Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Meeting of U.S. National Commission for UNESCO

Annual Meeting of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO is scheduled for Monday, December 16.  The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. at the U.S. Department of State, George Marshall Conference Center. The meeting is open to the public.

If you are not a member of the National Commission and plan to attend, you must inform the National Commission staff well in advance:

phone: 202-663-0026
fax: 202-663-0035
email: dcunesco@state.gov

Registration at the State Department will begin at 9:00 a.m.  Because this meeting is being held in the State Department, staff will require your Birthday, Social Security and either Passport Number or Drivers License Number.

You will need to enter through security at the 21st Street entrance of the main State Department building.  (320 21st St NW, Washington, DC)

This should be a productive and interesting meeting and I hope you will be able to attend.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Movement to make Seattle a UNESCO City of Literature

"At a reading to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Elliott Bay Book Company, local author Ryan Boudinot made a proposal "for the benefit of not just Elliott Bay Book Company, but the whole city." His pitch: "Let's seek formal recognition for Seattle as a UNESCO City of Literature." Boudinot explained that, as part of their Creative Cities program, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization launched the City of Literature designation to "recognize cities around the world that honor the literary arts through public and private means."

"A few Cities of Literature that have been named since the project's inception in 2004 include Reykjavik, Dublin, Melbourne, and Iowa City.:" Read more....

And still more here...

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

World Heritage University-Level Training Programs

Here are some of the programs that I have found in no special order. If you know of others, please leave information in the comments.


United States

World Heritage in Practice: Paris- - University of Florida Design, Construction and Planning http://j.mp/JeopYv

Center for World Heritage Studies University of Minnesota


World Heritage Studies, University of Tsukuba


University College Dublin offers a Masters degree in World Heritage Management http://j.mp/10sxJTT

Trinity College Dublin, Cultural Heritage program


Ironbridge Institute,  Masters in World Heritage Studies

The University of Cambridge has an MPhil and PhD program in cultural heritage, based at the Department of Archaeology

The University of Cambridge also has a research program on Cultural Heritage After Conflict

The University of Birmingham offers an MA program in World Heritage Studies

MA International Cultural Heritage Management at Durham University


Brandenburg University of Technology, Cottbus, Master in World Heritage Studies


Masters in Cultural Heritage for Development at the Turin School of Development http://j.mp/13AHIdL

University of Bologna, Italy, Master’s degree Course in science for the conservation-restoration of cultural heritage (SCoRe)


Master in Cultural Heritage Management at the French University in Egypt. in partnership with the IREST Unesco Chair in Cultural Tourism and Development at the University of Paris. http://j.mp/19JnalB

Heritage Management Course managed between the University of Kent in the UK and the Athens University of Economics and Business.

The Future Generations Graduate School offers a Master's Degree in Applied Community Change with concentrations in Conservation and Peacebuilding.

The Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies at the University of Arkansas and its Geospatial Modeling and Visualization?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Crystal Nix-Hines nominated as U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO

Crystal Nix-Hines, has been nominated to be the permanent representative of the United States to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO. The post, which must be confirmed by the Senate, carries to rank of ambassador.

I quote from Wikipedia:
Crystal Nix-Hines is Of Counsel at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan in Los Angeles.  Previously, she served as Of Counsel at Fairbank & Vincent from 2006 to 2007, Special Counsel in the Litigation Department of O’Melveny & Myers, LLP from 1997 to 2000, and Assistant to the General Counsel/Senior Vice President of Capital Cities/ABC, Inc. from 1992 to 1993.  From 1993 to 1997, she held several positions at the State Department, including Counselor to the Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Member of the Department’s Policy Planning Staff, and Special Assistant to the Legal Adviser.  From 1991 to 1992, she clerked on the U.S. Supreme Court for Justice Thurgood Marshall and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.  She also clerked for Justice William A. Norris on the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit from 1990 to 1991.  During her career, Ms. Nix-Hines has also been a writer and producer on several network television shows such as Commander-in-Chief, Alias, and The Practice.  She began her career as a reporter for New York Times. 
Her law practice currently focuses on several areas, including  Entertainment and Media Litigation, Intellectual Property Litigation, Structured Finance and Derivatives Litigation and Transnational Litigation.

