The Director-General paid tribute to Eduardo Portela, former Deputy Director-General of UNESCO and President of the 29th session of the General Conference of the Organization, who disappeared on Tuesday, 2 May 2017. Essayist, professor and Brazilian politician, member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters, Eduardo Portella also coordinated the project "Pathways to thought" for UNESCO and chaired the "International Fund for the Promotion of Culture" between 1999 and 2007.
"Eduardo Portella firmly believed in the power of words and culture to build peace, to put forward the ideal of tolerance. A leading intellectual figure, he facilitated UNESCO's debates and made of critical thinking a tool for dialogue and rapprochement, in Brazilian society and across the world. On behalf of UNESCO, I extend our sincere condolences to the Government and people of Brazil, to his family and friends", said the Director-General.
UNESCO’s flagship World Press Freedom Day event, held in the Indonesian capital this year, brought together an unprecedented 1,500 participants to celebrate the fundamental right of an independent, pluralistic and free press from 1 to 4 May.
Organized by UNESCO in partnership with the Government of Indonesia and the Indonesian Press Council, the celebration highlighted the role of the media in advancing peaceful, just, and inclusive societies. It was opened by the Vice-President of Indonesia, Mohammad Jusuf Kalla, who encouraged media to contribute to fostering peace and development, reflect people’s views, and remain critical of governments to ensure good governance
The conference drew the participation 1,000 stakeholders from Indonesia and 500 from 90 countries from all parts of the world, who examined the challenges facing media around the world. The participants included media practitioners, experts, press freedom advocates, and academics, as well as government representatives.
"We meet today in Jakarta to celebrate a freedom at the heart of all freedoms.", said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, at the opening ceremony, which was also attended by José Ramos-Horta, former President of Timor-Leste and 1996 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and Richard Gingras, Vice President of News at Google who spoke of the need to build trust in the open web through news.
The conference focused on the theme Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media's role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies. It addressed a wide range of issues such as fake news, safety of journalists, gender equality and countering violent extremism.
One plenary session highlighted the contribution of journalism to sustainable development and the role of journalists as the guardians of democracy. "It is better to have journalists that are loose cannons than not having a free media at all," said former Timor-Leste President Ramos-Horta, key speaker during this session.
Investigative journalism was at the heart of discussions in the second plenary, which was opened by Oscar Cantu, owner of Norte, the newspaper from the city of Juarez, Mexico, that was forced to close down last month due to security concerns following the murder of one of its journalists. He described the closure of his paper as an act of protest and a wake-up call regarding safety. “I decided to lower the curtain because if we cannot be loyal to our integrity, giving the reader what we consider he or she must know, I cannot put at risk my collaborators, their families or my own”, he said.
In the evening of 3 May, the 2017 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize was awarded to Dawit Isaak, the imprisoned Eritrean-born journalist, in a ceremony held in the presence of the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, who spoke of the serious threats and challenges facing press freedom today. But the President stressed his confidence that, "we will overcome [these challenges], we have done it before and we shall do it again."
Accepting the prize on behalf of her father, Bethlehem Isaak said: “My father knew that without the basic establishment of human rights, freedom of speech, access to education and healthcare, no society could flourish, no nation could achieve stability, and no people could prosper. He wanted to give his people an environment where they could speak freely in mutual understanding and respect, and by peaceful means give people the right to determine their own destiny”.
At the close of the conference, participants adopted the Jakarta Declaration, which warns of three major challenges to press freedom: safety of journalists, false news and freedom of speech on the Internet.
Indonesia issued a special post stamp dedicated to World Press Freedom Day to mark the 1st time that it hosted the annual celebration. Four different media organizations, Al Jazeera, El País, Rappler and Inter Press Service invited experts from all over the world to write on press freedom challenges for their blogs and special issues developed specially for the occasion.
A group of 46 young journalists produced a special digital newspaper, Voice of Millennials, to cover World Press Freedom Day 2017 and its themes. Travelling from Algeria, Malaysia, Morocco, Palestine, United States and Finland, where last year’s World Press Freedom Day was organized, they worked together with local aspiring reporters to cover the international celebration of press freedom.
