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EU-Africa: Strengthening a Sustainable Partnership

Europaid - Mon, 12/04/2017 - 10:15
Categories: News

New STI Agenda reflects aspiration for change in Islamic world

Unesco Most Programme - Mon, 12/04/2017 - 10:00
focus_istanbul_technical_university_solar_car_team_dpl_en.jpg © Istanbul Technical University Solar Car Team

On 10-11 September this year, the city of Astana, in northern Kazakhstan, hosted the first Summit on Science and Technology in the history of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Representatives of all 57 member states, including several heads of state and government, were there to adopt the organization’s first action plan oriented solely towards science, technology and innovation (STI), the OIC STI Agenda 2026. Moneef Zou’bi, who is Director General of the Islamic Academy of Sciences and co-author of the chapter on the Arab States in the UNESCO Science Report, delivered a keynote speech to the summit. In this blogpost, he explains why this Agenda reflects a long-overdue aspiration for change in the Islamic world.

From the outset, the OIC STI Agenda 2026 strikes a refreshing tone. ‘Science is disruptive and flourishes in an environment of irreverence’, states the preamble.

Of the twelve priorities highlighted by the Agenda, nurturing the thinking mind by building a culture of science and innovation takes first place. The Agenda observes that, ‘notwithstanding some important gains in the past decade, a true scientific culture is conspicuous by its absence. There should be no fears about the disruptive nature of knowledge and science, as this has been part of our heritage and traditions for centuries’… ‘Catch them young’, the Agenda urges, ‘so that critical thinking, integrity, curiosity, and creativity can flourish in the school systems’.

The reference to the golden era of Islamic science is not fortuitous. The Agenda argues that the marginal role science plays today in the Islamic world is a result of the loss of three key features that enabled Islam to enrich humanity’s accumulated reservoir of knowledge for 1000 years (circa 6th-16th centuries in the Gregorian calendar). The first of these three features is the recognition that science cannot emerge with a scientific culture which appreciates precision, learning and inquiry, encourages curiosity and criticism and interacts with the rest of the world to exchange ideas and share information.

The second feature is the recognition that science needs patronage and political support to flourish. During the golden age of Islamic science, the Umayyad and Abbāsid periods, science blossomed thanks to rulers’ direct and indirect political patronage. At the OIC Summit in Astana last September, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev proposed establishing a forum similar to the G20, in order to utilize such a grouping to develop science and economies in the Islamic world.

The third feature is the recognition that science needs openness and diversity to prosper. Interdisciplinarity was the norm for Islamic science of the classical period, with no subject being out of bounds. Critical thought was supported and promoted by philosophy and debate was encouraged.

The Agenda embraces all three features. It encourages critical thought and creativity and calls upon governments to invest in every sphere of science: education, basic science, big science, etc.. It also encourages member states to establish science and technology funds to nurture joint bilateral and multilateral projects.

Targets for greater investment in research

The Agenda fixes a number of targets for investment. For instance, the fifth priority concerning improving the quality of higher education and research invites member states to ‘consider doubling the annual expenditure by 2025 on scientific infrastructure and research and development (R&D) in those countries which spend less than 0.3% of GDP, and aim for a target of 2.0% in countries which are at a relatively advanced level, in accordance with the relevant national laws in each member state’.

Currently, the two OIC countries with the greatest research intensity are Malaysia (1.30% of GDP in 2016) and Turkey (1.01% in 2014). When you consider that both countries have doubled their research intensity since 2004, the 2% target for 2026 seems within reach. Malaysia is even planning to reach this target by 2020. Turkey has even greater ambitions, with the government’s Strategic Vision 2023 document advancing a 3% target for the year the Republic celebrates its centenary in 2023. The world average in 2013 was 1.70% of GDP.

The great majority of Islamic countries spend much less of their GDP on R&D, according to the UNESCO Science Report. Oman, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have all hovered at the 0.2% mark for the past decade and spending levels have actually dropped in Iran and Pakistan to about 0.3% of GDP. Qatar devotes about 0.5% of GDP to research and Kuwait 0.3%. It is hard for oil-rent economies to have a strong research intensity, owing to their high GDP. This said, Saudi Arabia actually now spends a respectable 0.87% of GDP on R&D, according to figures published by the Ministry of Higher Education1 in 2013.