According to Variety:
Nix-Hines was a bundler for President Obama in the most recent election cycle, raising between $200,000 and $500,000. She was a classmate of Michelle Obama’s at Princeton and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1990, a year before Barack Obama.
This appears to be an exceptional appointment. Nix-Hines' career path indicates that she is exceptionally talented, energetic and innovative. She has appropriate, high-level experience in the State Department. Her legal work in structured finance should be invaluable in dealing with UNESCO's budget issues. Her television background givers her professional standing with respect to UNESCO's culture program. Her legal work in intellectual property law gives her professional standing with regard to UNESCO's copyright conventions and their implementation. As a former New York Times reporter she brings special understanding to UNESCO's defense of reporters and press freedom. And last, but not least, she has personal standing that means her voice can be heard in the halls of the State Department and the White House.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

US Permanent Delegation to UNESCO

UNESCO lists the permanent delegation of the United States to the Organization as follows:

Permanent Delegation of the United States of America to UNESCO
U.S. Mission to UNESCO
American Embassy
12, avenue Raphaël
75016 PARIS
Telephone :
Fax :
E-mail :ParisUNESCO@state.gov
Web site :http://unesco.usmission.gov/
The Permanent Delegation requests that all correspondence be addressed to :
U.S. Mission to UNESCO
Miollis House - Room 4.45
75015 PARIS
H. E. Mr David Killion
Permanent Delegate
Mrs Kristin Eager Killion
Telephone :01 43 12 74 16
E-mail :ParisUNESCO@state.gov
Ms Kathleen A. Kavalec
Deputy Permanent Delegate, 
Telephone :01 43 12 74 85
E-mail :k.kavalec.us@unesco-delegations.org
M. Scott Turner
First Secretary (Political Affairs)
Telephone :01 43 12 74 82
E-mail :s.turner.us@unesco-delegations.org
Mrs Megan Larson-Kone
First Secretary (Communications/Culture)
Telephone :01 43 12 74 46
E-mail :m.larson-kone.us@unesco-delegations.org
Mr James Ryan Grizzle
Second Secretary (Education)
Telephone :01 43 12 74 81
E-mail :r.grizzle.us@unesco-delegations.org
Mrs Janel Heird
Second Secretary, Science Officer
Telephone :01 43 12 74 99
E-mail :j.heird.us@unesco-delegations.org
Mrs Daniela Morich
Program Specialist
Telephone :01 43 12 74 53
E-mail :d.morich.us@unesco-delegations.org

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Facts and figures on UNESCO’s reform

UNESCO defines a budget covering two years of operation. The budget in the above graph are in millions of US dollars. The budget defined in the 30th General Conference (2000-2001) was $544 million. The following budgets showed increases until the 36th General Conference (2012-2013) which reached $653 million. Following the most recent reforms, the budget for 2014-2015 is $465 million. In addition to the regular budget financed by assessed contributions, UNESCO also receives voluntary contributions for additional programs and activities.

The international professional staff is composed of persons in the following career steps:

  • Junior professionals (grade P-1/P-2) 

The principal goal of employees at these levels is to demonstrate your expertise by participating in the execution of programs and projects, moving in the course of your apprenticeship to higher levels of responsibility. 

  • Middle-ranking professionals (grade P-3/P-4) 

Staff at these levels serve as a project leaders in charge of small teams; They launch and develop particular facets of the UNESCO program and gain further professional experience. 

  • Management professionals (grade P-5 and D) 

Responsibilities as head of a section, director of a division or director of a UNESCO field office will include direct participation in the preparation and execution of the Organization’s strategy. At this level, staff members will manage budgets and assume leadership roles. 
As the graph shows, the numbers of junior and middle-ranking professionals have increased since 2000, while the numbers of management professionals have decreased.

Click here for the original source of these data. 

UNESCO to make its publications available free of charge as part of a new Open Access policy

UNESCO will make its digital publications available to millions of people around the world free-of-charge with an open license. Following a decision by the Organization’s Executive Board in April, UNESCO has become the first member of the United Nations to adopt such an Open Access policy for its publications. The new policy means that anyone will be able to download, translate, adapt, distribute and re-share UNESCO publications and data without paying.

Read more!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A New Video on UNESCO's History and Programs

Published on Jun 14, 2013

An overview of the principal events that helped create UNESCO.

 In 1945, UNESCO was created in order to respond to the firm belief of nations, forged by two world wars in less than a generation, that political & economic agreements are not enough to build a lasting peace. It is in the minds of men and women that the defenses of peace & the conditions for sustainable development must be built.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Eleanor Roosevelt & Human Rights

When Eleanor Roosevelt was chairing the United Nations Committee that was writing the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, UNESCO was asked to obtain information on whether there were indeed human rights recognized by all cultures. This book was the result of the work of UNESCO drawing upon the foremost thinkers in the world on the topic.

