newspaper
Poster© UNESCO

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

New Layout of US-UNESCO Website from Paris

The United States delegation to UNESCO in Paris has an informative website. It has recently been revamped, and looks better than ever! I especially like the decision to have sections on the major UNESCO program areas, and have them all clearly linked from the home page of the website.

UNESCO Progress Report

Read the full, 172 page progress report on the first six months of UNESCO's 2006-7 biennium program from the Director General.

Key sections of the report providing overall assessments of the Education and Culture programs are quoted in their entirety below:


"Developments that emerged from the recent G8 Summit in St Petersburg and the two Ministers of Education meetings – the E9 Ministerial Meeting, Monterrey, Mexico, 14-15 February 2006, and the G8 Ministerial Meeting on Education, Moscow, Russia, 1-2 June 2006 – are setting the political context in which the implementation of Major Programme I is taking place this biennium. At a more operational level, the EFA Global Action Plan and the outcome of the ED Sector Reform are redefining new parameters for the functioning of the Organization at the global, regional and country levels.

E9 and G8 Ministers of Education Meetings

"The Monterrey Declaration of the E9 and the Moscow Declaration of the G8 Ministers of Education affirmed the important role education has in promoting personal fulfilment, social cohesion and socio-economic development. The Declarations also note that modalities of South-South as well as triangular (North-South-South) cooperation are crucial to advancing the EFA agenda set in Dakar. As an initial step, a focal point has been designated within the Education Sector and pilot projects are in the process of being identified in order to initiate a programme on South-South cooperation. Both meetings came out highly encouraging of the elaboration of the Global Action Plan.

EFA Global Action Plan

"UNESCO’s leadership in coordinating action to achieve EFA goals, as well as its central role in implementing the Global Action Plan affirmed by the Ministers of the E9 and G8 nations, has provided UNESCO with the crucial political support and gave weight to the intensive and extensive consultations with the other EFA convening partners. The Heads of the five EFA convening agencies, who gathered at the UNDG Principals’ Meeting, Geneva, 12 July 2006, agreed on the principles of the Global Action Plan and pledged to continue their consultation process and to present a more fully developed version of the Plan to the sixth meeting of the High-Level Group on EFA. The Global Action Plan received further support at the G8 Summit, St Petersburg, 16 July 2006, with the Heads of States explicitly welcoming “efforts by UNESCO to finalize the plan to achieve EFA goals and to provide a framework for coordinated and complementary action by multilateral aid agencies in support of country-level implementation” in a Declaration on Education for Innovative Societies in the twenty-first century.

ED Sector reform and programme execution

"Notwithstanding the ED Sector Reform process, the theoretical target of 25% for the first six months of the biennium was missed by a relatively slight margin with the expenditure rate standing at some 21% as of 30 June 2006 excluding the UNESCO Institutes. As the Sector enters the first phase of implementing the reform on 3 July, efforts are being made to minimize the disruption anticipated for the two-month transitional period to ensure that the momentum of the past six months will continue throughout the biennium. The Vision, Mission and Strategic Objectives of the ED Sector, which have been identified and defined within the overall framework of UNESCO’s mandate in education as part of the reform process, will guide the work of the Sector. In line with these new strategic directions, necessary adjustments of the work plans will be undertaken in the coming months to ensure that Major Programme I will be more focused with a viewing to achieving optimum results."


UNESCO’s integrated approach with regard to cultural diversity

"In accordance with the principal priority of Major Programme IV, Promoting cultural diversity, with special emphasis on the tangible and intangible cultural heritage, the Culture Sector continued implementing activities within the framework of the strategic objectives defined in document 31 C/4 as regards the implementation of normative action in the cultural field, policy dialogue and formulation notably at the regional and subregional levels and capacity-building at the national and country levels.

The global level

"The end of the previous biennium was marked by the adoption of the 2005 Convention for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, which completes the building of UNESCO’s normative apparatus in favour of cultural diversity.

"The major challenge will continue to be ensuring a mutual interaction within this normative apparatus since culture can only be understood in its globality.

"Such protection and promotion was probably best exemplified over the assessed period through the early entry into force of the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in April 2006, filling a major gap in the identification and protection of the most vulnerable living forms of cultural diversity. The massive number of ratifications, which surpassed expectations, facilitated the holding of the first Assembly of States Parties to the Convention, earlier than foreseen, in June 2006. It achieved its mandate of electing the members of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Committee and of adopting its Rules of Procedure.

"Cultural diversity was also advocated through policy formulation and the intercultural dialogue it affords. In this context, pursuant to the adoption by UNESCO’s Executive Board of Decision 174 EX/46 on Respect for freedom of expression and respect for sacred beliefs and values and religious and cultural symbols, UNESCO’s participation in the African Regional Conference on the Dialogue among Cultures, Civilizations and Peoples, in June 2006 as well as in the third High-Level Group Meeting of the Alliance of Civilizations in Dakar, Senegal, reaffirmed the need to promote dialogue as a means of transcending cultural and religious differences. Cooperation platforms have also been expanded with partner institutions such as ISESCO, ALECSO, the Alliance of Civilizations, ASEM, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for Dialogue between Cultures and United Cities and local Governments, in order to strengthen actions to promote intercultural dialogue. In the same spirit, UNESCO contributed to the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the Human Rights Council in June 2006. The Declaration specifies that countries shall take effective measures to ensure that State-owned media duly reflect indigenous cultural diversity. In the framework of the Slave Route Project enhancing knowledge on the cultural interaction generated by the slave trade and slavery, its International Scientific Committee was restructured and a new project strategy was prepared and adopted in February 2006, aiming at expanding research and documentation of such interaction in neglected geographic areas such as the Caribbean. A meeting on “Sites and Places of Memory”, held in Havana in May 2006, defined conceptual and methodological tools to identify and document sites and places of memory of the Slave Route in Cuba, Dominican Republic, Aruba and Haiti.

