Saturday, November 29, 2008

UNESCO's 48th International Conference on Education

While Americans have been eating turkey and celebrating gratitude, over 100 Education ministers and other stakeholders from all over the world have been meeting in Geneva, Switzerland at the 48th session of the International Conference on Education (ICE). The session began November 25 and ended yesterday, the 28th. The conference is sponsored by UNESCO's International Bureau of Education (IBE). The purpose of the IBE is to assist Member States in achieving quality Education for All through innovative curriculum development and implementation. 

This year's theme is inclusive education, reaching out to marginalized groups such as: HIV/AIDS orphans, those with disabilities, migrants, street children, etc. As these groups are generally excluded from the mainstream school system "Inclusive Education: the Way of the Future" looks to inform the global community on ways to become more open to diversity and effectively reduce drop-out rates.  

The conference 
will include a discussion of more than 70 National Reports on the education systems of different countries as well as comments on inclusion from 143 Ministers. It will also include a screening of the film "The Class" (Entre Les Murs) which documents the difficulties of a Paris teacher in instructing a cross-cultural group of teenage students in order to raise awareness.  

The Keynote was given by Navanethem Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights detailing his history in working with inclusion as well as affirming that "education is both a human right in itself, as well as an indispensable instrument for achieving many other rights, whether civil, cultural, economic, political, or social."

Education for All includes even those that are hard to reach, out of the main stream, and often forgotten. Education for All means education for all. Thank you UNESCO!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

2009 Education for All Monitoring Report

If current conditions do not change, things look bleak for achieving Education for All by 2015 per a report issued by UNESCO yesterday.

Governments' failures to address rampant inequalities is cited as the main culprit. These inequalities stem from many sources such as weak domestic policies, the stagnation of financial assistance from donors, and a culture of political indifference. Continuing to neglect these culprits will undoubtedly lead to missing UNESCO's goals for 2015 that were set in Darfur in 2000. Yet much more critically, these inequalities will continue to perpetuate what UNESCO reports as a "vast gulf" between rich and poor and will sorely misserve much of the world's population. Avoiding these issues will certainly have lasting global consequences.

The report is quick to note, however, the substantial progress that has been made in implementing practical policies especially in early childhood development and in implementing good quality education in some of the poorest countries. Parts of Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as South and West Asia were particularly cited as having made great gains in increasing net enrollment rates and in implementing programs to promote educational equality. Yet more governmental attention needs to be directed toward educational initiatives to enact consistent, effective change.

This attention, though, could be difficult to attract given the current financial situation. Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura noted this in indicating that failure of educational initiatives often receive much less attention in comparison to other crises. “When financial systems fail, the consequences are highly visible and governments act,” he stated. “When education systems fail the consequences are less visible, but no less real... That is why governments must act with a greater sense of urgency.” Voicing concerns to all levels of government over promoting quality education for all, then, must certainly be a growing priority.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Places of Wonder and Discovery

Places of Wonder and Discovery is a “coffee table book” that provides magisterial images of World Heritage sites. My wife describes it as "National Geographic on steroids", as the book combines great photography with a broad geographic educational content. Ten photographers made the images. David Muench, my favorite living American nature photographer, made those of Yellowstone and Mesa Verde, as well as those of Uluru in Australia.

The World Heritage list currently includes 878 sites of cultural and/or natural importance. Each has been nominated by the government of the country in which it is situated, provided with a detailed management and conservation plan by that country, and subjected to extensive review before being authorized for inclusion on the list by the oversight committee of UNESCO’s World Heritage Center. They represent a heritage for all mankind.

This is the first book published by Our Place, a New Zealand firm, and is the first in a series of ten books it is to produce in collaboration with the UNESCO World Heritage Center. The book includes 350 original photographs of 50 World Heritage sites in 35 countries.

