Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rita Colwell Named Science Envoy

Dr. Rita Colwell, a member of the Board of Directors of Americans for UNESCO, has been named a U.S. Science Envoy. The Science Envoy program, announced by President Obama in Cairo in June 2009, is a centerpiece program to implement U.S. global engagement in science and technology. Dr. Colwell is one of six distinguished scientists to have been appointed to this prestigious as well as important position.

Dr. Colwell is a Distinguished Professor at both the University of Maryland at College Park and Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. She has focused her research on global infectious diseases, water and health, and is currently developing an international network to address emerging infectious diseases and safe drinking water for both the developed and developing world. Dr. Colwell served as the 11th Director of the National Science Foundation from 1998-2004. She is recipient of the 2010 Stockholm Water Prize awarded on September 9, 2010 by the King of Sweden.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

World Teacher's Day, 5 October

Recovery begins with Teachers

Live testimonies from teachers supporting recovery worldwide and a photo exhibition which shows teachers in demanding situations are among the high points of the World Teachers’ Day celebrations on 5 October in UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris.

Membership in the ILO as a Precedent for Membership in UNESCO

Frances Perkins was an interesting person. She was the first woman to hold a cabinet post in the Federal Government, serving for the entire period that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president. After FDR died, Perkins wrote a book titled The Roosevelt I Knew which includes a discussion of the decision in the 1930s for the United States to join the International Labor Organization (ILO). I found that decision shed light on the likely intent of the United States in the creation of UNESCO, and especially the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO.

The legislation which enabled the United States to create the U.S. National Commission cites the Constitution of UNESCO in defining the duties of the NatCom. That Constitution allows but does not require that national commissions both associate the nation's "principal bodies interested in educational, scientific and cultural matters with the work of" UNESCO and "act in an advisory capacity to their respective delegations to the General Conference and to their Governments in matters relating to" UNESCO. People associated with the NatCom in the period prior to the departure of the United States from UNESCO membership have told me that the NatCom was both energetic and influential in that time. This is confirmed by Howard E. Wilson in his book, The United States National Commission for UNESCO, published in 1948.

Perkins worked with President Roosevelt to support the entry of the United States into the ILO. The ILO existed before the creation of the League of Nations, but was formally affiliated with the League after the League was created. Of course, the United States never joined the League. Perkins and Roosevelt agreed with State Department personnel and eventually the Congress that the ILO and the League of Nations were distinct entities, and that the United States might appropriately join the ILO. They did so in large part because the ILO had a separate governance structure in which member nations were represented by persons representing employers and workers as well as government; the participation of citizens outside of government of member states in the governance of the ILO made all the difference.

John A. Daly
The opinions expressed in this posting are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Americans for UNESCO.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Va. colonial sites seek world heritage designation

I quote from The Baltimore Sun:
Colonial Williamsburg is seeking the designation of the Historic Triangle as a World Heritage Site.

The historic area says it is partnering with Preservation Virginia and working with the National Park Service to seek the designation. The Historic Triangle is comprised of Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown.

Colonial Williamsburg says there are 20 sites in the U.S. on the World Heritage Committee list, but none that relate specifically to the establishment of English society in America.

The move comes as Colonial Williamsburg and Preservation Virginia are partnering to enhance visitor experience through compelling stories of discovery, diversity and democracy. It also will work to give visitors a glimpse at archaeological discoveries found in the area.

Friday, September 10, 2010

U.S. Financial Contributions to UNESCO

U.S. funds to UNESCO
are allocated by the Congress

There is a formula used by the United Nations and other agencies of the UN system to determine the portion of the assessed contributions to be paid by each member nation. According to this computation, the United States contributes 22 percent to the regular budget of UNESCO; the approved regular budget for the two years 2010 and 2011 is $653 million. In addition to the assessed budgetary contributions, UNESCO received voluntary extrabudgetary contributions. These are an important part of the Organization's financial resources amounting to an estimated $463 million for the same two years.