Cartoonists drew cartoons in real time to illustrate the discussions. Furthermore, a special selection of cartoons on press freedom was curated by UNESCO and Cartooning for Peace, an international organization founded by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and French editorial cartoonist Plantu.
The celebration of World Press Freedom Day 2017 drew the support of 35 civil society and media organizations. Alongside the main celebration, some 100 WPFD local events were organized around the world by UNESCO and a wide range of other organizations.
For more see: http://en.unesco.org/wpfd , follow #WPFD2017 and #PressFreedom.
Photo gallery: https://flic.kr/s/aHskYZyGvL
UNESCO, together with the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, will deliver the online course titled, International Legal Framework for Freedom of Expression, Access to Public Information and the Safety of Journalists from May 8th to 18th of June 2017.
This, third edition of the course has reached a record number of 2,200 accepted applicants in the form of magistrates, judges, prosecutors and members of the public fiscal ministries, public defenders and other operators from the Ibero-american region.
This massive open online course designed for judicial operators in the region offers in-depth knowledge the international standards for promoting and defending freedom of expression and correlated rights. It will also support the participants in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particularly SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. Lidia Brito, Director of UNESCO's Regional Office of Science for Latin America and the Caribbean said, "we want to encourage a broad regional debate on the protection and promotion of freedom of expression in the context of the Judiciary, especially at a time when many courts throughout the region are receiving more and more cases related to the violation of freedom of expression and associated rights".
Furthermore, and in line with rising trends of online shared knowledge platforms, the course offers the opportunity for judicial operators to interact with colleagues from throughout the region as well as strengthen their capacities and knowledge as key players in the protection and promotion of freedom of expression.
The significant increase in cases brought to the courts related to freedom of expression, access to public information and the safety of journalists presents judicial operators with new challenges. UNESCO Communications and Information Adviser, Guilherme Canela said, “the context in which freedom of expression placed in today is very different to that of 70 plus years ago, when it was inscribed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For instance, freedom of expression on the Internet or access to public information are 21st century challenges faced by todays judiciaries. Twenty years ago, only one country in Latin America and the Caribbean had an access to information law, today there are approx. 20 countries and regulatory frameworks to monitor them".
Judge Alba Alvizuris of Guatemala, who completed the course in 2016 said, "those who exercise jurisdiction must be the principle actors in defending all freedoms, especially freedom of expression and access to information. Therefore, the judiciaries are fundamental pillars of democratic societies and the International Legal Framework for Freedom of Expression, Access to Public Information and the Safety of Journalists course is a necessary tool for understanding international standards on human rights laws".
In the last 10 years, UNESCO documented 827 murders of journalists, media workers and social media producers. In the Latin American and Caribbean region there were 176 cases, accounting for 21% of all cases. Márcio Schiefler Fontes, Brazilian Judge of the National Human Rights Council of Brazil who completed the course in 2016, said "this online course was a great opportunity for me to review transcendental issues related to International Human Rights Laws, with a focus on Latin America and the Inter-American System for the Protection of Human Rights. Freedom of expression, is not of such high concern for most Latin American countries, nevertheless is extremely important. I recommend it to everyone".
Judge Elvira Sánchez Bardales, of Peru, who carried out the course in 2016, said "knowledge is fundamental when it comes to exercising the right to freedom of expression. Peru is a country in the process of constant democratization where in several moments freedom of expression has been violated. Also, the course has given me an insight into the importance of protecting journalists".
The methodology of the course follows the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin online training program, which was adapted by UNESCO and the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression to address freedom of expression, access to information and safety of journalists. In the previous editions, the course counted on the participation of 3,000 judicial operators in Latin America. It is supported by supported by the Ibero-American Judicial Summit, the Latin American Network for Schools of Judges, the Foundation for Press Freedom, the Swedish Government, the OAS and the University of the Andes.
The participants of this 3rd edition who are from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Venezuela, as well as participants from Puerto Rico are welcome to share their knowledge and ideas on freedom of expression, access to public information and the safety of journalists throughout the Ibero-American region.
