Friday, October 31, 2008

World Heritage Site in Danger

The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, expressed concern this week over violence in the North Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Mr. Matsuura supported the statement made earlier by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, calling on “all parties to immediately cease hostilities and pursue in good faith efforts to resolve peacefully the issues.” The Director-General declared, “The escalation of violence in recent weeks threatens the integrity of a DRC World Heritage site, Virunga National Park, which comprises outstanding biological diversity and provides the habitat for the last populations of mountain gorillas, a highly endangered species. According to the information I have received, the park rangers can no longer patrol and the gorillas’ habitat is threatened by the persistent shooting.”

The Director-General also urged the international community to uphold its obligation to ensure the protection of World Heritage List sites.

There are only 200 gorillas left in the park, which has been listed as a World Heritage Site in Danger since 1994. Only about 700 mountain gorillas remain total of the highly endangered species. This past Sunday, rebels seized the park headquarters, and many rangers fled and are missing. In the last decade, over 120 rangers have lost their lives protecting the park.

Africa’s oldest national park, Virunga National Park was founded in 1925. It holds the greatest range of habitats and vertebrate species diversity of any African park, yet, sadly, the conflict, humanitarian crises and economic collapse that have marked the last few decades in the DRC have severely damaged conservation efforts.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

UNESCO and Research for Health

Published in advance of the upcoming Global Ministerial Forum on Research for Health (Bamako, Mali, 17-19 November 2008), UNESCO and Research for Health is now available online.

The report reflects the inter-disciplinary goals of the 2008 Forum, including the need to link the health sector and research, science and technology, higher education and the global innovation system to advance the goal of improving health for all. Highlighting UNESCO projects that impact health, priorities and calls to action outlined in the report include:

• Establishing a research university in each country;
• Ensuring that knowledge is shared with potential beneficiaries most in need; and
• Helping developing countries train and retain well-trained scientists to advise governments about priorities and the use of technology.

The report also draws attention to the health impacts of climate change, and discusses the link between literacy and health – noting the success of projects such as Operation Upgrade’s Kwanibela Project in South Africa offers an innovative approach to integrate information about HIV/AIDS into literacy programs.

Along with UNESCO, the 2008 Forum organizers include the Council on Health Research for Development, the Global Forum for Health Research, the Republic of Mali, UNESCO, the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

UNESCO hosts Canadian Arts and Learning Symposium

In furthering its commitment to arts education, the UNESCO Chair in Arts and Learning will sponsor the Canadian Arts and Learning Symposium October 29th through the 31st. The goal of this initiative is to build and strengthen connections between those involved in Canadian educational arts, although the symposium includes international participation as well. This symposium will prepare for the next international arts conference in Seoul in 2010.

The overarching theme for the conference is advocacy for arts education and promoting ties between arts educators, practitioners, students, performers, and administrators. Keynote speaker Measha Brueggergosman will address this topic. Other themes that will be highlighted include discussing the impact of arts education; arts education policies, programs, and practices; and organizational frameworks for the arts community.

To further organize the community, the Canadian Network for Arts and Learning will begin activities at the symposium.

The symposium will be held at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, in Duncan McArthur Hall. Portions of the presentations will be available via webcasts for those unable to attend.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The UNESCO Forum on Higher Education, Research and Knowledge

The UNESCO Forum on Higher Education, Research and Knowledge is an initiative focusing on research in and on Higher Education and Knowledge, with the objective to widen our understanding of systems, structures, policies, trends and developments in higher education, research and knowledge with a special focus on low and middle income countries. Related areas of interests are research on agriculture and health research, since they are important elements of the national research systems in low and middle-income countries.

Global Research Seminar:
Sharing Research Agendas on Knowledge Systems
Paris 28-30 November

The Global Research Seminar, an activity of the Forum, is to be an occasion to gather researchers and research organizations actively engaged in studying Research and Knowledge Systems in all regions of the world. The objective is to provide an arena for researchers to network, to present and discuss new and ongoing research, identify research gaps and suggest new research agendas on research systems, with a view to forge closer links between the research communities and UNESCO in these fields.

