Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Call for Restoration of Support for UNESCO

Bryan Gould, the chair of the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO, has published an opinion piece in The Guardian (UK) on the occasion of the current meeting of UNESCO's Executive Board. I quote:
Step forward UNESCO. The oldest UN agency, during the era of economic man, has been pushed to the sidelines. Its emphasis on education, on the physical, human and social sciences, on culture and language, on the sustainable use of natural resources, as the mainsprings of human development and wellbeing, has seemed quaintly old-fashioned in an era of aggressive profit-seeking. But a restatement of those goals and values is now overdue. We can now assert, amid the wreckage created by economic man, that we are more than economic agents, and that Unesco's preoccupations point the way to a more complete and empowering sense of where our future lies.....

There are.......better ways of spending our money......Our focus should be on strategically planned programs for education in countries where schooling is still at a premium, in the strengthening of cultural identities to give people confidence to understand who they are and how they can play a constructive role in the world, in projects to protect and develop sustainable supplies of fresh water.....

UNESCO has never been funded to undertake these activities itself. Its current budget is pathetically small, and – in the current crisis – likely to get smaller. But, with proper financing, UNESCO could provide the intellectual leadership and strategic direction to ensure that skills and capabilities that are at present scattered and fragmented across the globe can be linked and co-ordinated, so that we get the maximum benefit from what we already have. UNESCO's role is to help us to do better than merely learn what not to do. Agencies like UNESCO can help us move forward by providing outcomes that are greater than the sum of their parts.

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