Sunday, September 30, 2007

World Teachers' Day

World Teachers’ Day, held annually on 5 October since 1994, commemorates the anniversary of the signing in 1966 of UNESCO/ILO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. It is an occasion to celebrate the essential role of teachers in providing quality education at all levels.

A joint declaration has been issued by UNESCO together with the ILO, UNICEF, UNDP and Education International, which reads in part:
Today, on World Teachers’ Day, we celebrate teachers and the central role they play in efforts to achieve quality education for all children. However, in many countries not all children have the opportunity to enter a classroom or gain basic literacy or numeracy skills, as there are simply not enough qualified teachers. This has negative outcomes not only for the future of individual children, but also for the development of whole societies.

Teachers are a crucial element in the achievement of the international education goals of Education for All (EFA) and of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These commit governments to providing a good quality education for all children by 2015. The growing shortage of qualified teachers is the main challenge to the realization of these goals. UNESCO estimates that by 2015, 18 million new teachers will be needed globally – 4 million in Africa alone. High rates of population growth, increasing enrolment rates and the impact of HIV and AIDS in some sub-Saharan African, Arab and South and East Asian countries, and large numbers of teachers leaving the profession combined with shortages in some subject areas in more developed countries, seriously threaten these goals.

Monday, September 24, 2007

U.S. and Mali Extend Agreement to Protect the Archaeological Heritage of Mali

In response to Mali's activation of the related UNESCO article on 'Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property', US and Malian governments extended the agreement to impose restrictions on importation of archaeological materials from Mali from the Paleolithic Era (Stone Age) to approximately the Mid-Eighteenth Century.

The 1970 UNESCO Convention offers a framework for multilateral agreements in order to preserve archaeological sites and prevent activity that would destroy information about past cultures and jeopardize a nation's cultural heritage.

Niger River Valley includes a continuum of civilizations from the Neolithic period to Colonial era, and therefore archaeological articles like the materials from Tellum burial caves of the Cliff of Bandiagara (Land of the Dogons) are preserved via the UNESCO Convention.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Jerash's archaeological site was identified by Jordan in 2004 as a potential candidate for UNESCO recognition as a World Heritage Site. I recently had the opportunity to visit the site, and thought it might interest the readers of this blog.

Jerash is known for the ruins of the Greco-Roman city of Gerasa. According to Wikipedia
Jerash was inhabited during the Bronze Age and Iron Age (3200 BC - 1200 BC. After the Roman conquest in 63 BC, Jerash and the land surrounding it were annexed by the Roman province of Syria, and later joined the Decapolis cities. In AD 90, Jerash was absorbed into the Roman province of Arabia, which included the city of Philadelphia (modern day Amman). The Romans ensured security and peace in this area which enabled its people to devote their efforts and time to economic development and building activity.

In the second half of the first century AD, the city of Jerash achieved great prosperity. In AD 106, the Emperor Trajan constructed roads throughout the provinces and more trade came to Jerash. The Emperor Hadrian visited Jerash in AD 129-130. A remarkable Latin inscription records a religious dedication set up by members of the imperial mounted bodyguard "wintering" there. The Triumphal Arch (or Arch of Hadrian) was built to celebrate his visit.

The city finally reached a size of about 800,000 square metres within its walls. The Persian invasion in AD 614 caused the rapid decline of Jerash. However, the city continued to flourish during the Umayyad Period, as shown by recent excavations. In AD 746, a major earthquake destroyed much of Jerash and its surroundings.
Jerash is something special. The ruins of the Roman city are in fantastic condition, and are surrounded by the modern city. The main line of the ruins runs perhaps a mile and a half to two miles. At each end there is a triumphal arch, the first one built in the time of Hadrian.

Hadrian's arch

Both are essentially whole. Inside the gates, starting from the south, there is a hypodrome. It is in good enough shape that they still hold chariot races for the tourists.

Seating in the hypodrome

Then there is a hig oval plaza, surrounded by columns. There are romantic views from the side of this plaza ot ruins on the hill above.

The oval plaza

Then you come to a very long colonaded street, with many of the columns still present.

Tourist police in the colonaded street.

