Monday, April 30, 2007

Literacy Initiatives Boost Maternal and Child Health, Say Experts

The Webchat on April 26, 2007 sponsored by UNESCO highlighted the importance of literacy programs on the well-being of adults and children. For instance, Perri Klass, the Medical Director of Reach Out and Read - a literacy initiative in the USA, elaborated on the importance of parents' reading to their children. Anita McBride, Chief of Staff to US First Lady, Laura Bush, highlighted the work UNESCO does in promoting information exchange on best educational practices.

"Cultural Diversity - Europe's Wealth. Bringing the UNESCO Convention to Life"

This conference, sponsored by the German Commission for UNESCO, was held 26 April - 28 April 2007 in Essen.

The meeting was planned to provide "a broad-based debate on the concept of Cultural Diversity: What does it mean, where do dangers lie and where does it offer particular opportunities? How can the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions be brought to life by cooperation when it comes into effect on March 18th 2007? What does this mean for the European Union?"

The participants, together with representatives of the international civil society, were to develop elements for a European action paper.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Next Meeting of the National Commission?

I have heard that the next meeting of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO is to take place on May 21 and 22, 2007. There is, as yet, no announcement of this on the National Commission website. National Commission meetings are open to the public.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Dialog among civilizations

© Kenji Yoshida, Unesco

The promotion of dialog in the service of peace – in order to build “peace in the minds of men” – is one of the main themes of UNESCO’s mission. Globalization and the emergence of new contemporary challenges and threats to humankind make the need for dialog among peoples ever more topical.

Click here for the website describing UNESCO's efforts to promote dialog among civilizations more fully.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Education is increasingly under attack

UNESCO has published a new report on the occasion of Global Action Week (April 23-29) in favor of Education for All. The report is dedicated to Safia Ama Jan, who devoted her life to getting Afghan girls into school. She was shot and killed outside her home in Kandahar in September 2006.

Political and military violence targeting educational systems is depriving a growing number of children of the right to education, according to “Education under Attack”, a UNESCO report launched today at the Organization Headquarters in Paris.

Cultural Diversity in the Era of Globalization

Check out the website of UNESCO's Division of Cultural Policies and Intercultural Dialog.

Statistics to illustrate the state of cultural diversity:

  • The approximately 6000 languages that exist in the world do not all have the same number of speakers: only 4 % of the languages are used by 96 % of the world population.
  • 50 % of the world languages are in danger of extinction.
  • 90 % of the world’s languages are not represented on the Internet.
  • Some 5 countries monopolize the world cultural industries trade. In the field of cinema, for instance, 88 countries out of 185 in the world have never had their own film production.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Namibia: Unesco Project Benefits San Children

UNESCO and USAID joined forces to promote early childhood development in San region of Namibia. The project started in 2002 with the financial support from USAID and US Hero Campaign. UNESCO works with caregivers to ensure quality education in early childhood development centers.

Landmark Decision on the Old City of Jerusalem

UNESCO's Executive Board has adopted a decision reaffirming the outstanding universal value of the Old City of Jerusalem and the need to protect and safeguard this World Heritage site. The decision followed a special meeting of the Board – whose 176th session has been underway in Paris since 10 April. Israelis and the Palestinians worked together to ensure the protection of Jerusalem, an endangered World Heritage site common to all of humanity.
“The ability of the parties involved to achieve what, at the outset seemed unachievable, demonstrates UNESCO's unique ability – as a specialised agency within a reforming United Nations – to build bridges, generate solidarity, and, most especially, to help in our own way towards building a harmonized world, thus creating greater peace and relieving tensions in the Middle East.
Zhang Xinsheng
Chairman of UNESCO’s Executive Board

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Global Action Week - 26 April: Education “webchat” with U.S. experts

US Mission to UNESCO will have a 'webchat' on April 26, 2007 at 10:00 AM EST. This is a great opportunity to learn about UNESCO's role in promoting literacy worldwide.
The discussion will include White House Conference on Global Literacy and the First Regional Literacy Conference in Doha, Qatar. The webchat will also carry expert opinions on literacy's importance in Education for All goals.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"Global-Literacy Work at UNESCO Undergoes Shake-Up"

Read the article subtitled "Activities and jobs cut; resources shifted from Paris to regional office" by Kathleen Kennedy Manzo in Education Week, April 17, 2007. (Registration required, but free.)

is reorganizing its education sector and decentralizing its extensive literacy operation, with the aim of strengthening that work in the world’s neediest countries." While the attempt "has earned widespread support among member nations and experts in the field, a recent shakeup in its leadership, dissatisfaction over the restructuring process, and uncertainty about how the changes will play out have generated worries over UNESCO’s capacity for advancing the cause of universal literacy......

"The United States rejoined UNESCO in 2003 after a nearly 20-year absence because of the promise of straightening out the organization, which had long drawn complaints of mismanagement and of an anti-democratic agenda.......