A recent broadcast on American History TV (on CSpan) was devoted to the three volume biography of Eleanor Roosevelt. At the end of the video a member of the audience brings up the fact that the United States is withholding its contributions to UNESCO, and that it will lose voting rights by the time of the next UNESCO General Conference unless it restores that funding.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The CRS has made a report on UNESCO for the U.S. Congress.

Luisa Blanchfield and Marjorie Ann Browne of the Congressional Research Service have produced a report on UNESCO for the U.S. Congress. The report was published on March 18, 2013.

Here are my comments on the report:
The report may leave the impression that the member states of UNESCO granted membership in the organization to the PLO. They granted membership to Palestine. 
In considering whether Palestine has "the internationally recognized attributes of statehood" you might mention that 107 member states of UNESCO elected Palestine to be a fellow member state. 138 members states of the United Nations have also elected Palestine to the status of "non-member observer state", not "observer organization". According to Wikipedia, as of April of this year 132 of the 193 member states of the United Nations have recognized the State of Palestine. 
You might also have noted that -- in spite of the provisions of the law -- the United States has continued to fund a number of UN agencies that include as member states entities that do not have "the internationally recognized attributes of states".  
The United States did not make a "decision to withdraw from the UNESCO between 1984 and 2003." It made a decision to withdraw from UNESCO in 1984. 
The United States made a separate decision to rejoin UNESCO in 2003. It was explicitly stated at that time that the effectiveness of UNESCO justified membership. UNESCO effectiveness had been further improved after 2003, although it has been damaged since 2011 by the United States withholding funds. 
You address several issues being considered with respect to the U.S. withholding funds from UNESCO. One that you might consider is the effect on U.S. foreign policy. I believe many UNESCO member states feel that the United States is acting inappropriately by refusing to accept the vote of the majority of member states. That and the soon to occur loss of the U.S. vote will compromise the Department of State's ability to achieve foreign policy aims in and through UNESCO. 
In discussing the budget of UNESCO, you do not mention the voluntary contributions which have been comparable in magnitude to the assessed contributions. The U.S. contribution of 22% of the regular budget influences the total program of UNESCO, and should be seen as roughly 11% of that total. 
Thank you for your attention. 
Here is a more complete set of comments on the study by Ray Wanner. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

How to write a stereotype-free textbook

“A good textbook must engage students and relate to their reality,” declares Jean Bernard of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO. A producer of learning materials and advisor on textbook quality, Bernard believes that all textbooks and learning materials should reflect the principles of education for citizenship and peace 
 UNESCO has designed a new toolkit for writing stereotype-free textbooks. The toolkit is designed to help remove cultural, religious and gender-biased stereotypes from curricula and learning materials. To test the tool before its publication in September 2013, UNESCO organized a workshop in Rabat (Morocco) from 6-9 May 2013 for authors, publishers, curriculum developers and experts in textbook development from 15 countries to work with the toolkit designers and test for usability and relevance. The feedback will be used to improve all aspects of the toolkit.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Statement by U.S. Ambassador David Killion to the 191st Executive Board

"My Administration continues to work with our Congress to resolve the issue so that we can meet our commitments to UNESCO.   Of course, I had hoped to be able to report at this Board that this was solved, but unfortunately that is not yet the case.  However, we will not give up.  On April 10, President Obama delivered his budget request to the Congress.  His budget includes a formal request for a waiver of the suspension of U.S. funding to UNESCO.  It also includes funding for this year and previous years.  We will keep pushing our rock up the hill until we reach the top because, we agree, the current situation is not sustainable."

The Transatlantic Slave Trade and Slavery: New Directions in Teaching and Learning

The Harriet Tubman Institute and the Slave Route Project have announced the launching on 16 April at UNESCO headquarters a new title in the Harriet Tubman Series on the African Diaspora: “The Transatlantic Slave Trade and Slavery: New Directions in Teaching and Learning”.

Edited by Paul E. Lovejoy and Benjamin Bowser, this book is an anthology of papers from an international workshop that the Slave Route Project jointly organized in November 2010 in Toronto, Canada, with the Harriet Tubman institute and the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, in order to define new approaches for teaching the slave trade and slavery and to examine the psychological consequences of this history.

Read more!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Infographic: What Will It Take to Achieve Learning For All?