There is actually a street crossing, with an east-west colonaded street intersecting the main street, and four large pedistals which once supported columns which are thought to have in turn supported a pyramidal structure,

The intersection

Moving further there are temples. One was later turned into a Byzantine church. I spent time in the runs of the Temple to Artemus, which was really impressive, Through the portal on the colonaded street, one climgs a very long staircase, coming out on a llarge open space which is surrounded by the remains of many pilars of the original colonade. In this space, there is another small temple, approached by another stair.Inside the Temple of Artemis
Looking thru the entrance to the modern city

Finally, at the end of the colonade there is a Roman theater which is still standing. I think one could still hold productions in the remains.
Inside the theater

I visited a small museum on the site and a visitors center. The museum has some nice objects, including a lovely portion of a statue which apparently was not considered important enogh do display formally, but was just left on the porch. It was interesting in showing the continuity in the every day objects used as empire succeeded empire ruling the town. The visitor center, built by the French and opened in 2000, has some nice architectural drawings of the original buildings.
Roman statue fragment

Jerash is an example of the great historical and archaeological richness contained in the relatively small nation of Jordan. I don't know whether it merits recognition by UNESCO as a part of World Heritage, but I think it will remain in my memory as a great experience.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Jordan Education Initiative

I have been in Jordan for a while reviewing the progress of the Jordan Education Initiative. You can read about the JEI in a Power Point presentation made in 2005 in session 2 of UNESCO's conference:

You can read about my visit in another blog that I run.

A Royal Visit to UNESCO

Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan visited UNESCO earlier this year. During her visit, a cooperation agreement was signed between UNESCO and the Jordan River Foundation, which she chairs. “The Night of Jordanian Treasures”, a performance of Jordanian dances and music in Queen Rania’s presence followed the signing. The cooperation agreement aims to identify and establish joint projects in different areas: child protection, literacy, teacher training, formal and non-formal education and children’s rights. Several Goodwill Ambassadors have already made financial donations for the development of “Safe Schools” projects promoted by the Foundation, an initiative that aims to turn schools into safer environments in education.

Mr Matsuura paid special tribute to the Foundation’s work in improving the lives of women and children and its commitment to sustainable human development.
“I salute here Your Majesty's remarkable work and devotion to the cause of literacy, from which UNESCO will now benefit even further through the signing of a cooperation agreement with the Jordan River Foundation.”
The Director-General also pledged UNESCO’s full support to the Foundation in mobilizing partners towards the achievement of the Education for All goals, as well as in promoting the right to education and improving the quality of education. He further stated:
“It is crucial that we continue to initiate and support important initiatives to promote human development and intercultural dialogue. I hope in particular that we can build on the Foundation’s excellent work in early childhood care and development”
In Her address, Her Majesty Queen Rania thanked all the UNESCO Ambassadors and representatives for their efforts
“to build peace in the minds of men and to foster dialogue, mutual respect, and understanding among the peoples of the earth. We [in Jordan] have carved out a special role as a link between regions and cultures. We know tradition and modernity can both find purchase in our soil, and we are eager to bring the world to Jordan, and bring Jordan to the world (…) Today, at a time when, too often, humanity is clashing instead of communicating, we need to promote [a] universal language and indivisible heritage."

Saturday, September 08, 2007


I had the opportunity to visit Petra in Jordan yesterday. It is one of the first sites in the world to be designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. I thought I might share the experience.

Petra of course is a site known worldwide as a setting of an Indiana Jones movie. Its ruins date back thousands of years, to a time when it was a key point in the trade routes between ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Damascus, and Jerusalem. The Nabateans gave way to Romans, to Arabs, to Crusaders, and to the Ottomans over the long history of the site. At its hight, it was an urban center for some 50,000 people, but its modern charm is more from its spectacular physical setting.

The drive from Amman to Petra took about two hours on a very good, divided highway with little traffic. The land is flat and the ecology that of a desert. There is not much in the way of towns or agriculture en route. Occasionally one sees a flock of goats or sheep; indeed mixed flocks seem ot unusual. There are a few donkeys and camels grazing.

Quite abruptly the road comes down from the high desert plain into a town which is built at the entrance to Petra.

Petra was apparently a religious and ceremonial site for people who lived primarily in nearby towns. Later in its history, as Nabateans moved into the larger pre-Roman and Roman world, Nabateans living abroad would return to Petra, sometimes to be buried there. The ruins we see today are primarily those cut into the rock cliffs, and we were told there is much more to excavate by archaeologists in the future.

The Siq is a two kilometer long passage between rock walls. Apparently the walls were split apart in some tectonic event in the distant past. Gordon tells me that the rocks are limestone and sandstone deposits from past times when the site was covered by the sea. The path from the entrance to he park through the Siq (and further into the site) slpes down at a fairly steep grade. In ancient times and today dams and channels controlled the water runoff from the rains (about 12 inches per year), but during the interim these works deteriorated and allowed theh site to be flooded. Consequently, the ground level of the site is higher that it was at the hight of Petra's civilization. In the Siq the sand has been removed, and in some places one can see the original paving stones.