Many of the sites included in the book were familiar to me and will be to almost all readers: the Acropolis, the Taj Mahal, the Egyptian pyramids, Petra, the Lagoon of Venice, and Yellowstone National Park are all included.

Other sites were previously unknown to me. The stone circles of Senegal and the Gambia include some 29,000 stone monoliths of ancient origin. Tongariro in New Zealand is truly a place of wondrous natural beauty.

The book is thoughtfully designed. A few pages are devoted to each site, combining text and images. The photos are varied in style and content, providing not only large scenic views of the sites but smaller images that stirred the artists interests and provide variety for the reader.

If I were to have a quibble with the book, it is that it lacks a list of image titles indexed by page number, making it hard to identify the large images that are found at the start and end of the book.

For the many fans of UNESCO’s World Heritage program, the book will be a great find. I recommend that libraries consider it and the remaining books of the series as they are published for their collections; certainly this first book in the series has both artistic and reference value. Indeed, I suspect that many people will want a copy of the book for their personal collection, and it may indeed influence their travel plans for years to come.

Tongariro National Park, Chris Morton

Places of Wonder and Discovery

320 pages
Publisher: Our Place Publishing (October 22, 2008)
ISBN-10: 186953669X
ISBN-13: 978-1869536695 lists the book as available new from two U.S. companies for about $70 including shipping and handling.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

RecreationParks.Net: Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is a World Heritage Site. The vast natural forest of Yellowstone National Park covers nearly 9,000 km2; 96% of the park lies in Wyoming, 3% in Montana and 1% in Idaho. Yellowstone contains half of all the world's known geothermal features, with more than 10,000 examples. It also has the world's largest concentration of geysers (more than 300 geyers, or two thirds of all those on the planet). Established in 1872, Yellowstone is equally known for its wildlife, such as grizzly bears, wolves, bison and wapitis.

RecreationParks.Net provides information on Yellowstone National Park. Josef Carlo B. Velina has requested that we make the website known to our readers. It is one of some 60,000 parks in the United States he has described on his website, using USGS data and other sources.

Bipartisan U.S. Foreign Policy Leaders Urge Obama Administration To Revitalize U.S.-UN Relationship

A bipartisan coalition of over three dozen senior foreign policy leaders in the United States issued a public statement today urging the incoming Obama Administration to help lead a new era of international cooperation by strengthening the U.S.-UN relationship. The signatories include four former Cabinet Secretaries, eight former Senators, four former UN Ambassadors, three former National Security Advisors and two former Governors. The statement was released by the United Nations Foundation and Partnership for a Secure America.

Read more!

Editor's note: I would suggest that the statement applies to decentralized agencies of the United Nations systems, such as UNESCO. JAD

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Getting on Board: Promoting E-Government Via Bus

E-government has many wonderful benefits for citizens in promoting transparency of activities, troves of information, and new ways to participate as well as to express opinion. Citizens, however, must first be equipped with the access and skills to take advantage of e-government. And for that, UNESCO's Information for All Programme (IFAP) are urging people to get on the bus.

All this month, citizens in Quito may take chivas, popular Equadorian buses, from busy neighborhoods to public Internet access centers called cybernariums. These cybernariums will hold training workshops of 25 people each that will focus on explaining and promoting e-government services to spread the word about what is available for the community.

Radio and television spots will additionally promote awareness of the initiative; the population of focus will consist of secondary school students, leaders of organizations or neighborhoods, and housewives.

This initiative is part of UNESCO's IFAP "E-government Model for World Heritage Cities" project, which is sponsored by the Spanish government. The cities of focus are Cartagena de Indias (Colombia), Quito (Ecuador), and Cusco (Peru).

Projects like this and others regarding Latin American e-government promoted by the Spanish government and UNESCO certainly have tremendous potential for change on a global level. For more information, see UNESCO's e-government news as well as the World Bank's e-development publication.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Baltic states nominate Marciulionyte for post of UNESCO head

The Baltic states officially presented their candidate, Ambassador Ina Marciulionyte, permanent delegate of Lithuania to UNESCO, for the post of the UNESCO Director General for the term of 2009-2013.