USAID and UNESCO collaborate on educational project

According to the Daily Times of Lahore:
The Directorate of Staff Development (DSD), in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), is implementing a project, Strengthening Teacher Education in Pakistan (STEP), on October 25, according to a press release issued on Friday.

The project is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The DSD is working to update teachers on new trends in education and making the teaching and learning process more fruitful for students.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ambassador Oliver's Farewell to the Executive Board

Ambassador Louise Oliver concluded her remarks to the 180th meeting of UNESCO's Executive Board with the following words:
And now, as this will be my last Executive Board meeting, I would like to make some personal comments, starting with expressing my admiration and gratitude to our interpreters who somehow have always managed to keep up with my very rapid speech. Your professionalism and skills are, in the words of the next generation, awesome.

To the members of the Secretariat, let me say that I have enjoyed working with you. Though we have not always agreed on everything, I respect your commitment to this organization, as I hope you do ours.

To my colleagues in the delegations from all corners of the globe, thank you for your friendship, and for the open-minded way in which you listen to our ideas and concerns.

And finally let me express my profound gratitude to you Mr. Director-General for having successfully encouraged the United States to rejoin the UNESCO family. Your passion for UNESCO and its mandate is extraordinary, and it has made a big impact in my country.

So now it is time to turn our attention back to the challenges that face this Organization. Once again we have too many items on our agenda, and once again we will be tempted to say yes to everything we are asked to do. But if we do that, we will weaken the ability of this Organization to exert the kind of leadership that is expected of us. Instead let us rededicate ourselves to advancing our priorities, so that we can take full advantage of the great potential of this organization.

If we can transform UNESCO’s ideals into action, we will be able to help strengthen mutual understanding among the nations and peoples of the world, which is essential if we are ever to make progress towards our ultimate goal of peace and security worldwide.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.
Comment: Ambassador Oliver has served with distinction as head of the United States Permanent Delegation to UNESCO since the United States rejoined the organization. The country owes her a debt of gratitude for that service. I understand that she has managed to do a great deal assure that U.S. representatives at UNESCO governance bodies would receive the respectful attention the nation's representative deserve. JAD

UNESCO Symposium and exhibition on freedom of expression mark 60th anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights

U Win Tin
Laureate of the UNESCO
World Press Freedom Prize 2001
long term prisoner in Burma
has provided a video for the symposium

A symposium on Freedom of Expression: Development, Democracy and Dialog will be held at UNESCO Headquarters on 29 October as part of celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights whose 19th article enshrines freedom of expression as a fundamental, inalienable human right.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

United Nations Day

This Friday, October 24th, people around the world will celebrate UN Day, marking the 63rd anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, which was created with the far-sighted vision and leadership of the United States.

The United Nations was created by the allies who, having won World War II, recognized the need for an intergovernmental organization that could take the political actions needed to prevent future wars. The creators of the United Nations recognized that while the UN Security Council could take necessary short term political actions, that wars begin in the minds of men, and it is there that the long term defenses of peace must be constructed. Thus UNESCO was created in parallel with the United Nations and charged with education, science, culture and communications in order to build those long term defenses.

That founding vision remains as relevant today as it did in 1945.

Check out the Patriotism.Org site on United Nations Day in the United States.

A Positive Step for Iraqi Education and Communication

Installation of a transmission unit

The Iraqi education and communication network received a large boost yesterday as UNESCO and the Education Minister of Iraq launched the Iraqi Educational TV Channel (IRAQ EDU). This channel will run 24 hours a day on NILESAT at 10775 Hz; it will broadcast programs based on Iraqi school curriculum. Its focus is primary and secondary students within and outside of Iraqi.

This project, funded by the European Union for US$6.5 million, aims to act as a way to counter the high security risks many students feel in attending school. These risks have led to high rates of absenteeism and the subsequent closing of schools. They have also contributed to low initial enrollments rates. In fact, data from UNICEF-Iraq show initial enrollment rates were around 46% in 2006, and the Ministry of Education reported only 28% of 17-year-olds sat for their final exams that same year.

However, there is much optimism about this new measure. It is particularly interesting to note that IRAQ EDU will emphasize peace and tolerance in its programs. Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, indicated this and the other contributions IRAQ EDCU will make could certainly"inspire initiatives in other countries and regions that are in conflict or post-conflict situations."