"In order to further document challenges and prospects of the concept of cultural diversity from an intersectoral and international perspective, the preparation of the second edition of the UNESCO World Report has been initiated as well as the identification of international experts and the establishment of a research framework for cultural statistics with UIS.

Regional and subregional levels

"Policy-dialogue and formulation has concentrated on contributing to major subregional initiatives aiming at harnessing culture in development processes, notably through UNESCO’s association with the sixth ordinary session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (Khartoum, January 2006), which was devoted to education and culture. It reaffirmed that African integration is to be strengthened by the renovation of education systems and their deeper anchorage in African cultural contexts in order to achieve the sustainable development of the continent and a true regional integration. The production of and access to knowledge, and the urgency of rethinking educational contents in a sociocultural perspective were identified as being crucial in that respect. The crucial role of African languages and mother-tongue education was also emphasized through the establishment of cooperation with the African Academy of Languages (ACALAN). By the same endeavour, subregional efforts also led to the creation of a new subregional UNESCO Chair devoted to the preservation of West African cultural heritage through an agreement between the University of Togo and UNESCO in April 2006, with the aim of enhancing the ancestral spiritual dimension of cultural heritage of a number of West African countries (notably Benin, Ghana and Burkina Faso).

"Similarly, following UNESCO’s commitment to promoting dialogue among political leaders of South-East European countries initiated at the first regional meeting in Ohrid (2003), and pursued at Tirana (2004) and Varna (2005), UNESCO was called to participate and assist Mr Stjepan Mesić, President of Croatia, in the fourth Regional Summit Forum of South-East Europe on “Communication of Heritage” in early June 2006 in Opatija (Croatia) in cooperation with the Council of Europe. The Summit offered an opportunity to consolidate and expand the scientific and cooperation linkages between South-East European institutions and UNESCO. The “cultural corridors” initiative, which was launched in Varna in 2005 and aimed at enhancing the fundamental role played by cultural heritage in promoting intercultural dialogue in the subregion, was further developed. The Summit adopted the Opatija Declaration promoting cultural diversity as a defining factor in South-East Europe and calling for the definition of a related Action Plan on the cultural corridors of South-East Europe.

Country level

"Drawing from the constructive force of cultural diversity, which allows for its potential for dialogue, efforts have been also deployed at the national and country levels through a number of initiatives celebrating cultural diversity worldwide, notably by: World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, which was celebrated worldwide on 21 May 2006; World Poetry Day on 21 March 2006, which reaffirmed the role of poetry as a bridge between individuals and groups and commemorated the centenary of the birth of the great philosopherpoet, Léopold Sédar Senghor; and the celebration of Turin as World Book Capital in March 2006. Similarly, the eleventh celebration of World Book and Copyright Day on 23 April 2006 afforded another opportunity for political decision-makers, economic operators and civil society stakeholders to honour books, emphasizing their multiple roles in the educational, cultural and economic spheres of societies. On this occasion, the linguistic dimension of publishing was underscored, stressing that, more than ever before, books be regarded as vehicles of vitality and language recognition and posing the dilemma regarding the role that the publishing industry can play in facilitating access to quality education for all that is adapted to learners’ needs in terms of the choice of languages available.

"Efforts at country level have also been made in post-conflict situations. An overall Culture Sector strategy for post-conflict intervention was developed acting upon two interrelated levels of action, thereby demonstrating UNESCO’s relevance and delivery capacities aimed at promoting a culturally sensitive development using culture as a resource for development; and fostering an inclusive dialogue among all the country’s stakeholders using culture as a tool for reconciliation. Building on past experience in this field, efforts were directed at supporting national mechanisms for promoting policy dialogue and consolidating national unity and respect for diversity. Cooperation between field offices and Headquarters improved considerably with regard to ensuring systematic monitoring of operational projects in postconflict situations. UNESCO has continued advocating the integration of Culture as a preliminary component in the rebirth of post-conflict countries, notably through its active participation in the United Nations Joint Assessment Missions and processes, notably in Sudan and in Somalia.

"Efforts to strengthen UNESCO’s country-level presence in the area of culture have been enhanced, notably by providing UNESCO field offices benefiting from the presence of programme specialists in the area of culture with a supplementary allocation of 1% of the regular programme budget in order to lead country-level programming activities (CCA/UNDAF/SWAP). Substantial contributions have been made to the United Nations country-level programming and other national planning exercises of different countries including, among others, Bhutan, Costa Rica, Cuba, Jordan, United Republic of Tanzania as well as the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) for Zanzibar. Similarly, the inclusion of the protection and promotion of cultural diversity in CCA and UNDAF has been achieved in a number of countries in Asia and Africa."

UNESCO Begins Preparation of World Report on Cultural Diversity


Go to the UNESCO announcement of the preparation of the report. (The page is in French. The English and Spanish versions of the webpage have yet to be published online.)

