Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Meeting of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO

Photo supplied by Laura Engel
The United States National Commission for UNESCO met on Monday, November 28th at George Washington University.

Education (Paul Kruchoski)
Secretary Clinton visits UNESCO – In May, Secretary Clinton visited Paris for the launch of the UNESCO Global Partnership for Girls’ and Women’s Education.  The initiative brought together governments, foundations, and corporations to raise over $5 million for UNESCO’s work to strengthen education for women around the globe.  This was the first visit to UNESCO by a U.S. Secretary of State.
Teaching Respect for All and Holocaust Education – In October, the United States announced two new extra-budgetary contributions to UNESCO education programs.  The first will revive UNESCO’s work from the mid-1990s on using education to build respect in multiethnic and multicultural societies.  The project – a partnership between the United States and Brazil – will offer new curricula and tools for educators.  We plan to officially launch the program in early 2012.  The second contribution will provide $250,000 to expand UNESCO’s Holocaust Education program, which provides educational resources on how to understand the underlying social factors that led up to the Holocaust and how individuals can help prevent mass atrocities in their own societies. 
UNESCO helps to Lead ECOSOC Ministerial – UNESCO helped to shape the discussion leading up to and during the UN Economic and Social Council Ministerial in July.  This year’s ministerial session focused on the internationally agreed development goals in education, including the Education for All Goals. 
UNESCO Youth Forum – On the eve of the General Conference, UNESCO hosted its 7th Youth Forum.  This year, we piloted a new process for selecting the U.S. youth representatives.  The process offered options for YouTube video submissions and drew heavily upon social media to spread the word.  It also engaged youth in the selection of the finalists.  Our two final reps – Blair Brettschneider and Andrew Leon Hanna – were outstanding.  You can read their thoughts on the Forum here and here
UNESCO Nat Com Youth Working Group hosts event in NYC – This fall, the National Commission, the State Department, and USAID co-hosted an event entitled “Youth Driving Change: Global Youth & Civic Engagement” in New York.  The event, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, brought together Under Secretary of State Maria Otero and prominent youth voices from around the world to discuss how youth are shaping transformations around the world.  The event was the first activity organized by our National Commission Youth Working Group.  You can watch archival video of the event here.

Social and Human Science (Marlese Durr)
As of October 31, 2011 the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Social and Human Science sector has undergone re-organization. The focus of the sector continues to emphasize and promote human rights research; advances education in human rights; leads the action in the fight against all forms of discrimination at the national, regional, and international levels; fosters cooperation among all sectors and networks; promotes democracy and further reflects on new forms and combating violence; while encouraging human rights research with its partners. 
Highlighting that using the idea that UNESCO Stands for Human Rights, the work within Major Program III on Social and Human Sciences will be conducted through the following streams:  
·         Human Rights and Social Inclusion
·         Human Rights, Democracy, Youth  and Social innovation
·         Human Rights and Global Environmental Change
·         Human Rights and Bioethics

Natural Sciences & Engineering (Jana Hall)
-          L’Oreal Science Awards
-          Malta Conference
-          SESAME
-          New Organization
-          Obiang Prize
-          Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC)
-          International Hydrological Program (IHP)
-          Geoscience/Geoparks
-          Biodiversity/Man and the Biosphere

Communications/Information (Aaron Mitchell)
In the Communication and Information Sector (CI), the latest projects currently underway deal with expanding access to educational and scientific information to developing countries through two initiatives: Open Educational Resources and Open Access to Scientific Research. Both initiatives aim to make publically-funded research and publications available to global audiences at no cost. UNESCO recently launched online platforms designed to expand the availability of these resources online. Additionally, the CI Sector, in partnership with the Commonwealth of Learning and the Hewlett Foundation, is planning a June 2012 international celebration of the 20th Anniversary of Open Educational Resources, which will include an updated declaration of principles and values.
In addition to the above initiatives, the CI Sector continues its work on documentary preservation, press freedom, media development, and technology competency. As the culmination of ongoing programs, the sector recently released the “UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers.” This framework serves as curriculum guidance for secondary and tertiary level educators to develop coursework for increasing literacy, understanding and awareness of technological tools and their applications.

Culture (Mindy Fountain)
40th Anniversary of the World Heritage Convention
The Culture sector is gearing up for the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention in 2012.  We are working with interagency colleagues on planning and developing U.S. celebrations and would appreciate suggestions and input from the Commissioners.