Ambassador Marciulionyte was elected to the committee that oversees the World Heritage program in 2004, and headed this committee in 2005-2006. Currently, the ambassador holds the posts of:
  • deputy chair of the Executive Board of UNESCO,
  • chair of the Headquarters Committee, and
  • deputy chair of the Intergovernmental Committee of Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.
She also is the head and member of various UNSECO working groups.

Ambassador Marciulionyte studied Lithuanian Language and Literature at the University of Vilnius. She worked as a correspondent and editor for Lithuanian newspapers and magazines. In 1991, Ambassador Marciulionyte co-founded the Open Society Fund Lithuania (OSFL), where she subsequently acted as Director of the Cultural Program and of the Fund House. As Vice Minister of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania from 1999 until 2003, Ambassador Marciulionyte was responsible for culture heritage. She also served as the Chairperson of the Cultural Committee of the Lithuanian Commission for UNESCO.

Emily Vargas-Baron informs me that Ambassador Mirciulionyte has been
deeply involved in educational planning, reform and child development. She is very highly regarded by close colleagues who are internationals, among them U.S. citizens. They feel she would be an excellent DG. And, I might add, some one with whom our new administration could work well.

UNESCO Makes Available 68 National Reports on Education

National Reports on the educational systems of different countries have been made available for the International Conference on Education (ICE -- Geneva, 25-28 November).

These reports are one of the main sources for comparing educational data across countries and over time, and a useful tool for the exchange of information and experience in the field of education.

The ICE is a major international forum for education policy dialogue among Ministers of Education and other stakeholders (researchers, practitioners, representatives of intergovernmental organizations and civil society).

World Heritage Center Receives World Tourism Award

The World Tourism Award 2008 Ceremony

The World Heritage Centre has been awarded the 2008 World Tourism Award in recognition of its ‘outstanding guidance, support and encouragement to 185 countries around the world by establishing and monitoring 878 World Heritage sites’ and its ‘outstanding accomplishments in the travel industry.’

World Philosophy Day 2008

World Philosophy Day, an annual celebration of philosophy initiated by UNESCO in 2005, continues to extend its scope. This year, the event will be held in Palermo (Italy) on November 20 and 21, while umerous other initiatives will take place at UNESCO Headquarters and in over 80 countries around the world.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Reaching the unreached through nomadic schools

With a resurgence in indigenous cultures in Siberia, UNESCO's Moscow office has stepped up to meet the challenge of providing schools for these nomadic communities. Originally popular in the '20s and '30s, with the help of UNESCO, nomadic schools are being modernized.

Nomadic schools come in a variety of forms, but most all include a small group of pupils, a single teacher covering multiple topics, and texts in the mother tongue. Often the teacher is a member of the local community. UNESCO is helping to implement information and communication technologies (ICTs) and distance education, as well as increased quality in teacher training.   

According to Sargyiana Zhirkova nomadic schools provide "education while adapting traditional culture to the 21st century." She believes, however, that more trained and qualified teachers are needed to make the program successful. 

To see a photo gallery, click here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tell the Obama Transition Team About UNESCO

The Office of Barack Obama as President Elect has created a website,, with news, information on the Transition Team, and information on the transition process. It also provides a site for anyone to share a vision of America.

UNESCO was created to build the defenses of peace in the minds of men by improving the global dissemination of education, promoting social and natural science, promoting cultural understanding, and helping to assure an adequate communication. For six decades it has sought to do so with considerable success. Since the Bush administration led the United States to rejoin the organization, our representatives in Paris have done much to reestablish American prestige and influence with respect to UNESCO.