"Since then, the education sector has halved the number of activities it supports, to 750, reduced high-level positions, and honed its focus on countries with the highest illiteracy rates to accelerate their progress toward universal basic education.

"The organization’s historic push for improving literacy has undergone some of the most visible changes. UNESCO is responsible for overseeing the U.N. Literacy Decade, which began in 2003, and the ambitious Education for All initiative, which aims to provide basic education for all the world’s people by 2015. Through its new Literacy Initiative for Empowerment, or LIFE, the organization is pressing for country-led education policies and a greater focus on nonformal educational programs targeting children, youths, and adults who are not in school."

Climate change threatens UNESCO World Heritage sites

The Great Barrier Reef in Australia, A World Heritage Site

Climate change, one of the major challenges of the 21st century, will endanger natural and cultural World Heritage sites around the globe, according to the new UNESCO publication, "Case Studies on Climate Change and World Heritage.” The report, supported by the United Nations Foundation and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport of the United Kingdom, features 26 case studies - including the Tower of London, Kilimanjaro National Park and the Great Barrier Reef - that represent the dangers faced by the 830 sites inscribed on the World Heritage List.

Check out the Friends of World Heritage webpage devoted to the impact of climate change on World Heritage sites!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Safeguarding Traditional Cultures: A Global Assessment

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Safeguarding Traditional Cultures: A Global Assessment of the 1989 UNESCO Recommendation on the Safeguarding of Traditional Culture and Folklore
, Peter Seitel (Editor), Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, The Smithsonian Institution.

The following review of the book was provided by J. S. Jones:

This volume of collected writing was created from the conference “A Global Assessment of the 1989 Recommendation of the Safeguarding of Traditional Culture and Folklore: Local Empowerment and International Cooperation. UNESCO-Division of Cultural Affairs, and the Smithsonian Institute-Center for Folk life and Cultural Heritage produced the conference and publication.

The three day event took place in Washington DC, in June 1999. Interesting to note that the US participated in this event and in the production of the publication, but was not serving as a Member State of UNESCO at this time.

The importance of this subject brought together UNESCO and the Smithsonian to do this conference and then compiled this publication because of the value and importance of cultural heritage. The conference gathered 37 participants from 27 nations from an array of backgrounds and expertise.

This publication provides insight into the conference and the various reports, questionnaires and analyses that were discussed at the conference. The texts come from writing produced before, during and after the conference. All provide insight into the value of protecting traditional practices and culture.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Accelerated ratification of UNESCO's Convention against Doping in Sport for Olympic Games

Following a call by President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Jacques Rogge, to render cities in countries that have not ratified the International Convention against Doping in Sport ineligible to host the Olympic Games, the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, urged the international community to speed up the ratification process.

Read more about UNESCO's anitdoping campaign.

M&E at the 176th meeting of the UNESCO Executive Board

UNESCO's Executive Board is elected by UNESCO's General Conference and is one of the three constitutional organs of UNESCO. Its meetings provide a means for the representatives of the member states to monitor the work of the organization. While all of the reports provided by the secretariat for each meeting serve that end, or deal with proposed initiatives for UNESCO, some of the reports deal specifically with the results of recent evaluation studies or with the performance of UNESCO's monitoring and evaluation systems. Those reports for the current meeting of the Executive Board are linked below.

Report by the Director-General on conclusions and recommendations of the expert team on the overall review of Major Programmes II and III

Report by the Director-General on the evaluation of the first phase of the International Basic Sciences Programme (IBSP) and proposals regarding Draft Document 34 C/4 and Draft Document 34 C/5

Report by the Director-General on the UNESCO Evaluation Policy and elaborated elements of the UNESCO Evaluation Strategy

Comments by the Director-General on the evaluations undertaken during the 2006-2007 biennium and the cost-effectiveness of the programmes evaluated during the period of the Medium-Term Strategy for 2002-2007 (31 C/4)

Monitoring of the implementation of UNESCO's standard-setting instruments

Comments by the Director-General on the implementation of the Internal Oversight Service (IOS) Strategy in 2006-2007: Annual report 2006

Report by the External Auditor on the procedures used to hire consultants for the restructuring of the Education Sector and Comments by the Director-General (176 EX/INF.12)

Progress report by the Director-General on the implementation of International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS)

Reports by the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) of interest to UNESCO and the status of implementation of approved/accepted recommendations of Joint Inspection Unit reports

What our friends to the north are doing

The Canadian Commission for UNESCO held its 47th Annual General Meeting in Ottawa on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 2007. More than 200 persons from across Canada, representing the fields of education, the sciences, culture and communication and information, attended the meeting. The theme of the meeting was Linking Networks, Sharing Ideas. Thus, the meeting focused on the growth of both formal and informal networks in advancing and sharing knowledge around the world. The keynote speaker, Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, discussed links between biodiversity and cultural diversity.