The situation can evolve rapidly with sufficient political backing. Egypt raised its research intensity from 0.27% to 0.72% of GDP between 2004 and 2015 and even inscribed the 1% target in the Egyptian Constitution of 2014. The United Arab Emirates published data for the first time in 2011 and, by 2015, had – jointly with Saudi Arabia – the greatest research intensity of any Arab country: 0.87% of GDP.

The United Arab Emirates has achieved a similar feat when it comes to researchers. When it published related data for the first time in 2015, it immediately took the lead for the number of researchers per million inhabitants (2 003 in full-time equivalents), ahead of the traditional champion for this indicator in the Arab world, Tunisia (1 787). Among Muslim countries as a whole, only Malaysia had a higher ratio (2 261). The world average was 1 083 per million.

Data are unavailable for about one-quarter of Muslim countries but, according to the UNESCO Science Report, a growing number are developing national STI observatories to ensure better data collection and analysis in order to inform policy-making. Examples are Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Tunisia. For its part, the African Union established an African Observatory of Science, Technology and Innovation in Equatorial Guinea in 2011 which publishes pan-African R&D data in the African Innovation Outlook every three years.

Time is of the essence

It will be imperative to capture the moment. Many politicians in OIC countries are under pressure from their populations to succeed in terms of achieving strong national economic growth, cutting unemployment and raising living standards.

The economic fallout from the current insecurity in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen will ultimately be felt by all Arab countries, slowing the influx of foreign direct investment and hurting real estate markets. This will cause a slowdown in economic growth and push up unemployment in the region. Both Arab states reliant on exporting goods and services to the USA and European Union and those that normally receive aid from these quarters may be affected.

In parallel, OIC countries are conscious that, if they do not manage to adapt their workforces to the new knowledge economy, they will face growing unemployment. After relocating much of their production to the developing world in the 1980s, industrial countries are now investing in advanced manufacturing to revitalize their domestic manufacturing sector. In what has been dubbed the Fourth Industrial Revolution, technological fields such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, informatics and cognitive sciences are converging to blur the boundaries between the virtual world and reality, services and industry. Artificial intelligence is transforming society at a breakneck pace, changing the face of fields as disparate as medicine, manufacturing and cybersecurity. On the factory floor, robots and other cyber-physical systems are being designed to monitor production and make independent decisions.

This revolution is producing technological and organizational changes in manufacturing that are already reducing demand for unskilled labour in both developed and developing countries. It is no wonder that the OIC STI Agenda 2026 lays such heavy emphasis on high technology. It states, for instance, that ‘computational chemistry and computational biology now offer the possibility of manipulating atoms and molecules to create totally new entities, systems, membranes, materials and also fuel cells, which are critical for energy storage’.

A reinvigorated organization

The OIC is experiencing something of a revival, particularly in the domain of STI. This revival began in June 2011, when another summit in Astana decided to rename the Organisation of the Islamic Conference the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to signal the start of a new era and emphasize the cooperation aspect of the organization’s mandate, particularly with regard to other international bodies and United Nations agencies.

The OIC was founded in 1969 as a political organization grouping Muslim-majority countries. In 1981, the heads of state of the OIC decided to establish a number of specialized bodies to enhance co-operation between member states in a number of areas, including science and technology. This task was entrusted to the Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Co-operation (COMSTECH), based in Islamabad (Pakistan). The Islamic World Academy of Sciences (IAS) soon followed and was launched in Amman (Jordan) in 1986. Since the 1980s, a lot of effort has been expended by individual OIC countries and offshoot organizations to develop science and technology in member states but success stories have been few and far between.

The OIC Summit in Malaysia in 2003 adopted a yardstick for measuring progress in science and technology in member states, Vision 1441. The year 1441 in the Islamic Hijri Calendar corresponds to 2020 in the Gregorian calendar. Vision 1441 contained both collective and individual targets. Collectively, OIC countries were to account for at least 14% of the world's scientific output by the year 1441, through greater investment in science and technology, including research and development (R&D). Individually, OIC countries were to develop a competent workforce of at least 1441 researchers, scientists and engineers per million inhabitants and to devote at least 1.4% of GDP to R&D by the year 1441.