On April 18, 2013, a Learning for All Ministerial meeting will bring together ministers of finance and education  -- from Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Nigeria, Yemen, and South Sudan -- with leaders from development partner organizations to discuss challenges and steps to accelerate progress toward ensuring that all children can go to school and learn.
Click the image for FULL RESOLUTION.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Two Important UNESCO Documents

Americans for UNESCO resolution to restore US UNESCO funding http://j.mp/15aXUS9

U.S. Congressional Research Service 2013 report on UNESCO http://j.mp/12fKhOF

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The United States Government Should Restore Funding to UNESCO

Countries that have recognized the State of Palestine.Source: Night w

The United States policy is that a two state solution is needed to resolve the long standing dispute between Israelis and Palestinians. According to Wikipedia, "of the 193 member states of the United Nations, 132 (68.4%) have recognized the State of Palestine as of April 2013.  On 29 November 2012, the General Assembly granted Palestine non-member observer state status in United Nations General Assembly resolution 67/19." UNESCO granted membership to Palestine in 2011.

U.S. law requires that the government withhold funding from any United Nations agency that accepts Palestine as a member state. Apparently, two decades ago when the legislation was passed and signed into law, it was felt that recognition of Palestine by UN agencies would militate against the successful negotiation of an agreement between Israel and Palestine settling their disputed border and the management of their territories.

The Need for the Legislation to Be Revised

The legislation is badly worded. The operative portion reads:
"The United States shall not make any voluntary or assessed contribution - (1) to any affiliated organization of the United Nations which grants full membership as a state to any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood, or (2) to the United Nations, if the United Nations grants full membership as a state in the United Nations to any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood, during any period in which such membership is effective."
It is not clear what constitutes "an affiliated organization of the United Nations". It seems likely that the term would include the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the other International Financial Institutions, the World Health Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization, and many other organizations. Nor is it clear what states fail to have "the internationally recognized attributes of statehood". Do Somalia and Syrian Arab Republic meet that definition in spite of their failed governments? Does Palestine not meet that definition in spite of the fact that most of the world's nations have recognized it as a state?

Given this lack of clarity in the provision, it might be that the U.S. Government would have to withhold funding from the World Bank (which includes both Somalia and the Syrian Arab Republic as member states) and other agencies critical to our nation/s interests.

The provision also has no sunset clause so no matter how conditions change in the future it will continue in force until there is an act of Congress to change or repeal it.

There is a simple solution to the revision of the legislation. Amend it to give authority to the President to waive the provision if he finds it to be in the nation's interest to do so. The Congress will of course continue to define the contributions to UN agencies through appropriations legislation and can withhold funding from any international agency that it chooses.

Restore Funding to UNESCO

Last week the administration requested funding for UNESCO in its FY2014 State and Foreign Operations budget proposal:

The Administration seeks Congressional support for legislation that would provide authority to waive legislative restrictions that, if triggered, would prohibit paying U.S. contributions to United Nations specialized agencies that grant the Palestinians the same standing as member states or full membership as a state. Should the Congress pass this waiver legislation, the FY 2014 funding specifically requested for UNESCO would cover the FY 2014 UNESCO assessment and the FY 2013 and FY 2014 Contingent Requirements funding would cover arrears which accrued in FY 2012 and FY 2013. 
 The administration is no doubt referring to UNESCO's programs in education, science, culture and communications. UNESCO has been notably supportive of U.S. policy objectives in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan implementing programs supported by voluntary contributions.

Perhaps more important is the fact that there is a huge network of people and organizations worldwide that affiliate themselves with UNESCO's objective of building the defenses of peace in the minds of men. Those networks include national commissions for UNESCO, people and organizations supporting World Heritage sites, educators implementing Education for All, scientists involved in UNESCO's network of biosphere reserves, those involved in UNESCO's regional tsunami warning systems, scientists involved in UNESCO's many water centers and programs, and many others. It is important that the United States continue to show its support for UNESCO's mission so that these people will retain their respect for the United States.

Kensington Maryland Celebrates UNESCO's International Day of the Book

Saturday, April 13, 2013

UNESCO should get more emotional and less cerebral! -- the need for peace demands it do so.

Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed......
The States Parties to this Constitution, believing in full and equal opportunities for education for all, in the unrestricted pursuit of objective truth, and in the free exchange of ideas and knowledge, are agreed and determined to develop and to increase the means of communication between their peoples and to employ these means for the purposes of mutual understanding and a truer and more perfect knowledge of each other’s lives;
In consequence whereof they do hereby create the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization for the purpose of advancing, through the educational and scientific and cultural relations of the peoples of the world, the objectives of international peace and of the common welfare of mankind for which the United Nations Organization was established and which its Charter proclaims. 