And it seems that there is certainly work to be done to restore the Iraqi educational system to its former regional eminence. In the early 1980s, the Iraqi educational system was seen as one of if not the best in the region. UNESCO reported Gross Enrollment Rates around 100% and illiteracy rates for ages 15 to 45 less than 10%; yet there has been constant instability ever since.

Yet the war with Iran in the mid-1980s, the Gulf War, and the instability beginning in 2003 have left the educational system tattered to say the least. Class size can average in size of 100 students, teachers face constant threats of violence, and the scheduled curriculum may be rarely finished or addressed. Although many positive programs have been enacted, much more clearly needs to be done. It is initiatives such as IRAQ EDU that may provide another way to access this deserving population: the children of Iraq.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Grand Canyon

Last week I visited Grand Canyon National Park, one of the places chosen by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. We visited the north rim of the canyon rather than the more frequented south rim.

One approaches the north rim, which is quite isolated, passing through the forests and meadows of the Colorado Plateau. As the above photo shows, in October the aspens found among the pine forests turn gold. From the road we saw herds of grazing deer, and even a coyote, as well as cattle grazing in the multiple use national forest adjacent to the national park.

The two images above are taken from the lodge on the north rim. Reconstructed after a fire that destroyed the original building, it is again an imposing and interesting building, which we were told is important in the architectural history of the United States, representing a peak achievement of the arts and crafts movement. Certainly the first view of the Grand Canyon itself from the lobby of the lodge leaves an indelible impression.

Walking along a rim trail one sees great views across the ten mile expanse of the mile deep canyon framed by tall and graceful pines.

A road branches off that to the lodge, traveling for miles along the Colorado Plateau, with viewing points provided on the rim providing views such as those provided above.

Archaeologists have discovered many prehistoric sites within Grand Canyon National Park itself, and even today there are Native American communities above and below the national park on the Colorado River. Indeed the history of the region through the expansion of the United States has fascinated Americans, and the larger region surrounding the Grand Canyon has been the site of many western movies.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Teacher Development grows in Africa

The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) office of Education held a 3 day conference for the AU from the 17th to the 19th of June, 2008 in South Africa to discuss implementation strategies in teacher development for the second generation of African Education. The focus was Science, Math, and Technology teaching (SMASE) as well as distance learning for teacher training
At the meeting, the role of UNESCO in African teaching was outlined. These include:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Preserving Underwater Cultural Heritage in Asia-Pacific Waters

Now ratified by twenty States, the Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage will enter into force on January 2, 2009. The Convention, adopted in 2001 by UNESCO’s General Conference, is designed to help preserve cultural heritage by safeguarding marine archaeological sites and submerged shipwrecks.

The growing threat posed by looting, combined with unintentional damage and negligence from fishing, exploitation of sea-bed resources and major shore-line and offshore constructions, constitutes a great loss to the study of the history of civilizations. Furthermore, legal efforts to protect underwater heritage sites have lagged behind laws protecting cultural heritage sites on the ground. By drafting this treaty, UNESCO sought to correct this imbalance and provide a framework for cooperation to help preserve underwater history and cultural heritage for future study.

The need for the Convention is starkly clear in the Asia-Pacific region, which, with its rich history of maritime commerce, hosts many shipwrecks. The contents of shipwrecked vessels, such as the Tek Sing, which sank in the waters off Indonesia in 1822, have been auctioned off and irretrievably dispersed. By attempting to guard against further harm to cultural heritage, the Convention supports the regional pillars of UNESCO’s efforts in the Asia-Pacific region, including “extending international protection to endangered, vulnerable and minority cultures and cultural expressions.”

While the treaty provides a framework to address the problem, there are practical obstacles to overcome before it can be implemented, including a scarcity of trained underwater archaeologists. This is a particularly pressing need in the Asia-Pacific region, and it should be addressed urgently to help ensure the treaty’s effectiveness.

So far, Cambodia is the only country in the Asia-Pacific region to ratify the treaty, though all Member States agreed that its Annex, which presents detailed guidelines concerning activities directed at underwater cultural heritage, should be accepted and applied as the reference document for interventions concerning underwater cultural heritage.

