Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Massive Young Stars Trigger Stellar Birth

This UNESCO card recognizes that 2009 has been designated the International Year of Astronomy and UNESCO has been designated its lead agency in the United Nations system.

Safeguarding the Underwater Cultural Heritage

III. century wreck, Italy
© UNESCO/E. Trainito

"Underwater cultural heritage” encompasses all traces of human existence that lie or were lying under water and have a cultural or historical character.

Recognizing the urgent need to preserve and protect such heritage, UNESCO elaborated the Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage in 2001. The Convention enters into force in January 2009, since 20 states have ratified it. The United States is not among those which have ratified the treaty although Mexico, Cuba and Barbados have all done so.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Electing the Next Director General

The process for the election of the next Director General of UNESCO is spelled out in a recent report by UNESCO's Executive Board.
  • Member states are to submit information on their candidates for the post by May 31, 2009.
  • The Secretariat will provide a list of candidates (in confidence) to the member states and Executive Board by the first week in June.
  • Candidates will then have until August 1st to submit statements of their views about the future of UNESCO.
  • At the 182nd session of the Executive Board (7-23 September 2009) the candidates are to be interviewed, and one is to be selected by secret ballot to be recommended to the General Conference (which is expected to meet 6 to 23 October 2009).
  • The General Conference is to elect the next Director General, but in the past the General Conference has always ratified the recommendation of its Executive Board.
Thus the race is getting hot. In 1999, when the current Director General was elected to his first five year term, there were eleven candidates for the post. Several have already been identified publicly (click on the "governance" tag below to see the list).

Al-Ahram in November had an interview with the Egyptian candidate.

Another Candidate for UNESCO DG

According to Topposts, Musa Bin Jaafar Bin Hassan has been nominated by Oman for the post of Director General of UNESCO. According to Wikipedia:
Ambassador Dr. Musa Bin Jaafar Bin Hassan is a career diplomat and academic. Dr. Hassan is one of the longest serving diplomat to UNESCO as Ambassador, Permanent Delegate of Oman from May 1984 to present. He has been decorated with 1 UNESCO Gold Medal, 3 UNESCO Silver Medals as well as the honorary title of "Ambassador for Peace."
He was President of the 33rd session of the General Conference, UNESCO's supreme governing body.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Pope Salutes UNESCO International Year of Astronomy

According to the Associated Press, Pope Benedict XVI in marking the 400th anniversary of Galileo's use of a telescope saluted UNESCO's World Year of Astronomy.

The United Nations has proclaimed 2009 the International Year of Astronomy (IYA 2009) and designated UNESCO as its lead agency.

The UNESCO Thematic Initiative “Astronomy and World Heritage” launched in support of this International Year aims to establish a link between science and culture with a view to highlighting the scientific value of cultural sites connected with astronomy.

The World Heritage Center has appealed to countries to contribute activities promoting the recognition of astronomical knowledge including through the nomination of sites that celebrate achievements in science.

Egyptian periodical reports a campaign to prevent Farouk Hosni becoming the next UNESCO director-general is taking shape

Source: "Settling scores," Nevine El-Aref, Al Ahram (Cairo), 18-24 December 2008, Issue No. 926.

I quote:
It was not an easy week for Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni and the members of his 2009 UNESCO election campaign committee. Hosni was caught up in yet another drive against his nomination for the post of UNESCO director-general and its impact lingers on.

Earlier this week a rumour began circulating suggesting that Israel had convinced the current US administration to oppose Hosni's nomination. According to leaks the Bush administration has already started a counter campaign and is keen to convince Barack Obama's incoming administration, as well as some European and Latin American countries, to follow its lead.
Read more....

Editor's note: I have no way of checking on this story, but thought it might be of interest to Americans interested in UNESCO. JAD

The Organization of World Heritage Cities

The Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC) includes 215 cities in which are located sites included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Of the member cities,
  • 7 are located in Africa,
  • 38 in Latin America,
  • 20 in Asia and the Pacific,
  • 125 in Europe and North America and
  • 25 in the Arab States.
At the moment there are also 4 Observer-members.

The OWHC organizes symposia and seminars dealing with the challenges to be met in the realm of management and strategies pertaining to the development and preservation of historic sites.

The cities involved have enclaves of historic buildings and sites, but include cities such as Valparaiso (Chile), Mexico City, Moscow and Quebec. There are no cities in the United States included.