On 4 May, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, met with the His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. The meeting took place in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The Director-General commended the longstanding cooperation between UNESCO and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and thanked the King for the opportunity to discuss issues of mutual interest. She commended the King for his efforts to lead peace and democracy in the Kingdom and for his reform efforts, in particular in the field of education, in the context of Vision 2030. “Culture and education are the tools to help the convergence of people around the same values," declared His Majesty.
Ms Bokova further underlined the commitment of the Kingdom to inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue, which is reflected in the establishment at UNESCO of the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Programme for Culture of Peace and Dialogue and the strong cooperation with the King Abdulaziz Centre for National Dialogue (KACND). She underscored that "the critical role of the Organization to respond to extremists who want to destroy the values of living together".
In this context, His Majesty highlighted that his objective is to "encourage interfaith dialogue and cooperation among people and will spare no effort so that interfaith values could spread".
The Director-General also expressed great satisfaction with regard to the cooperation with the Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Foundation (MiSK) and in particular for their hosting of the 7th International Forum of NGOs this week in Riyadh under the theme "Youth and their social Impact". It is the first time that the Kingdom hosts the UNESCO-NGO Forum, which showed a record attendance of some 2000 people representing 70 countries across continents.
The Director-General also referred to the active role of the Kingdom in supporting UNESCO’s efforts in education in countries in conflict, in particular in Jordan and Lebanon for Syrian refugees.
His Majesty reiterated his commitment to support UNESCO’s activities highlighting that "the mandate of the Organization is of interest to the entire world”. He also commended the leadership of the Director-General and assured her that "the Kingdom will continue to enhance its strategic cooperation".
The bilateral meeting was also attended by the newly appointed Permanent Delegate of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to UNESCO, Dr Ibrahim Al Balawi, as well as several dignitaries.
Three years in the making, a benchmark study titled Protecting Journalism Sources in the Digital Age has been launched by UNESCO.
Commissioned from the global newspaper association WAN-IFRA, it is the 9th in UNESCO’s Internet Freedom Series.
The study is authored by digital journalism trainer and Journalism Research Fellow at the University of Wollongong, Julie Posetti, and was made possible with the support of Sweden.
Timed to coincide with World Press Freedom Day conference in Jakarta, the publication was formally launched during a plenary session on investigative journalism on 4 May.
The study identifies new developments that impacted on the confidentiality of journalists’ sources between 2007 and 2015 - such as digital surveillance, data retention practices, device seizures and national security and anti-terrorism laws.
The result is that many existing laws to protect confidentiality are becoming outdated and risk becoming ineffective.
Caution is expressed in the book that without revisions to reverse erosions of confidentiality, the future of investigative journalism could come under threat – leaving many stories of corruption and abuse hidden from public view.
The study proposes an 11-point assessment tool for establishing the effectiveness of legal source protection frameworks.
Its findings are based on research by a 17-strong team that examined at 121 countries, analysed more than 130 survey responses, and conducted qualitative interviews with nearly 50 journalists and international experts.
Preliminary results of the research have already contributed to the 2015 UNESCO study Keystones to foster inclusive Knowledge Societies. Access to information and knowledge, Freedom of Expression, Privacy, and. Ethics on a Global Internet. An overview was initially published in 2015 as part of World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development – Special Digital Focus.
A multi-stakeholder meeting to discuss the creation of a new global campaign to address cyberbullying and create the framework for a healthy online space took place in London, 26-27 March 2017.
Children and adolescents across the world increasingly connect using electronic channels such as phones, Internet, social networking sites, apps and online games. The vast majority of the online experiences are positive, but unfortunately, some can be negative. Many of the negative behaviours that they can experience in the real world can also happen online. Examples of cyberbullying include mean, unwanted or embarrassing text messages, emails, pictures or videos, and could also take more subtle forms such as exclusion.
Young people are the most affected by online violence
A Microsoft research conducted in 2016 among adults and teenagers in 14 countries shows that 65% of the respondents had been victims of at least one online risk, especially of unwanted contact.