The UNESCO Constitution
UNESCO, in keeping with its Constitution, takes a very cerebral approach to building the defenses of peace in the minds of men. How about people's emotions?

Huynh Cong "Nick" Ut photo via

THREE IMAGES: The Effects of Photojournalism on the Protest Movement during the Vietnam War

As I recall the U.S. public response to the war in Vietnam, it differed from that to previous 20th century wars because we saw it covered on television. Pictures, especially moving pictures affect the brain differently than do written words and statistics. If UNESCO wants to create defenses of peace in the brains of men, not just in their minds, then it must complement its cerebral approach with an approach that is also emotional.

Cognitive science has advanced a great deal since the time of the birth of UNESCO. We understand that people are not simply rational. We think with our brains and our thought is not just logical and rational, but also emotional. Some of our decisions are made slowly and based on analysis, others are made quickly and based on intuition. Some of our intuitions seem to be hard wired and others learned. UNESCO more than any other UN organization should understand the advances in science and their implications for how it is to go about its mission.

Indeed, we must recognize that learning has emotional aspects as well as cerebral and moral; science may be cerebral, but scientists are emotional. The sites and objects of our cultural heritage have not only aesthetic content, but affect us emotionally. Communications have emotional content. UNESCO should be emotional as well as cerebral.

There are fewer that 2000 people employed in UNESCO's secretariat. There are many, many more people who are affiliated with UNESCO's purpose though its National Commissions, associated schools, UNESCO clubs, world heritage sites, and other UNESCO networks. I hope and believe this larger network of people advance the defenses of peace in the brains of men (and women and children) using all the available means.

How Santiago’s journey to school was cut in half

© Bryan Derballa/Sipa, New York - Today, it only takes Santiago an hour and 10 minutes to get to class, whereas It used to take him two hours and 30 minutes.

© Bryan Derballa/Sipa, New York - Today, it only takes Santiago an hour and 10 minutes to get to class, whereas It used to take him two hours and 30 minutes.
“The Journeys to School exhibition changed my life,” says 14-year-old Santiago Muñoz, from New York (United States). “Before, I was always stressed out. Now I have more freedom.”
It used to take Santiago two hours and 30 minutes to get to class. Today it takes him less than half that time, all because of the UNESCO/ SIPA Press/Transdev photo exhibition, Journeys to School which opened at the United Nations on 4 March. The exhibition shows the difficulties children around the world face to get to school, including Santiago’s five-hour daily commute.

The local media took an interest in Santiago. They observed that children who went to school on rickshaws, donkeys, sleds or canoes (or on foot) took less time to arrive in class. Two weeks later, he had a new home.

 “The housing authorities read about Santiago's tremendous effort to get an education. ”, explains Julio, Santiago’s father. “They helped us find a transfer.”

The potential of partnerships for education

In times of austerity, public sector reform and budget cuts, multi-stakeholder partnerships are considered an important strategy to complement public education financing.

Private schools, private management of public schools and the production and distribution of textbooks are just some areas where public-private-partnerships are already active.

The Global Education & Skills Forum (Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 15-17 March) focused on how to develop an enabling environment for effective partnerships by allowing international leaders to explore how governments and the private sector could join efforts to prioritize education, in line with the UN Secretary- General’s Global Education First Initiative.

Opened via satellite by former United States President Bill Clinton, this two-day event was organized by UNESCO organized together with the Government of the United Arab Emirates, Varkey GEMS Foundation and the Commonwealth Business Council. Speakers and panellists included heads of government, ministers, chairs and chief executives of businesses, researchers, multi-lateral agencies and NGOs.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

World Poetry Day 2013

THE LAKE ISLE OF INNISFREE (William Butler Yeats - 1865-1939)
I WILL arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made: 
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,And evening full of the linnet's wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

UNESCO and the science of mind.

I have been involved in a discussion on the UNESCO's Friends group on Linked In of the biology of mind and the need for an international venue for discussion of the policy implications of the emerging science and its technological repercussions.

Scientists have been illuminating the incredible plasticity of the brain. That plasticity is not that the different organs within the skull migrate physically. Scientists now know that the number of neurons in the brain peaks during early childhood and then some die not to be replaced; they also have shown that there remain stem cells in the brain and new neurons are created long into adult life. Still it is believed that most of the changes are in the connections among neurons and the ability of neurons to excite or inhibit the actions of other neurons.

The biology of mind seems to be an emerging discipline. Imaging techniques, electrical recording techniques and molecular biology are combining to produce rates of scientific knowledge production in this area that were hardly imaginable a couple of decades ago. It seems likely that the burgeoning of knowledge will lead to important applications. This turning point might turn out to be similar to semiconductor physics leading to semiconductor electronics or atomic physics leading to nuclear energy.

We now know the Flynn Effect, that average performance on IQ tests is improving:
The average rate of increase seems to be about three IQ points per decade in the U.S. on tests such as the WISC. The increasing raw scores appear on every major test, in every age range and in every modern industrialized country although not necessarily at the same rate as in the U.S. using the WISC. The increase has been continuous and roughly linear from the earliest days of testing to the present.
This may be because people are increasingly learning things measured by IQ tests instead of other unmeasured things that they learned in the past, or perhaps because people are on average actually becoming more intelligent. (Perhaps a smaller part of the population are subject to poor nutrition and childhood diseases that limit the development of the brain, or are subject to poor intellectual environment and inadequate schooling that would limit their learning opportunities.) Whatever the explanation, since IQ test performance is clearly a function of the behavior of the brain, on average, the brain of today (in industrialized countries) is different than was, on average, the brain of yesteryear.

I see no reason to believe that brains will not continue on the average to change. I would suggest that our objectives in schooling and in lifelong learning would be to encourage brain development, on average, in beneficial directions. Schooling has tended to focus on facts and analysis. Perhaps it should focus more on other aspects of learning. For example, perhaps it should seek to assure that learning excites the pleasure centers of the brain.

Homo sapiens are social animals, and there is evidence that we make better decisions in groups than as individuals. Perhaps we need to consider the biology of the group mind. Perhaps schooling should include specific efforts to help people learn better how to think together, to solve problems in groups.

It has also been suggested that we think with our surround. In my father's day (born in 1905 in Ireland) it made sense for schools to promote the development of memory; in my youth (born 1937) we were taught library skills but had less memory training; today's infants will be brought up with hand-held devices connected to the Internet and will be taught to find and evaluate information from cyberspace. So too, modern schooling should help people learn to use the analytic capabilities of computers to amplify their own analysis.

My point is that the improving science of the biology of the mind should be reflected in changes in educational policy. This would seem to be an area of special concern for UNESCO with its emphasis on both education and science. UNESCO also has for decades focused on the ethics of science and technology and bioethics, and there are clearly ethical issues in educational policy raised by the emerging science of the biology of mind.

However, that is but one area of policy that should reflect our emerging knowledge of mind. Clearly psychiatric policy will change as we better understand the brain, and as we develop better technology for diagnosis and treatment of brain dysfunctions; given the relation of "physical" and "mental" health, better science of the mind might also lead to more general changes in medical policy.

Legal policy may well change as we learn more about the brain and the biological bases of decisions and behavior. That seems obviously true for criminal justice, but it may also be true in areas such as legislation regarding marriage/

Information is accumulating as to the interplay between culture and the biology of mind. We know that the language we learn as children influences the allocation of space in the brain to different mental functions. We also know that culture is plastic -- that the cultures of today's nations have changed from the cultures of their predecessors. Not only are Western cultures different today than they were a century ago, but so too are "indigenous" cultures in Asia, Africa and the Americas. Perhaps we might induce positive changes in culture for our descendants through examination of the increasing knowledge of the biology of mind -- perhaps promoting cultures of peace and improved understanding among cultures. Again, UNESCO focuses on culture, science and ethics, so the ethical dimensions of the impact of the biology of mind on cultural change seems a natural area for UNESCO's concern.

UNESCO has served as a forum for discussion, a laboratory and a clearinghouse for ideas. Those are just the functions most immediately needed with respect to the science of mind!

Friday, March 08, 2013

Christiane Amanpour, CNN, on Gender Equality

Christiane Amanpour underscores the need for gender equality in all aspects of society and specifically in and through media: "From all my experience working in the field for over 20 years now I see more and more women in the field as journalists... What I see is that this is making a big change in the way stories are covered. Women do not report only on women... They report on what now is almost exclusively the human factor when it comes to war, crisis, disaster or even opportunities, hope and challenges... Women still have to face very difficult threats, very difficult situations of abuse, very difficult situations of intimidation and out and out being banned from taking part in the field of journalism. It is still a difficult world... Those of you women around the world who are determined, and no matter what profession you choose, who are determined to make it and battle the odds and make sure that you never hear the word NO, that I think is the hope and the optimism and the opportunity that we can benefit from and that we can put back into society..."