These three targets are, of course, extrapolated from the 1441 figure. This approach was chosen to ensure that people, especially top decision-makers, could relate to these targets. The choice of indicators is fortunate, particularly as the latter two have been chosen by the United Nations as the yardsticks for measuring progress worldwide towards Sustainable Development Goal 9.5, which encourages all countries to ‘enhance scientific research, upgrade the technological capabilities of industrial sectors … including, by 2030, encouraging innovation and substantially increasing the number of research and development workers per 1 million people and public and private research and development spending’.

When Prof. Ekmeleldin Ihsanoglu took the helm in 2005 as Secretary-General of the OIC, he encouraged member states to include a major component on STI in their Ten-Year Plan of Action to 2015. Owing to a lack of financial resources, interest among decision-makers in implementing the Plan of Action gradually dwindled, at least in the field of science and technology. In the higher education sector, however, a growing number of universities joined the ranks of the world’s top universities, including several from Malaysia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

The number of scientific publications catalogued in international journals also tripled. This was partly a result of the growing number of researchers and partly thanks to pro-active policies designed to attract foreign experts to OIC campuses or, indeed, persuade highly cited international researchers to adopt an OIC-based university for their second affiliation. Despite these positive trends, OIC countries generally still lag behind other fast-developing nations.

The OIC’s STI Agenda 2026 was drafted by COMSTECH and discussed at a number of meetings in Pakistan, as well as at the OIC Secretariat in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia). It is an ambitious document that is perhaps less utilitarian than it ought to be. It places great emphasis on mechanisms for building collective competence in a wide array of areas ranging from water, food and agriculture to energy, the basic and applied sciences, along with large multinational projects, in addition to strengthening international linkages with the best in the world. Recommendations and targets in this document are aspirational rather than prescriptive, with each government setting its own list of national targets to reflect its particular circumstances and ambitions.

The OIC STI Agenda 2026 will remain a stand-alone silo, unless a core group of countries commit to pursuing its ambitious recommendations and, ‘critically,’ allocate the financial means needed to realize its exciting ideas.

1 Ministry of Higher Education (2013) Actual Expenditure on Scientific Research and Development in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the fiscal year 1434/1435 H (in Arabic). Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Ministry of Higher Education, Secretariat for Planning and Information, General Directorate for Planning.

Source: Moneef Zou’bi and Susan Schneegans, with excerpts from the UNESCO Science Report: towards 2030 (2015). See in particular the chapters on the Arab States, Malaysia, West Africa, Central and East Africa, Central Asia, the countries around the Black Sea basin and the Caricom countries (for Suriname and Guyana)

Categories: News

Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage opens its session in Jeju

Unesco Most Programme - Sun, 12/03/2017 - 20:01
03 December 2017

Jeju (Republic of Korea), 03 December—The Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage opened its 12th session in Jeju today with a ceremony featuring Korean performances like the traditional Arirang song.

“A great deal has been achieved under the 2003 Convention since its entry into force in 2006. It is important to remember that the life of the Convention is far from being static. On the contrary; this is a Convention that grows continuously, constantly adapting to the changing needs of the international community. And it is thanks to this adaptability that it remains so relevant today”, said Francesco Bandarin, Assistant Director-General for Culture of UNESCO, after recalling that the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage has enjoyed the most rapid rate of ratification of any cultural convention, “since we have today 175 States Parties”.

“Intangible cultural heritage is among humanity’s most precious expressions, precisely because it goes to the very heart of how we understand the world, each other and ourselves. […] It is also people-based, it can only be defined and safeguarded by communities that practice it. In line with such a vision, the 2003 Convention is rooted in the understanding of intangible cultural heritage as something living, dynamic and as an ever-changing source of knowledge and something that can be at once traditional and innovative”, said H.E. Byong-hyun Lee, Chairperson of UNESCO’s Executive Board, who also chairs the 12thsession of the  Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.

“As the 2003 Convention articulates, intangible cultural heritage is a bridge that links between our past and future, and it symbolizes the identity and self-esteem of communities involved”, stressed Kim Jong-Jin, who heads the Cultural Heritage Administration of the Republic of Korea, when recalling the long-term commitment of his country to the 2003 Convention.

During its session, which will end on 9 December, the Committee will examine the periodic reports submitted by 11 States Parties to the Convention regarding legal, regulatory or other measures taken to safeguard intangible cultural heritage in their countries.  Other topics to be discussed include intangible cultural heritage in situations of emergency, the impact of the Convention and the allocation of resources from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund.