Editorial Comment: One wonders whether Boston, New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Francisco or Santa Fe might qualify for World Heritage status if submitted for consideration. My personal nominations would be New York and Washington. Would the loss to the world were Time Square or the Washington Mall to disappear not be greater than that of some of the sites which are in the OWHC? JAD

The Washington Mall
Source: ABC News
The National Mall and Memorial Parks in Washington, D.C., was established in 1965. "The Mall is America's front porch -- open, accessible, and free -- a worthy wonder of a democratic society," says Brent D. Glass, director of the National Museum of American History. With 24 million visitors a year, it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Bookmarked References on UNESCO

I have posted links to more than 300 references relating to UNESCO on, a social bookmarking cite. You are more than welcome to use the bibliography. The following is a tag cloud from Tag Crowd for the bibliography.

created at

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ambassador Irina Bokova presents candidature for UNESCO director general in Belgrade

Source: Focus News Agency

Bulgaria’s ambassador to France, Irina Bokova, has presented her candidature for the position of UNESCO director-general according to the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry press office.

Earlier, Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov had announced her nomination in the following terms:
I avail myself the opportunity to inform you about the decision of the Bulgarian government to nominate Mrs. Irina Bokova – Bulgarian ambassador in France and Permanent Representative of Bulgaria to UNESCO, for Director General of UNESCO.

As a career diplomat in UN, UNESCO and a number of other international organizations ambassador Bokova has intense experience in the area of multilateral international relations. As Deputy Foreign Minister, as State Secretary and Minister of Foreign Affairs she has a longlasting managerial experience. She is skilled to held a dialogue and to reach a consensus for taking decisions at the highest level. I would like to express our hope that the countries from South Eastern Europe will support the nomination of Mrs. Bokova and I believe that she will contribute creatively for the promotion and strengthening the role of UNESCO in the area of education, science, culture and communication.

Languages matter!

To mark the close of the International Year of Languages, UNESCO and the United Nations Department of Public Information organized a seminar at UN Headquarters in New York 17 and 18 December.

On 16 May 2007, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2008 to be the International Year of Languages. As language issues are central to UNESCO’s mandate in education, science, social and human sciences, culture, and communication and information, the Organization has been named the lead agency for this event.

To facilitate partnership and monitoring, a communication tool kit is available, as well as a list of possible fields of action and a list of the projects currently undertaken in the framework of the International Year of Languages.

Global education digest 2008:

comparing education statistics around the world
UNESCO Institute of Statistics, 2008
(PDF, 294 pages)

This edition of the Global Education Digest presents a new set of historical time series data, which has never before been published. The data set includes 15 indicators essential to tracking longterm
progress from 1970 to 2006. The Digest has been expanded featuring more indicators and more statistical tables.
Finally, the Digest presents an overview of the inner workings of the UIS with the aim of providing greater transparency on how international education statistics are collected, processed and reported.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Telephone Conference of U.S. National Commission for UNESCO

The United States National Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will conduct a meeting by telephone conference on Monday, December 22, 2008, at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

The open teleconference portion of the meeting will be approximately twenty minutes and will address a variety of issues and projects currently before the Commission. During this session, the Commission will accept brief oral comments or questions from the public or media. The public comment period will be limited to approximately ten minutes in total, with about three minutes allowed per speaker. Like other members of the public, media representatives who wish to present oral comments or listen to the conference call should make arrangements with the Commission by December 18, 2008.

The second portion of the teleconference meeting will be closed to the media and public to allow the Commission to discuss applications for the UNESCO Young Professionals Program. This portion is closed pursuant to Section 10(d) of the Federal Advisory Committee Act and 5 U.S.C. § 552b(c)(6)because of the likely discussion of information of a personal nature regarding the relative merits of individual applicants where disclosure would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.

For more information or to arrange participation in the open portion of the teleconference meeting, contact Andrew Doran, Deputy Executive Director of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, Washington, D.C. 20037. Telephone: (202) 663-0028; Fax: (202) 663-0035; E-mail:

The New Issue of the UNESCO Courier

Sixty years of views on the world

The UNESCO Courier is celebrating its 60th anniversary. An opportunity to explore the present while looking back at the past. A way, also, to highlight some developments in how we view and think about the world - each paper refers to an article from a back issue of the magazine.

You can read interviews with Wangari Maathai (Kenya), Martti Ahtisaari (Finland), Luc Montagnier (France), just to mention the three Nobel laureates who have contributed to this special issue, alongside other distinguished personalities.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Imams and rabbis working to build peace at UNESCO

Imams and rabbis from Israel and the Palestinian Territories as well as many other countries are meeting at UNESCO (15 to 17 December) to launch new initiatives to help build peace in the Middle East.