The survey clearly states that young people are more at risk to experience online violence than adults are. In fact, by having higher levels of online interactions they are more exposed to trolling (deliberately provocative messages on a newsgroup or message board to cause general disruption and argument), bullying and to suffer social and academic loss.
The research also provides gender-disaggregated data. It shows that while boys are more likely than girls to be at risk of digital incivility, girls had a greater propensity to lose trust both online and offline and suffer from health problems, such as stress and sleeping disorders.
Cyberbullying undermines the full achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal 4 on quality education
Traditional bullying and online bullying are closely connected, both denying equal access to education and acting against the provision of safe, non-violent and inclusive learning environments for all children and adolescents (UN Sustainable Development Goal 4 target 4.a).
The necessity for national education sector to get involved is clear. Evidence from one study shows that 62% of interviewed digital users did not know or were unsure about where to find help when cyberbullied.
Based on available evidence, participants who gathered in London to develop the new campaign to address cyberbullying agreed that the focus should be on children and young people. However, there is also a major opportunity to increase the engagement and support of adults, including parents, teachers, school administrators, youth leaders, coaches, health professionals and others.
A global campaign to address cyberbullying
The call for a global campaign to face this issue was first announced during the International Symposium on School Violence and Bullying. It was co-organized by UNESCO and the Institute of School Violence Prevention at Ewha Womens University in Seoul in January 2017, during which the UNESCO Global Status Report on School Violence and Bullying (SVB) was released.
The Global Cyberbullying Campaign, supported by the NGO ‘No Bully’, wants to engage creative collaboration, decentralized action, and to make available adaptable messages and materials, as well as to provide clear guidance to help drive transformative change. The participants that attended the London meeting came from around the world and included social media and other industry representatives, researchers, civil society partners, young people, ministry of education officials and UNESCO.
This promising initiative could link closely with UNESCO’s programme of work on school violence and bullying (SVB), as part of efforts to protect the health and well-being of young people from online bullying.
The campaign is currently under further development with a planned launch later in 2017.
Since 1994, the EU has signed international agreements for scientific and technological cooperation with 20 ‘third’ countries: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Egypt, India, Japan, Jordan, Rep. Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Russian Federation, South Africa, Tunisia, Ukraine and the USA. (1) The European Parliament noted in its 2015 briefing that ‘the science diplomacy aspect of this cooperation is emphasized at EU level to facilitate interactions with third countries, as well as to increase the EU's soft power’. (2)
The vehicles for this scientific cooperation are the successive seven-year framework programmes for research and innovation elaborated by the European Union for its member states and selected ‘third countries’. As the UNESCO Science Report (2015) recalls, ‘the current programme, Horizon 2020, is the bloc’s biggest ever, with a seven-year budget of close to €80 billion... Some 17% of the Horizon 2020 budget has been earmarked for basic research through the European Research Council and 39% for societal challenges, such as health, demographic change and well-being, climate action and secure, clean and efficient energy... The environment industry is one of the few economic sectors that has flourished in Europe since 2008’.
‘The European Union (EU) invites countries beyond the bloc to participate in its framework programmes for research and innovation, including developing countries’, observes the UNESCO Science Report. Some countries are associated with the programmes through a formal agreement. For Horizon 2020, this includes Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, Israel and countries at various stages of negotiations regarding their future accession to the EU, as in the case of several Southeast European countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia) and both Moldova and Turkey. As part of its Association Agreement concluded with the EU in 2014, Ukraine has also formally become a Horizon 2020 partner.
The EU is also collaborating with individual countries through long-term megascience projects. One example is the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) being built in in France by a consortium made up of China, the EU, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Russian Federation and USA. The experimental reactor will be powered by nuclear fusion, a technology which produces few pollutants. ITER is the flagship project of the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). The EU is financing its 45% share of the ITER construction costs, or €2.7 billion over the 2014-2020 period. The Russian government signed an agreement for co-operation with Euratom in 2001 in the field of controlled nuclear safety (2001) that is still in force.
The same, yet different
The EU’s relationship with its closest neighbours is characterized by the fact that all four members of the European Free Trade Association participate in the EU’s framework programmes but not on the same footing. Whereas Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway are fully associated partners in EU research programmes, meaning that they participate in the European Research Area on the same footing as the EU member states, Switzerland must negotiate a bilateral agreement with the EU for each framework programme. This is because Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway all signed the agreement creating the European Economic Area (EEA) but Switzerland could not, owing to the country’s rejection of the treaty in a referendum in November 1992.
‘Iceland and Norway were among the most successful countries per capita for the obtention of competitive research grants from the Seventh Framework Programme over 2007–2013’, notes the UNESCO Science Report, adding that ‘participation in EU activities is not free, of course. Besides paying a lump sum to each framework programme, Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway contribute to reducing socio-economic disparities in Europe, via a special programme administered autonomously by the European Economic Area Secretariat: the EEA/Norway grants programme. Between 2008 and 2014, these three countries invested € 1.8 billion in 150 programmes that had been defined jointly with 16 beneficiary countries in central and southern Europe. In relation to climate change, for instance, one of the programme’s priority themes, a joint project enabled Portugal to draw on the Icelandic experience to tap its geothermal potential in the Azores. Through another project, Innovation Norway and the Norwegian Water Resource and Energy Administration have helped Bulgaria to improve its energy efficiency and innovate in green industries.
The report explains that ‘Liechtenstein has decided to refrain from an association with Horizon 2020, in light of the small number of scientists from this country and its resultant low participation level in the two former programmes’.
Even though Switzerland was unable to sign the European Economic Area treaty, a bilateral agreement with the EU nevertheless allows Switzerland to take advantage of the main EU instruments in place, including the seven-year framework programmes for research and innovation. In return, Switzerland is expected to adhere to the four freedoms of the EU’s single market, the freedom of movement of goods, capital, people and services, as if it were a member of the European Economic Area. Switzerland is the most successful country per capita in the calls for research proposals issued by the European Research Council and one of its universities, the Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, is leading the Human Brain Project, one of the two flagship projects of the Future and Emerging Technologies programme of Horizon 2020, the other flagship being the Graphene Project.
Switzerland’s continued participation in Horizon 2020 was thrown into doubt, however, after the Swiss government informed the EU that it would be unable to give Croatian citizens unrestricted access to the Swiss job market, as this would have been incompatible with the outcome of the anti-immigration referendum in February 2014. The European Commission reacted by excluding Switzerland from research programmes potentially worth hundreds of millions of euros for its universities and suspended negotiations on Switzerland’s participation as a full member of Horizon 2020. The crisis was resolved after the Swiss parliament adopted a bill in December 2016 that gave priority to Swiss nationals and foreigners registered at Swiss job agencies but stopped short of introducing quotas on EU citizens.(4)
Countries eligible to submit research proposals
In addition to those countries with formal agreements, ‘a wider list of countries, including numerous developing ones, are in principle automatically eligible to submit research proposals through Horizon 2020 programmes’, explains the report. ‘Association with the EU’s framework programmes can represent a significant contribution to the partner country’s research volume and help it develop linkages with international networks of excellence’. For instance, Lebanon has participated in a platform linking Mediterranean observatories of science, technology and innovation, set up by the Mediterranean Science, Policy, Research and Innovation Gateway (Med-Spring) project within the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (2007–2013).
In turn, ‘the EU has derived substantial benefit from the scientific talent of countries from the former Soviet bloc and elsewhere (e.g. Israel) through its framework programmes’.
Russian researchers participating in Horizon 2020
Russian research centres and universities are participating in Horizon 2020 within international consortia, following fairly active participation in previous framework programmes. This co-operation is co-ordinated by a joint committee; in parallel, joint working groups have been set up to manage field-specific joint research calls that are cofinanced by the allied EU and Russian programmes. A roadmap for establishing the EU–Russia Common Space for Research and Education is also currently being implemented, involving, inter alia, the stepping up of collaboration in space research and technologies.
