Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development

UNESCO’s Director-General and Assistant Director-General for Education have announced that the "World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development – Moving into the Second Half of the UN Decade” will be held in Bonn, Germany, from 31 March to 2 April 2009.

Some 700 stakeholders from all over the world will attend the conference, which is being organized by UNESCO and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, in cooperation with the German Commission for UNESCO.

Registration will begin in November 2008

U.S. Based organization Curriki receives UNESCO’s 2007 King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa Prize

The Global Education and Learning Community (Curriki) was one of two recipients of the the 2007 King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa Prize in a ceremony held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on Wednesday, 19 December 2007. Curriki Executive Director Barbara Kurshan attended the ceremony and accepted the award on behalf of Curriki. United States Deputy Permanent Delegate to UNESCO Stephen Engelken was also present at the ceremony.

Curriki is an online environment created to support the development and free distribution of world-class educational materials to anyone who needs them. Curriki is different from other e-learning sites in that it focuses on complete curricula and not just a textbook or lesson plans, and provides easy-to-use tools for creating curriculum packets out of content available on the site. The 10,000 learning resources available on Curriki are used regularly by 35,000 people. Current offerings range from lesson plans, assessments and media clips to complete textbooks, all available at no cost.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


The Belgian Claroline Project (Claroline Consortium) and the US-based Global Education and Learning Community (Curriki) are the co-winners of the 2007 Unesco-King Hamad Award for best use of information and telecommunications in education.

Bahrain Royal Equestrian and Endurance Federation president and Royal Charity Foundation board of trustees' chairman Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa will today present the $50,000 (BD18,745) award on behalf of His Majesty King Hamad.

UNESCO and HP Sign Strategic Partnership Agreement

UNESCO and Hewlett-Packard (HP) signed a strategic partnership agreement on 19 December to strengthen their collaboration around existing education projects. The signing ceremony, held at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris, was attended by Koïchiro Matsuura, UNESCO Director-General and Gabriele Zedlmayer, vice president, Global Citizenship HP Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

Through the partnership, UNESCO and HP will work together on several projects in the area of education, especially to support UNESCO’s priority of “Education for All". This includes an evaluation on the extension of the existing brain drain project to additional regions in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. UNESCO and HP started to collaborate five years ago in South East Europe to help key universities connect to global research networks. In 2006 the project was extended to Africa. The project fights brain drain by providing universities with an advanced technology called grid computing, which allows top quality researchers to play a key role in international research and contribute to economic development in their home countries.

Another project is the World Heritage Map, which enables the general public to visualize the spread of World Heritage sites around the globe, and raises the awareness of the World Heritage Convention. The map is above all an educational tool, allowing UNESCO to communicate its work in this field on a large scale.

In addition HP has provided a financial contribution to UNESCO for the “Printing and distribution of the Man and the Biosphere Map”. The Man and the Biosphere Map will be fully prepared and edited by the Division of Ecological and Earth Sciences of UNESCO, which will provide the full lay-out to HP for printing and distribution.

The Computer recycling training guide is also the fruit of UNESCO and HP cooperation: it aims to support local stakeholders, in developing countries in particular, to manage electronic waste. The goal is to support local actors, especially those with a background in managing used computer equipment, and to create environmentally clean and healthy business opportunities. HP is the only technology partner in the project, which also includes the French Agency for Environment and Energy Management (Agence de l'Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l'Energie - ADEME), EMMAUS, the international movement of solidarity, and TIC ETHIC, Information and Communication Technologies in the service of ethics and sustainable development.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Athelstan Spilhaus: First U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO

The new highlight on the website of Americans for UNESCO begins a series on the pioneers in the creation of the organization and on the establishment of linkages between the United States and UNESCO.

The first person to be profiled is Athelstan Spilhaus, a distinguished scientist, inventor, educator, and popularizer of science who was the first U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO and who served on its Executive Board. Late in his life, when he accurately described himself as a "retired genius", he established a world class collection of more than 3,000 mechanical toys.