Ambassador Louise Oliver's Statement to the 176th UNESCO Executive Board Meeting

Ambassador Louise Oliver

Click here to read the full statement.

She began her remarks with thanks for the expressions of sympathy to the people of the United States after the shootings at Virginia Tech, and continued:
The numerous documents that have been given to us during the past month have made it clear that the Director General and his colleagues in the Secretariat have worked very hard to try to respond to the needs and desires of UNESCO’s member states, as well as to the variety of internal and external pressures currently faced by the Organization.

We would particularly like to commend the Director General for the efforts he has made to transform UNESCO into a more effective results-based organization, and to give it a stronger voice within the United Nations (UN) system as the UN searches for better ways to address the challenges of our world today.

As we all know, the process of reform is not an easy one, particularly in an intergovernmental organization. Because it tends to be disruptive and unsettling, the purpose of reform should be clearly articulated. At UNESCO the goal of reform must be to help the Secretariat do high quality work that achieves the objectives set by its Member States more effectively and efficiently.

Exec. Board Session on the Old City of Jerusalem

As a holy city for Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Jerusalem has always been of great symbolic importance. Among its 220 historic monuments, the Dome of the Rock stands out: built in the 7th century, it is decorated with beautiful geometric and floral motifs. It is recognized by all three religions as the site of Abraham's sacrifice. The Wailing Wall delimits the quarters of the different religious communities, while the Resurrection rotunda in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre houses Christ's tomb.

The Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls has been a World Heritage Site since 1981, and has been inscribed on the list of World Heritage sites in Danger since 1982. UNESCO'a Executive Board and General Conference have repeatedly requested the application of internationally recognized principles in protection of the sites, especially the UNESCO Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (the Hague, 1954), the 1956 New Delhi Recommendation on International Principles Applicable to Archaeological Excavations and the 1972 World Heritage Convention. In conformity with UNESCO's resolutions, financial aid for heritage restoration projects in Jerusalem has been requested from Member States. Favorable responses to these appeals have enabled UNESCO to finance the restoration and conservation of a number of monuments and religious and cultural properties in the city.

A UNESCO technical mission to the Old City of Jerusalem (27 February to 2 March 2007) has completed its technical assessment on the works conducted on the Mughrabi pathway leading to the Haram el-Sharif.

Koïchiro Matsuura sent this report and its conclusions to the Presidents of the Organization's Governing Bodies, the President of the World Heritage Committee, and the Permanent Delegates to UNESCO and convened an Information Meeting for UNESCO Member States on 19 March 2007, in the presence of the expert members of the mission.

The Executive Board of UNESCO, which met last week in Paris, discussed the situation in Jerusalem and the report of the technical mission.

Click on a title below to read key materials from the Board preparations:
Jerusalem and the Implementation of the General Conference Resolution (176 EX/20)

Latest Developments in the Situation of the World Heritage Site of the Old City of Jerusalem (176 EX/Special Plenary Meeting 1)

Report of the Technical Mission to the Old City of Jerusalem (176 EX/Special Plenary Meeting/INF.1)

Comments by the Director General on the Occasion of the Special Session (in French)

Friday, April 20, 2007

Masterpieces of Intangible Cultural Heritage

Mother and child: consultation with a Kallawaya herbal practitioner.

UNESCO administers the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) as part of its cultural program. ICH is manifested, among others, in the following domains:
* Oral traditions and expressions including language as a vehicle of the intangible cultural heritage;
* Performing arts (such as traditional music, dance and theatre);
* Social practices, rituals and festive events;
* Knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe;
* Traditional craftsmanship
* Cultural spaces.
The Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity is an international distinction created by UNESCO in 1997. It concluded in 2006 with the entry into force of the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Read:
* Definition, justification and objectives of the program
* Selection Criteria and procedure

Proclamations of Masterpieces were made in 2001, 2003 and 2005. Check out the website mapping locations and giving details about the proclaimed masterpieces:
* in 2001 and 2003
* in 2005.
None of the proclaimed masterpieces are from the United States.
The Navajo, Hopi and Pueblo communities in the Southwest come to mind as holding masterpiece cultural spaces as part of man's heritage.

UNESCO: What is it? What does it do?

UNESCO: What is it? What does it do? is a very helpful booklet published by UNESCO.

Click on the image above and you will see a word cloud from Many Eyes (A great set of tools for visualizing data). The size of each word is proportional to the number of times that word is used in UNESCO's booklet. The word cloud seems accurately reflects the nature of UNESCO's work. Play with it, and you may learn something about the organization!

UNESCO's Medium Term Strategy

UNESCO's Executive Board is now meeting in Paris. One of the items under consideration is the strategy for the organization for the next six years. Based on the recommendations of the Executive Board, the General Conference will approve a strategy when it meets in October.