The Committee will consider six nominations for inclusion on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding designed to rally international cooperation and assistance for threatened cultural expressions.  Thirty-four nominations for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity will also be examined alongside two proposals for the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices and two International Assistance Requests for safeguarding plans or inventories.

Forty-seven elements have been inscribed on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding to date in 26 countries. The Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity numbers 365 elements in 108 countries. Seventeen programmes are featured on the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices.

Intangible cultural heritage encompasses practices and living expressions handed down from one generation to another.  It includes oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe as well as the knowledge and skills of traditional crafts. 

The Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage numbers 24 representatives of States Parties to the Convention, elected for a four-year term.  It meets once a year.

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The Committee is meeting at the International Convention Centre (IC Jeju), Jeju Province, Republic of Korea

For more information and live webcast: https://ich.unesco.org/en/12com

Press resources: https://ich.unesco.org/en/12com-press

Media contacts:

Lucía Iglesias Kuntz, UNESCO press service, l.iglesias@unesco.org.  +33 (0) 6 80 24 07 29 or +82 (0)10 55 26 37 52.

Agnès Bardon, UNESCO press service, a.bardon@unesco.org. +33 (0) 6 80 24 13 56.

Follow the meeting on Twitter: @unesco, #IntangibleHeritage #12COM

Categories: News

Ocean Literacy for All, a manual for change in a changing blue planet

Unesco Most Programme - Fri, 12/01/2017 - 20:14
infocus_olconf_drupal.jpg © leungchopan

At the invitation of UNESCO and its Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, high-level world experts will gather on 4-5 December 2017 in Venice, Italy, to define a roadmap to advance ocean literacy at a global scale. At this occasion, UNESCO will release “Ocean Literacy for All. A toolkit”, a publication highlighting ocean literacy activities around the world and bringing together experiences from a variety of stakeholders who promote ocean literacy as a major tool for sustainable development in classrooms, boardrooms and governmental institutions.

Most of us live our lives unaware of how our day-to-day actions affect the health of the ocean, its sustainability and its many resources on which we depend. The ocean is Earth’s life support. “Far and away, the greatest threat to the ocean, and thus to ourselves, is ignorance”, as declared by Sylvia Earle, President of Mission Blue. The ‘ocean blindness’ can be countered by improving access to accurate and compelling ocean education that strengthens the learner’s connection with the ocean. This is the essence of ocean literacy: an understanding of the ocean’s influence on us and our influence on the ocean.

“Ocean Literacy for All. A toolkit”, the two-volume manual produced by UNESCO’s Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe (Venice, Italy) and Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) is the result of joint work and contributions by members of the global partnership led by IOC. It builds on the “Ocean Literacy for All” initiative, an IOC voluntary commitment to the UN Ocean Conference (New York, June 2017), as well as the Call for Action issued at the end of the Conference, which calls on all stakeholders to “support plans to foster ocean-related education […] to promote ocean literacy”.

The publication provides educators and learners worldwide innovative tools, methods and resources to understand the complex ocean processes and functions and, as well, to alert them on the most urgent ocean issues. It presents the essential scientific principles and information needed to understand the cause-effect relationship between individual and collective behaviour, and the impacts that threaten the ocean health. Trust is that it will inspire citizens, scientists, educators and learners to take greater personal responsibility for the ocean, as well as work through partnerships and networks, sharing ideas and experiences and developing new approaches and initiatives in support of ocean literacy.

As the marine environment takes centre-stage in the pursuit of sustainable development, today more than ever, it is crucial to ensure that citizens and policy-makers are well equipped in their knowledge of how human and ocean well-being are tightly connected. As there can be no sustainable future without a healthy ocean, Ocean Literacy is key to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is at the top of UNESCO and IOC’s agenda.

In this context, IOC is organizing an International Ocean Literacy Conference, a two-day event hosted in Venice by the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe with the financial support of the Swedish Government. This event is the first step in a collaborative process to put together initiatives worldwide toward shaping a global framework for ocean literacy, and to invite all relevant stakeholders to converge around a coherent approach to Ocean Literacy.

The conference will address topics covered by the Ocean Literacy for All voluntary commitment and, with a participatory approach, design a roadmap on Ocean Literacy for the next 3 years, in preparation for the next UN Ocean Conference. Ways by which the initiative will best support Sustainable Development Goal 14 on the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean, seas and marine resources will be debated, as well as means to develop in tune with the International Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030): The Ocean We Need for the Future We Want.