Many have suggested that we will not win the "war on terror" if we fail to "win the war of ideas". They have suggested that the United States must improve its soft diplomacy and its public diplomacy. If you agree that UNESCO should play an active role as a venue for soft and public diplomacy, and that the new administration should facilitate greater involvement of the U.S. educational, scientific and cultural communities in UNESCO and its global networks, let the transition team know your ideas.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Editorial: The Obama administration should embrace UNESCO in its public diplomacy

Applying this successful Cold War “war of ideas” model to the present national security challenge in the Middle East could effectively drive out extremist ideology that may give rise to terrorist behavior while strengthening the United States’ stature in the international community.

The U.S. Marine Corps Small Wars manual, which details tactics and strategies for operations combining military force and diplomatic pressure, and on which the “Global War on Terror” is based, famously notes that such “wars are battles of ideas and battles for the perceptions and attitudes of target populations."

Winning the war of ideas and creating better relations with the Muslim world require more than tired tactics, immobility, and budgetary pocket change (the current $50-million cost is less than 1/10,000th of our Iraq-related expenditures). The next president should designate this effort as a matter of the highest national security importance. The campaign as a whole should be self-critical, regularly evaluating its own performance and ready and willing to change in response to evaluation results.

Simply put, there is a glaring need for the United States to undertake a proactive strategy aimed at restoring long-term security through the presentation of our principles as part of U.S. foreign policy. The tools of public diplomacy and strategic communications are the most valuable weapons in America’s arsenal. It is not too late to wield them.

Hady Amr and Peter W. Singer
"Engaging the Muslim World: How to Win the War of Idea"
American Constitution Society for Law and Policy
The quotations shown above are from a paper provided for the Obama administration as it takes office, published by a think tank with close ties to the Democratic party. The authors make a number of very good points and the paper is worth reading by anyone interested in public diplomacy. They stress the need to complement our military actions with a far more effective program of public diplomacy. They emphasize that the effort must be sincere, and that we must work to better implement our ideals at home and abroad if our representations are to be believed.

The new administration should realize that UNESCO is an important venue in which the United States can wage "the war of ideas", and that UNESCO has considerable influence in Muslim countries. The Bush administration has helped reestablish U.S. prestige in the halls of UNESCO, and the new administration can build on that start.
  • UNESCO's education programs can help to build understanding among cultures;
  • Its social science programs can help develop valid information on which such understanding can be built;
  • Its natural science programs not only provide means to encourage cooperation among scientists in Islamic countries and the United States, but can help to defuse potential conflict over natural resources;
  • Its cultural programs can promote a peaceful dialog among cultures, and help people to learn to respect cultures other than their own;
  • Its information and communications programs can help to improve the quality of media in the Muslim world.
The United States should of course provide its assessed contributions to UNESCO in a timely fashion, and encourage our best professionals to seek positions in UNESCO. The government should seek opportunities to make voluntary contributions to UNESCO where they can promote projects that contribute to our public diplomacy. Importantly, the U.S. Government should revitalize the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, using it to empower our educational, scientific and cultural communities to work more actively and effectively with UNESCO.

John Daly
(The opinions expressed above are those of the author, and don't necessarily reflect those of Americans for UNESCO or other organizations.)

Geography Awareness Week

November 17-21 is Geography Awareness Week

To help celebrate this year’s Geography Awareness Week, test your geography knowledge using the Friends of World Heritage TravelPod “How Well Do You Know Your World” game. The game is a fun, informative, (and addictive) way to test your knowledge and brush up on those lesser-known World Heritage sites. Play now and find out your World Heritage IQ and challenge your friends to beat your score.

"Aren’t There Enough Trails?"

Image Source: Bison in winter at Old Faithful; Richard Lake, National Park Service

In response to a court ruling throwing out a plan allowing 540 snowmobiles a day into Yellowstone, the Department of the Interior now proposes a compromise: 318 machines a day. "The National Park Service’s own scientists — studying air pollution, noise pollution and the effect on the park’s animals — have consistently found that the best solution is low-emission, higher-capacity snow coaches. The new plan would allow 78 of those a day."