Read the Draft Medium Term Strategy for 2008-2013!

Please add your comments on the medium term strategy.
A discussion now could inform the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO
when it meets this summer.

Mission to Machu Pichu

UNESCO will send a mission to the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, Peru, in view of concerns by the World Heritage Committee for the conservation of this outstanding Andean archaeological centre and its natural environment, inscribed as a mixed natural and cultural site on the World Heritage List in 1983.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Literature & Translation

UNESCO's Clearing House for Literary Translation, an initiative developed in the framework of the Global Alliance for Cultural Diversity, and a center for information, guidance and encounter for all those (translators, publishers, researchers, archivists, teachers) working on the discovery and promotion of still unknown literatures.

The new edition of the UNESCO Courier is out!

© The British Museum
Egyptian Sculpture Gallery

2007 - number 3

A guided tour of museums

Increasingly seen as not only as big business, but also formidable machines for promoting mass culture major Western museums are starting to go global.

The International Association of Universities

IAU, founded in 1950, is the UNESCO-based worldwide association of higher education institutions. It brings together institutions and organizations from some 150 countries for reflection and action on common concerns and collaborates with various international, regional and national bodies active in higher education.

The online database on Higher Education Systems includes information available on the higher education systems of some 180 countries and territories worldwide.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Read the full article from

"After a fact-finding mission to the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador, a team from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today confirmed serious threats to the World Heritage site caused by encroachment by invasive species, uncontrolled tourism and other challenges, as it also welcomed measures to deal with these threats put forward by the country’s President.

"The visit, from 8 to 13 April, was led by Tumu te Heuheu, Chairman of UNESCO's World Heritage Committee, Kishore Rao, Deputy Director of UNESCO's World Heritage Centre, and Berndt von Droste of the World Conservation Union (IUCN). The trip took place at the invitation of Ecuador’s Government."

Monday, April 16, 2007

1st Expert Meeting of the UNESCO Working Group on Water Education and Capacity Building for Sustainable Development

11-13 April 2007, Paris, France

The UNESCO Working Group on Water Education and Capacity Building for Sustainable Development is an intersectoral body established by the Science and Education Sectors of UNESCO. During the meeting, the Working Group advised UNESCO, the International Hydrological Programme (IHP) and their partners on key issues, initiatives and strategies for raising awareness and advancing water education for the community, via the mass media and other communication channels, and for the school and vocational education and training (VET) sectors.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

34 New U.S. Sites for World Heritage Consideration

Thirty-four new sites are being proposed for consideration for addition to the existing 20 U.N. World Heritage sites in the United States. Each nation provides a tentative list of possible sites, and later is allowed to submit formal nominations with detailed studies for sites to be considered by the World Heritage Committee. The preliminary list is required by the 1972 World Heritage Treaty, which was proposed and ratified by the United States. A careful decision process is carried out, with external advice from international agencies, before sites are added to the the World Heritage list (which currently has 830 entries).

The National Park Service is responsible for compiling the tentative list from the United States, and does so with inputs from other U.S. government agencies and owners of property who wish that it be nominated. The tentative list of 72 sites from the United States was last revised in 1990.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of people in the United States - including elected officials - have no idea how, or by whom, the list was formulated, why it is being proposed, or what the significance of listing may be. The National Park Service does not seem to have opened the process to public comment, nor has the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO been invited to take part in the selection process.

Editorial comment: The list, as one might expect from the National Park Service, is quite strong on natural heritage sites, including some strong nominations from the Fish and Wildlife Service. To this observer, it seems weaker in terms of cultural heritage. The Nation Mall and Memorial Parks might for example have been listed to celebrate the United States contribution to the world heritage of freedom, equality and democratic governance. JAD

Climate change threatens UNESCO World Heritage sites

The threats posed by climate change to natural and cultural sites on UNESCO's World Heritage List are outlined in a new UNESCO publication, "Case Studies on Climate Change and World Heritage". The report features 26 examples - including the Tower of London, Kilimanjaro National Park and the Great Barrier Reef - case studies that are representative of the dangers faced by the 830 sites inscribed on the World Heritage List.

World Book and Copyright Day - April 23

By celebrating this Day throughout the world, UNESCO seeks to promote reading, publishing and the protection of intellectual property through copyright.

23 April: a symbolic date for world literature for on this date and in the same year of 1616, Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died.

Read more.

UNESCO-IUCN Mission to Galapágos Islands World Heritage Site

Sea-lions, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

A UNESCO World Heritage Centre/ World Conservation Union (IUCN) mission is currently in Ecuador (April 8-12, 2007) at the request of the World Heritage Committee and at the invitation of the government of Ecuador, to assess the state of conservation of the Galapágos National Park and Marine Reserve.