The conference will have an international focus and gather for the first time over 100 participants from 30 countries covering all regions (Europe, Africa, North and South America and Asia). A wide variety of speakers – educators, scientists, activists, journalists, contemporary art curators and foundations – will join in. Research, art and communication working together for the ocean will be essential in the Ocean Literacy process. Good practices in formal and non-formal education as well as examples of successful public-private partnerships will be presented to create the basis for an exchange amongst the participants.

The event, which counts on a strong high level commitment, will be honoured by the presence of Gesine Meissner, Member of the European Parliament; Peter Thomson, UN Special Envoy for the Ocean; Vladimir Ryabinin, IOC Executive Secretary; Barbara Degani, Vice-Minister of the Environment and Protection of Land and Sea of Italy; and Francesca von Habsburg, founder of Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary.

Building on existing national, regional and international ocean education initiatives, the “Ocean Literacy for All” initiative aims at developing a plan to foster ocean awareness and ocean literacy education in all segments of society. Ocean Literacy stands as a global strategy that can bring about change through an improved public knowledge base across the world’s population regarding our global ocean and the close links between ocean and our well-being.

Categories: News

La protection du patrimoine, la réforme de l’ONU et l’Agenda 2030 au cœur de la mission de la Directrice générale aux Nations Unies à New York

Unesco Most Programme - Fri, 12/01/2017 - 17:22
01 December 2017

Le 30 novembre 2017, lors de sa mission au Siège des Nations Unies à New York, la Directrice générale de l’UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, a rencontré le Secrétaire général de l'ONU, Antonio Guterres, la Vice-Secrétaire générale, Amina Mohammed, et l'Administrateur du Programme de développement des Nations Unies (PNUD), Achim Steiner.

Cette visite a été l’occasion pour la Directrice générale de s’adresser au Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU sur la protection du patrimoine dans les cas de conflits suite à l’adoption de la résolution 2347 le 24 mars 2017 et de présenter le rapport du Secrétaire général sur sa mise en œuvre, préparé sous la coordination de l’UNESCO.

Lors de ces entretiens, la Directrice générale a exprimé l’engagement de l’UNESCO en faveur de la réforme du système des Nations Unies pour le rendre plus cohérent, plus efficace et plus adapté aux enjeux d’aujourd’hui, en particulier dans les domaines des compétences de l’UNESCO, en vue d’aider aux Etats membres à atteindre les objectifs de l’Agenda 2030. Elle a souligné la complémentarité de cette réforme avec celle entreprise à l’UNESCO.

Soulignant que l’UNESCO contribue directement à neuf des 17 Objectifs du Développement Durable, en particulier pour l’ODD 4 sur l’éducation, la Directrice générale a mis l’accent sur la pertinence du rôle et des programmes de l'UNESCO, et l’importance de son implication dans les mécanismes de développement coordonnés par l'ONU.

Categories: News

International Scientific Committee of Volume IX of the General History of Africa meets in China

Unesco Most Programme - Fri, 12/01/2017 - 15:34
infocus_masai_warrior.jpg © Shutterstock.com / jo Crebbin

In partnership with the University of Xiamen, UNESCO will hold the sixth meeting of the International Scientific Committee for the Development of Volume IX of the General History of Africa (GHA) in Xiamen, China, from 4 to 9 December 2017.

The main purpose of this meeting, the first on the Asian continent, is to review and validate the latest contributions from the authors and to finalize the Volume IX manuscript of the GHA.

This meeting will also provide an opportunity for Committee members to interact with researchers, artists, representatives of civil society and Chinese journalists.

This will be an opportunity to present the perspectives introduced by this volume echoing with the ancient and contemporary history of China.

The three themes discussed at this meeting will be:

  • China-Africa relations: a historical perspective
  • Decolonizing the future of China-Africa relations
  • The future of Africa: new challenges and opportunities

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UNESCO initiated the development of the General History of Africa in 1964 to address widespread ignorance about Africa's past. The main challenge was to reconstruct a history of Africa liberated from racial prejudices inherited from the slave trade and colonization and to favor an African perspective.

Since then, eight volumes of the General History of Africa have been published. This colossal work has had a great impact in Africa and beyond, in scientific and academic circles. It is considered a major contribution to the knowledge of African history and historiography.