"This new plan is a bad and barely acceptable compromise. It is well past time for snowmobilers to confine themselves to the thousands of miles of trails on public lands outside Yellowstone."

The public has until Monday, November 17th to comment.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

100 Countries Ratify UNESCO Anti-Doping Convention

In a move to help even the playing field in international sports, UNESCO celebrated the ratification of the International Convention against Doping in Sport
in Paris yesterday.

Paraguay added the 100th signature necessary for the Convention to take effect, making the Convention UNESCO’s most successful in terms of speed of implementation. In just three years, the Convention secured support from over half of UNESCO’s member states to help ensure fair play in athletics. The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, the Director-General of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), David Howman, and Jaime Lissavetzky, Spanish State Secretary for Sport, joined Ambassadors from most of the 100 countries that have ratified the Convention to mark the occasion.

The Convention calls on governments to apply the force of international law to anti-doping strategies, encourages greater cooperation between governments and sporting agencies, and establishes a funding mechanism to help governments meet their obligations. While the Convention helps formalize anti-doping policies and guidelines, government support is crucial. Signatory governments have committed to:

• Restrict the supply of performance enhancing substances and methods;
• Curtail trafficking of prohibited substances;
• Regulate dietary and nutritional supplements;
• Withhold financial support from athletes and supporting personnel who commit anti-doping violations or from sporting organizations that are not in compliance with the Code.

“Recent high profile doping cases and investigations have shown how decisive Government action can be,” observed Mr. Howman. “The Convention allows Governments to align their domestic policies with the World Anti-Doping Code, thus harmonizing the rules governing anti-doping in sport and public legislation. WADA is very grateful to UNESCO for its leading role in this process.”

With this Convention, UNESCO advances the spirit of fair and honest competition in international sporting events. UNESCO and WADA are now calling on the remaining 93 UNESCO Member States to ratify as well.

Photo: © UNESCO/D.Bijeljac

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Awarding ICTs in Education

UNESCO announced Monday that its 2008 UNESCO King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa Prize for the Use of Information and Communication Technologies will be awarded to Shanghai TV University as well as to Dr. Hoda Baraka of the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology in Egypt. These laureates were selected by an international jury and will be recognized in a ceremony in Paris at UNESCO Headquarters on January 14, 2009. They will also receive a diploma and US $25,000 from Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura.

These laureates were selected from 67 projects focused on ICTs in education. One of the winners, China's Shanghai TV University, was recognized for its project Turning the Digital Divide into Digital Opportunity: The Project for Building the Digital Lifelong Learning System in Shanghai. The project seeks to spread educational resources such as teacher training and lifelong learning materials through extensive satellite and network systems. It reaches 230 community learning centers and over four million Shanghai residents as well as an equal number of area migrant workers.

The other recipient, Dr. Hoda Baraka of the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology in Egypt, was rewarded for her superior leadership efforts in promoting many ICT initiatives across Egypt. She has steered ICT projects to promote quality, equitable education and to fight illiteracy. Baraka has greatly impacted thousands across the country with her efforts.

The King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa Prize for the Use of Information and Communication Technologies prize itself was created in 2005; its objective is to reward projects and activities for superior models, practices, or creativity in using ICTs to augment and promote education. The award is sponsored by the Kingdom of Bahrain and is awarded annually. Application information as well as information about previous winners can be found here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Combating Racism with Sports

On November 6, 2008 a group of young individuals presented strategies to the European Parliament on how sports can be used to combat racism. Can racism be fought on athletic fields and in stadiums across the world? Is that enough to counter act the cultural divides and preconceived notions?