The Bureau of Public Information of UNESCO publishes a series of memos, called Memobpi. Here are links to a few of them:

A commitment to peace implies a way of resolving conflicts, not according to the force of might, but by respecting internationally accepted norms, the rule of law and negotiation, with the aim of achieving a fullness of life for each and every one. By its Constitution, UNESCO is called upon to “build the defenses of peace in the minds of men.”
Distance learning
Open and distance learning is one of the most rapidly growing fields of education. It is fast becoming an accepted and indispensable part of the mainstream of educational systems in both developed and developing countries, with particular emphasis for the latter.
Open content: Towards equal learning opportunities?
The number of open collaborative technologies has exploded over the last years. What impact have they had on access to and quality of education worldwide? Can developing countries afford these expensive technologies and thus avoid remaining on the sidelines of the digital revolution? What about copyright issues? What role for UNESCO?
UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs programme: Towards New Strategic Orientations and New Tools.
UNITWIN which is the abbreviation for university twinning and networking, was launched in 1991, as an international plan of action aimed at strengthening training and research through inter-university co-operation, with particular emphasis on support to higher education in developing countries, more importantly, in the least developed ones.

Friday, December 14, 2007

IITB designated as “Knowledge Heritage Centre”

The Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB) was designated a “Knowledge Heritage Center” by UNESCO,s New Delhi Office on the occasion of IITB’s Golden Jubilee.

IITB was originally established with the cooperation and participation of UNESCO, and over the past 50 years it has grown to be an institution not only of national but of international importance. It is a leader in higher education, research and training in India, Asia, and indeed worldwide.

The historical role of UNESCO in helping to create IITB is an indication of the role that it has played in the past, and that it can play in the future.

Editorial Comment: I was very impressed by Media Lab Asia, a collaboration between MIT and IITB, and was sad when it failed to find funding to continue. I also had the opportunity to visit IITB with a team from the World Bank and the Development Gateway. IITB was a member of the Development Gateway's Research and Training network. I saw demonstrations of many fine projects that were implemented by IITB in its role as an Indian member of that network.

Of course, many graduates of IITB are important contributors to India's software industry, and indeed many have immigrated to Silicon Valley and other U.S. centers helping to create the Information Revolution in this country. Indeed, it is suggested (only partially in jest) that the best high school graduates in India, concerned by the extraordinary competitiveness of entry into IITB, apply to MIT and Cal Tech as "back up schools".

Perhaps the United States Permanent Delegation to UNESCO should recommend that the organization create a global network of "Knowledge Heritage Centers" in the great institutions of higher education in the world. JAD

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Review of UNESCO’s Capacity-Building Function

A review was completed last February or UNESCO’s experience in capacity building and of the international research on capacity building to answer the following questions:
  1. What have UNESCO and others learned about the most effective approaches to capacity building?
  2. What should UNESCO’s role in capacity building be (given UN reforms that emphasize country-led, comprehensive development strategies and collaboration among donor agencies)?
  3. What needs to change within UNESCO in order to do a better job of capacity building?
The purpose of this review was to inform UNESCO's senior management about good practices in capacity-building and to enable UNESCO's Secretariat to improve their capacity-building interventions.

A key finding of the review was:
Most UNESCO staff members interviewed recognize that capacity building needs to get beyond conventional inputs, such as training and technical assistance, in order to bring about sustainable change within institutions. However, much of the Organization’s programming begins and ends there.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Human Rights-Based Approach to Education for All

A Human Rights-Based Approach to Education for All is a joint UNESCO and UNICEF publication. It provides a framework for the realization of children’s right to education and rights within education.

The report brings together the current thinking and practice on human rights-based approach in the education sector, presenting key issues and challenges in rights-based approaches and providing a framework for policy and program development from the level of the school up to the national and international levels.