For more information, please visit UNESCO’s Bankgok’s Underwater Cultural Heritage in Asia-Pacific Waters project site. For information about the efforts of other regions, please see UNESCO’s Underwater Cultural Heritage site.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

UNESCO’s Earthquake Response Programme: "building back better"

Over 73,000 people in Pakistan perished in the devastating 2005 earthquake. In Bam, India, the earthquake of 2003 left 18,000 children without classrooms. In response to these disasters and other similarly affected areas, UNESCO has developed the Earthquake Response Programme which focuses on reactivating the education system through training.
UNESCO's program has challenged the traditional response of rebuilding education. "Building back better" involves more than just physical structures. The Earthquake Response Program focuses on: 
  • initial and follow-up training in management of recovery and reconstruction
  • case specific materials
  • literacy programs
  • much needed psychosocial support 
In addition to the local level response, UNESCO is also working among policy makers to increase awareness regarding the importance of education.

Monday, October 06, 2008

UNESCO and Inter-American Development Bank

The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, and the President of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Luis Alberto Moreno, signed today in Paris a Memorandum of Understanding for a Strategic Partnership to expand existing cooperation between the two organizations.

According to the agreement UNESCO and the IDB will be able to undertake joint activities in Latin America and the Caribbean in the following areas:
  • capacity building for the achievement of Education for All (EFA) goals;
  • the use of information technologies (ICTs) in education;
  • ethics of science and technology;
  • strengthening of national science and technology capacities;
  • youth violence prevention; protection and promotion of biological and cultural diversity, including the promotion of multilingualism;
  • prevention of natural disasters;
  • protection and safeguarding of natural and cultural heritage, including intangible cultural heritage;
  • development of cultural industries; and
  • urban development.

Picturing America

Picturing America is an exhibit developed by the National Endowment for Humanities. It was shown at UNESCO recently as part of American History and Culture Week. The show provides exhibition size and quality photos of masterpieces of American art. It is also available for use in classrooms and libraries. The Picturing America website has an interesting interactive show of the images contained in the exhibit.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

UNESCO and the Investigation of Human Rights Abuses

UNESCO investigates alleged violations of human rights in its fields of competence, namely education, science, culture and communication. This procedure is set out in 104 EX/Decision 3.3 of the Executive Board, and is known as "Procedure 104". The investigations are implemented by a subsidiary organ of the Executive Board, the Committee on Conventions and Recommendations.

Last week the Committee had a special program in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the creation of Procedure 104. Participatin in the event were such luminaries as Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali (President of the National Council for Human Rights of Egypt and Former Secretary-General of the United Nations) and Dr. Torsten Wiesel (1981 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine).

Farouk Hosni: Candidate for UNESCO Director General

Farouk Hosny -- 2001 -- Acrylic on Canvas - 105x205 cm
Zamalek Art Galary

Farouk Hosni, having served for two decades as Egyptian Minister of Culture, has been nominated by his government to be the next Director General of UNESCO, and is considered to be a leading candidate. He is also know internationally as an abstract artist. One of his paintings is reproduced above. The second term of office of the current Director General, Koïchiro Matsuura, ends in October 2009.

12th International Seminar Forum UNESCO - University and Heritage

Apr 5, 2009 - Apr 10, 2009
Hanoi, Republic of Vietnam

The Seminar is arranged around 3 major themes, physical integrity of historic urban landscapes, functional integrity of historic urban landscapes, visual integrity of historic urban landscapes.

It will be hosted by Hanoi University of Architecture (HAU), Hanoi People’s Committee (Vietnam). The Seminar official languages are English, French and Spanish. Interpretation services will be provided in English, French, Spanish and Vietnamese. More about the Forum.

The Deadline for submission of abstracts is Thursday, October 30, 2008. More about submitting an abstract.

Momaday Nominated UNESCO Artist for Peace

Scott Momaday has been nominated as UNESCO Artist for Peace by Koichiro Matsuura, UNESCO's Director-General. Ambassador Louise Oliver looks on.
© Copyright Michel Ravassard

American History and Culture Week at UNESCO

30 September to 7 October

The week long celebration centers on the ‘Picturing America’ exhibit, a collection of 40 printed representations of some of the country’s greatest works of art. The exhibit enables viewers to gain insights into the principles, ideals and aspirations that have animated American history since its founding and before.