The second World Report on Cultural Diversity is to be published by UNESCO in May, 2008. UNESCO has appointed a consultitative committee to help in the preparation of the report. The first meeting of that committee was held this week.

Numerous UNESCO initiatives bear witness to the rich debate led by the Organization on the challenges of cultural diversity today. Click here for a UNESCO webpage that lists in chronological order a selection of relevant conferences, round tables, colloquiums, seminars and other meetings, as well as reports, publications and studies.

Nominations Sought for the Melina Mercouri International Prize

The Melina Mercouri International Prize (UNESCO-Greece) is awarded every other year to recognize outstanding examples of action to safeguard and enhance the world's major cultural landscapes. It meets a need, clearly identified by the World Heritage Committee in Santa Fe in December 1992, to recognize that the protection of cultural landscapes -- a richer concept than the conventional one of 'monuments' or 'sites' -- is one of the main priorities of the present time.

Nominations for the Prize close November 1, 2006. They should be submitted by the State Department in consultation with the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO.

Cultural landscapes fall into three main categories, namely:
(i) The most easily identifiable is the clearly defined landscape designed and created intentionally by human beings. This embraces garden and parkland landscapes constructed for aesthetic reasons, which are often (but not always) associated with religious buildings and ensembles.

(ii) The second category is the organically evolved landscape, a landscape that results from an initial social, economic, administrative, and/or religious imperative and has developed its present form by association with and in response to its natural environment. Such landscapes reflect that process of evolution in their form and component features. They fall into two subcategories:

* a relic (or fossil) landscape is one in which an evolutionary process came to an end at some time in the past, either abruptly or over a period. Its significant distinguishing features are, however, still visible in material form;
* a living landscape is one that retains an active social role in contemporary society closely associated with the traditional way of life and in which the evolutionary process is still in progress. At the same time it exhibits significant material evidence of its evolution over time.

(iii) The final category is the associative cultural landscape. The inclusion of such landscapes on the World Heritage List is justifiable by virtue of the powerful religious, artistic or cultural associations of the natural element rather than material cultural evidence, which may be insignificant or even absent.

I would think that some of the Civil War battlefields, or the Navajo nation's Canon de Celly, or Mesa Verde would be interesting nominations. JAD

Educating For Tomorrow's World

"As a leader of this Decade, UNESCO is assisting countries and regions develop plans and strategies that are relevant to their different realities and concerns. As the dossier of this issue of Education Today* explains, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for teaching about sustainability, and we are operating on a “learning-by-doing” basis. The United Nation’s Decade of Education for Sustainable Development is a chance for all of us to do something together and to learn from one another." -Peter Smith, Assistant Director General for Education

* Publ. 16, February-May 2006


Laura Bush Launches “Global Cultural Initiative”

Read the full announcement of the initiative from the Department of State.

The U.S. Government has announced a major new initiative to coordinate, enhance and expand U.S. cultural diplomacy efforts. In partnership with public and private cultural entities, the U.S. Department of State will build upon the work of other government agencies and the broader cultural arts community to emphasize the importance of the arts as a platform for international engagement and dialogue. Federal funding for cultural exchange programs has more than tripled since 2001 and this comprehensive initiative galvanizes the strong commitment of the Administration and the Department to cultural diplomacy.

The initiative will begin with partnerships of the State Department with
* The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts,
* The American Film Institute (AFI),
* The President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities (PCAH),
* The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA),
* The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and
* The Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
These partnerships will leverage a broad range of resources for a multi-faceted series of projects designed to:
* Connect foreign audiences with artists and art forms from the United States;
* Share U.S. expertise in arts management and performance; and
* Educate young people and adults in the United States and abroad about the arts and cultures of other countries.
Read the article in the Voice of America on the initiative.

The UNESCO Coalition of African Cities Against Racism and Discrimination is officially launched

On the occasion of the fourth Africities Summit held September 18th-24th, 2006 in Nairobi, Kenya, UNESCO launched the Coalition of African Cities Against Racism and Discrimination. The initiative is a follow-up on the Durban meeting of experts that drew up a Plan of Action reflecting the specificities and priorities of Africa last May.

As a response to the persisting practice of apartheid, xenophobia, ethnical and religious intolerance, and the legacy of historical slavery, UNESCO urged African leaders to formulate strategies and policies to fight racism and discrimination in their respective cities. Four cities have been called upon to take on the role of “lead city” – Bamako for West Africa, Durban for Southern Africa, Kigali for Central Africa and Nairobi for East Africa.

UNESCO also urged rights groups to continue in their fight against the discrimination of the victims of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, saying their acceptance in the society was critical.

Below are excerpts from remarks made during the Summit:

"It's sad to say in Africa ethnical backgrounds lead to racism and discrimination. This has hindered the continent's development in the fight against discrimination, a vice that needs total devotion to eliminate", said Pierre Sane, UNESCO Assistance Director General for Social and Human Sciences.

"The issue of racism and discrimination and the attitude in the mind threatens equality and security of our people and the responsibilities is on our shoulders as authorities to create room for all in tolerance of racism and promote mutual understanding among our people", added Nairobi City Mayor Dick Wathika.
Photo© Africities 2006

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Ricky Martin Lobbies Congress Against Trafficing in Children

Ricky Martin at the UNESCO signing ceremony.

Read "Pop Star Puts Spotlight On Human Trafficking" by Elizabeth Williamson in The Washington Post of September 26, 2006.

We previously reported that Ricky Martin had joined forces with UNESCO on a global initiative aimed at safeguarding children against exploitation and abuse.

Today he was to carry his campaign to the Congress, testifying before the House Committee on International Relations.

Comment: It is great to see Martin use his celebrity in such a good cause! JAD

+6 Chinese sites to UNESCO’s list of World Geoparks

Mount Tai in Shandong, Mount Wangwu and Nanyang Funiushan in Henan, Fangshan in Beijing, Leiqiong Geoparks (Volcanic Geoparks) in Guangdong, Guangxi and Hainan, and Jingbo Lake in Heilongjiang have recently been added to the UNESCO list of World Geoparks.

A spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Land and Resources announced that his country would make great efforts to protect and develop the 18 World Geoparks and 138 national geographic parks that China has, as these reflect the Earth’s geological evolution over 4.6 billions of years.

Since 1999, UNESCO has been promoting a global network of geosites having special geological feature. The organization supports Geological heritage initiatives through the World Heritage Convention and bi-lateral cooperation through its Division of Earth Science.

China's National Forest Parks

Mount Tai© Martin Gray/Magic Planet

Monday, September 25, 2006

"UNESCO to Organize Regional Global Literacy Conferences"

Read the full article on EuropeWorld (September 22, 2006).

"Building on a United States-hosted conference on global literacy this week, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will organize a series of high-level regional conferences during 2007 and 2008." UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said:
These conferences will address specific regional challenges in literacy with the aim of building cooperation among stakeholders and mobilizing resources for concrete interventions at country level,

"Education in the Information Society"

Download the entire document. (PDF file, 84 pages.)

Cynthia Guttman, UNESCO Publications for the World Summit on the Information Society, UNESCO, 2003.

This report was intended to bring to the attention of a broad audience the potential of ICTs to expand and improve teaching and learning in a wide variety of contexts. It has a specific focus on developing regions and UNESCO’s initiatives. The report seeks to draw attention to issues that have arisen in the context of globalisation, involving cultural diversity, ownership of knowledge and equity. Finally, it is underpinned by UNESCO’s core mission “to promote the free exchange of ideas and knowledge,” and the Organization’s renewed focus on upholding education as a fundamental human right, improving educational quality, encouraging innovation, enhancing capacities and acting as a catalyst for international co-operation.

The report begins by summarizing commitments of the world community of nations, such as Education for All and the Millennium Development Goals. It considers the implications of those commitments in the context of the discussions of the World Summit on the Information Society. The author notes that "The relationship between ICTs and education "is a complex one, confronting policymakers, educators and the international community with a new spectrum of ethical and legal issues."

The Chapters in this book are:
1. Introduction: Global Commitments
2. Towards Knowledge Societies
3. ICTs as Catalysts for Innovation
4. Principles of success
5. Conclusion: A Shared Vision

UNESCO's Basic Texts on the Information Society

Download the entire document. (PDF, 116 pages.)

UNESCO Publications for the World Summit on the Information Society, 2003.

On the occasion of the World Summit on the Information Society, UNESCO made available a series of documents summarizing key issues facing the world for the development of a just and equitable information society. This document, one of the series, contains the Declarations and other important texts that UNESCO staff believe underlie its major programs in relation to the Information Society. It has specific sections relating to Education and Culture.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Education Counts – Benchmarking Progress in 19 WEI Countries

This report marks the first in a new series of UNESCO publications from the World Education Indicators (WEI) program. It presents data for the school year ending in 2004 on educational attainment, finance, participation, as well as teachers and the learning environment for 63 countries which comprise 72% of the world’s population.

Countries participating in the WEI programme are: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Jordan, Malaysia, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, the Russian Federation, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay and Zimbabwe.

The report can be downloaded free from this website.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Plan Now to Apply to UNESCO's University Twinning and Networking Scheme

The UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Program was conceived as a way to advance research, training and program. development in higher education by building university networks and encouraging inter-university cooperation through transfer of knowledge across borders. (UNITWIN is the abbreviation for the UNIVERSITY TWINNING and networking scheme) Today some 580 UNESCO Chairs and 65 UNITWIN Networks are included in the Program involving over 700 institutions in 124 countries.

U.S. university departments may accomplish enrich their programs by participating in the program, including obtaining:
* Membership in an international network of peer organizations
* Access to new research opportunities
* Opportunities to recruit foreign students
* Enhanced national and international visibility
* Opportunity to help build the capacity of developing country universities
The number of U.S. University Chairs at this time is not nearly commensurate with the international importance of the U.S. higher educational system, and we strongly encourage applications from interested university departments in education, the natural sciences, the social and human sciences, cultural fields, and communications and information related fields.

The deadline for submission of new projects under UNITWIN is 30 of April of each year. However, applications from U.S. organizations should be submitted via the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, which establishes an earlier deadline. Check the National Commission website for more information. Now would seem to be the time to consider an application, and to begin making contacts with potential partners.