The mission will include high-level meetings with senior government officials from the Ministries of Tourism, of Foreign Affairs and of the Environment. Read more

Education for All Global Action Week

“Education as a Human Right” is the theme of the 2007 EFA Global Action Week (23- 29 April). UNESCO is mobilizing education ministers and stakeholders worldwide for this annual campaign in favour of Education for All.

Global Action Week is organized by the Global Campaign for Education (GCE), a UNESCO partner. Actors at all levels of education are urged to sign up and take part in order to promote Education for all worldwide.

UNESCO and the United States of America

This pamphlet published by UNESCO in 2000 briefly describes UNESCO and its importance to the United States. Especially interesting is the partial list of organizations which had passed resolutions calling for the return of the United States to UNESCO during its 18 year absence. The list is shown below:
American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Council on Education
American Chemical Society
American Physical Society
American Bar Association
American Association of Museums
American Educational Research Association
American Library Association
American Psychological Association
American Association of University Professors
Americans for the Universality of UNESCO (Now Americas for UNESCO.)
Comparative/International Education Society
Council of Scientific Society Presidents
International Council on Monuments and Sites
International Reading Association
National Education Association
National Science Teachers Association
National Association of Professional Engineers
PEN American Center
United Nations Association of the USA
US National Commission on Libraries and Information Science
Freedom House

Friday, April 13, 2007

Virtual Exhibit of “Living Heritage: Exploring the Intangible”

The exhibit “Living Heritage: Exploring the Intangible” is on display on the fence surrounding UNESCO Headquarters from 12 April to 30 November 2007.
Now you can see it without buying an airline ticket to Paris!
The exhibition presents more than 100 photos featuring oral traditions, traditional music, dance and theatre, social practices, rituals and festivals, as well as traditional knowledge and skills that communities and groups around the world receive from their ancestors and pass on to their descendants. The photos feature the 90 Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity proclaimed by UNESCO between 2001 and 2005 as well as other recent initiatives supported by UNESCO for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage.
Related Site

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Danger of Global Warming

Australia's Great Barrier Reef (Photo © Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority)
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the World Heritage Sites threatened by climate change according to a recently released Unesco report, "Case Studies on Climate Change and World Heritage."
The report is intended to raise awareness and mobilize support for preservation of the 830 natural and cultural sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
It follows the second of three global assessments by the UN's Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, released on Friday.
Within the five chapter report, lead author Augustin Colette, climate change consultant to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, addresses the impact of global warming on glaciers, marine biodiversity, terrestrial biodiversity, archaeological sites, and historic cities and settlements.

U.S. Jazz at UNESCO

The “Alvin Queen Quartet”
at UNESCO Headquarters

In honor of Jazz Appreciation Month for 2007, the U.S. Mission to UNESCO hosted “A Celebration of Jazz”. This year, it offered a concert by the “Alvin Queen Quartet” featuring Jesse Davis on Alto Saxophone, Dado Moroni on Piano, Pierre Boussaguet on Bass and band leader Alvin Queen, one of contemporary jazz’s most highly-respected and sought-after drummers.

"Doctoral Studies and Qualifications in Europe and the United States: Status and Prospects"

Edited by Jan Sadlak, UNESCO, 2004. (PDF, 296 pages)

This book, which can be downloaded from the Internet by clicking here, provides short descriptions of doctoral programs in several European countries, as well as a chapter on those in the United States (by Philip G. Altbach).

This is one of the Studies on Higher Education published by The European Center for Higher Education (CEPES).

A related book is:
Policy-Making, Strategic Planning, and Management of Higher Education
by John Taylor and Adrian Miroiu
CEPES Paper on Higher Education, 2002. (PDF, 184 pages.)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Assessment of Literacy Programs

I am passing on a question from Taylor Bolz, a student in a class at George Washington University titled "UNESCO: Agenda for the 21st Century" and the response by Frank Method, a member of the Board of Directors of Americans for UNESCO who has been lecturing to the class and advising students.

Q. I'm researching literacy programs and the ways in which they are assessed. I am trying to figure out how UNESCO can assess contextual programs and convince donors to fund them if assessment cannot be fully explained through standardized, "scientific" testing. I've been reading the work of Phillip W. Jones on the political nature of literacy planning and funding... I really wasn't expecting to find out that literacy was so political within UNESCO. Maybe I was being naive but nevertheless, it's fascinating stuff. I was hoping that you could give me some direction in the way of websites, authors, publications, articles or anything of that nature.

A. This is a great question. Literacy programs are notoriously poorly assessed, in part because there are so many different types of literacy programs, with differing objectives, and the vast majority of literacy programs are provided by non-government entities, international and national (including religious groups) using funds they raise independently, making it difficult for public authorities and external funders to collect information and assess the programs. Further, externally funded programs increasingly bundle literacy programs as components of multi-functional projects for adult education, rural education, health education, maternal education, workforce development etc etc. Often, the literacy component assessment is not much more than a measure of the numbers of learners participating in or completing the program, with either no objective measure of competency or such project-specific measures that comparisons are not possible.

A couple things to keep in mind in discussion literacy programs.

  • There is more progress on adult literacy than is apparent from the aggregate statistics. Basically, the older generations change very slowly and literacy is improving most for younger cohorts; since longevity is improving, the rate of illiteracy in the total population is not decreasing as quickly as that among young adults. The least progress is being made in the countries with failing governments, mired in conflict and with conditions which preclude large scale NGO-based programs.
  • Large scale national literacy programs generally do not work. In some cases they have become political movements, and often have turned repressive, reinforcing correct thinking and official ideology and religious and political orthodoxy. The most effective and sustained large scale programs generally have involved large numbers of small programs each pursuing literacy in its own way. However, the composite result from all literacy programs is generally positive. Thus, there are serious public policy issues about whether it is even desirable to have standardized measures and criteria for literacy programs. Direct measures of literacy competencies are more possible and desirable.
  • It is arguable that the major function of literacy programs is not just the actual achievement of literacy improvements but the deepening of civil society involvement generally in a variety of community activities. In fact, I have argued that the conventional relationship, assuming that NGOs are major agents for fostering literacy improvement, is backwards. Cultures which value and foster literacy, meaning access to information and political space for giving voice to opinion and exchange of information, are best evidenced by the emergence of complex and overlapping networks of civil society organizations. See Larry Diamond writing on the cultural foundations of democracy, or The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad by by Fareed Zakaria.
I hope this helps. A suggestion: Rather than trying to find the solution to the complex issue of how to develop standardized assessment instruments and protocols for literacy programs, you might address how UNESCO tries to create forums, clearinghouses, monitoring systems, portals and other mechanisms to facilitate exchange and professional support among the many entities work on literacy.

Map of Subjective Well-Being

Source: "A Global Projection of Subjective Well-being:
A Challenge to Positive Psychology?
by Adrian G. White

The map includes information from UNESCO as well as other sources. A more interactive version of the map can be found here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Report by the Secretary of State to the Congress: October 2005

The UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was established in 1945 with the primary objective of contributing to peace and security worldwide by promoting global collaboration through education, science, and culture. Since rejoining UNESCO on October 1, 2003, the United States continues to promote U.S. priorities at UNESCO in each of the Organization’s five sectors: Education, Culture, Communication and Information, Natural Sciences, and Social and Human Sciences. By promoting collaboration among nations, UNESCO strives to further universal respect for justice, the rule of law, human rights, and fundamental freedoms. Priority programs foster and defend the free flow of ideas and open access to education for all; build understanding of democratic principles and practice; promote scientific knowledge; and protect the cultural and natural heritage of humankind. UNESCO, which is headquartered in Paris, has 191 member states and has been led since 1999 by Director-General Koichiro Matsuura (Japan). He was reappointed for a four-year term in October 2005.

The Executive Board, one of UNESCO’s three constitutional bodies, consists of 58 member states with four-year terms of office. It examines the program of work and corresponding budget proposals, and ensures the effective and rational execution of the program by the Director-General. As a member of the Board, with a term that expires in 2008, the United States participated in the semiannual Board Sessions in Paris in April and September 2005. The Board continued negotiations on two instruments, the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and the Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights. The United States engaged actively in negotiating both of these instruments. In September, the Executive Board recommended that the General Conference, which met in October, Cultural Expressions and the Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights. The Executive Board examined the Director-General’s preliminary proposals concerning UNESCO’s Program and Budget for 2008–2009. The Board also recommended that the Director-General temporarily stop creating normative instruments, put more effort into implementing education for all, and implement a review of the Natural and Social and Human Science programs.

U.S. priorities at the Executive Board were to maintain budget discipline within UNESCO and focus UNESCO program efforts and budget resources on the areas of literacy, capacity building in science and engineering, and the preservation of cultural objects. In particular, the United States was pleased with UNESCO efforts in the area of education.

In 2005, UNESCO saw several successes in the area of education, a main priority for the United States. The United States worked with other member states to promote results-based education programs at the country level, where they will do the most good toward achieving the goals of education for all. The United States also worked closely with UNESCO in launching the Literacy Initiative for Empowerment, a literacy strategic framework with the goal of achieving concrete, measurable results in 34 countries with the highest rates of illiteracy. U.S. literacy experts were included in the preparation of this strategy, as a way to help ensure that U.S. research and experience in this critical area could be shared with others, including the promotion of an inter-generational, mother/child approach to literacy programming.

