Gretchen Kalonji UNESCO, France
I am going to offer you a very brief overview of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). I will give some examples of current activities that have to do with the challenges of data access and sharing, particularly in the developing world, and then proceed with some ideas about new opportunities and new directions that we might pursue in hopes of getting feedback from you and even perhaps forging new collaborations.
UNESCO was founded in 1949, and has an extraordinarily broad mandate covering education, science, and culture; communications and information; and ethics and philosophy. Such a broad mandate could be seen as a disadvantage, but within the context of the challenges that we are addressing at this meeting today, I hope to show you why this mandate may in fact be a very useful thing.
The organization has some strong existing programs within the natural sciences sector, in particular, the well-known Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and the International Hydrological Program. Both have been around for 50 or so years. We also have the ecological sciences with the Man and the Biosphere Program and the International Geosciences Program. What is perhaps less well known is our strong focus on indigenous knowledge and science policy. Science policy is one of our largest areas.
We are headquartered in Paris, but have science offices in Jakarta, Nairobi, Montevideo, Venice, and Cairo. We have science officers in about 53 UNESCO offices around the world. It is a strong, geographically distributed network with people on the ground actually working on projects.
UNESCO has a number of affiliated institutions, including our Category One Centers. The best known to this community is probably the International Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, but we also have an international hydrological education program in Delft, which is the world’s largest postgraduate freshwater program, with 80 percent of the students coming from the developing world. The Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, TWAS, is also a UNESCO institution.
UNESCO also has what are called Category Two Centers, which are affiliated research centers established by our member states within a particular country and funded by that country. The country agrees that they will take on an international responsibility for a particular topic (e.g., water-based disasters, including one in Japan called ICHARM [International Center for Water Hazard]). We have about 22 of those in the sciences. Most are in water, and there are four new ones being established in Africa. Lastly, we have UNESCO Chairs around the world, which are appointed in a competitive process, and they are another wonderful resource for UNESCO.
One of the things that we have that is particularly important for the challenges we are discussing today are the extraordinary and very well-known World Heritage sites. They are designated for either cultural value, natural value, or both. In addition to the World Heritage sites, we have the biosphere reserves and the newly emerging geoparks, which are very popular in some countries, particularly China. Those are areas where a combination of research and education and community economic development can take place in an integrated manner.
We also have a network of affiliated partners. CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research,1