It is thought that the Siq was used for processions in ancient times. In any case. there are tombs carved from standing rocks and into the walls of the canyon in some places, as well as shrines carved into the living stone. The walls tower above one, and in places the canyon is only a few meters wide. The Nabateans piped water from a source outside the canyon and much higher to feed the entire Petra complex. One can see three channels running the length of the Siq, One apparently was with sealed ceramic pipes embedded in something like cement to preserve pressure, so the water could be raised over obstacles where necessary. Another covered had sand traps that had to be emptied periodically.

At the end of the Siq the space opens up, and facing one is the Treasury building. The name is modern, and no one really knows what it was used for. While there are three rooms inside, the building is mostly facade. There are a series of tombs in front of the the treasury facade that have been excavated. Some have been recovered with sand, but a couple have been left open. It becomes clear that the original ground level must have been a couple of meters below the current level.

We actually left the common trail through the site and climbed up to an overlook of the old theater, also carved out of the living rock. We were told that it seated 5,000 people, and that seemed credible. Still there were tombs above it, although not as large and elaborate as some in Petra.

We were able to see the insides of some spectacular tombs, where the rock was in very vivid colors. Not only the red one associates with sandstone, but blues and ochers.

Further down the ridge there are the so called tombs of the kings. One of the large sites was apparently converted into a church in Byzantine times, and shows later, more elaborate stairways and entrances.

There are large numbers of smaller tombs in another cliff near the Theater.

Coming down again into the floor of the canyon, there is the actual wadi with some water apparently because there is some greenery. There is a street with colonades and a formal entry.

Earthquakes have destroyed almost all of the free standing buildings over the centuries, but there are some columns, walls and facades.

The largest temple on the site has been excavated by a team from Brown university, and is a visitor attraction.

At the end of our walk there is a nice little restaurant with lots of shade. Behind the restaurant there is a little museum with antiquities from the site. I suppose we had walked six or eight kilometers at that point.

Then of course, we walked back. All in all it was an experience not to be missed.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Nicholas Burnett named Assistant Director-General for Education.

Mr Nicholas Burnett has been appointed to the post of Assistant Director-General for Education of UNESCO.

Dr Burnett worked for many years at the World Bank both as an education sector economist and program manager. He has also run his own consulting company and worked at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office as an Economic Adviser on Africa and
Latin America. Since October 2004, Mr Burnett has been Director of UNESCO’s Education For All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report. Every year, this report assesses where the world stands on its commitment to provide a basic education to all children, youth and adults by 2015. It is perhaps the most important annual report on education in the world.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

UNESCO WSIS Action Directory: How UNESCO is implementing the WSIS Action Plan

UNESCO works with all stakeholders towards the implementation of the outcomes of WSIS.

UNESCO’s role in the implementation process is three-fold:

* UNESCO implements concrete activities included in the Geneva Plan of Action within the framework of its regular programme and budget.

* UNESCO helps facilitating the coherent implementation of the Action Lines in its areas of competence.

* UNESCO, together with ITU and UNDP, is engaged in shaping the overall multi-stakeholder coordination of the Facilitators of all Action Lines

From Friends of World Heritage

Friends of World Heritage sent me this message:

Dear friend,

Did you know that the United States was the first country to sign the treaty that established UNESCO World Heritage sites? Or that there are 20 U.S. national parks and monuments inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List?

One of the most popular of these sites is Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, a unique and beautiful landscape that is home to two of the world’s active volcanoes. Its designation as a U.S. National Park (since 1916) and a UNESCO World Heritage site (since 1987) helps preserve the area’s striking geology, biodiversity and culture. But with over 1.7 million visitors last year alone, the challenges of conservation depend on a healthy relationship between the park and its visitors.

To learn more about this breath-taking site and the challenges it faces we interviewed Cindy Orlando, superintendent of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Read on to find out about touring two of the most active volcanoes in the world, the hundreds of species that are found only on their slopes, and the people who coexist on this constantly changing island.

FoWH: What makes HVNP a special place?

Orlando: There’s so much that makes the park special. Two of the five volcanoes on the island are within the park, making the volcanoes an important component of the park visit. The ability to approach an active volcano gives visitors an opportunity to discover first-hand how the Earth was born. And learning about the Hawaiian people who still inhabit these lands gives visitors a glimpse into the stories and journeys of the host culture of this area. Lastly, it contains outstanding natural values – such as craters, summit trails, desert and rainforest.

To read the full interview, click here.