Well, these young adults believe it is possible. As representatives of the project “Youth Voices against Racism”, an initiative of UNESCO, FC Barcelona and the European Coalition of Cities against Racism (ECCAR), in partnership with the European Parliament, these impassions young adults visited the Parliament in Brussels and presented a document containing 10 recommendations to counteract racism in and through sports. These five young representatives of three European cities (Botkyrka, Erlangen, Nuremberg) sure believe that sports can combat racism as they presented a set of recommendations for preventing and responding to racist behavior in amateur and professional sports.

These representatives were speaking on behalf of young people between the ages of 15 and 18 who were consulted to help prepare the recommendations for parliament. Youth Voices against Racism is a project that was launched by UNESCO, Football Club Barcelona and ECCAR in partnership with the European Parliament. The project, directed by the young participants themselves, was launched only a little under a year ago in the spring of 2008. It was implemented by ECCAR and currently comprises 82 cities in 17 countries. To help formulate their recommendations the group worked with coalition cities to set up meetings with young people in schools, sports clubs and youth councils, as well as via local media and online forums, to elicit their ideas for ways to promote tolerance, mutual respect and solidarity through sport.

As Emine Bozkurt, the Dutch member of the European Parliament who initiated the influential European resolution to tackle racism in football noted, “Sport is a mirror of society, with all of its shortcomings. But let us not forget that, above all, sport offers great possibilities for social inclusion”.

Young people have a say in the struggle against racism and discrimination and Youth Voices against Racism is doing their part in providing youth an avenue for their voice, involvement, and effort to combat racism.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The New Issue of the UNESCO Courier

© UNESCO/Ariane Bailey
Memory, a key to human rights.

Human Rights : a thorny path

The UNESCO Courier, 2008 No. 9

Human rights, viewed through the prism of memory, constitute the theme of this issue marking the 60th anniversary of the 1948 declaration. Stéphane Hessel explains what makes it unique and why it must remain universal. Pierre Sané reviews the status of the dignity of the individual in the world today.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Adult Education: A Worthy and Rising Focus

Today marks the first day of The Power of Youth and Adult Learning for Africa's Development conference in Nairobi, Kenya. The conference will run November 5 to 7 and will combine reports from 49 African nations regarding youth and adult education in the region. All reports have particularly highlighted the prominent role adult education will play in discussion during the conference.

This focus on adult education has been an increasingly frequent one for UNESCO. The Nairobi conference, for example, is one of the five regional UNESCO conferences on the topic. This will prepare for the Sixth Annual Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA VI) that will be held in Belem, Brazil, in May 2009. Information on past and future regional conferences can be found here.

UNESCO's global educational conferences throughout 2008 and 2009 stress the importance of inclusive education, and the Nairobi conference as well as these subsequent others will undoubtedly spark much intriguing debate.

Monday, November 03, 2008

UNESCO: Call for Papers

Prospects, UNESCO's review of comparative education, is calling for papers. They are publishing a special issue on 'Policies and Practices of Holocaust Education: International Perspectives'.

This issue of Prospects will explore the actual policies and practices of Holocaust education in countries and classrooms around the world.  Due to the fact that education about the subject of the Holocaust is mired in political controversy, sound data on the policies and influences regarding its education is almost non-existent.

Studying the Holocaust is often justified by the need to help secure the future against further violations of human rights whether based on ethnicity, religion, gender, or disability. Does it accomplish those ends? At such a time of instability as this, these searching questions become ever more important. 

The guest-editors invite contributors from all areas of expertise to submit research regarding any facet of Holocaust education. Does Holocaust education change attitudes toward minority groups? Does linking commemoration and class room study support or undermine its adoption? The questions are innumerable, yet the answers are few. 

Take this opportunity to increase the understanding of how schools around the world treat the Holocaust and how that affects their students by submitting your proposal to  the Prospects Editorial Office at:, by 1 May 2009. Earlier submissions are encouraged. This special issue is scheduled to be published in March 2010. Manuscripts should be 7000-8000 words. 

For additional information on submissions, please visit Questions may be referred to Simona Popa, Prospects Assistant Editor, at: