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.