At the General Conference in October, the United States was able to join consensus on the Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights by heading off an intense effort to include a number of subjects that were inappropriate for the declaration. The United States, however, voted against the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions after it became clear that the Convention was going to be used to implement trade protections for “cultural expressions.” Negotiations on the Convention, which was heavily promoted by France and Canada, were set in motion by the adoption of a related Declaration before the U.S. reentry to UNESCO in 2003. In addition to concerns about the Convention’s potential effect on trade, the United States also expressed concerns about the impact of the Convention on the free flow of information. The vote on adoption of the Convention was 148 to two (U.S. and Israel), with four abstentions. Thirty countries must deposit their instruments of ratification with UNESCO for it to enter into force.

The UNESCO regular budget for 2005 was approximately $305 million; the U.S. assessment was $76.7 million. Since 1986, the United States has also regularly made voluntary contributions to UNESCO. The 2005 contribution totaled $837,000 and was used to support UNESCO-related international educational, scientific, cultural, and communications activities considered to be in the U.S. national interest. In 2005, of the 732 positions subject to geographic distribution, Americans held 30 posts, or 4.1 percent.

UNA-USA Salute to UNESCO Reentry

The United Nations Association of the United States of America provides this website on the U.S. reentry to UNESCO.

"We raise our flag to join the flags of 189 UNESCO Member States
in seeking the very best of our human hopes for liberty, dignity and peace”

Laura Bush's remarks
to the General Conference of UNESCO
the US Return to UNESCO with an Address

UNA-USA has done considerable work on UNESCO issues, including reports:

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Conference on Science and Technology Education: Systemic Approaches to Reform

In 2004, UNESCO and the American Association for the Advancement of Science sponsored this symposium in Paris.

Affiliate Your Technology Education club to UNESCO

UNESCO is establishing a network of Science and Technology Education Clubs in secondary schools. Schools are invited to submit their applications to UNESCO.

Should you be interested to be affiliated to UNESCO’s network of Science and Technology Education Clubs, you can contact Orlando Hall Rose in UNESCO's section for Science and Technology Education:

Monday, April 09, 2007

UNESCO condemns attack against World Heritage site in Kosovo

Read the full article from the Kuwait News Agency.

Director-General of UNESCO Koichiro Matsuura has condemned the mortar attack launched against the Monastery of Decani, which is part of the ensemble of Medieval Monuments in Kosovo, inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2004 and put on the World Heritage in Danger List in 2006.

The Visoki Decani Monastery, situated in the western part of the UN administered Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohia, was built between 1327 and 1335. The monastery is settled in the valley of the Bistrica river. Although the monastery buildings suffered damage from the Turkish occupation, the church has been completely preserved with beautiful 14th century fresco paintings. Today 30 brethren live in the monastery. The brotherhood has developed various activities: wood carving, icon painting, book publishing and is also active in the missionary work.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Ethics and Corruption in Education

It is sad but true that corruption is generally worse in developing than in developed countries. The poor lose more of their scarce resources to corruption than do the affluent. Yet, the situation can be improved. In Uganda, for example, the loss of funds transferred to local schools was cut from 87 percent to 24 percent in the 1990's, largely as a result of increased openness in the process.

The International Institute for Educational Planning launched a research project on 'Ethics and corruption in education' in 2001. One of the aims or IIEP is to promote the circulation of information on the topic. The ETICO info exchange is an information platform, created for specialists to share relevant knowledge.

The ETICO information exchange is aimed at actors such as ministries, international organizations and agencies, NGOs, universities and research institutions. It includes:
* The ETICO database: about 280 references to publications, projects, policies and norms

* ETICO links: find out more about the activities of some 86 agencies, institutions and programs

* ETICO agenda: recent and forthcoming events

* In the news, a selection of articles available on-line.
Here are a couple of the reports from the program that you can download:
* Corrupt schools, corrupt universities: What can be done? by Jacques Hallak and Muriel Poisson, Paris: UNESCO Publishing (2006)

* Adverse Effects of Private Supplementary Tutoring: Dimensions, Implications and Government Responses by Mark Bray, Paris, UNESCO (2003)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

UNESCO Institutes and Centers for Education

Today, seven Institutes and two Centers work as part of UNESCO’s Education Sector to assist countries in tackling education problems.

IBEInternational Bureau of Education (IBE), Geneva, Switzerland.
Enhancing curriculum development and educational content.

IIEPInternational Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP), Paris, France and Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Helping countries to design, plan and manage their education systems.

UIEThe UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL), former UNESCO Institute for Education, Hamburg, Germany
Promoting literacy, non-formal education, and adult and lifelong learning.

IITEInstitute for Information Technologies in Education (IITE), Moscow, Russian Federation.
Assisting countries to use information and communication technologies in education.

IESALCInternational Institute for Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (IESALC), Caracas, Venezuela.
Developing and transforming higher education in the region.

IICBAInternational Institute for Capacity Building in Africa (IICBA), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Strengthening Africa’s educational institutions.

CEPESEuropean Centre for Higher Education (CEPES), Bucharest, Romania.
Promoting cooperation and reform in higher education in Europe.