The Russian Federation participates in a number of European research centres, including the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in France and European X-ray Free Electron Laser in Germany. It is a major stakeholder in several international megascience projects, including the ongoing construction of the Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research in Germany and of ITER.
In 2014, a wide array of activities were set in motion as part of the Russian–EU Year of Science. These include the launch of joint projects such as Interact (Arctic research), Supra (next-generation pilot simulators), Diabimmune (diabetic and auto-immune illness prophylactics) and Hopsa/Apos (efficient supercomputing for science and industry).
Even at the height of tensions over Ukraine, in 2014, the Agreement on Co-operation in Science and Technology was renewed for another five years by the European Commission and the Russian government. However, economic sanctions imposed on the Russian Federation by the EU in 2014 are limiting co-operation in certain areas, such as dual-use military technologies, energy-related equipment and technologies, services related to deep-water exploration and Arctic or shale oil exploration. The sanctions may ultimately affect broader scientific co-operation.
China the EU’s biggest partner after the USA and Russian Federation
China has enjoyed extensive co-operation with the EU ever since the signing of the EU–China Science and Technology Agreement in 1999. Relations have deepened, in particular, since the creation of the EU–China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2003. During the Seventh Framework Programme, China was the EU’s third-largest partner country (after the USA and the Russian Federation) for the number of participating organizations (383) and collaborative research projects (274), particularly those focusing on health, environment, transportation, information and communication technologies and the bio-economy.
Co-operation with China is significant for qualitative reasons, as many projects focus on frontier technologies, such as clean and efficient carbon capture. In addition to facilitating a convergence of views between researchers of different backgrounds, this co-operation has had some positive spillovers to other regions in in complex cross-disciplinary areas, one example being the project for Advancing Universal Health Coverage in Asia over 2009–2013). The EU and China are also co-operating within Euratom via its fission programme and the construction of ITER.
The EU intends for China to remain an important partner of Horizon 2020, even though China is no longer eligible for funding from the European Commission, meaning that EU and Chinese participants will be expected to secure funding themselves for their joint project proposals. The initial work programme (2014–2015) under Horizon 2020 will most likely focus on food, agriculture and biotechnology; water; energy; ICTs; nanotechnology; space; and polar research. China’s co-operation with the Euratom Work Programme on topics related to fusion and fission is also expected to continue.
Israel: 20 years of association with EU science
Israel has been associated with the EU’s framework programmes on research and innovation since 1996. Between 2007 and 2013, Israeli public and private institutions contributed their scientific expertise to over 1 500 projects. Israel also participates in other EU programmes, such as those of the European Research Council. It was one of the ten founding members of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, back in 1974.
Israel has been a Scientific Associate of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility since 1999; the agreement was renewed in 2013 for a fourth term of five years and notably raised Israel’s contribution from 0.5% to 1.5% of ESRF’s budget.
Israel has been selected as one of the seven nodes of the European Strategy Forum of Research Infrastructure, which is establishing about 40 such nodes in total, seven of them in biomedical sciences. The aim of the biomedical Instruct is to provide pan-European users with access to state-of-the-art equipment, technologies and personnel in cellular structural biology, to enable Europe to maintain a competitive edge in this vital research area.
Israel is also one of the nodes of Elixir, which orchestrates the collection, quality control and archiving of large amounts of biological data produced by life science experiments in Europe. Some of these datasets are highly specialized and were previously only available to researchers within the country in which they were generated.
Biregional cooperation with economic blocs
In addition to bilateral agreements with individual countries, the EU also has arrangements for scientific cooperation with regional economic communities. For instance, the Southeast Asia–EU Network for Biregional Co-operation project (SEA–EU NET II) was funded by the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. This network spawned the launch of the annual ASEAN–European Union Science, Technology and Innovation Days in 2014, which are intended to reinforce dialogue and co-operation between these two regional bodies. A similar network has been launched in the Pacific, the Pacific–Europe Network for Science, Technology and Innovation (PACE-Net Plus.
One of the strategic goals of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) is to deepen ties with the European Commission in Brussels. BSEC was founded in 1992, shortly after the disintegration of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, in order to develop prosperity and security in the region. It comprises 12 members: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, the Russian Federation, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine.