The UNESCO Chairs in the United States are (click here to go to the UNESCO website for descriptions of the programs):
* UNESCO Chair in Education for peace (172), established in 1996 at the University of Puerto Rico (United States of America)

* Mobile UNESCO Chair dedicated to the Problems of Habitability in the Hispanoamerican Cities and to the Integral Revitalization of their Historical Centres (173), established in 1996 at the University of Puerto Rico (United States of America)

* UNESCO Chair in Higher Education (485), established in 1999 at the University of Puerto Rico (United States of America)

* UNESCO Chair in Comparative Human Rights (544), established in 2001 at the University of Connecticut (United States of America)

* UNESCO Chair in Human Rights (595), established in 2002 at Florida Atlantic University (United States of America)

* UNESCO-Cousteau Ecotechnie Chair in Global Coastal Assessment (658), established in 2004 at the University of Rhode Island, Narragansett (United States of America)

* UNESCO-Cousteau Ecotechnie Chair in Coastal Resources (665), established in 2004 at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, New Jersey (United States of America)

* UNESCO Chair in Communication (673), established in 2000 at the University of Texas, College of Communication, Austin (United States of America)

* UNESCO Chair in Inclusive Education (692), established in 2005 at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center (United States of America)

* UNESCO Chair in Bioethics (700), established in 2005 at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington D.C.(United States of America)

* UNESCO Chair on Growing up in cities (702), established in 2005 at the Cornell University, New York (United States of America)

* UNESCO Chair in creating independent, pluralistic media: training and exchange programme for journalists (703), established in 2005 at the Regents of the University of Colorado, a body corporate, at Boulder, School of Journalism and Mass Communication (United States of America)

Friday, September 22, 2006

UNESCO welcomes Japan's contribution to the rehabilitation of war victims in Burundi

On August 31st, 2006, the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, welcomed the donation by Japan of US$2.18 million for the "Inter Agency Programme on the Sustainable Rehabilitation of War Victims in Burundi," which will be channeled through the Trust Fund For Human Security and involve a number of United Nations agencies, including UNESCO.

The programme will focus on providing drinking water, primary health care, education to children, vocational and literacy training; improving food safety; supporting income generating activities; training trainers in peace education, and workshops on peace and reconciliation.

UNESCO already has a wide range of activities in Burundi where some 300,000 lives have been lost in over ten years of conflict. Fighting in the country has also led to the internal displacement of some 140,000 people and to the departure of some 300,000 Burundians who have become refugees.

UNESCO has two vocational education centres (UNEVOC) in Burundi: one provides secondary professional education, the second provides public works training. Furthermore, the UNESCO Chair in Education for Peace and Conflict Resolution at the National University of Burundi promotes research, training, information and education in peaceful conflict resolution.

Education is a priority for Burundi where only 33 percent of children complete a full course of primary education.

© UNESCO/Michel Ravassard

Iraqi students heal through music

Eighteen students and two teachers from Baghdad’s Music and Ballet School studied instrument lessons, solfege theory, music appreciation and ballet at a summer music programme in Jordan over the summer 2006. The programme was sponsored by UNESCO, the Arab Alliance of Women in Music and several other partners.

In an interview, Mohamed Djelid, Director of UNESCO’s Iraq Office (currently in Amman Jordan), explains how music can help Iraqi youth heal from the traumas of war.

Question: Why is UNESCO supporting such an activity?
Djelid: Because this is precisely UNESCO’s mandate. Culture and Education are core issues for us. Culture brings out the resourcefulness of young people. It is the one fixed point to which a community in distress turns as it tries to rebuild itself. Many of the Iraqi students refrain from attending classes in Baghdad due to the insecurity. They are traumatized and detached from an intellectual and creative environment. To regain this essential momentum is one of the objectives of the Summer School.

Question: Can you heal the trauma of daily violence through music? Djelid: Yes, because time off from war is a break in peace. This is a value in itself. A young student shared with us the advice his father gives him: “If you cannot bear the noise of bombs, just think of music”. This is healing through music.

Question: Is a one-time event sufficient?
Djelid: We will support the organizers - the Arab Alliance of Women in Music (AAWM) – to continue this very successful debut and maybe even organize a Winter School in the beginning of 2007.

Question: How will you support them?
Djelid: By organizing support. For instance, a leading Arab Communication Company with Iraqi seniors and experts has prepared a documentary on Baghdad’s Music and Ballet School and the students’ work during the Summer School in Jordan. As artistic as the documentary is, it conveys a strong message to the international community to support this specific project as well as other UNESCO activities in the field of education and particularly culture.

Please contact the UNESCO Iraq Office for a free copy of the documentary.

UNESCO Education Institutes

UNESCO Education Institutes play a key role its its education programs. For further information on each Institute, please visit their respective websites.

The UNESCO Institute of Education (UIE)
Feldbrunnenstr. 58, 20148 Hamburg
Tel.:(+49) 40.448041.0
Fax:(+49) 40.4107723

The UNESCO International Bureau of Education (IBE)
Case Postale 199, CH-1211, Genève
Tel.: (+41) 22 917 7838 / 917 7800
Fax: (+41) 22 917 7801

The UNESCO International Institute of Educational Planning (IIEP)
7-9 rue Eugène Delacroix,
75116 Paris, France
Tel: (+33)
Fax: (+33)

The UNESCO-UNEVOC International Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training
UN Campus
Hermann-Ehlers-Str. 10
53113 Bonn
Phone: [+49] 228 8150-100
Fax: [+49] 228 8150-199

The UNESCO Institute for Statistics
(leads in the area of international educational statistics)
5255 avenue Decelles, 7th floor
Montreal, Quebec, H3T 2B1 Canada
Tel: (1-514) 343-6880
Fax: (1-514) 343-6882

The Management of World Heritage Cities: Challenges and Opportunities

World heritage listed towns face the realities of modern life. These exert pressures, on old urban cores; overpopulation, decaying infrastructure, tourism excesses, real estate speculation and transportation are only a few of the obstacles to developing effective preservation policies for historic quarters. In order to avoid being suffocated by their ancient walls while yet repelling the subversive forces of modernity, these old towns need to be run by town administrators with effective management tools.