The meeting, the Third World Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace, is organized by the Swiss Foundation Hommes de Parole and placed under the patronage of UNESCO.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Lauren Child: UNESCO Artist for Peace

British author and illustrator Lauren Child is UNESCO's latest Artist for Peace and will be formally inducted in a ceremony at headquarters on December 12. She has won numerous awards for her best-selling children's books featuring now well-known characters such as Charlie and Lola, Clarice Bean, and That Pesky Rat.

This award is a recognition of Child's work with UNESCO's Programme for the Education of Children in Need, which is a program that works to provide education to vulnerable children. This program, created in 1992, has raised over $33 million that has been fully given to over 332 projects in 92 countries.

Child has also shown her dedication to helping deprived in disadvantaged children in numerous ways. One way has been through a three-year agreement between Child and UNESCO signed in June of this year, all royalties and publisher profits of Child's book That Pesky Rat will be donated to UNESCO and will finance various projects for children in need.

Another result of Child and UNESCo's partnership is a project called "My Life as a Story." In this campaign, Child seeks to document stories from children around the world. This project was motivated in part by Child's 2007 trip to Fondation Renacimiento, which is a center for street children in Mexico City. She found, "One of the things [the children] said to me there was that they would really like to be connected to children in other places." Child hopes children would eventually put their stories on the Internet for others. "It is about linking children together, from across the world, through their stories."

For more information, visit My Life as a Story or the Programme for the Education of Children in Need.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise.

In 2008, AIDS persists as a global health crisis. And, though we don’t read too much about it in the U.S. press, it is a critically persistent problem in the U.S not to mention the world. Americans for UNESCO strongly supports UNESCO’s efforts in the fight against AIDS. Held annually on the first of December, the slogan for this year’s World AIDS Day was, “Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise”, and it was unified by the theme of leadership. The 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day was celebrated this year and the world united to commemorate those who have died and to bring attention to the global AIDS epidemic and the need of continued action and leadership.

Events will took place around the world to highlight existing programmes, launch new initiative, and raise awareness of key HIV and AIDS-related issues. From Azerbaijan to Zambia, from Bangladesh, to Kosovo, Malawi, Mongolia, and Vietnam, some 60 countries organized lessons on AIDS for over 10 million 13 to 18 year olds that were held simultaneously on December 1, 2008. In Paris, 1,000 children had their lesson at UNESCO Headquarters from 10 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. in Room I. The emphasis on World AIDS Day 2008 was placed on the shortfall between commitments made to halt the spread of HIV and AIDS and actions taken to follow through on them. And activities occurred around the globe in honor and awareness of World AIDS Day.

UNESCO’s HIV and AIDS Education Clearinghouse is an online library and knowledge-sharing initiative, providing a language interface for technical resources on Education and HIV & AIDS. With over 4,000 references, it targets education professionals, ministries of education, development agencies, civil society, and researchers in providing a knowledge base and information exchange service around HIV and AIDS policies, programmes and advocacy. EDUCAIDS, the Global Initiative on Education and HIV & AIDS, is a UNAIDS initiative led by UNESCO. EDUCAIDS seeks to encourage and support countries to mobilize the education sector to design and implement effective responses to HIV and AIDS. EDUCAIDS has two main goals: to prevent the spread of HIV through education, and to protect the core functions of education systems from the worst effects of the epidemic.

In addition, the 15th Annual International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) took place from December 8 – 11, 2008 in Dakaar. It was defined by the principles of transparency, integrity, metamorphosis, and excellence. The main theme of the conference was, “Africa’s Response: Face the facts”, asking that people accept the epidemic and continue to acknowledge that more needs to be done. For more than two decades, the African continent has participated in the fight against AIDS and provided potential solutions to the numerous challenges posed by this epidemic. However, even as the fight continues, it is important to stop and evaluate these many initiatives, their efforts, effectiveness, and successes. The conference also stresses that is it also time to take stock of political commitments, unfulfilled promises and actions and practices employed in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The conference ended with a strong message: youth are essential in the response to AIDS. The closing ceremony began with a statement delivered by Ms. Souadou N'Doye, a young Senegalese woman. She spoke on behalf of all young Africans and urged those in attendance to ensure that young people are involved in the design of HIV programmes. She asked governments and partners to utilize the talents of young people from each country. Without young people, she stressed, the AIDS response is incomplete and ineffective. Ms. N’Doye brought to light the overarching theme of the conference and when she stated, "All that is done for us, but without us, is against us." Humankind needs leadership, unity, education, and resources to end this epidemic and World AIDS Day 2008 helped bring those needs and efforts to light.

"Unfinished Business: A Comparative Survey of Historical and Contemporary Slavery"

Unfinished Business was commissioned by UNESCO’s Slave Route project and prepared by Joel Quirk of the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation (WISE, U.K).

