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Cablegate: Usunesco: Unesco to Organize June 2006

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 005855

SIPDIS

FROM USMISSION UNESCO

STATE FOR IO/T JANE COWLEY, OES BARRIE RIPIN, OES/STAS
ANDREW W. REYNOLDS, OES/ETC ELEANORE FOX
STATE FOR NSC GENE WHITNEY
STATE FOR NSF INTERNATIONAL OFFICE
STATE FOR NASA ELIZABETH WILLIAMS
STATE FOR USAID FRANKLIN MOORE, MARY ROWEN, CHIP BARBER,
AND MIKE MCGAHUEY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: AORC TSPL EAID SENV SOCI UNESCO KSCI
SUBJECT: USUNESCO: UNESCO TO ORGANIZE JUNE 2006
INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON DESERTS AND DESERTIFICATION
FOR UN YEAR

1. This is a request for guidance, see Para 9.

2. Summary. The UN is planning an international
scientific conference on desertification -- "The Future
of Dry Lands" -- as part of its International Year of
Deserts and Desertification. The conference, organized
by a UN inter-agency committee chaired by UNESCO, is
tentatively scheduled for June 19-21, 2006 in Tunisia.
(For more information on the conference, contact
Coopernj@state.gov) Given the strong role of U.S.
institutions on issues relating to dry lands research,
UNESCO's secretariat seeks advice on how to coordinate
U.S. participation in the conference with the U.S.
National Commission for UNESCO. End Summary.


3. Science Officer met with UNESCO Director of Ecological
and Earth Sciences Division Natarajan Ishwaran to discuss
UNESCO's role in next year's International Year of
Deserts and Desertification. He noted that the year
would roughly coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of
the first-ever UN conference on Dry and Arid Lands --
"the International Arid Lands Meetings" -- that took
place in Socorro, New Mexico in 1955. Ishwaran reported
that UN interagency Preparatory meetings for the 2006
edition -- entitled "The Future of Dry Lands" -- took
place in February and May 2005. The organization
committee is chaired by UNESCO.

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4. One goal of the conference will be to look back at
the 1955 meeting, and examine contemporary environmental
forecasts; the conference will issue a publication taking
stock of the past 50 years. Of course, the study of
climate is more focused today, Ishwaran noted. Looking
ahead, an objective of the conference will be to review
the current state of knowledge regarding dry land eco-
systems, in order to advise policy makers; another goal
is to identify knowledge gaps in order to promote
sustainable development. Ishwaran expressed the hope
that the findings of the conference would shape a
proposal for a "time-limited research program" that could
be incorporated into the upcoming reflection on UNESCO's
next medium-term strategy (for 2008-2014; to be launched
at UNESCO's September 2005 General Conference.)

5. The desertification conference is tentatively
scheduled for June 19-21, 2006 in Tunisia, in response to
the desire of the Sahel states to host. (In addition,
the organizers wanted a venue compatible with Israeli
participation.) The organizers expect up to 200
participants, including scientific groups with a dry
lands focus, decision-makers from arid zones, as well as
representatives of other interested countries, UN
agencies, NGOs, and foundations. According to the report
of the first prep meeting, "Raising extra-budgetary
funding for the organization of the meeting will be
essential."

US Participation Key to Desertification Conference

6. Ishwaran queried Science Officer on the best means of
working with the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO in
organizing U.S. participation in this conference. It is
clear, he said, that active U.S. participation is key to
the success of the conference.

7. Ishwaran noted that both UNESCO and the U.S.
scientific community -- including the AAAS and the
Rockefeller Foundation -- gave strong support to the 1955
New Mexico conference. This time around, the University
of Arizona is a member of the organization community for
the 2006 Tunisia Conference. Members of the Scientific
Committee include Charles Hutchinson (Associate Director
of the Office of Arid Land Studies (OALS) at the
University of Arizona), and Jim Weber (Director of the
U.S.-based International Center for Remote Sensing of the
Environment). Ishwaran reported that UNESCO has long
cooperated with the University of Arizona, including in
1986 on country updates on dry and arid lands.

8. Ishwaran told Science Officer that he had had
informal contacts with the Christensen Family Foundation
(a U.S. NGO) to discuss the possibility of 50,000 USD in
funding for the June 2006 conference; this funding could
take the form of financing the participation of
delegations from developing countries. According to
Ishwaran, The Christensen Foundation is active on dry
lands issues in Turkey, Central Asia, and the Southwest
U.S. Ishwaran asked whether the UNESCO secretariat
should consult the U.S. National Commission before
concluding agreements on funding with U.S. private
sources.

9. Mission seeks guidance on how to respond to
Ishwaran's query. The Division of Ecological and Earth
Sciences wants to encourage U.S. participation in the
June 2006 desertification conference. What is the best
way for his office to work with the U.S. National
Commission for UNESCO in coordinating the participation
of U.S. entities, including funding sources.

OLIVER

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