Sunday, August 31, 2008

China Moving to Protect World Heritage Site

The Mogao Grottoes, 492 decorated caves hewn from a cliff between the 4th and 14th centuries C.E. 25 kilometers, are one of Buddhism's most revered shrines. The are found in southeast of Dunhuang, an ancient Silk Road way station in western China.

The current issue of Science magazine states:
In designating Mogao a World Heritage Site in 1987, UNESCO hailed it as a "unique artistic achievement" whose 45,000 square meters of murals include "many masterpieces of Chinese art." "No other place compares to Mogao," says Qu Jianjun, a geographer at the Cold and Arid Regions Environment and Engineering Research Institute (CAREERI) in Lanzhou.

That's why China is launching a new effort to safeguard the caves. Earlier this year, its National Development and Reform Commission approved a $38 million project to protect Mogao's fragile artworks from three major threats: salt leaching from groundwater, exhalations and body heat from droves of tourists, and shifting sand dunes. Later this year, CAREERI plans to open an environmental research center in Dunhuang, dedicated in large part to Mogao and directed by Qu.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Education for All on the Global Stage

UNESCO will spotlight Education for All during a number of events during the last quarter of 2008. UNESCO will participate in one of the eight roundtables at the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Accra, Ghana (2-4 September). UNESCO will also participate in the thematic roundtable on health and education at the High-Level Event on the Millennium Development Goals on the 25th of September.

The EFA Global Monitoring Report 2009 -- focusing on governance, financing and management of education -- is to be launched during the International Conference on Education (25-28 November, Switzerland).

The annual meeting of the High Level Group on EFA -- to be attended by heads of state, education ministers, bilateral, multilateral and civil society organizations -- is to be held 16-18 December in Norway.

The next four months also count a series of regional preparatory conferences leading up to the May 2009 CONFINTEA VI conference on adult learning. These conferences are being held in Latin America and the Caribbean (10–13 September, Mexico); the Asia-Pacific (6 – 8 October, Republic of Korea); sub-Saharan Africa (5–7 November, Kenya); and for the Europe-North America region, in Hungary (3–5 December).

Read about UNESCO’s ongoing core initiatives in education:

Monday, August 25, 2008

Globalization and Language

UNU/UNESCO International Conference · 27 & 28 August, 2008
United Nations University Headquarters Tokyo, Japan

The UN University and UNESCO are offering the 2008 international conference on:

UNESCO launches two education-related websites

The Educational content and curriculum website was launched by the International Bureau of Education. Country Dossiers illustrate the Bureau’s recent activities in different parts of the world. The site is trilingual with a number of additional pages translated in Chinese, Russian and Arabic. It accommodates for slow internet connections and includes a larger text option for the visually impaired.

The Latin American and Caribbean education website from UNESCO’s Regional Bureau for Education in Latin America and the Caribbean provides users with detailed information on a wide range of educational topics, in both Spanish and English. The site includes detailed information of initiatives and networking efforts undertaken by the Regional Bureau, as well as news, events, documents and recommended publications. Bibliographic searches can also be run on UNESCO publications.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

" Historic Preservation and America in the World"

Donovan Rypkema, a Washington consultant on historical preservation with both domestic and international experience, has posted a very interesting and thought provoking essay on his Heritage Strategies Blog.

He starts with the observation:
(N)o objective observer and no one who has traveled to foreign countries in recent years can escape three realities: 1) among both America's friends and America's opponents regard for the United States has fallen dramatically in recent years; 2) the regaining of the respect and the reestablishment of the leadership of the United States will take concentrated effort over a long period of time - perhaps a generation or more; and 3) essential to that effort will be the reengagement of the American government with international institutions, most of which were created through the leadership of the United States.
He then goes on to suggest twenty reasons why historic preservation not only can play an important role in a reenergized public diplomacy, but needs to play that role. Finally, he suggests ten steps that the United States Government could take in the international promotion of historic preservation.
"When was the last time that virtually every country in the world was on the same side of the same issue - India and Pakistan, Israel and the PLO, Africa and Europe, North America and South America? It was n the condemnation of the wanton destruction of the Buddhist statuary in Afghanistan by the Taliban - a historic preservation issue.