UNESCO at GK3 in Kuala Lumpur: Towards building knowledge societies

The Global Knowledge Partnership's GK3 is a unique gathering of 2,000 global visionaries, innovators, practitioners and policy makers, all geared to sharing knowledge and building partnerships on a platform created by and for stakeholders from every sector - private companies, governments, international institutions and civil society groups.

UNESCO is participating
actively in the Third Global Knowledge Conference (GK3) from 11 to 13 December 2007 and in its parallel events and exhibits. UNESCO has set up an onsite Community Multimedia Centre (CMC) and an exhibition promoting the concept of CMC in building knowledge societies at the Kuala Lumpur Conventional Center.

Here are a couple of videos from GK3:

Robotics program from the Omar Dengo Foundation in Costa Rica

i4d film festival: Viirtual village

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Office of Director General of UNESCO

Luther H. Evans
The only U.S. citizen to be
elected Director General

The Director General is the chief executive officer of UNESCO. The DG's term of office is four years (previously six years), and the Director General is elected by the General Conference. The current Director General, Koïchiro Matsuura, has been in office since 1999. He was reelected to that post by the 33rd General Conference of UNESCO in 2005. Thus there is some speculation as the election of his successor in 2009.

There have been nine Directors General since UNESCO was founded in 1946:
  • Koïchiro Matsuura from Asia
  • Four from Europe: Federico Mayor (1987 - 1999), René Maheu (1962 - 1974; acting 1959, 1961-1962), Vittorino Veronese (1958 - 1961), and Julian Huxley (1946 - 1948)
  • Amadou-Mahtar M'Bow from Africa
  • Three from North America: Luther Evans (1953 - 1958). John W. Taylor (Acting DG 1952 - 1953), and Jaime Torres Bodet (1948 - 1952)
The position of Director General of UNESCO is an important one within the system of intergovernmental organizations. Therefore the election of a new Director General is the subject not only of electioneering by individual candidates, but also diplomatic negotiations among member nations.

There is an informal understanding that the post should rotate among the (193) member nations of UNESCO, and indeed among continents and groups of nations. Moreover, there are informal understandings about the need to distribute leadership of UN family organizations among nations. (The situation is somewhat different in international financial institutions, programs of the United Nations such as the UNDP, UNICEF and UNFPA, and organizations with their own general assemblies such as UNESCO, WHO, and FAO.)

The Islamic nations, which form a large cultural block with significant voting power in United Nations bodies, may see their opportunity in the next General Conference to elect one of their citizens to the post of Director General. You can be sure that State Department diplomats are already debating possible candidates and consulting with their counterparts in other delegations to UNESCO.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Two Foreign Policy Experts Recommend Smart Power

Reference: "Stop Getting Mad, America. Get Smart." By Richard L. Armitage and Joseph S. Nye Jr., The Washington Post Sunday Outlook, December 9, 2007.

Richard L. Armitage was deputy secretary of state from 2001 to 2005. Joseph S. Nye Jr., a former assistant secretary of defense, teaches political science at Harvard. They co-chaired the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Commission on Smart Power.

They write:
The world is dissatisfied with American leadership. Shocked and frightened after 9/11, we put forward an angry face to the globe, not one that reflected the more traditional American values of hope and optimism, tolerance and opportunity. This fearful approach has hurt the United States' ability to bring allies to its cause, but it is not too late to change. The nation should embrace a smarter strategy that blends our "hard" and "soft" power -- our ability to attract and persuade, as well as our ability to use economic and military might......the United States needs a broader, more balanced approach (than it has been employing).....

when our words do not match our actions, we demean our character and moral standing. We cannot lecture others about democracy while we back dictators. We cannot denounce torture and waterboarding in other countries and condone it at home. We cannot allow Cuba's Guantanamo Bay or Iraq's Abu Ghraib to become the symbols of American power.......