In 2013, UNESCO initiated the development of Volume IX, with the support of the Government of Brazil and the South African telecommunication company MTN.

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Categories: News

Empowering African researchers to address local challenges

Unesco Most Programme - Fri, 12/01/2017 - 14:53
focus_women_science_africa_shutterstock_156867677.jpg © Shutterstock.com 01 December 2017

Building local capacities for research in life science is essential to ensure the sustainable development of Africa, where the burden of disease is high and the level of research and development is extremely low. The third UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit brought together government representatives and researchers from across Africa to contribute to building capacity in the African research community. This third edition focused on “the role of scientific research in responding to cancer and vaccines development - two emerging challenges in Africa”. Held under the patronage of the President of the Republic of Mauritius, Ms Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, the Summit counted with the participation of 15 African Ministers of Science and Technology, Health, Education, Gender and Social Development. 

We are very happy to partner with the UNESCO and the Merck Foundation to empower women and youth in STEM” said President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim in her opening remarks. “The UNESCO – Merck Africa Research Summit is a valuable opportunity for all those engaged and interested in life science and health research in Africa to learn about the full spectrum of ground-breaking scientific research currently underway, and prepare the road ahead in Africa’s development as an international hub for research and scientific innovation.”

Two ministerial high-level panels focused on challenges and solutions to be considered in the national strategies for scientific research in the life sciences in developing countries.  “While there is no stand-alone goal on science, there is not a single Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) in the new agenda that will not require inputs from natural scientists and engineers” said UNESCO Deputy Director General, Getachew Engida. “Indeed, for it to succeed, the implementation of the new development agenda needs to be based on an integrated scientific approach… An approach that requires overcoming disciplinary boundaries and engaging in a multi-sectoral interdisciplinary approach.” He also highlighted the programmes through which the Organisation supports the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA-2024).

Speaking on Merck Foundation’s work for research capacity building in Africa, Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of Board of Trustees of the Merck Foundation emphasized their support of African women and youth in scientific research through providing them with training opportunities with special focus on cancer research and vaccine development.

This year’s edition of the summit placed a greater emphasis on empowering women and youth in STEM research, with 100 young researchers receiving support to participate. Over the past three years, the Summit has generated positive externalities, such as fellowships with partner institutions, awsards for young researchers, or publications in academic journals, including a book with the African Union and a collection of about 100 researcher’s proceedings. Furthermore, the event has fostered workshops in mentoring to empower girls, women and youth in research and in communication and networking. In the three years since the first edition, UNESCO-MARS has sponsored and contributed to skills’ development of around 600 researchers from Africa, in order to support the future generation of scientists and investigators of the African continent. 

The main partners of this Summit are the African Union, the World Health Organisation, the University of Cambridge UK and the Government of Mauritius. UNESCO–MARS 2017 brings together African researchers to discuss the generation, sharing and dissemination of research data and to prepare for the road ahead in developing Africa as an international hub for research excellence and scientific innovation. These include researchers from Francophone countries such as Benin, Senegal, Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Congo, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burkina Faso, and Anglophone countries such as Kenya, Mauritius, South Africa, Ghana, Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan, Egypt, South Sudan and Ethiopia.

 

Categories: News

Making the Rights Based Approach a reality

Europaid - Fri, 12/01/2017 - 14:00
Categories: News

Use Internet Universality to assess cyberlaws

Unesco Most Programme - Fri, 12/01/2017 - 13:36
news_011217_vietnam.jpg © UNESCO 01 December 2017Following the first Vietnam Internet Forum hosted by Sweden and the government of Vietnam in Hanoi this week, a number of speakers were invited to dialogue with members of the country’s ruling party at its “party school”.

UNESCO’s director for freedom of expression and media development, Guy Berger, presented the Organisation’s Internet Universality concept, and highlighted the relevance of the four related guiding principles for national law and policy.

“These principles of Rights, Openness, Accessibility and Multistakeholder participation give us criteria to strengthen the Internet’s potential for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) – especially the specified target for ensuring public access to information and fundamental freedoms”, he said.

Asked by a participant about Vietnam’s cybersecurity law development, Berger said the terms could be assessed in terms of any impact on rights, openness, and accessibility, and that the process could be especially enriched by multistakeholder dialogue with affected stakeholders.

Highlighting the value of dialogue, Berger earlier gave the example of varying interests on issues such as encryption. “The interests of law enforcement may be against encryption, but the interests of commerce would be that encryption protects against e-fraud,” he stated.  The views of consumers and academics on the topic were also important to tap, in order for the wisest decisions to emerge.

Decisions on cyber laws that could limit human rights needed to take account of necessity and proportionality, Berger underlined. “People need to trust that their rights will be respected online, else they will withdraw from using the Internet,” he argued. The impact of cyber laws on openness and accessibility needed also to be taken into account.

During the engagement, some discussion referred to the metaphor of the Internet as a table that provided a feast. A concern was expressed that passers-by might not know which “food” on the table was toxic.  Responding, Berger acknowledged problems such as online incitement to violence which needed to be addressed. At the same time, he added, “over history, humanity had learnt to avoid dangerous food, and our eating perspective today can be mainly focused on the pleasures of tasting many different options without risk.

“In the same way,” he continued, “we need extensive education in media and information literacy so that the public can also be empowered in regard to their consumption online”.

The UNESCO director concluded by noting that UNESCO is developing indicators that can help each Member State to assess the Internet from the point of view of the Internet Universality principles, and this scientific research tool might of value of Vietnam using the Internet in sustainable development.

Categories: News

AfriAlliance

Europaid - Fri, 12/01/2017 - 12:08
Categories: News

UN Security Council Highlights the Role of Cultural Heritage for Peace and Security

Unesco Most Programme - Thu, 11/30/2017 - 19:15
dg-aa-unsc-drupal.jpg © UN Photo/Rick Bajornas 30 November 2017

United Nations, 30 November – The first Report on the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2347 on the protection of cultural heritage, launched today at the UN in New York, highlights the importance of strengthening the implementation of the Resolution, which links the protection of cultural heritage with the maintenance of international peace and security. The Report explores a number of good practices shared by 29 Member States and presents a series of recommendations to strengthen heritage protection, awareness raising, data collection and training peacekeepers, with a view to better integrate cultural issues in future peacekeeping missions.

“This Report shows that Resolution 2347 has already resulted in the adoption of strong regulations and growing efforts to document, preserve and safeguard cultural heritage at risk. I am encouraged by Member States’ strong actions to implement this Resolution.” said UNESCO Director-General, Audrey Azoulay. “I wish to reaffirm UNESCO’s determination to implement this resolution, in cooperation with all our partners, building on the force of heritage to promote social cohesion, belonging and peace for all peoples in times of conflict.”

Mr. Vladimir Voronkov, Under Secretary-General of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Office, presented the Report to members of the UN Security Council during the public briefing on “Maintenance of international peace and security: Destruction and trafficking of cultural heritage by terrorist groups and in situations of armed conflict”.

The Resolution and the Report also encourage all Member States that have not yet done so to consider ratifying the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its Protocols, as well as the UNESCO 1970 Convention against illicit trafficking of cultural property and other relevant international conventions.

UN Security Council Resolution 2347 was unanimously adopted in March 2017. It is the first Resolution to focus exclusively on cultural heritage, it welcomes the central role played by UNESCO in protecting cultural heritage and promoting culture as an instrument to bring people together and foster dialogue. This first Report was prepared under the leadership of UNESCO in cooperation with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, among others.

Categories: News

Getting the message across on climate change

Unesco Most Programme - Thu, 11/30/2017 - 17:19
772939da1b.jpg

Group Photo of Climate Change Representatives

© UNESCO 30 November 2017The role of the media in getting accurate information across to the public is highlighted in the regional conference “Getting the Message Across: Better Journalistic Reporting on Climate Change and Sustainable Development” which took place in Kuala Lumpur from 8-10 November.

The conference was jointly organized by UNESCO Office in Jakarta, the University Nottingham Malaysia Campus and the Universiti Sains Malaysia with the support from the Malaysia-UNESCO Cooperation Programme (MUCP).

Journalists from print, radio, television, and multimedia media platforms who report on climate change issues, climate modeling scientist, environmental policy experts, science communicators, and academic participated in the event which included a public presentation on first day of the event and an expert round-table discussion on the following days.

Dr. Joanne Lim, the Head of the School of Media, Languages, and Cultures of the University Nottingham Malaysia Campus welcomed the participants in her remarks. This was followed by an opening speech by Dr. Shahbaz Khan, Director and Representative of UNESCO Office in Jakarta.