International Jazz Day
 One of the successes of this fall’s General Conference was the adoption of our resolution identifying April 30th as International Jazz Day. The first celebration will be in 2012, and preparations are already underway in conjunction with Goodwill Ambassador to UNESCO Herbie Hancock and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. More information will circulate as it becomes available.

The International Center for Women Artists (ICWA)
Another success at the General Conference was the approval of the International Center for Women Artists, to be established in Amman, Jordan, as a UNESCO Category II Center. As many of you know this is a project that has received leadership and support from both our Mission to UNESCO as well as members of the U.S. National Commission.
With the UNESCO Category II status now approved, it is hoped that UNESCO will help organize an international design competition for the creation of a new logo for ICWA, which will be paired with the UNESCO logo for all of ICWA's communications in the future. 
Commissioner Sheree Wen is working on the formation of a new ICWA Advisory Council to bringing together international business partners to assist with development.

New Director General Elected at recent International Center for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultureal Property (ICCROM) Conference
Stefano de Caro, a highly regarded museum expert with a background in archeology, was just elected by the ICCROM Council as their new Director General. De Caro, an Italian, is based in Naples and has worked on World Heritage issues in the past.

Ongoing work on Cultural Preservation
One program we’d like to highlight for you is the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation, run out of the Education and Cultural Affairs office at the Department of State. ‘This program has supported more than 700 projects in over 100 countries since its inception in 2001, including more than 100 projects at over 60 World Heritage Sites.  The program has expended more than 34 million dollars towards preserving tangible and intangible cultural heritage, such as the restoration of historic buildings, assessment and conservation of museum collections, and documentation of vanishing traditional craft techniques.  Especially in the current political climate surrounding UNESCO, this is a great example to use of U.S. engagement with and commitment to cultural preservation around the world.  The U.S. continues its commitment to cultural preservation and also remains engaged in work related to the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Cultural Property, and of course the 1972 World Heritage Convention.  

Sunday, November 27, 2011

How Education can Prevent Violence

Today we have a guest posting from Lindsey Wright. The article doesn't necessarily represent the opinions of Americans for UNESCO.
Bio: Lindsey Wright is fascinated with the potential of emerging educational technologies, particularly the online school, to transform the landscape of learning. She writes about web-based learning, electronic and mobile learning, and the possible future of education.
Violence is all too pervasive in society; from abusive parents to genocide. In fact, violence is considered a public health issue by the World Health Organization (WHO). According to the WHO website, violence kills more than 1.5 million people worldwide. WHO, like plenty of other organizations, is working to prevent violence not only to save lives, but to also prevent the other negative impacts of violence. For example, part of WHO's mission states “violence places a massive burden on national economies, costing countries billions of U.S. dollars each year in health care, law enforcement, and lost productivity.” In particular, WHO is working to prevent through education. A proper education, whether it be through online courses or in a classroom, can help encourage young adults that they can have a successful future away from crime and abusive substances.

Even though its important to understand the ways in which to prevent violence, understanding why humans are innately violent is just as important. Actually, there is little evidence that proves whether humans are innately violent, but rather, a harsh environment creates conditions in which violence is necessary to ensure both personal and cultural survival. Research has shown that when exposed to violence, individuals must also be taught to value or at least engage in violence as part of the social learning process. For instance, children who behave violently are usually the product of a home in which one or both parents model violence. Thus, violence is a learned behavior in any culture or environment and is not proven to be a natural trait in humans.

There are many areas in which one could educate a person in order to prevent violence. One way is through impulse control and anger management classes. It is important to note however that having proper role models can be key to young adults when they are attempting to attain these skills in a class. Having an appropriate role model will not allow them to seek advice, but will give them someone to mirror themselves after and witness their appropriate behaviors in the face of problems, conflict, anger and stress. A few examples of some great role models are parents, teachers, and close family friends.

Another way that education can help prevent violence is through formal education. Formal education provides an opportunity for children to learn important social skills, critical thinking skills, problem-solving strategies, and communication skills. In fact, according to an article from the Good website, “80 percent of incarcerated people are illiterate. School performance, more than any other single factor, is a major contributor as to whether a youth becomes involved in drugs or violence.” Basically, if a child grows up struggling in school the chances are they will develop a low self-esteem or a desire to drop out of school. If children give up on their education then there are not many options for them to pursue as adults; hence, resulting to a life of crime. Of course this isn’t the case for all children struggling in school, but according to the Good website, studies have proven that if a child reads on grade level by the end of 3rd grade, there is a 99 percent certainty that child will never be incarcerated.