In a changing world, the United States should become a smarter power by once again investing in the global good -- by providing things that people and governments want but cannot attain without U.S. leadership. By complementing U.S. military and economic strength with greater investments in soft power, Washington can build the framework to tackle tough global challenges. We call this smart power.

Smart power is not about getting the world to like us. It is about developing a strategy that balances our hard (coercive) power with our soft (attractive) power. During the Cold War, the United States deterred Soviet aggression through investments in hard power. But as Gates noted late last month, U.S. leaders also realized that "the nature of the conflict required us to develop key capabilities and institutions -- many of them non-military." So the United States used its soft power to rebuild Europe and Japan and to establish the norms and institutions that became the core of the international order for the past half-century. The Cold War ended under a barrage of hammers on the Berlin Wall rather than a barrage of artillery across the Fulda Gap precisely because of this integrated approach.

Specifically, the United States should renew its focus on five critical areas:
  • We should reinvigorate the alliances, partnerships and institutions that allow us to address numerous hazards at once without having to build a consensus from scratch to respond to every new challenge.
  • We should create a Cabinet-level voice for global development to help Washington develop a more unified and integrated aid program that aligns U.S. interests with the aspirations of people worldwide, starting with global health.
  • We should reinvest in public diplomacy within the government and establish a nonprofit institution outside of it to build people-to-people ties, including doubling the annual appropriation to the Fulbright program.
  • We should sustain our engagement with the global economy by negotiating a "free trade core" of countries in the World Trade Organization willing to move directly to free trade on a global basis, and expand the benefits of free trade to include those left behind at home and abroad.
  • We should take the lead in addressing climate change and energy insecurity by investing more in technology and innovation.
Editorial Comment. This is a very important recommendation. If the next administration decides to adopt a "smart power" policy, UNESCO should be a key instrument of that policy. No organization is better placed on which to build a consortium of like minded nations, and to practice public diplomacy that listens as well as lectures! JAD

Education Report -- Progress has been made, but much more needs to be done!

The Education for All Global Monitoring Report for 2008 has just been released by UNESCO. Progress in this decade has been better than in the last, but many countries are still lagging in achieving the EFA goals; more needs to be done.

The number of children starting primary school has increased sharply since 2000, there are more girls in school than ever before and spending on education and aid has risen. That’s the good news. But on the down side, poor quality, the high cost of schooling and persisting high levels of adult illiteracy are undermining the chances of achieving education for all* by 2015.

Especially hopeful are the findings that primary school enrollment increased by 36% in sub-Saharan Africa and 22% in South and West Asia between 1999 and 2005. Governments in 14 countries abolished primary school tuition fees, a measure that has favoured access for the most disadvantaged. Worldwide, the number of out-of-school children dropped sharply from 96 million in 1999 to 72 million in 2005.

High Level Meeting on Education for All

Seventh Meeting of the High-Level Group on Education for All
Dakar, Senegal
11-13 December 2007

In the year 2000, the International Community gave itself 15 years to achieve the EFA and UN development goals. This year, the High-Level Group on EFA (HLG) will meet at the midpoint along that time-line.

Three Heads of State, Ministers of Education from 15 countries, representatives of the main donor countries, multilateral organizations, representatives of civil society and the private sector are to meet from 11 to 13 December in Dakar (Senegal) to examine the different means of accelerating progress towards the Education for All (EFA) goals, which were set by 164 countries in Dakar in 2000.

The opening ceremony will be chaired by the Senegalese head of state Abdoulaye Wade, and Mali’s President Amadou Toumani Touré will address the conference at the opening.

The HLG is to place special focus on three areas – equity, quality and financing of education – as top policy priorities for the coming year. In addition, it will address the special concerns of countries facing conditions of fragility as well as relatively neglected EFA goals with a view to ensuring a holistic and balanced approach to the full EFA agenda.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

UNESCO's Internal Oversight Service

UNESCO's Internal Oversight Service (IOS), established in 2001, provides consolidated oversight covering internal audit, evaluation, investigation and other management support to strengthen the functioning of the Organization. The IOS website provides links to recent evaluations, as well as guidance for evaluations, and links to evaluation resources.