A video prepared by CNN in connection with the UNESCO "Women Make the News" 2013 initiative (WMN) for International Women's Day, to be celebrated on 8 March 2013.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

DfID and AusAID reviews of UNESCO and responses.

UNESCO has published some facts and figures on the Organization's reforms. The graph above is from that publication. It shows the budget for UNESCO by biennium (the 36th biennium is 2012 and 2013). The graph shows the considerable reduction in the current biennium, in part due to the United States withholding its assessed contributions to UNESCO.

The Department for International Development (DfID) of the United Kingdom did a multilateral aid review in 2011. It is currently updating that review. Here is a page with the 2011 judgments for UNESCO. UNESCO has provided an update on its operations for the 2013 exercise.

Similarly, the Australian AID organization (AusAID) developed scorecards for multilateral organizations in 2012. Here is the scorecard for UNESCO. Here are UNESCO's comments on the scorecard.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

International Mother Language Day

Theme 2013:
Books for mother tongue education

International Mother Language Day was proclaimed by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in November 1999 (30C/62).

A Civics Lesson: Restoring funding to UNESCO.

The United States is withholding funds from UNESCO since the Organization's General Conference voted to allow Palestine membership. It is doing so because of provisions of the Foreign Relations and Intercourse Authorization passed in 1990 and 1994.

In order to restore funding
  • The authorization law will have to be changed either to eliminate the provisions or to allow the President to waive them if he finds doing so to be in the national interest. In the latter case, the president would have to issue a waiver in the specific case of UNESCO.
  • Funds would have to be included for UNESCO in the foreign affairs appropriations.
Last year the Obama administration requested the waiver authority and it has also requested the appropriation of funds for UNESCO.

The authorization legislation defines policy -- what the program is to do. It is the province of:
  • The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and
  • The House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs.
The appropriations legislation is the province of:
  • The House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations and
  • The Senate Committee on Appropriations,
The 113th Congress convened in January 2013. The response to the administration's requests will depend on the members of this session. In the Senate key committee members are likely to be:

In the House of Representatives the key committee members are likely to be:
  • Kay Granger, Republican, chairwoman of the relevant subcommittee of the Appropriations committee
  • Nita Lowey, Democrat, ranking member of that subcommittee and ranking member of the Appropruations committee itself. She is a strong supporter of Israel.
  • Harold Rogers, Republican, chairman of the Appropriations committee
  • Christopher Smith, Republican, chairman of the relevant subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs committee
  • Karen Bass, Democrat, ranking member of that subcommittee
  • Ed Royce, Republican, chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee
  • Eliot Engel, Democrat, ranking member of the Foreign Affairs committee

The Senate, with a Democratic majority, is likely to be more responsive to the Obama administration's requests; the House, with a Republican majority, is likely to be less responsive. The last session of hte Congress was marked by contentious debates and gridlock. It remains to be seen how this session will evolve.

The economic priorities of this Congress should be:

  • in the short term, to create jobs and prevent an immediate return to recession
  • in the medium term to reduce the federal deficit and improve the debt to GDP ratio
  • in the long term to invest in education, technology and infrastructure to promote long term growth.
The foreign policy priorities of the U.S. government are generally to protect the security of the United States and to promote its economy internationally. The immediate concerns will probably be the Middle East and Asia.

It seems probable that in these circumstances there will be a tendency to press for reductions in expenditures on international organizations, including UNESCO. 

The immediate concern of the Congress will be to deal with "sequestration" and the "fiscal cliff". The willingness of the members to compromise now may give some indication of their willingness to compromise during the rest of this year's legislative agenda.

In terms of the broad range of issues before the United States government, funding for UNESCO seems likely to be of low priority. The issues of Israeli policy, peace between Israel, Palestine, and their neighbor countries, and U.S. participation in international organizations will probably be seen as more urgent, and the UNESCO funding issue will probably be resolved in terms of these related issues. Still, there are a number of people working very hard to restore U.S. funding to UNESCO and they may be successful. Restoration of funding to UNESCO before the General Conference this fall is necessary to assure that the U.S. vote will be retained, and this may give some urgency to Congressional action.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Update on the previous post

Here are a couple of articles relating to the last post:
  1. "Leading Senator Calls for Change in Self-Defeating US Policy on UNESCO", UN Dispatch, February 8, 2013
  2. "Obama’s budget’s surprise: Restore UNESCO funding!" The Washington Post, 02/16/2012
Recall that the executive branch makes a budget request, but it is the Congress that actually appropriates funds. The House of Representatives has a major role, and the Obama administration may face an uphill battle getting funding for UNESCO. Last year it also requested funding for UNESCO, and it was not appropriated.