Health care professionals also play a crucial role in violence prevention education. The Institute of Medicine recommends that all individuals who seek health care should be screened for intimate partner violence. Screening offers an opportunity for patient education in a non-judgmental and supportive arena. This gives health care professionals the opportunity to educate their patients about violence and validate other options for managing stress or conflict.

Children live what they learn. Parents can learn necessary skills to impart appropriate behavior expectations and model the behavior they want to see in their children. Organizations can help their employees learn about violence and provide resources to learn new skills. There are many successful strategies available and can be adapted to fit the needs of a particular school or workplace. All in all, education is the key to violence prevention.

Editor's note: Of course, UNESCO is the lead agency within the United Nations system for education, playing a key role in the global Education for All effort. It also has defined the Culture of Peace as a central theme for the entire Organization, involving all of its sectors. JAD

Can you help A World of Science?

A World of Science is the quarterly UNESCO publication that provides information on the Organization's natural science program. It has been successfully published by UNESCO through nine years. However, in the current budgetary situation, it is facing cutbacks.

Specifically, the publication's staff is seeking one or more sponsors for various language editions for the next biennium (2012-2013). In each case, the amount is relatively modest, about US$20,000 per year, or US$5,000 per issue. The Arabic and Russian editions are in the most immediate danger, as the funding has dried up completely, but the editor is also being asked to reduce the cost of distribution of the English, French and Spanish editions in 2012-2013.

If you can help, or if you have ideas for sources of that funding, contact the editor Susan Schneegans.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Meeting of the Board of Directors of Americans for UNESCO

Eric Woodard and Kelly Siekman from the State Department addressing the Board
Board members shown on right are Roger Coate, Patrice Lyons and Mary Futrell
A meeting of the Board of Directors of Americans for UNESCO took place on Friday, November 18, 2011.

Kelly Siekman, the Director of the Office of UNESCO Affairs in the State Department, and Eric Woodard, the Chair of U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, provided the Board with a detailed briefing on the recent General Conference of UNESCO. Their discussion centered on the vote by the General Conference to admit Palestine to membership in UNESCO and its implications. They emphasized that, while the law requires the United States Government to withhold our contribution to UNESCO, the United States remains a member of the Organization and that the U.S. delegation to UNESCO in Paris and the related office in the State Department in Washington remain fully staffed and active. Under the law, both the assessed and the voluntary contributions to UNESCO are now being withheld. Since they have been authorized and appropriated by the Congress, the funds are currently being held by the State Department, but are subject to being reprogrammed for other purposes; currently no such action is contemplated.

The Obama administration remains convinced that UNESCO is a worthwhile organization useful to U.S. foreign policy interests. The media coverage of the Palestinian vote generated considerable interest in the United States, both by supporters and by opponents of UNESCO and U.S. membership in UNESCO. The State Department is investigating the complex issues of domestic U.S. law and international law involved in the admission of Palestine to UNESCO membership and in the withholding of U.S. funds. (Palestine will not be a member state of UNESCO until it files is accession documents, but the Congress is taking the vote of the General Conference as defining the intent of the Organization.)

The United States delegation lobbied against admission of Palestine but found it difficult to convince the delegates of other nations, although a great many abstained from the vote. Not surprisingly, it has been difficult to explain the complex domestic politics in the United States underlying our positions in this matter; the Constitutionally defined ability of the Congress to control funding and of the President to control foreign policy -- a situation underlying the current situation -- is perhaps poorly understood abroad.

Other Business

Two Board members were in Paris at the time of the General Conference and they too reported on the event. The impressions included great concern by members of the UNESCO Secretariat about the cuts and uncertainty caused by the U.S. withholding of funds, and disappointment of other delegations with the position taken by the United States with respect to the right of Palestine to membership in UNESCO.

The main focus of the rest of the Board meeting was a revision of the Bylaws of Americans for UNESCO. The revisions included an expansion of the membership of the Board and its Executive Committee and separation of the position of Secretary-Treasurer of the AU into two positions - Secretary and Treasurer.

The meeting marked the retirement of Nicole Varchaver who served for many years as a secretary to Americans for UNESCO, rendering a huge service to AU. We will miss her dedicated service, her cheerful demeanor, and indeed her presence.

The Board meeting offered an opportunity for members to meet Charles Prince who has become an intern for Americans for UNESCO. Paul Danaj who has been serving as intern will reduce his hours of service as he has accepted a position at the Department of State.