Conversely, in recent years perhaps the best example of the impact of symbolic healing was the restoration of the Old Bridge in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina funded by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the World Monuments Fund."
Donovan Rypkema
Editorial Comment: The UNESCO led efforts to save Abu Simbel is the most famous example of a global effort of historic preservation. The support by Ted Turner's United Nations Foundation of UNESCO's World Heritage Center is perhaps America's best example of a public-private partnership in soft diplomacy. JAD

Veronika, UNESCO Arkhangelsk Project

My name is Veronika, and I’m 9 years old. I live in Krasnoborsk with my babouchka (grandmother), Maria Alexandrovna Iourileva. When I was born, my mother was very young.

She was 16 and didn’t know how to look after me. She left when I was 5 months old, and I stayed alone with my father. He didn’t know how to look after me either, he’s an alcoholic. Then, it was my father’s mother who took me in. She has a small pension (2.700 rubles a month, around 100 US$) as she worked for 38 years in an orphanage. She had a very tough life. She is ashamed of her daughter, and she left her husband as he was an alcoholic too. She never would have thought that her family could be this unhappy.

In my grandmother’s small house, she’s 57 years old, there is also my great grandmother who is 86 and very ill. My grandmother is very kind and gives me all that she can. With the UNESCO project, I go to the arts and crafts section of the cultural center three times a week, and I take part in all activities like skiing and theater.

My grandmother has a very beautiful voice. She sings in the veterans’ choir. She says that singing, and I think so too, helps us survive and keep hope. She encourages me in everything, she is proud of my successes and she gives me a lot of love.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

International Literacy Day

Literacy is a cause for celebration since there are now close to four billion literate people in the world. However, literacy for all – children, youth and adults - is still an unaccomplished goal and an ever moving target. A combination of ambitious goals, insufficient and parallel efforts, inadequate resources and strategies, and continued underestimation of the magnitude and complexity of the task accounts for this unmet goal. Lessons learnt over recent decades show that meeting the goal of universal literacy calls not only for more effective efforts but also for renewed political will and for doing things differently at all levels - locally, nationally and internationally.

First Lady Laura Bush is UNESCO's
Honorary Ambassador for the Decade of Literacy. Her designation came in recognition of her dedication to learning and the promotion of reading, her commitment to universal education and literacy, her work on behalf of libraries and the sharing of knowledge, and her outstanding efforts in support of teachers and the teaching profession.

UNESCO Literacy websites

Friday, August 22, 2008

The International Day of Peace

The United Nations' International Day of Peace - marked every year on September 21 - is a global holiday when individuals, communities, nations and governments highlight efforts to end conflict and promote peace.

We the World, a non-governmental organization, provides a website with more than 700 associated events celebrating peace efforts during an eleven day period from September 11 to September 21, in support of the United Nations event.

“Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men

that the defences of peace must be constructed.”

The UNESCO Constitution

UNESCO was created in the aftermath of World War II as an integral part of the United Nations peace keeping system. UNESCO's function was the long-term effort to build the defenses of peace in the minds of men through the promotion of education, science and culture. The promotion of peace has always been central to its program.

Promotion of the Culture of Peace is one of UNESCO's special themes, cross cutting all of its sectoral programs. Among its actions are a number of prizes recognizing efforts to promote peace:

This prize, awarded biennially, supports activities designed to increase awareness and mobilize consciences in the cause of peace.
The Prize, established in 1989, is intended to honor living individuals, and active public or private bodies or institutions that have made a significant contribution to promoting, seeking, safeguarding or maintaining peace.
The UNESCO Cities for Peace Prize pays tribute to the initiatives of municipalities which have succeeded in strengthening social cohesion, improving living conditions in disadvantaged neighbourhoods and developing genuine urban harmony.
A New UNESCO Publication

The International Peace Commission, which grew out ot the Houphouet-Boigny Peace Prize process, held its first meeting in UNESCO Headquarters, hosted by the Secretary General. The International Commission for Peace Research also grew out of the Houphouet-Boigny Peace Prize.

The book Water and Peace for the People will be launched on 11 September at 6 p.m. at UNESCO Headquarters.
What if the countries in the Middle East had no choice but to get along in order to share the region’s meagre water resources? This is the starting premise of Jon Martin Trondalen’s book “Water and Peace for the People”, which will be launched on 11 September at UNESCO.