Some examples are:

UNESCO's 21st Century Talks

The 21st-Century Talks are forums for prospective reflection and future oriented debate that gather together leading figures from different regions of the world. Together with the UNESCO's World Reports they form UNESCO’s Foresight and Anticipation Program.

The Talks are used as the basis for books, articles in leading newspapers and academic journals of different regions of the world, and production of radio and television programs.

Over the period 1999-2005, 27 “21st Century Talks and Dialogs” were organised. There were 118 speeches by 95 different speakers in the series. The three “Dialogues” gathered more speakers (particularly in Seoul with 23 speakers) than the “Talks” with only three or four. “Talks” were organised at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, Barcelona, Durban and Seoul.

As a result of the program, three books – and a total of 21 translated versions - were published.
There is specific information on many of the talks available from the UNESCO website.

An evaluation of UNESCO's Foresight program was published in 2006.
The evaluation report notes:
The activities of the Foresight and Anticipation Program had major support from UNESCO Member States. The “21st Century Talks and Dialogs” are viewed as having dealt with crucial issues for the future which were debated by a highly competent and diverse set of specialists who contributed highly relevant analyses. Member State representatives appreciated the foresight effort made by UNESCO. There is general agreement that Foresight and Anticipation are major missions of UNESCO.

"Midway to the 2015 target date: meeting of the High Level Group on Education for All in Dakar"

Read the full article on the African Press Organization website.

'Three Heads of State, Ministers of Education from 15 countries, representatives of the main donor countries, multilateral organizations, representatives of civil society and the private sector will meet from 11 to 13 December in Dakar (Senegal) to examine the different means of accelerating progress towards the six goals of Education for All (EFA) set by 164 countries in Dakar in 2000.

"The president of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade, and the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, will open the meeting chaired by Senegal’s Minister of Education, Moustafa Sourang. During the opening ceremony, the president of Mali, Amadou Toumani Touré, will also give a keynote speech.

"The seventh annual meeting of the High Level Group on Education for All is taking place at the halfway point to 2015, which is the target date 164 countries have set to achieve the six EFA goals. According to the 2008 edition of the Global Monitoring Report on Education for All, which has just been released, the number of children, especially girls, starting primary school has increased sharply, but the poor quality of education, the high cost of schooling and the high level of adult illiteracy are
undermining chances of achieving education for all by 2015."

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Eleanor Roosevelt on UNESCO

In 1961, in her newspaper column "My Day" wrote:

We should work very closely with the United Nations body called UNESCO in our efforts to gain not only the maximum understanding of our own educational needs but also the understanding of what the world needs. UNESCO has the duty to promote education about the U.N. and a mutual international understanding between peoples. Our own educational objectives must be formed with the idea of making us better able to understand other areas of the world and more able to help in their struggles for development.

For 10 years now UNESCO has published a magazine called "The UNESCO Courier." This magazine is devoted entirely to portraying the customs, the arts, the cultures and the peoples of the earth. It has some 300,000 subscribers throughout the world, but in the U.S. the magazine is hardly known. Circulation here is only 10,000, whereas even in Russia it has 25,000 subscribers.

No college or school in their country can really afford to be without "The UNESCO Courier," and I feel sure that once we have succeeded in having it in our libraries, schools and colleges that families all over the nation will feel the need to have it in their homes.
Comment: Today, through technological advances, you can read The UNESCO Courier online or subscribe via email for free. JAD

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

UNESCO Policy Brief on Early Childhood

The results from the OECD Thematic Review of Early Childhood Education and Care Policy from 1998 to 2006 can be consulted in Issue No. 41 of the UNESCO Policy Brief on Early Childhood series.