To facilitate the release and the exchange of information among its member cities, the Organization of World Heritage Cities put at their disposal the URBO technical portal, which deals with the management of world heritage cities. Check it out!

Calendar of Events related to Conservation, Preservation, and Restoration of Cultural Heritage Sites
Useful Websites related to World Heritage
World Heritage List 2006

National Commissions for UNESCO

Every member nation of UNESCO has a National Commission -- 192 in all. The NatCom's were conceived at the very creation of UNESCO, sixty years ago, to enable civil society to participate fully in the organization. They provide a means for educators, the scientific community, and cultural leaders to interact with UNESCO. Indeed, NatCom's often sponsor UNESCO activities in their countries, especially in developing nations.

Here are links to some of the websites for the NatCom's of English Speaking nations. Check out the information they provide:
* United States
* United Kingdom
* Canada
* Australia
* New Zealand
This UNESCO website provides information on the activities of the National Commissions, as well as a complete list and contact information.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

UNESCO awards the 2006 Prize for Peace Education

As a token of UNESCO’s support of peace makers around the world, Sri Lanka judge Christopher Gregory Weeramantry will receive today the UNESCO Prize for Peace Education “in recognition of his ongoing commitment and concrete work in support of the concept and culture of peace throughout his long and fruitful career”.

Established in 1980, the aim of the UNESCO Prize for Peace Education is to promote all forms of action designed to ‘construct the defences of peace in the minds of men’ by rewarding a particularly outstanding example of activity designed to alert public opinion and mobilize the conscience of humanity in the cause of peace. >>More on UNESCO Prize for Peace Education

As Chairman of the Weeramantry International Centre for Peace Education and Research (WICPER), which Mr. Weeramantry founded in 2001, he has contributed to the promotion of peace education, human rights, intercultural education, social integration, interfaith understanding, environmental protection, international law, disarmament and sustainable development.

Sri Lanka’s history is marked by ethnic hostilities between the two main populations, -the Buddhist Sinhalese and the Hindu Tamils-, based on the diverging privileges and rights of each group. A long and difficult peace process dating back to Sri Lanka’s independence in 1948 continues to have a damaging impact on Sri Lankan society. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, labeled by the United States as a terrorist organization, has been seeking an independent state by leading a series of violent insurgencies against Sinhalese civilians and the Sri Lankan Government, which repeatedly undermined Ceasefire Agreements.

The United Stated, too, acts as a strong supporter of ethnic reconciliation in Sri Lanka. Alongside its fellow members of the Sri Lanka Donor Co-Chair Group*, the United States participates in the monitoring of the Sri Lanka peace process and the post-tsunami reconstruction assistance.

UNESCO Director General will also present a Special Mention of the Prize to Fundación para la Reconciliación (Colombia). Created in 2001, the Fundación para la Reconciliación aims to promote the theory and practice of forgiveness and reconciliation.

* Founded in June 2003, the Sri Lanka Donor Group Co-Chairs consisits of the United States, the European Union, Japan, and Norway.

Photo: Christopher Gregory Weeramantry ©United Nations

Global Literacy in the blogosphere

The UNESCO-White House Global Literacy Conference obtained some visibilility in cyberspace for the need to teach everyone to read and write. While the word turns up occassionally on blogs anyway, the run up to the Conference and September 18 saw peaks in interest in "literacy" that I would attribute to the Conference itself. Some examples:
* Republican National Convention Blog 2004 (published the President's and First Lady's remarks in full).

* The International Reading Association ("Bush: Ending global illiteracy a U.S. duty").

BloggingStock (Posting on the First Lady ringing the Wall Street Bell, mentioned she was in New York attending a conference on global literacy).

* LawInfo.Com (mentions that First lady Laura Bush was in New York for an international literacy conference).

* SocioLingos Africa Blog (a blogger from Mali provides a long posting on the Conference.)
Even those who usually use their blogs for Bush-bashing seemed to see his support for the global literacy campaign to be a good thing, worthy of praise.

Comment: Of course, most people who learned of the conference did so from the press, which covered it extensively. (Google News cites 495 articles in response to "Global Literacy Conference.) Many more people took notice of the postings on the websites of UNESCO, the White House, the State Department, and the Department of Education. Still, many people surf the blogosphere, and the cause of literacy needs every bit of support it can get!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Check Out The September 2006 Issue of UNESCO-Courier !

Taylor Hooton ©UNESCO/ D. Hooton

Each month, The UNESCO Courier online magazine gives voice to articles from around the world dealing with a specific topic related to UNESCO’s concerns.

This month’s thematic dossier “Winning at Any Cost?” examines sports and raises interesting questions about the many scandals that surround today’s successful athletes. The pressure to be the best may push athletes to resort to performance enhancing drugs. Worse, it may also cost them their lives, as it was the case with 17 year-old baseball player Taylor Hooton of Texas.
Suscribe Now!