In an international climate of tension, conflicts related to water in the Middle East are more than ever in deadlock. “Water and Peace for the People”, released by UNESCO Publishing, offers a practical guide that suggests concrete ways to resolve these crises.

© Jon Martin Trondalen
Culvert for an irrigation from the
Euphrates River, South of Bagdad

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mondialogo School Contest Finalists

Reuters reports:
50 schools at the final of the Mondialogo School Contest in Beijing - among them U.S. students from Allison Park (Pennsylvania), Lewisburg (West Virginia) and Land O'Lakes (Wisconsin)
The three U.S. finalists are the A. W. Beattie Career Center, the Greenbrier East and the Conserve School.

The contest, initiated by Daimler and UNESCO in 2003, seeks to encourage dialog between school students of different cultural origins, by rewarding the best work on international and intercontinental joint projects: examples include musical works, plays, collages, photographic documentation, sculptures or Internet pages. Through the intercultural project work, school students are intended to develop understanding, tolerance and respect for people with different cultures, religions, languages and origins. This year 2,740 school teams with a total of 36,000 school students between the ages of 14 and 18 from 144 countries took part.

UNESCO's Programs for Children in Need

You can contribute to UNESCO's Programs for Children in Need!

Click here to learn how!

UNESCO created the Program for the Education of Children in Need in 1992 to offer a future to vulnerable children through education. Since its creation, over US$33 million has been raised in private funds and these have been fully and directly invested into immediate support for over 332 projects in 92 countries worldwide.
Street children
According to UN sources there are up to 150 million street children in the world today. Chased from home by violence, drug and alcohol abuse, the death of a parent, family breakdown, war, natural disaster or simply socio-economic collapse, many destitute children are forced to eke out a living on the streets, scavenging, begging, hawking in the slums and polluted cities of the developing world.
Children victims of war and natural disasters
Over the last decade alone, armed conflict has claimed the lives of over 2 million children. Another six million have been left wounded or disabled for life. One million have become orphans. It is estimated today that more than 300,000 children have been enrolled in militia groups and armies and been forced to carry a gun. Half of those they kill are other children. Whether it is in Afghanistan, Iraq or in conflict-ridden areas of Africa, UNESCO has played a vital role in providing education and relief. The first to suffer from a lack of sanitation, infrastructure and order after a catastrophe are the most vulnerable: children. Outbreaks of disease following natural disasters hit children the hardest. UNESCO’s Program for the Education of Children in Need seeks to be on hand to offer relief and reconstruction expertise.
Children with special needs
Despite governments signing up to many a convention and seemingly supporting international guidelines on children with special needs, prejudices and exclusion still form part of everyday life for many children with special needs around the world. Since 1992, ther projects for children with special needs have been carried out in the following countries: Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cuba, Egypt, India, PDR Lao, Mexico, Morocco, Russia, Uganda, Vietnam.
Working children
Child labor is probably the single biggest obstacle to giving every child an education. The International Labor Office estimates the number of working children, aged 5 to 17, to be around 250 million. Many of these children come from impoverished rural families who have to employ every member to survive; others still work in dire situations of systematic exploitation in sweatshops and factories. Exposed to hazardous materials, working in servitude, many of these young laborers die an early death. The most destructive of child ‘work’ is prostitution. Around 2 million children fall within this area of employment worldwide. In Asia alone, perhaps more than 1 million minors, of both sexes, work in bars and brothels. Before long they are caught up in the deadly cycle of substance abuse and HIV infection.
For an overview of current UNESCO projects for children in need, select a region from the list below:

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Conversation With Nina V. Fedoroff

The New York Times has published an interview with Nina Fedoroff, science adviser to the secretary of state and to the administrator of the Agency for International Development. I quote:

A. Because science and technology are the drivers of the 21st century’s most successful economies.

There are more than six billion of us, and the problems of a crowded planet are everyone’s: food, water, energy, climate change, environmental degradation. Other nations, even those that have lost respect for our culture and politics, still welcome collaboration on scientific and technological issues.

Aksum Obelisk successfully repatriated and reinstalled

The third and last block of the Aksum Obelisk was successfully mounted by the UNESCO teams at the end of July in its original location in Ethiopia. The monument’s reinstallation was greeted with joy by the local people, who spontaneously organized musical concerts yesterday at the site.