The U.S. contributes close to $3.7 million dollars in extra-budgetary funds to UNESCO each year in addition to its assessed dues. Those funds are devoted to specific projects:

Read more about:

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

World Conference on Early Childhood Care and Education

Moscow (Russia), 27-29 September 2010

Early childhood is a critical period. Children are most vulnerable and most dependent then on relationships for survival, emotional security and cognitive development. Yet large proportions of the world’s children are denied access to the benefits of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), which in turn limits the development potential of countries and regions.
Wealth should not be defined as material gain alone. It should also take account of whether countries are able to nurture their human capital with values important in a globalized world: tolerance, a sense of justice and cooperation, respect for diversity and for the environment. The first World Conference on Early Childhood Care and Education addresses the importance of starting early.

Monday, September 06, 2010

UNESCO launches new Knowledge and Innovations Network for Literacy (KINL)

© UNESCO/Vidal

UNESCO is launching a new Knowledge and Innovations Network for Literacy (KINL) that will enable researchers and practitioners all over the world to link up and share information and best practices. The network’s launch will be a highlight of International Literacy Day celebrations* on 8 September at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.

In addition, UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova will be in New York to give a keynote address at the international conference “Literacy: an essential foundation for development” at the United Nations. The opening address will be given by former First Lady of the United States Laura Bush, who is Honorary Ambassador for the UN Literacy Decade (UNLD).

Created with support from Verizon Foundation and Microsoft, the Network is a virtual workplace where literacy researchers and practitioners can link up, share knowledge and debate literacy topics on line. The network will generate knowledge and innovation in support of the acquisition and use of literacy, and promote advocacy, policy formulation and programme delivery, as well as cooperation and partnerships. It will be operational beginning 1 November 2010. Participating in the launch will be UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Cheick Modibo Diarra, who is Microsoft Corporation’s Chairman for Africa and Literacy Champion; and Marc Gosselin, representative of Verizon Foundation.

“Promoting literacy requires action from both the public and private sectors; we are all stakeholders in the fight to eradicate illiteracy,” said Dr. Diarra about KINL. “Microsoft shares UNESCO’s belief that technology can play an important role in doing so by providing access to education solutions and curriculum for both basic and digital literacy and helping more people participate in the global information society.”

Verizon Foundation President Patrick Gaston said, “If we are to create a seismic shift in the literacy landscape, education and literacy leaders from around the world must be able to communicate with one another and collaborate. The Knowledge and Innovations Network for Literacy will provide literacy leaders from every nation with easy access to the resources needed to ensure that every child is literate. The Verizon Foundation is proud to partner with UNESCO on this transformational project.”

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova argues for greater literacy effort

Saturday, September 04, 2010

The International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition

23 August 2010

The night of 22 to 23 August 1791, in Santo Domingo (today Haiti and the Dominican Republic) saw the beginning of the uprising that would play a crucial role in the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.

The International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition is intended to inscribe the tragedy of the transatlantic slave trade in the memory of all peoples. Bringing to light all aspects of slavery is essential to constructing an overall dispassionate vision of this tragedy.

UNESCO's Slave Route project endeavors to promote such research that helps to explain, understand and reconstruct the threads of sometimes conflicting narratives and fill the silences of the past.
On the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, we remember the battles our predecessors fought to overcome the scourge of slavery, and the persistence of a twisted logic that continues to deny people the right to live freely even today.
Susan Rice
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations

Recommended: A Profile of UNESCO's Chief, Irina Bokova

Irina Bokova was elected to the position of Director General of UNESCO in October 2009 by the General Conference of the Organization as the winner of a close contest among nine formal candidates for the position. She assumed the office in November, and has since led the organization as it faced major challenges such as responding to the Haitian earthquake and the Pakistani floods. She is the first woman to head UNESCO and the first citizen of a former Communist country.

Toute l'Europe has provided this very useful profile of DG Bokova and her priorities as she leads the Organization.