UNESCO and Anti-Doping

UNESCO demands explanation for construction projects near Iranian World Heritage Site

Bisotun ©UNESCO/ Babak Sedighi

The UNESCO World Heritage Center has recently sent a letter to Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization, demanding an explanation for the establishment of the industrial town of Hersin in the territory of the Bisotun ancient site, the Persian service of CHN reported on August 26th, 2006.

Every new construction and every major change in the territory must be approved by the World Heritage Center beforehand. However, the construction of Hersin was approved by the Planning Council of Kermanshah Province last year and 30 hectares of the region have been purchased from the villagers...

We welcome your reactions to the eventual establishment of industrial towns in the vicinity of Cultural Preservation Sites!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

On Islamic Feminism

Those who were lucky to attend the 2-day Colloquium held yesterday and today at UNESCO Paris Headquarters have now a better understanding of what Islamic Feminism means.

Islamic feminism refers to a discourse of educated urban women (and a few men) who re-read the Qur’an and early Islamic history to recuperate their religion from patriarchal and violent interpretations, to make the case for women’s participation and rights in a religious idiom, and to give theological legitimacy to the movement for women’s rights in the Muslim world. Islamic feminists claim the right to ijtihad along with the right to take part in prayers and even to lead prayers.

Along with Islamic feminists, many Muslim scholars are engaged in a kind of religious reformation, some of which is Quran-centered and some of which addresses issues such as Islam and democracy, Islam and human rights, and Islam, science, and philosophy. Thus Islamic feminism has arisen on the cusp of this new alternative formulation and religious reformation.

The emergence of such movement among other women’s movements raised the issue of the right to ijtehad (independent reasoning, religious interpretation), and the right of women to reinterpret Islamic law. Many Muslims are now searching for alternative ways to live their lives and organize their societies without compromising either their religious identity or their human rights.

Islamic feminism has become the guiding philosophy of women’s movements such as the Malaysian women’s group Sisters in Islam and the Nigerian women’s group Baobob, both of which are affiliated with the transnational feminist network Women Living Under Muslim Laws and work for gender equality and development.

The First International Congress on Islamic Feminism was organized in Barcelona, 27-29 October 2005, by the Junta Islamica Catalan with the support of the UNESCO Catalan Center in Barcelona. It brought together many women and men, scholars and activists from the Muslim countries and communities. Following-up on the past event’s success, UNESCO and the Commission Islam et Laïcité, have co-organized the 2006 seminar.

For a list of suggested readings on Islamic Feminism, please visit the event schedule

UNESCO and Preservation of World Heritage Sites in Lebanon

We previously reported on this blog about UNESCO's priority effort to help the Lebanese children traumatized by the recent fighting, and to revive and restore Lebanon's educational system. However, UNESCO's international responsibility extends to protecting the World's Heritage from the past, as well as protecting children. UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura during the fighting launched an alert to protect heritage in the Middle East. He said, in part:
"My compassion goes first to the men, women and, especially, the children, who are experiencing the ordeal of fire, shelling and despair. Nevertheless, we must also think about our immense responsibility towards sites such as Tyre, Baalbek, Byblos, Anjar, the Holy Valley and the Forest of the Cedars of God, in Lebanon, and the Old City of Acre in Israel. All these names - names that stir the imagination - are symbols of the encounter of religions and cultures that are universally recognized as our common heritage.

"This is why - in keeping with The Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (1954), and by virtue of the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972), conventions of which both Israel and Lebanon are signatories - I solemnly request that all necessary measures be taken to safeguard and protect these cultural properties of inestimable value.
Of course, Lebanon and Israel hold a vastly disproportionate share of the World's Heritage. Fortunately, it appears that little lasting damage was done to the most important World Heritage sites. Still, given the demands on the resources of these nations to repair the damage done during the fighting, it will be important that the long term effort to protect the heritage from millennia past not be forgotten. USA Today this week reported that "Three UNESCO World Heritage sites in Lebanon need urgent repairs"

Oil Slick in the Old Port of Byblos ©UNESCO/Studionada

UNESCO recently sent a team of experts to Lebanon to assess the state of the places in that country that have been enrolled as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. At press conference on their return, they called for urgent measures to clean up the oil spill from the World Heritage edifices along the Byblos shore line. Despite the limited extent of war damage to cultural heritage, the mission found several areas that require attention to safeguard and revitalize that heritage. The mission noted that the souk and some old houses in the Old City of Baalbek, not part of the property inscribed on the World Heritage List, were damaged by bombs.

The Roman City of Baalbek ©UNESCO

Mr Bouchenaki,Director-General of the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), outlined more longer-term measures to preserve Lebanon’s cultural heritage: Setting up photogrammetric equipment to monitor fissures in several sites; helping Lebanon’s Department of Antiquities develop its human resources to improve the safeguarding and management of cultural heritage sites; drawing up of a risk map identifying cultural properties with serious structural weaknesses; and undertaking measures to consolidate the most seriously threatened structures.

UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Culture stressed the importance of culture as a cement of social cohesion in Lebanon and spoke of the importance of cultural heritage as a symbol of the country’s diversity and tolerance.

UNESCO is preparing to send another, multidisciplinary mission to Lebanon to assess ways in which the Organization may contribute to reconstruction in culture, education, science and communication, in the framework of the United Nations’ plan for Lebanon.