Weighing 150 tons and 24 meters high, the obelisk is the second largest stela on the Aksum World Heritage site in northern Ethiopia, close to the border with Eritrea. Transported to Rome by the troops of Mussolini in 1937, it was returned in April 2005 by the Italian government. Its dismantling in Rome, transport and reinstallation were funded by the Italian government.

Monday, August 18, 2008

200th Anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade

August 23rd is the day marked by UNESCO to commemorate the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. On March 2, 1807, the U.S. Congress approved an act to abolish the importation of slaves effective January 1, 1808. Thus, this year marks the 200th anniversary of that event.

Here are a number of useful resources available related to the anniversary celebration:

Friday, August 15, 2008

UNESCO CultureLink Network

The Network's aim is "to strengthen communication among its members, encouraging international and intercultural communication and collaboration. The Culturelink Network's long-term objective is the development of a world-wide information system for the study of cultural development and cooperation."

The CultureLink Website
contains resources that emphasize the connections between culture and the broader aims of human endeavor that have been part of UNESCO's core constitutional mandate of "advancing, through the educational, scientific and cultural relations of the peoples of the world, the objectives of peace and the common welfare of mankind."

" The fight against doping; More than tactical success"

The International Herald Tribune suggests that the 2005 UNESCO Convention Against Doping in Sport may pay off with fewer abuses in these Olympic Games.
Before the 2005 convention, only members of sports organizations were held accountable or penalized for their actions. Now, all athlete support personnel, including coaches, trainers, managers, team support staff, agents, administrators, officials and medical or paramedical practitioners are open to scrutiny, as are those who manufacture or supply drugs to athletes.

Today, the convention encourages all countries to evenly apply antidoping laws and regulations and ensure the implementation of the World Anti-Doping code by all sports organizations. But while countries have rapidly ratified the convention, they need to move much faster to implement it.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

United States ratifies International Convention against Doping in Sport

On 4 August, President George Bush signed the instrument of ratification of UNESCO’s International Convention against Doping in Sport, following its approval on 22 July by the US Senate. More than 90 countries have now ratified the Convention.

Latin America and the Caribbean: diversity, creativity and dialog

Latin America "resonates with varied forms of creativity, which constitutes what is perhaps its most common characteristic. In this way, this region has given rise to the notion of a culture rooted in diversity and renewal." Check out this material about UNESCO's Culture Program activities in the region:

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Rattus Holmes and Felis Watson

As of Monday, visitors to the UNESCO Social and Human Sciences Program website* are able to find the weekly installment of an comic-strip adventure featuring Rattus Holmes and Felis Watson, detective heroes against doping in sport.

Entitled “The Case of the Spoilsports”, the comic strip dramatizes UNESCO’s anti-doping role and explores the importance of the International Convention against Doping in Sport, adopted by UNESCO’s member states in 2005.

In five chapters published weekly, the story the comic strip will trace how twin athletes react differently to the pressures of competitive sport.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Job: Director of the Division for Education Strategies and Capacity Building

Under the overall authority of the Assistant Director-General for Education (ADG/ED), the incumbent will lead the development and implementation of the programme of the Division and ensure that technical backstopping is provided to UNESCO Field Offices in implementing the Division’s programme and activities aiming at Member States' capacity to develop and implement educational
strategies and priorities, and enhance education systems management and governance.