Friday, September 03, 2010

How Florida's Lee County Libraries Celebrate UNESCO's World Literacy Day

Source: "Library: Emphasis on literacy during special observance," JACKIE FLING, NEWS-PRESS.COM, SEPTEMBER 1, 2010

The Lee County Library System branches have traditionally set up displays and given literacy a special emphasis for the week that surrounds International Literacy Day. Some of these include:

- The Ready Collection - Materials on the Ready have been selected to help adults gain reading and writing English skills. In addition, materials designed to improve basic mathematics skills and prepare for GED examinations are located here, as well as in the regular collection. Books to help literacy teachers and tutors as they work with basic literacy or English as a second language students are on the Ready Shelf. All materials are available with a Lee County library card.

- Information and referrals to help adult learners locate local classes and other learning opportunities.

- English Cafe - Practice your English speaking skills, with these free informal sessions for adult ESOL/ESL students. Topics include everyday situations, current events and cultural issues. Advance registration not necessary, although participants should have basic English skills. At the East County Regional Library English Cafe classes are at 10 a.m. Fridays. Participants may start at any time.

- The Lee County Library System's website provides links to literacy organizations, literacy issues and information on local literacy providers. To access: Log on to, scroll down to Location and Services - double click and then double click on Literacy.

Education at the Millennium Development Goals Summit, 20-22 September

Preparations are well under way for the High-Level Plenary Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)  to be held at United Nations in New York on 20-22 September 2010.

The eight goals set worldwide objectives for a wide range of issues from maternal health to combating HIV and AIDS. Although Goal 2 specifically targets universal primary education, UNESCO argues that without education, none of the MDG targets can be reached.

“A quality inclusive education for all is the key to achieving each and every one of the Millennium Development Goals, from reducing poverty to improving health, empowering women and ensuring environmental sustainability,” asserts Irina Bokova, UNESCO’s Director-General. Ms Bokova is expected to attend the MDG Summit along with some 100 Heads of State and Government as well as leaders from the private sector, foundations and civil society organizations.

World Teachers’ Day, October 5

World Teachers’ Day, held annually on 5 October since 1994, commemorates the anniversary of the signing in 1966 of the UNESCO/ILO Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers. It is an occasion to celebrate the essential role of teachers in providing quality education at all levels. 

Thursday, September 02, 2010

UNESCO's History

Should UNESCO play a greater role in promoting truthful histories to foster peace?

In her book Dangerous Games: The Uses and Abuses of History Margaret MacMillan discusses the "History Wars" that go on over the history curricula in schools. She cites examples of the abuses of history such as false information purporting to be factual and selective use of history to bias student understanding, but she also cites examples such as:

  • joint development of textbooks for France and Germany to provide balanced views of the history of war and disputes between those countries,
  • a collaboration between an Israeli and a Palestinian to develop high school history texts to be used in both countries which would present both Israeli and Palestinian history side by side,
  • the revision of Japanese curricula in the 1970 to teach Japanese children about the death and devastation that had been wreaked on the Chinese by Japanese troops decades earlier,
  • the revision of the South African school curricula to deal honestly with apartheid as a result of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
UNESCO of course has for decades published major historical series, giving voice to historians in Africa, the Caribbean, Islamic countries and other regions of the developing world. In general, UNESCO does not seem to categorize its educational programs by the disciplines that are to be taught, but it does cite specific examples such as:
 Indeed, one of the very first UNESCO programs initiated immediately after World War II was a review of textbooks in use to assure that the historical and other distortions that had been introduced by Fascist governments before and during the war were corrected.

UNESCO is uniquely placed to provide a forum for discussion and a laboratory of ideas on how history teaching can be made more accurate, and especially how such accuracy can be a tool for reconciliation of groups within countries and better understanding between countries.

Check out the UNESCO Guidebook on Textbook Research and Textbook Revision in a new edition, describing how nations can work together to research and revise their textbooks.

International Literacy Day, 8 September

On International Literacy Day each year, UNESCO reminds the international community of the status of literacy and adult learning globally.
Despite many and varied efforts, literacy remains an elusive target: some 759 million adults lack minimum literacy skills which means that one in five adults is still not literate; 72 million children are out-of-school and many more attend irregularly or drop out.