Photos courtesy of Nicole Varchaver

Thursday, November 17, 2011

More on the United States Withholding of funds from UNESCO

The General Conference of UNESCO has voted to accept Palestine as a Member State of the Organization. U.S. law requires that if a specialized agency of the United Nations accepts as a member an entity that does not meet the international standards to be considered a nation, then then the United States must withhold its contributions to that agency. It seems clear that the law was specifically intended to deny Palestinian membership in these agencies. Shortly after the vote, the United States government announced that in compliance with that law, the United States would withhold the final contribution for 2011 (some $60 million).

Here are some added materials on that situation:
UNESCO Water Specialist Casey Walther working on a project in Iraq

Santa Fe Officials Attend UNESCO Meet in Korea

"Santa Fe taxpayers are footing part of the bill to send Mayor David Coss and City Councilor Rebecca Wurzburger on a trip to Icheon City, Korea. 

"Coss, whose plane was scheduled to depart Saturday, told The New Mexican the trip is part of the city's continued participation in the Creative Cities Network promoted by UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations. 

"Both Coss and Wurzburger are scheduled to speak at the event, a forum on the Creative Cities Network, the mayor said. Mayors from other cities across the globe are also invited to a special session, he said."

Read more from the Santa Fe New Mexican....

Rutgers University International Institute of Peace (IIP) Designated as UNESCO Category II Center

IIP Co-Founder Aldo Civico (left) with
UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Forest Whitaker (right)

At its recent General Conference, UNESCO approved the International Institute of Peace at Rutgers University as a UNESCO Category II Center.
UNESCO Category II Centers are institutions that don't receive funding from nor are legally part of UNESCO, but maintain association with UNESCO through a formal agreement.
The International Institute of Peace is the second UNESCO Category II Center in the United States. It joins the International Center for Integrated Water Resources Management (ICIWARM) based at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer Institute for Water Resources (IWR) based in Alexandria, VA.
For information about IIP and its designation as a UNESCO Category II Center, go here

Congratulations IIP!

Professor Bonnie Bassler of Princeton University Is Honored as 2012 L'Oreal-UNESCO Science Laureate

The L'ORÉAL-UNESCO For Women in Science partnership has announced the five exceptional women scientists from around the world who will receive the 2012 L'ORÉAL-UNESCO Awards in Life Sciences.

The 2012 Laureate for North America is Professor Bonnie Bassler, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Principal Investigator, Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey. Professor Bassler is a world-renowned expert on how bacteria "talk" to each other using a chemical language in order to coordinate their behavior as a group. Professor Bassler was selected for her work in understanding chemical communication between bacteria and opening up new doors for treating infections.

Atlas provides view from space of endangered UNESCO heritage sites

Ambassador Killion presents the Atlas
From Space to Place, An Image Atlas of World Heritage Sites on the “In Danger” List of UNESCO was launched on 9 November by Director-General, Irina Bokova and U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO David Killion, at the Organization’s Paris Headquarters (10.30 a.m., Ségur Room).

The Atlas was produced by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in cooperation with UNESCO. It presents detailed satellite photos of the 31 sites on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Ray Wanner at the IIEP Executive Board

Ray Wanner, the Chairman of the Governing Board of the International Institute for Educational Policy made this speech to the Education Commission of the UNESCO General  Conference earlier this month. Ray is also the senior Vice President of Americans for UNESCO.

World Philosophy Day, 17 November 2011

World Philosophy Day 2011 will be celebrated on 17 November at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris and in numerous Member States throughout the world.

6th session of the Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage

Interview of Ms Cécile Duvelle, Secretary of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage

Friday, November 11, 2011

UNESCO Seeks Donations Now!

The Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova today launched an online site allowing Member States, public institutions, foundations and citizens to donate to UNESCO.

This new site is one of the emergency measures announced today to fill the immediate $65m shortfall in UNESCO’s budget arising from the US decision to with-hold dues owed to the Organization.

Donations can be made online at:

UNESCO suspends year-end projects due to U.S. funding cut

CNN Reports:
UNESCO has suspended its projects and commitments until the end of year because the United States cut its $65 million funding in the wake of the agency's acceptance of Palestine for full membership, the agency's chief said Thursday. 
Irina Bokova, the director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, said the agency's $65 million deficit is now its "most pressing issue." "This deficit is the sum owed by the United States for the year 2011," Bokova said on the occasion of the closing of UNESCO's general conference. "So we have to take drastic action, and we must take it now, at this general conference," 
Bokova said. "I have suspended all of our commitments. I have suspended our projects during this period of revision until the end of the year. "We are reviewing all activities in all areas, in all sectors, including contractual commitments, staff travel, publications, communications costs, meetings, and the rest. 
"With all these measures, we believe we can generate savings of $35 million. But this alone will not solve our problem," Bokova said.
Read more..... 