Location: Paris
Deadline for Applications: 5 September 2008

Job: Chief of ICT in Education, Science and Culture Section

Duty station; Paris, France
Grade: P-5
Post number: CI-004
Closing date: 4 September 2008
Main responsibilities:
Under the overall authority of the Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information (ADG/CI) and the direct supervision of the Director of Information Society Division, the incumbent is responsible for the planning, implementation and evaluation of the strategy, regular program activities, and extrabudgetary projects of the Section. Working within the frameworks of UNESCO's Medium-Term Strategy (C/4s) and global developments plans, especially the Plan of Action adopted by the World Summit on the Information Society, the incumbent will be responsible for the following duties:
  1. Provide intellectual, strategic and operational leadership of the Section by: (a) driving the preparation of strategies and the biennial programs and budgets; (b) guiding the conceptualizing, designing and implementation phase of the Section’s activities; (c) providing expert advice to internal and external stakeholders; (d) driving the multistakeholder cooperation and outreach of the Section through fostering contacts and joint projects with representatives ofMember States, UNESCO’s Intergovernmental bodies and civil society; (e) establishing and managing private sector partnerships.
  2. Ensure the management of the staff of the Section by: motivating staff and providing mentoring; ensuring appropriate distribution of tasks; monitoring of timely and appropriate implementation of program and projects; establishing internal guidelines and procedures; ensuring quality and timely inputs of the Section to reports; establishing information and knowledge management procedures of the Section; monitoring and evaluating the performance of staff.
  3. Plan and execute regular programme and extra-budgetary activities by: providing strategic advice in the use of ICTs in education, science and culture for Member States; recording and sharing information, knowledge and best practices; planning and executing projects of strategic nature in Member States; providing backstopping support to Advisers for Communication and Information in Field Offices.

Global Aids forum opens in Mexico

A global conference on HIV/Aids has opened in Mexico City, a quarter of a century after the disease first became widely known.

According to BBC News, "the number of people with the condition around the world has gone down slightly overall. However, infection rates are still rising in some countries and access to the right treatment is also an issue. Across the world 33 million people are affected by the syndrome."

UNESCO will be involved throughout the conference in presenting sessions and activities to share new research and best practices on the global response to HIV and AIDS through education.

Read more about

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The NatCom Newsletter is Out

The U.S. National Commission for UNESCO Update, Volume 4, Issue 1 Winter/Spring 2008 has recently been published.

In This Issue:

Americans Still Underrepresented on UNESCO Staff

These data provided by the State Department indicate that there are still too few Americans on the staff of UNESCO. As a result, Americans have unusual opportunities to join UNESCO, and will enjoy unusual support of their government in efforts to do so.

UNESCO uses a formula to balance staffing from its member nations. According to the formula, a minimum of 46 and maximum of 76 U.S. citizens should work for UNESCO. The targeted date to meet the minimum employee level is 2010. Two important avenues to increase employment of American citizens in UNESCO are:
  1. The Young Professional Program –YPP (for under represented states)
  2. The Associate Expert Program - extrabudgetarily funded

2008 U.S. National Commission for UNESCO Annual Meeting

The minutes of the May meeting of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO have been published online. The summary of the meeting includes those who attended, matters discussed, and conclusions reached.

The minutes are available in PDF format. To view the PDF file, you will need to download, at no cost, the Adobe Acrobat Reader.

-- 07/03/08 Meeting Minutes

Alexander Zemek new Executive Director of the NatCom

Alex Zemek has been officially appointed Executive Director of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO.

In September 2004, Alexander Zemek began service as Deputy Executive-Director of the National Commission. Before joining the State Department, he worked for the Department of Defense 2002-2004, where he helped with cabinet affairs, with the startup and management of the Defense Business Board, an advisory council of private sector senior executives created by Secretary Rumsfeld, and
with managing and staffing the Department's 63 federal advisory boards and commissions. During his last year in Defense, he served in Iraq with the Coalition Provisional Authority as both Special Assistant to Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III and interim Director of Personnel.

He joined the government after some years in the private sector, where he worked as a securities trader for Heartland Securities Corporation. He also taught high school in his hometown of Tolland, Connecticut.

He holds an honors degree in history from Yale University, where he captained the cross country team, and a graduate certificate in national security studies from the National Defense University. As a photographer, he has held many gallery shows, for example an exhibit in Connecticut highlighting his life in a small village in Kenya in 1998. He maintains his distance running and is an avid traveler who has visited 45 of the 50 US states and 35 foreign countries. He
lives in Arlington, Virginia.

Larry Seaquist's New Website

Larry Seaquist, long time member of the Americans for UNESCO Board of Directors, has created a new website in his quest for reelection to the Washington legislature.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

ICTs in Education Prize: call for nominations

“Digital Opportunities for All: Preparing Students for 21st-Century Skills” is the theme of the 2008 UNESCO King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa Prize for the Use of ICTs in Education. Funded by the Kingdom of Bahrain, the US$50,000 prize is divided between two winners. The deadline for submissions is 31 August 2008.