Cablegate: Role of U.S. National Commission for Unesco

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

Summary: The role of the U.S. National Commission is to
support the work of the U.S. Mission to UNESCO by drawing on
the experience and expertise of its Commissioners and
mobilizing the resources of US civil society. To that end,
the National Commission should, in consultation with the
Mission and IO, develop a work plan that will advance the
goals and priorities established by the USG for UNESCO. The
Commission will have five committees that parallel the five
sectors of UNESCO. Each of the committees should identify
projects that will reinforce the work of the corresponding
sector at UNESCO or of UNESCO as a whole. The Commission
should also give advice to the US Mission on personnel
issues, as well as provide strategic advice for the on-going
negotiations on UNESCO's Convention on the Protection of
Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions and the
Declaration on Bioethics.

End Summary

1. The US National Commission for UNESCO will hold its
first annual meeting in Washington DC on June 6/7. At that
time the Executive Director of the Commission should propose
a plan of action for the members of the Commission. The
plan should consist of possible projects for each of the
five committees of the Commission that would reinforce the
work of the US Mission by utilizing the substantive
knowledge and strategic expertise of the commissioners. The
following are suggestions for appropriate activities.

2. The Education Committee could contact universities
around the country to inform them about UNESCO's University
Chair Program and the UNITWIN Program. These programs
encourage universities to develop initiatives that promote
research and networking in areas that come within UNESCO's
mandate. Since these are programs for which the National
Commission has direct responsibility, the Committee should
be proactive in its approach. It should generate high
quality applications that adhere to the criteria already
established by the Commission. When applications arrive at
the National Commission, the Committee should review the
applications and make preliminary choices on which ones
deserve to be sent on to UNESCO for final decisions.

3. The Education Committee could also focus on helping to
advance the goals of the UN's Education For All initiative
(EFA), particularly in the area of teacher training in
Africa and post-conflict countries. Many countries at
UNESCO consider teacher training to be one of their top
priorities. The Committee could do research on effective
teacher training programs, especially in the area of
literacy and non-formal education. It could work with ECA
and the NEH on possible teacher exchanges or modeling
programs. It could help determine those characteristics
that are common to all quality teacher-training programs,
and those that are culture-specific. Since Mrs. Bush is the
Honorary Ambassador for the UN's Decade of Literacy, it
would be appropriate to put a particular emphasis on the
problem of illiteracy.

4. The Culture Committee could help reinforce UNESCO's new
program on endangered movable objects. This program,
initially funded by the USG, focuses on building capacity in
museums in developing and post-conflict countries in areas
such as inventory creation, object identification and
preservation, display techniques, and museum administration.
The Committee could organize a meeting or conference for
museum professionals to discuss this program and examine
ways for them to share their expertise in these areas. This
might include identifying museums interested in partnering
with museums in developing and post-conflict countries, and
discussing the possible establishment of an information-
sharing portal at UNESCO.

5. The Culture Committee could also strengthen UNESCO's
World Heritage Program by providing expertise for the
development of effective conservation and management plans
for heritage sites in the developing world. As one of
UNESCO's flagship programs, the World Heritage Program needs
to maintain a reputation for high quality. Given the USG's
interest in cultural and natural preservation, both
nationally and internationally, it is appropriate to help
this program deal with its current problems and challenges
by getting actively involved with it.

6. The Culture Committee could also provide valuable
cultural expertise and policy advice to the US Mission for
developing effective negotiating and public relation
strategies that would promote USG interests in the proposed
Convention on the Protection of Cultural Contents and
Artistic Expressions. The most recent version of the
proposed Convention, which would be a binding treaty for the
USG, lacks clarity and contains elements that are
unacceptable to the USG. The committee could also review
small grant funding proposals through available through the
Global Alliance for Cultural Diversity and identify possible
financial resources for those proposals.

7. The Natural Science Committee could support the work of
UNESCO's International Hydrological Program (IHP) by
assisting in the re-establishment of the US National
Committee for the IHP, and by developing criteria for
proposed new water research centers in the US. It could
also identify ways to support the USG's efforts to be
elected to the Governing Council of the IHP at UNESCO's
General Conference in October 2005.