UNEVOCInternational Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (UNEVOC), Bonn, Germany.
Improving education for the world of work.

UISUNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), Montreal, Canada.
Providing the global and internationally comparable statistics that today’s world of education needs.

Institutes and Centres under the auspices of UNESCO

Comment: There are no UNESCO Education Institutes nor Centers in the United States. Given this country's leadership in areas such as higher education and the applications of information and communications technology for development, perhaps there should be one or more!

Reorganization of NESCO's Education Sector

The Education Sector, UNESCO’s largest program sector, went through a major reform and reorganization in 2006. The restructuring was planned to achieve a more results-based and field-oriented structure. Significant structural changes took place at Headquarters with the number of program divisions reduced from six to four. Two divisions
* Coordination of United Nations Priorities, and
* Education Strategies and Field Support
were newly created. The other two divisions
* Basic Education and
* Higher Education
were streamlined and reorganized. A new decentralization framework was put in place that realigns accountability between Headquarters and the field for the Education Sector.

The Director General of UNESCO reports that these changes have resulted in a greater concentration of staff resources in support of EFA – the Education Sector’s priority program – at Headquarters and in the field, and will therefore provide the necessary support for the fulfillment of the EFA mandate. He also reports that the transfer of six posts to the Regional Bureaus for Education and two to cluster offices will reinforce the Sector’s capacity to deliver at regional and country levels. In 2008-2009, it is planned to further strengthen the Regional Bureaus for Education and possibly the cluster offices, depending on the approved budget scenario. In addition, roles and responsibilities are currently being defined in line with the new structure. The new Deputy Assistant Director General for ED Program Management has also taken up her functions as of the beginning of 2007. Recruitment is under way to fill the four other new positions.


* last years report by the UK National Commission for UNESCO on the reform.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Editorial: Why the World Heritage Convention Makes Economic Sense

People value the cultural and natural heritage of mankind! Economists have even been able to put a monetary value on the importance we assign to that heritage. They measure how much people are willing to pay to travel to and stay at heritage sites. They measure how much property values are enhanced for property close to the sites. They measure how much people are willing to pay as entrance fees to enter the sites.

If you doubt that people are willing to pay for the preservation of cultural and natural heritage, think about the governments that spend taxpayers dollars on national parks, monuments, and cultural heritage sites! Consider also the donations that people make every year to the Sierra Club or World Wildlife.

Economists have even done surveys documenting that people value the knowledge that cultural and natural heritage is being preserved even in sites they will never themselves visit.

UNESCO's World Heritage Convention has more signatories than any other international treaty or convention. It gives UNESCO no legal authority to protect world heritage sites, nor to impose sanctions where sites are not being protected. It simply provides a mechanism by which sites nominated by the governments of the countries in which they exist can be subjected to impartial review and judgment. The World Heritage List is the best, most valid list of the wonders of the world. Incidentally, every site nomination is reviewed by one of three independent organizations:
Perhaps surprisingly, the competition for listing has encouraged countries to do extensive studies of sites, and to develop or revise plans to protect them. The review processes call world attention to sites in peril, and the threat of removing sites from the list seems to have real social and political impact!

Essentially, the World Heritage Convention is an agreement among the vast majority of the nations of the world that "if you will protect the world heritage sites in your country, I will protect those in mine". For fractions of a penny per person per year, the World Heritage Center provides a mechanism that enables the nations of the world to cooperate to protect and maintain the common heritage of mankind!

No wonder this program is the flagship program for UNESCO!
It deserves all our support.

Of course, one problem is that not everyone values our world heritage equally, and not everyone has the ability to pay for its preservation. The problem is especially severe in communities and countries that possesses world heritage sites but are too poor to conserve and protect them properly without outside help. UNESCO's World Heritage Fund has some resources to help such countries. Simply listing as a World Heritage site helps countries and communities to raise funds needed for protection of the site, especially encouraging national governments to provide support to local communities for the purpose.

The development of concepts of sustainable tourism and sustainable management of natural parks and nature reserves has helped in the recognition that poor local communities must be able to support themselves while they safeguard the sites in their neighborhood. Thus mechanisms for the creation of buffer zones with limited use, and the creation of jobs in conservation, protection and the tourism industry have been promoted. (Those of us who are fortunate enough to live in the greater Washington DC metropolitan area know just how valuable cultural tourism can be to a city!) Again, designation of a site as a World Heritage Site has real economic value to the community that protects that site.

Here are some resources to help understand the economists views on the economic valuation of world heritage:

UNESCO's Open Training Platform

UNESCO's Open Training platform makes available training and capacity-building resources developed by a variety of stakeholders worldwide. The objective of this platform is to provide trainers and learners with the learning resources they need, and a space where they can share and use material. Most of the training programs featured on the platform have open licenses, such as Creative Commons, which make them accessible to anyone to use for non-commercial purposes such as teaching and learning.