BSEC has adopted three Action Plans on Cooperation in Science and Technology (2005-2009, 2010-2014 and 2014-2018). The second Action Plan was funded on a project basis, since the plan had no dedicated budget. Two key projects funded by the European Union got under way in 2008 and 2009, namely the Scientific and Technological International Cooperation Network for Eastern European and Central Asian Countries (IncoNet EECA) and the Networking on Science and Technology in the Black Sea Region project (BS-ERA-Net). BSEC’s second action plan targeted the development of physical and virtual multinational infrastructure by pooling the resources of BSEC member states, the networking of research institutes and universities in BSEC countries and their connection to the European gigabit.
BSEC's Third Action Plan on Science and Technology 2014-2018 acknowledges that considerable effort has been devoted to setting up a Black Sea Research Programme involving both BSEC and EU members but also that, ‘in a period of scarce public funding, the research projects the Project Development Fund could support will decrease and, as a result, its impact will be limited. Additional efforts are needed to find a solution for the replenishment of the Project Development Fund’.
Meanwhile, IncoNet CA was launched by the EU in September 2013 to encourage Central Asian countries to participate in research projects within Horizon 2020. The focus of the research projects is on three societal challenges considered as being of mutual interest to both the EU and Central Asia, namely: climate change, energy and health.
IncoNet CA builds on the experience of earlier EU projects which involved other regions, such as Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus and the Western Balkans. IncoNet CA focuses on twinning research facilities in Central Asia and Europe. It involves a consortium of partner institutions from Austria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Poland, Portugal, Tajikistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan. In May 2014, the EU launched a 24-month call for applications from twinned institutions – universities, companies and research institutes – for funding of up to € 10 000 to enable them to visit one another’s facilities to discuss project ideas or prepare joint events like workshops. The total budget within IncoNet CA amounts to € 85 000.
A drop in Africa’s participation in Horizon 2020
Initially framed within the Cotonou Agreement (2000) covering sub-Saharan, Caribbean and Pacific countries but excluding South Africa, the EU’s co-operation with Africa is increasingly being organized in partnership with Africa’s own frameworks for co-operation, in particular the African Union, as well as within the Joint Africa–EU Strategy adopted by African and European Heads of State at the Lisbon Summit in 2007.
The ERAfrica initiative (2010–2014) funded by the Seventh Framework Programme enabled European and African countries to launch joint calls for proposals in three thematic fields: Renewable Energy; Interfacing Challenges; and New Ideas; this has resulted in 17 collaborative research projects being backed by € 8.3 million. Meanwhile, the Network for the Coordination and Advancement of sub-Saharan Africa–EU Science and Technology Cooperation Plus (CAAST-Net Plus, 2013–2016) focuses on food security, climate change and health, with the participation of 26 research organizations across both continents.
South Africa is the only African country to participate in the EU’s Erawatch programme. One out of four of South Africa’s almost 1 000 applications to the Seventh Framework Programme for research project funding was successful, representing a total of more than € 735 million, according to the 2012 Erawatch report on South Africa.
African countries are expected to participate in Horizon 2020 through similar arrangements to those for the Seventh Framework Programme. By mid-2015, institutions from 16 African countries had reportedly obtained € 5 million from Horizon 2020 in the form of 37 individual grants, the majority of which are related to climate change and health research. However, as of late 2015, African involvement in Horizon 2020 was lower than for the Seventh Framework Programme. According to the EU, this primarily reflects the need to set up national contact points in more African countries and to increase their capacity through supportive EU projects.
Steps towards a common knowledge area with Latin America
Biregional scientific co-operation between the EU and Latin America and the Caribbean dates back to the early 1980s, when the former Commission of the European Communities and the Andean Group Secretariat signed an agreement for co-operation and established a joint commission to oversee its implementation. Later, Europe concluded similar agreements with the Central American countries and the Mercado del Sur (Mercosur).