8. The Natural Science Committee could also help define
what is meant by the term "sustainable development." Given
UNESCO's new role as the lead agency for the UN's Decade for
Education for Sustainable Development, the Committee could
identify appropriate ways that building capacity in
engineering, water, and science education could contribute
to promoting sustainable development. Of particular
importance are gender parity issues related to women in
science, mathematics, engineering and education. The
Committee could commission a series of background papers
that might assist UNESCO in determining what its specific
role should be in this initiative. The Natural Science
Committee should work closely with the Education Committee
in this area.

9. The Natural Science Committee could also support the
work that is being done at UNESCO with the Intergovernmental
Oceanographic Commission (IOC) as it works to develop an
international tsunami warning system. It could help
publicize the IOC's central role in this area and the work
that the USG does as a member of the Governing Council,
assuming that the US is re-elected in June 2005.

10. The Social and Human Science Committee could focus on
the issue of youth and social transformation and the ethical
challenges that youth face in a period of rapid social and
economic change, particularly in developing and post-
conflict countries such as those in the Middle East.
Research papers on this topic could help UNESCO develop
future initiatives in this area.

11. The Social and Human Science Committee could also
provide expertise and policy advice to help develop
effective negotiating strategies for the US Mission in the
development of a UNESCO Declaration on Bioethics. Although
a UNESCO declaration is supposed to be non-binding, many
countries have openly stated that the declaration is simply
the first step towards a binding convention.

12. The Information and Communication Committee could
identify ways to support UNESCO's role in the World Summit
on the Information Society (WSIS) initiative. Although the
International Telecommunications Union is the lead agency
for WSIS, UNESCO has taken a strong stand on freedom of
information issues, including freedom of the press. The
WSIS process began in December 2003 at the meeting in
Geneva, and will be completed at a meeting in Tunis,
November 2005. The Committee could organize a conference
before the Tunis meeting that could highlight USG positions
on such issues as freedom of expression, internet
governance, the digital divide, and the use of ICT's in

13. The Information and Communication Committee could also
play an active role in UNESCO's International Program for
the Development of Communication.(IPDC). This program
focuses on capacity building in local community-based media
development by identifying small programs for potential
funding. The Committee could create a media press freedom
fund to finance specific IPDC projects, as well as promote
exchange and training programs with other USG agencies.
Given the USG's interest in promoting freedom and democracy,
particularly in developing and post-conflict countries, this
program deserves support.

14. All of the commissioners serving on the National
Commission's five committees could suggest names, when
requested, of non-governmental experts who could be invited
to participate in specific UNESCO events. Although
decisions on experts are usually made by UNESCO, the US
Mission often gives names of experts to UNESCO in response
to their requests. Names of experts suggested by
commissioners could be added to names provided to the
Mission by IO and other USG agencies. National Commission
members could also explore the possibility of identifying
quality U.S. based NGOs that work on UNESCO issues and could
benefit by closer relationships with UNESCO.

15. Commissioners could also be provided regular up-to-date
information on available full time positions at UNESCO.
Since the US is currently under-represented in full time
staff positions at UNESCO, qualified Americans have an
excellent chance of being hired. Commissioners could use
their professional networks to help recruit strong
candidates for UNESCO positions. In the future,
commissioners could also play a valuable role in identifying
talented young Americans for UNESCO's Young Professional
Program, which has just been reinstated for next year.

16. An additional role for the National Commission is in
the area of UNESCO prizes which are awarded to outstanding
individuals, organizations, and institutions that support
UNESCO's goals and objectives in specific areas. The
National Commission could establish a process for
advertising and possibly competing for UNESCO prizes. It
could also establish a committee composed of selected
Commission Members that could review all applications for
prizes and provide recommendations to the appropriate
individuals within the State Department.

17. The Executive Director of the National Commission plays
a critical role in providing opportunities for the
commissioners to play an important role in supporting the
work of UNESCO, without overburdening them. Commissioners
should be reminded that except in areas where the Commission
is directly responsible, such as the University Chair
program, their ideas and suggestions are strictly advisory.
In order to take full advantage of the knowledge and
expertise of the commissioners, constant communication
between the US Mission and the National Commission will be
essential. Appropriate communication procedures must be
established within the Commission itself and between the
Commission and the US Mission.


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