Other recent publications on Early Childhood Care and Education include the Policy Review Report: Early Childhood Care and Education in Brazil” (2007) and the Summary Report of the UNESCO/OECD Early Childhood Policy Review Project for Brazil, Indonesia, Kazakhstan and Kenya (2007).

Related links

60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

© UNESCO/Ivaldo Alves

Celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will be launched at UNESCO on 10 December, Human Rights Day. Events commemorating the anniversary will take place over the next year, until 10 December 2008.

The 60th anniversary provides an opportunity to mobilize the whole of the United Nations and to evaluate progress in respecting and promoting human rights. UNESCO will take this opportunity to assess the situation of rights in its fields of competence. UNESCO is planning two international conferences on the subject in 2008: one on human rights education, the other on human rights in the Organization’s other fields of competence. In addition, the 61st International Conference of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which will be organized at UNESCO in September 2008, in partnership with the United Nations Department of Public Information, will focus on the celebration of the Universal Declaration’s 60th anniversary.

The Magic Planet

As a reminder of the importance of outreach and education in enhancing S&T goals, Ambassador Oliver invited the developers of the Magic Planet digital video globe - Global Imagination - to display a portable version of the globe and associated control panel at a reception held by the Permanent Delegation of the United States to UNESCO. The reception was held in conjunction with the General Conference. A larger version of the Magic Planet was used by NOAA and NASA presenters during the Planet Earth: Space to Place exhibit at UNESCO during the Conference. In a hands-on mode, many of the reception’s guests were able change display global datasets ranging from water temperature to population shifts. In an example of public-private-partnership, the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO worked closely with Global Imagination on the presentation.

Here is a short video of Magic Planet.

First Lady Further Supports UNESCO's Literacy Drive

First Lady Laura Bush Addressed the UNESCO Literacy Conference in New Delhi, India

A delegation of representatives from the U.S. Department of State, USAID, and the U.S. Department of Education traveled to New Delhi, India for the UNESCO Regional Literacy Conference held from November 29 to 30, 2007. The delegation joined representatives from throughout the Indian Sub Continent, South and South West Asia as well as senior representatives of UNESCO and other international and regional organizations at the conference, entitled "Addressing Literacy Challenges in South, South-West and Central Asia: Building Partnerships and Promoting Innovative Approaches". The conference was hosted by the Government of India in conjunction with UNESCO and opened by Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi.

10 December 2005 - Human Rights Day

Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December to mark the anniversary of the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

Also in celebration of Human Rights Day:

International Human Rights Day

Symposium and Working Meeting

Rights and Responsibilities: Scientific Associations and International Human Rights Norms

Hosted by

AAAS Science and Human Rights Program

Monday, 10 December 2007
2:00 pm - 5:15 pm
AAAS Headquarters,
1200 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC

"U.S. Teens Trail Peers Around World on Math-Science Test"

Read the article by Maria Glod in The Washington Post, December 5, 2007.

Glod writes:
The disappointing performance of U.S. teenagers in math and science on an international exam, in scores released yesterday, has sparked calls for improvement in public schools to help the country keep pace in the global economy.

The scores from the 2006 Program for International Student Assessment showed that U.S. 15-year-olds trailed their peers from many industrialized countries. The average science score of U.S. students lagged behind those in 16 of 30 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a Paris-based group that represents the world's richest countries. The U.S. students were further behind in math, trailing counterparts in 23 countries.

Design of an Emblem for Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention

Design of an Emblem for Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention

UNESCO is now announcing a competition for the design of an emblem that best reflects the purposes and spirit of the Convention to give greater visibility to intangible heritage and its safeguarding.

UNESCO invites entries from professional and amateur graphic designers, artists, and practitioners of intangible cultural heritage from all its Member States. Each participant may submit a single design, including a black and white and a colour version.

The deadline for submissions to reach UNESCO is 15 February 2008.