Video of the Press Conference

Editors Note: The ruins of many successive civilizations are found at Byblos, one of the oldest Phoenician cities. Inhabited since Neolithic times, it has been closely linked to the legends and history of the Mediterranean region for thousands of years. Byblos is also directly associated with the history and diffusion of the Phoenician alphabet. Visit UNESCO's Bylbos World Heritage Site website.

Baalbek was a city in the time of the Phoenicians. It was known as Heliopolis during the Hellenistic period. During Roman times the city's sanctuary of the Heliopolitan Jupiter attracted thousands of pilgrims. Baalbek, with its colossal structures, is one of the finest examples of Imperial Roman architecture at its apogee. Visit UNESCO's Baalbek World Heritage Site website.

UNESCO hails White House Conference on Global Literacy a great success

Mrs. Laura Bush and Mr. Koїchiro Matsuura ©Susan Sterner

Yesterday's Conference, which was being held on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly sessions this week, was attended by Pesident Bush, U.S Secretary of States Condoleeza Rice, Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings, First Ladies, First Spouses and decision-makers from around the world.

Laura Bush, Honorary Ambassador for the United Nations Literacy Decade, contended that “ending illiteracy is a challenge for every country. And every government must do its part by investing in the education of its people”. “The investment”, the First Lady added "is always worthwhile, because investing in literacy and education helps governments meet their fundamental obligations, by improving opportunities for children and families, by strengthening their economies, and by keeping their citizens in good health.” The First Lady further stated that “countries prosper with an educated workforce”, and called governments and private sector organizations to allocate resources to literacy initiatives.

She announced a US$1 million contribution form the United States to support UNESCO's Literacy Assessment and Monitoring Program (LAMP)*. Spelling out the three most important benefits of reading: “Literacy instruction for women improves educational opportunities for their children -- women who can read are advocates for their children's education; literacy helps adults make informed decisions to protect their health and the health of their children; and literacy helps adults -- women and men -- learn the basic financial skills that generate income, that foster independence, and that boost local economies.", Mrs. Bush invited all governments to join.

President Bush backed his wife's speech and pointed out the impact that reading has on the positive transformation of nations. He defined literacy’s capacity to “yield the peace we all want”. To this end, not only did President Bush encourage governments to get involved in this cause, he also called upon businesses to engage in the global effort towards literacy whilst reminding that such initiatives “will help spread prosperity and peace”.

“It is very hard to have free societies if the citizens cannot read. It's much harder for a society to realize the universal blessings of liberty if your citizens can't read the newspaper in order to be able to make informed choices and decisions about what may be taking place in a country. You can't realize the blessings of liberty if you can't read a ballot, or if you can't read what others are saying about the future of your country.”

Welcoming the remarks made by Laura and George W. Bush, as well as the generous pledge to UNESCO LAMP, Mr. Matssura, director General of UNESCO, confirmed UNESCO’s commitment to providing “literacy to all as a basic human rights” and announced a series of Regional Literacy Conferences. These high-level conferences will aim at building cooperation and mobilizing resources for concrete interventions. The first of its kind will take place in Qatar March 12th-14th, 2007. Regional Conferences for Europe and Central Asia, Africa and Latin America will follow. As for the Asia-Pacific Region, a decision will soon be announced.

* Through LAMP, many countries are working to determine which people in their country cannot read, where people live who cannot read, and why people can't read.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The First Lady's Day -- Followed in part on the Internet

It takes a strong lady to do so much!
The White House schedule for Mrs. Bush's Week During the UN General Assembly

Laura Bush Hosting White House Literacy Conference (her initiative, cosponsored by UNESCO)


Secretary Spellings Delivered Remarks at the White House Conference on Global Literacy

Greta Van Susteren and her crew meet the first lady and her staff at 7:30 a.m. at the New York Public Library. For the next three days the Fox News crew is shadowing the first lady in NYC with its cameras and we will also have a sit down interview with her.

Oh, and incidentally, the first lady‘s speech on Wednesday (as a keynote speaker opening the three-day Clinton Global Initiative -- that is Bill, not Hillary) will cover topics such as literacy and education, AIDS and women‘s rights that she has highlighted in her travels.

Pitt Jazz Teams With UNESCO's International Music Council to mark celebrations of Black Writers and Artists

Benny Golson© lbbob Music Inc.

In conjunction with the 50th Anniversary of the 1st International Congress of Black Writers and Artists, The University of Pittsburgh and the International Music Council (IMC) of UNESCO will host an event Sept. 21-22 at the University of Paris-La Sorbonne that will include a concert, roundtable discussion, and master classes by legendary jazz artists for students from around the world.

Pitt Professor Nathan Davis, head of Pitt's Jazz Studies Program, will moderate a roundtable discussion Sept. 21 titled "Jazz: From Its Humble Beginnings on the Plantation in the U.S. to a World Music".

"It is very gratifying to see the legacy of the Pitt Jazz Seminar and Concert extend to Paris," said Pitt Provost James V. Maher. "We strongly believe the University of Pittsburgh is helping to carry out UNESCO's vision of a genuine dialogue based on respect for shared values and individual cultures. The sounds of jazz, born in the United States, have become part of this international language."

"Our plan is to bring more partners to the strengthening of the Pitt Jazz Seminar Outreach Program as an incubator for artistic creativity, a forum for reflection on music in society, and a cultural event that broadens people's participation in a diverse musical life," added the event's executive director, Damien Pwono.

Fore more information on the event, please refer to our posting: "Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the 1st International Congress of Black Writers and Artists"