“Media plays an important part in the understanding of issue as complex as climate change. It has the difficult task of bringing information from a wide-ranging disciplines that work on climate change issues to the audience. At the same time, it needs to present stories that both shows the urgency of the situation but also stories that are positive and inspires solutions” said Dr. Khan.

The event served several purposes. It was simultaneously a public awareness and networking event for climate change journalists and experts in the Asia and the Pacific region as well as a purposively designed public talk that generate educational content for journalism schools around the region that are building up their curriculum on climate change reporting.

Ten speakers, consisting five women and five men, from the Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Nepal, China, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji were invited to present ten public talks that were recorded and will be uploaded  online as open access educational videos that can be freely used by anyone who wish to learn more about reporting on climate change.

The conference also included a two-day expert roundtable to review the draft of the “Getting Message Across: A Guidebook for Journalist Reporting on Climate Change and Sustainable Development in Asia Pacific” which is based on the 2013 publication “Climate Change in Africa: A guidebook for journalists”.

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UNESCO releases new research on youth and violent extremism on social media

Unesco Most Programme - Thu, 11/30/2017 - 16:47
news_301117_youth_extremism.png © UNESCO 30 November 2017Does social media lead vulnerable individuals to resort to violence? Many people believe it does. And they respond with online censorship, surveillance and counter-speech. But what do we really know about the Internet as a cause, and what do we know about the impact of these reactions?

Violent extremism is becoming a major challenge for many societies today and is threatening the security and fundamental rights of citizens all over the world. Violent extremism is an affront to the principles of the United Nations, embodied in universal human rights and fundamental freedoms. With a mandate to foster cooperation and solidarity through communication and information, UNESCO supports its Member States and civil society actors in responding to extremism and radicalization on the Internet.

All over the world, governments and Internet companies are making reactive decisions on the basis of assumptions about the causes and remedies to violent attacks. The challenge is for analysis and responses to be firmly grounded. The need is for policy constructed on the basis of facts and evidence, and not founded on hunches or driven by panic and fearmongering.

It is in this context that UNESCO releases the study titled Youth and violent extremism on social media. This work provides a global mapping of research (mainly during 2012-16) into the assumed roles played by social media in violent radicalization processes, especially as they affect youth and women across all the regions of the world.

Reviewing more than 550 published studies from scientific and “grey literature” covering titles in English, French, Arabic and Chinese languages, the research finds that violent extremists are indeed heavily spread throughout the Internet and that there is a growing body of knowledge about how terrorists use cyberspace. Less clear, however; is the impact of this use, and even more opaque is the extent to which counter-measures are effective.

The study concludes that research on the subject is still at a budding stage, and it urges caution about the results and interpretations. The literature reviewed in the study provides no definitive evidence on a direct link between the specificities of social media and violent radicalization outcomes on youth. Likewise, there is no definitive evidence about the impact of counter-measures.  Nevertheless, as a whole, the literature does point towards some possible understandings. Indeed, rather than being initiators or causes of violent behaviors, the Internet and social media specifically can be facilitators within wider processes of violent radicalization. The literature shows that violent extremists use characteristics of social media to attract younger audiences, to disseminate extremist, violent and criminal content, to identify potential participants, and foster one-on-one dialogue with young people. However, as pointed out by this study, actual violent radicalization is not reducible to Internet exposure, but generally entails the mediation of several complex processes, including complex social-psychological processes and person-to-person communication in conjunction with other offline factors.

A major output of the study is a 16-point recommendation list for Member States, the private sector, Internet intermediaries, social media, civil society, and Internet users. It recommends for instance that those actors could consider to encourage the participation of youth in decision-making processes, deepen engagement between Member States, civil society organizations and local communities, promote Media and Information Literacy (MIL) strategies, support research on the subject, ensure professional and conflict-sensitive journalistic coverage, manage expressions of hate online without compromising rights to freedom of expression, or educate Internet users about ethical online behavior and privacy issues.

The research was conducted for UNESCO by independent experts Séraphin Alava, Divina Frau-Meigs, Ghayda Hassan (with the collaboration of Hasna Hussein and Yuanyuan Wei) and will be promoted and launched at various UNESCO events. It was prepared with the support of the Information for All Programme (IFAP) of UNESCO.

The full publication is available in English here.

A summary information brochure is also available in English, French, and Arabic.

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