The sixth summit between the EU and Latin America and the Caribbean in 2010 identified new pathways for biregional co-operation in the Madrid Declaration, which emphasized partnership in the areas of innovation and technology for sustainable development and social inclusion. The summit defined the long-term goal of achieving a common ‘knowledge area’ and agreed on a Joint Initiative for Research and Innovation.
Some 17 countries are participating in a key project within this initiative called ALCUE Net, which runs from 2013 to 2017. This project has established a joint platform for policy-makers, research institutions and the private sector from both regions in four thematic areas:
A second project with joint calls (ERANet LAC) is implementing projects in these four areas. Some € 11 million were available for the first call for project proposals (2014–2015) and a similar amount for the second call (2015–2016). The partners also carried out a foresight exercise in 2015 to build a common long-term vision for biregional co-operation.
Schemes supporting scientific mobility for non-EU researchers
Specific EU schemes support international mobility for researchers from beyond the bloc. The European Parliament’s brief explains that ‘a European Research Council grant is available to researchers, provided they spend at least half of the grant duration in the EU or an associated country’. Research and Innovation Staff Exchange scheme also promotes researcher mobility between member states and third countries.(1)
Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowships, which like the European Research Council, are currently financed through Horizon 2020, ‘are also open to individual researchers, regardless of their nationality, allowing them to conduct research projects in the EU and associated countries’, explains the brief. (1) Nearly 4 000 Chinese researchers received funding through the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions between 2007 and 2013, according to the UNESCO Science Report.
Source: adapted from UNESCO Science Report: towards 2030 (2015)
The creation of a global network of regional centers for blue carbon data and knowledge sharing has been announced as one of the main commitments of the first-ever UN Ocean Conference (5-9 June 2017). The regional centers will foster scientific collaboration around coastal wetland carbon.
Increasingly recognized for their importance in biological carbon sequestration and storage, coastal wetlands carbon stocks are increasingly exposed to human disturbances. Nearly a quarter of the world’s population lives within 100 km of the coast, a figure that is likely to increase to 50% by 2030. In addition, human activity in coastal wetlands emits CO2 equivalent to 3-19% of those from deforestation globally, resulting in economic damages of $6-42 billion.
The Blue Carbon Data and Knowledge Network will act as an international resource that meets the increasing need for data sharing among blue carbon stakeholders for purposes ranging from basic research to policy development and management. The Network is a joint commitment of the Blue Carbon Initiative (co-organized by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, Conservation International, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature), the Smithsonian Environmental Research Centre, and several other partners.
The initiative recognizes that the lack of access to comprehensive quality data and data-sharing tools limits current and future efforts related to the science, policy and management of coastal wetlands for carbon-based benefits. Implementing science-based management of coastal wetland systems requires high-quality data that supports the development, testing and validation of conceptual or predictive models.
The main goals of the Blue Carbon Data and Knowledge Network include:
- Creating a global network of Blue Carbon knowledge nodes that host quality controlled data on carbon characteristic of mangroves, seagrasses and tidal marshes
- Supporting a global network of scientists
- Accelerating learning across regions and globally
- Supporting the integration of blue carbon into local to national to international ocean and climate policy and management globally, including accelerating conservation and restoration of these ecosystems
The Blue Carbon Data and Knowledge Network’s activities and its coordinating organiztions, including UNESCO’s IOC over the next five years beyond the establishment of regional centers, include: workshops to get feedback on the data sharing system, the development of a platform for collecting and sharing data, and the launch of web-based analysis tools.
The Blue Carbon Data and Knowledge Nework has been put forth as an outcome of the United Nations Ocean Conference (5-9 June 2017) that will take place at the UN Headquarters in New York. All details about the initiative figure on The Ocean Conference Registry of Voluntary Commitments alongside other commitments undertaken by Governments, international organizations, civil society organizations, the private sector, scientific institutions and other stakeholders toward the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 – to conserve and sustainable use our ocean.
Please visit UNESCO’s UN Ocean Conference dedicated website for a comprehensive view of our side event programme, expected outcomes, and voluntary commitments.
For more information, please contact:
Julian Barbière (firstname.lastname@example.org), for information about UNESCO’s IOC in the Ocean Conference.