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Conversations With America: Bridging Divides: Youth, Peace and Reconciliation

UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Forest Whitaker and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations Esther Brimmer recently sat down for a State Department interview to discuss youth, peacebuilding and UNESCO.

Click image below to see the full interview. 


What happens after the UNESCO admission of Palestine

In the short term, unless there is some new development, the U.S. retains its membership and vote at UNESCO; we will continue to participate in UNESCO meeting and programs. As our Ambassador to UNESCO David Killion has stated, we remain committed to working with UNESCO. However in the longer term, the funding issue prescribed by U.S. law - and the questions it opens regarding our long term membership at UNESCO - remain. You can see more about the official U.S. position by watching the State Department Press Briefing from 11/1/11. You can read a transcript of this briefing here.

UNESCO kicks off 40th anniversary celebration of World Heritage Convention

The Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova has launched the 40th anniversary celebrations for the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, adopted by UNESCO's Member States on 16 November 1972.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

31 new members elected UNESCO’s Executive Board

UNESCO’s Member States attending the 36th session of the General Conference, the Organization’s highest governing body, have elected 31 new members to the 58-member Executive Board, the Organization’s other governing body.

Below is a list of elected countries, by electoral group:
Group I: Austria, France, Spain, Italy, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, United States of America.
Group II: Russian Federation, Czech Republic, Montenegro, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Group III: Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico.
Group IV: Republic of Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea.
Group V (a): Nigeria, Namibia, Ethiopia, Mali, Gabon, Malawi, Angola, Gambia.
Group V (b): United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Flash: U.S. Reelected to UNESCO Executive Board

Statement by the Director-General of UNESCO on Withholding of Funds by the United States

 Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General© UNESCO / Eric Bouttier 

In this time of economic crisis and social transformation, I believe that UNESCO’s vital work to promote global stability and democratic values is in America’s core interests.
The United States is a critical partner in UNESCO’s work. The withholding of U.S. dues and other financial contributions – required by U.S. law - will weaken UNESCO’s effectiveness and undermine its ability to build free and open societies.
U.S. funding helps UNESCO to develop and sustain free and competitive media in Iraq, Tunisia and Egypt. In Afghanistan, U.S. support is helping UNESCO to teach thousands of police officers to read and write.  UNESCO literacy programmes in other areas of conflict give people the critical thinking skills and confidence they need to fight violent extremism. To sustain the democratic spirit of the Arab Spring, UNESCO is training journalists to cover elections objectively.
Across the world, we stand up for each journalist who is attacked or killed, because we are the UN agency with the mandate to protect freedom of expression. In Washington, earlier this year, I awarded the UNESCO Press Freedom Prize to an imprisoned Iranian journalist, Ahmad Zeidabadi.
UNESCO is the only UN Agency with a mandate to promote Holocaust Education worldwide. Using funding provided by the United States and Israel, UNESCO is developing curricula to ensure that the Holocaust is never forgotten. Last February I led a historic visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp with more than 150 political and religious leaders, mostly from Arab and Muslim countries.  I still recall the words of Dr. Mustafa Ceric, Grand Mufti of Bosnia, who said: “We must teach our young people in mosques, churches and synagogues what happened here.”
With U.S. support we put science at the service of people.  UNESCO is leading a global effort to expand an ocean-based tsunami warning system.  In January, this system saved tens of thousands of lives when a tsunami hit Japan.  In the Middle East, UNESCO’s Sesame Programme enables world-class research and builds scientific and cultural bridges between neighbouring countries, including Israel and Egypt.
The U.S. Government recognizes the value of all this work.  To quote the State Department: “U.S. engagement with UNESCO serves a wide range of our national interests on education, science, culture and communications issues…we will work with Congress to ensure that U.S. interests and influence are preserved.”
UNESCO is encouraged that the United States will maintain its membership in the Organization and hopes that a resolution to the funding issue will ultimately be identified. Until that happens, it will be impossible for us to maintain our current level of activity. 
The announced withholding of U.S. dues owed for 2011 will immediately affect our ability to deliver programmes in critical areas: achieving universal education, supporting new democracies and fighting extremism.  So I call on the U.S. administration, Congress and the American people to find a way forward and continue support for UNESCO in these turbulent times.

Irina Bokova
2 November, 2011