In terms of foreign policy, I agree with Senator Leahy that U.S. funding for UNESCO enables it to do more to achieve our objectives than would an alternative use of the funds. I don't think that restoration of funding to UNESCO would significantly damage our relations with Israel, and it might help a little with opinion about the USA in the Arab and Islamic worlds.

In terms of domestic policy, the lobby that pushed through the 1990 legislation still exists and will probably oppose any change in that legislation.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Senator Leahy supports U.S. renewal of funding for UNESCO

I just received an email with the following:

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy


The Rescue and Reconstruction of Cultural Antiquities in Timbuktu

 United States Senate Floor

February 7, 2013

 Mr. LEAHY.  Mr. President, there was a lot of attention recently on the French military’s operation to repel Islamic extremists and Tuareg nationalist rebels who had terrorized the local population of northern Mali, including in the ancient city of Timbuktu.  That operation was widely welcomed by local Malian citizens and the international community.  Many of the rebels are believed to be hiding out among the local population until the French soldiers leave, so whether they are ultimately vanquished remains to be seen.  It will depend in large measure on the longer term capability of a multinational force of African troops supported by the United States and others.

Besides terrorizing, torturing, mutilating, and slaughtering innocent people, the rebels destroyed ancient tombs, shrines, and manuscripts dating to a period many centuries ago when Timbuktu was a crossroads for commerce and a center of intellectual pursuits in northern Africa.  I mention this not only to inform those who may be unaware of Mali’s ongoing cultural importance, but also to call attention to the fact that Irina Bokova, director general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, commonly known as UNESCO, has already pledged to reconstruct the damaged mausoleums.  As she was quoted in The New York Times on February 4, 2013, “This is the record of the golden ages of the Malian empire.  If you let this disappear, it would be a crime against humanity.”

There are also little known heroes in this otherwise humanitarian and cultural disaster.  Malian residents, particularly Ali Iman Ben Essayouti, who knew the importance of priceless manuscripts preserved in a library funded by international donors including the Library of Congress and Department of State, managed to carefully move some of them to another location where the rebels did not find them.  As a result, although the rebels burned the library, only a small portion of the manuscripts were destroyed.

The other point of this is that, as many Senators are aware, the United States, once the largest contributor to UNESCO including under President George W. Bush, was forced to sever its support last year due to a 1990s law that prohibits U.S. funding to any United Nations-affiliated agency in which the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) obtains the same standing as a member state.  After UNESCO’s members voted, against the advice of Ms. Bokova, to grant the PLO that standing, the law was triggered and U.S. funding abruptly ended.

This is illogical and self-defeating.  First, although the PLO was a terrorist organization in the 1990s, it is no longer.  Second, by cutting off our contribution to UNESCO we not only empower its other members, including Russia, Iran, and Syria, we also make it impossible to assist the organization in the kind of cultural preservation activities it is now undertaking in Mali, which are clearly in the national interest of the United States.  There are many other examples, including World Heritage Sites like the Great Barrier Reef, which UNESCO designates and protects, today without the support of the United States.  And finally, if U.S. funding is not restored before the end of this fiscal year, we will lose our vote in the organization.  Ironically, despite PLO membership in UNESCO, Israel has paid its dues through 2014.  Presumably, Israeli officials recognize, as we should, that their interests are far better served by participating in a UN agency, not by watching from the sidelines.

Mr. President, regardless of what one may think about Palestinian President Abbas’ effort to obtain UN membership for the PLO, and I am among those who regard it as an unhelpful distraction, cutting off U.S. funding to UNESCO and thereby weakening our influence and empowering our adversaries makes no sense.  It is time we recognize that a law that might have seemed sensible to some people years ago has had unintended consequences that run directly counter to our interests, and should be amended or repealed.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Another U.S. UNESCO Chair!

UNESCO, has established a UNESCO Chair in Rural Community, Leadership, and Youth Development in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.

Co-hosted by the college's Center for Economic and Community Development and its Office of International Programs, the chair will be held by Mark Brennan, associate professor of rural community and leadership development.

According to Penn State President Rodney Erickson, the opportunity to establish a UNESCO chair is a rare and prestigious honor.

The network of UNESCO chairs in the U.S. continues to grow.  In fact, just a few weeks ago, Pennsylvania State University was granted a UNESCO chair in Rural Community Leadership and Youth Development.  There are now 22 active UNESCO chairs in the U.S. and the 23rd is already in the works. 
Ambassador Killion at the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO meeting in November