The exhibit is an engaging way for youth and adults alike to learn more about the United States and its history through art.”
UNESCO Director General Koïchiro Matsuura.
The activities of the week also included the performance of Tha Boyz, a Native American chant group. Native American traditions were also portrayed in the "Picturing America" exhibit through Black Hawk’s "Sans Arc Lakota" ledger book, along with representations of America’s great leaders, such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, and important works illustrating American democracy such as Norman Rockwell’s Freedom of Speech.

Tha Boyz - 2007 Red Earth

Happy World Teachers Day -- October 5th

Low salaries, overcrowded classrooms, low job security, inadequate training – World Teachers’ Day, celebrated annually on 5 October, is the occasion to pay tribute to a profession whose role in the education of young people and adults remains essential. The emphasis this year is on developing teacher policies, the only foundation for ensuring sustainable and high-quality recruitment. More on the day from UNESCO!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Add the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project to the Memory of the World

Eleanor Roosevelt and United Nations 'Universal Declaration of Human Rights'

Eleanor Roosevelt was a great American in her own right as well as in the role of spokesperson for her husband. Among her greatest accomplishment was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She chaired the United Nations Committee that drafted the Declaration. Her enormous prestige, in my opinion, made the Declaration possible. Her skill in the chair brought people together who were otherwise seldom able to negotiate successfully. It was her recognition that, while cultures differ as to why people have these rights, they can agree on a fundamental set of rights which must be regarded as universal.
"Once more we are in a period of uncertainty, of danger, in which not only our own safety but that of all mankind is threatened. Once more we need the qualities that inspired the development of the democratic way of life. We need imagination and integrity, courage and a high heart."
Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt was a lifelong supporter of the United Nations and of UNESCO. Not only did she chair the U.N. Human Rights Committee from 1946 to 1952, but she wrote a book to encourage people to support the United Nations, and contributed to the UNESCO Courier. (see "The Children Fight for Life" and "Partners: The United Nations and Youth")

UNESCO's Memory of the World Program seeks to guard against collective amnesia, calling upon the preservation of the valuable archive holdings and library collections all over the world ensuring their wide dissemination. The Memory of the World Register lists documentary heritage which has been recommended by the International Advisory Committee, and endorsed by the Director-General of UNESCO, as of world significance and outstanding universal value. Currently, the only U.S. contribution included in the Register is The Wizard of Oz.

The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers
is a project, hosted at George Washington University, dedicated to bringing Eleanor Roosevelt's writings (and radio and television appearances) on democracy and human rights before an audience as diverse as the ones she addressed. Thus there is not only an organization responsible for maintaining the documentary legacy of this great woman, but one that is actively promoting the dissemination of her works and their use in education.

I can think of no more appropriate collection for the United States to nominate for inclusion in UNESCO Memory of the World Register. Not only do they qualify as of outstanding universal value, there is no better collection that would symbolize the U.S. efforts to create UNESCO as a means for international cooperation to advance peace and human rights.

If you agree, contact the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO and second this suggestion.

John Daly
(This is my opinion, and does not necessarily represent that of Americans for UNESCO.)
Eleanor Roosevelt hosting UNESCO visit to Val-Kill in Hyde Park, NY, 1948

The New Issue Of The UNESCO Courier Is Out

Wall painting at Nagra Silassie Church, detail
© UNESCO/Jasmina Šopova

Ethiopia: three millennia of legend and history

In honour of the recent reinstallation of the Aksum Obelisk in its original location in northern Ethiopia, the UNESCO Courier revisits a few of the country’s cultural sites.

Along this off-the-beaten path itinerary, another treasure is unveiled, less monumental than the castles of Gondar, less visible than the Lalibela rock-hewn churches, but just as impressive: Ethiopia’s intangible heritage.

The Tale of Gengi

UNESCO has posted the 1000 year old Tale of Gengi on the Internet it both English and Japanese. The Internet posting includes images taken from the work of Harumasa Yamamoto in the 17th century.

The Tale of Gengi is perhaps the world's first novel, and remains a widely read masterpiece of Japanese literature that has been translated into more than 30 languages. The illustrations too represent a landmark in Japanese art.