The publication is divided into five chapters:
  • defining slavery in all its forms;
  • presenting data on the scale of slavery, slave trading and other forms of human bondage;
  • examining differences and similarities between historical and contemporary practices;
  • identifying, via case studies in the United States, Saint Domingue/Haiti, Great Britain and Portugal, the main paths through which abolition of slavery has historically occurred; and,
  • through a further series of case studies, exploring the key limitations of the legal abolition of slavery.
This book provides a history that is important for the understanding of our American culture. I would be a useful text for a unit on slavery.
Slavery may have been legally abolished around the world, but it remains “a widespread and deeply rooted component on contemporary life” concludes the first-ever comparative analysis of historical slave systems and modern forms of human bondage, published online today by UNESCO.

IEC Ministers: Don’t cut education funding

The global financial crisis should not serve as a justification for cuts in education funding, concluded ministers and representatives from 153 countries attending the 48th session of UNESCO’s International Conference on Education which closed on 28 November.

Related links

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

UNESCO is celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Originally created by the UN in 1948, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was created as the first universal declaration of inalienable human rights, a common standard to which all nations would be held accountable. Even on it's 60th birthday, the UDHR is more relevant than ever. It still stands as a banner proclaiming the innate rights of every human being. It is a battle cry to those who would strip even the most basic rights from their fellow man. And point at which the world may rally in defense of the defenseless. 

To learn more about what UNESCO is doing to commemorate this grand event, please click here

Spread the word. 

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

UNESCO designates Iowa City as the world's third City of Literature

UNESCO has designated Iowa City, Iowa, a City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. It is the third city to receive the honor.

"This is at once a celebration of the literary riches and resources of Iowa City and a spur to action," said University of Iowa International Writing Program Director Christopher Merrill, who led the UI Writing University committee that submitted the city's proposal. "We look forward to working with our new partners in the Creative Cities network -- to forging dynamic relationships with writers, artists and others committed to the life of discovery. This is a great day for Iowa City."

Iowa City joins Edinburgh, Scotland, and Melbourne, Australia, as UNESCO Cities of Literature. Other cities in the Creative Cities Network -- honoring and connecting cultural centers for cinema, music, crafts and folk arts, design, media arts and gastronomy, as well as literature -- include Aswan, Egypt; Santa Fe, N.M.; Berlin, Germany; Montreal, Canada; Popayan, Colombia; Bologna, Italy; Shenzhen, China; and Seville, Spain.

Read more!

"Shift on U.N. Seen in Rice Nomination"

Susan Rice
Paul J. Richards
Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Washington Post
today analyzes the implication of the appointment of Susan E. Rice to be U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Dr. Rice was a senior foreign policy advisor to Barack Obama during two years of his campaign, and was expected by many to be appointed to a position in the White House.
But Obama decided instead to put her in New York, in a more visible role -- ambassador to the United Nations -- and thereby send a message to the world's diplomats: The United States will look more kindly, come Jan. 20, on multilateralism and U.N. peacekeeping missions.

Obama said yesterday that he is restoring Rice's position to a Cabinet-level rank, an indication that he views the job as central to his goal of fostering more international cooperation.......

U.N. officials welcomed the selection of Rice, an unapologetic proponent of multilateralism, and said the decision to upgrade the post to Cabinet rank showed the Obama administration meant to pay greater attention to the world body.

"She's a woman of intellect, a woman of passion and somebody who would like to get things done," said Ibrahim Gambari, a senior U.N. troubleshooter who first met Rice when he was Nigeria's U.N. ambassador during the military rule of Sani Abacha.
Read Dr. Rice's biographical sketch in the New York Times.

Comment: Dr. Rice is obviously brilliant, with experience in the White House and State Department, and an apparently close relationship with the president elect. All to the good. Best of all, her appointment and inclusion in the Cabinet apparently signals an intention of the new administration to return to multilateralism, including strong involvement with the United Nations family of organizations. JAD


UNESCO HIV/AIDS Prevention Program for street children
© UNESCO/Michel Ravassard

UNESCO supports comprehensive education sector responses to HIV and AIDS in five essential areas:
  • quality education;
  • content, curriculum and learning materials;
  • educator training and support;
  • policy, management and systems and
  • the use of multiple approaches and entry points.

    Related links

"Putting culture first: commonwealth perspectives on culture and development"

This report discusses, among other things, the role of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expression "in providing a framework for countries, particularly those with limited government capacity, to implement successful cultural policy designed to support creative production and enhance cultural diversity."

Putting Culture First is the product of extensive consultation with representatives from government, civil society, and the culture and development sectors across the Commonwealth, carried out between February and October 2008.