UNESCO for the 21st Century In this exercise it is essential to start by clearly articulating certain terms of reference for UNESCO particularly the following which are often used inter-changeably:
Fields of competence
The mandate of UNESCO is spelt out in Article 1 of its constitution. UNESCO is mandated to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among the nations through Education, Science and Culture in order to:
Further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the Human Rights and the fundamental freedoms, which are affirmed for the people of the world without distraction of race, sex, language or religion1.
The mission of UNESCO is "to lay the foundations of peace by working in the fields of its competence: education, science, culture and communication in order to contribute to the acquisition, transfer and sharing of knowledge and to foster values of liberty, dignity, justice and solidarity among individuals and nations"2
The above three are cited under missions of UNESCO in the "Practical Guide for National Commission" para 10. Are these mission or functions?
Standard setting action (principles to guide actions in Member States);
Clearing house action (many publications and data bases);
Research (to generate new ideas, UNESCO: a laboratory of ideas, a think tank);
Training and capacity building actions (to enhance endogenous capacities and sustainable development);
Expertise and Advisory services (on upstream activities, projects and mobilization of extra-budgetary resources), within the framework of cooperation for development.
Fields of Competence of UNESCO
Science (Exact, Social and Human);
Information Communication and Informatics.
The issue: Some UNESCO activities do not explicitly reflect its intentions particularly these cited above under "Mandate" and "Mission".
Many people conceive UNESCO as an organization to promote education, science, culture, information and communication for their own sake and for developmental purposes.
The notion that the fields of competence must serve human rights, international understanding and the ideals of justice, freedom and solidarity in order to forge Peace, which is the ultimate ideal of UNESCO is not always explicitly conceived.
Document 28 C/4 approved states that "All UNESCO's functions in the fostering of international intellectual cooperation are useful and even indispensable. They are more over, intricately bound up with each other and mutually reinforcing.
This is where the problem originates. It is difficult to deduce that by promoting the fields of competence of UNESCO one is achieving what is spelt out in the article one of the constitution of UNESCO.
Challenge for UNESCO: If UNESCO continues to aspire to achieve the twin objectives of the United Nations and its own, that of achieving peace and development for the world, it should therefore come out with explicit programmes which address the achievement of what is spelt out in article one of the constitution.
Course of Action for UNESCO:
Referring to diagram 1annexed, UNESCO should develop the activities in component II (tools for peace building) in the same manner as those in component I (tools for development)
Article I of the constitution is the conceptual basis of the UNESCO transdisciplinary project or programme entitles "Towards a Culture of Peace".
It is gratifying that UNESCO has developed concrete activities for this programme. UNESCO's action for peace needs to be more demonstrated than it is now. It is an uphill task; experience has shown that issues pertaining to the tools in component II are very sensitive in some members states. These issues are usually tied with politics and are entangled in the politics of the day. Those who misunderstand the objectives of such activities confuse them with critics of the government in power.
UNESCO of the 21 Century should therefore articulate its mandate, mission and role particularly in Africa. There is need to examine and review UNESCO's constitution to harmonize it with the current world orders especially as regards its mandate of constructing "Peace in the minds of men". Its role in this respect needs to be strengthened through nationally and internationally designed studies that would break the barriers between people of different races and cultures. Such studies should focus on factors, which cause intolerance.
Since UNESCO has expanded its constituency to include not only the academic but also the politicians, civil society and the grassroot communities, there is need to produce simpler versions of the constitution in national languages of member states, in order to enable the general public to understand the aims and objectives of the organization and to promote renewed commitment among UNESCO's current and potential partners at national and local levels, to the work of the organization.
Critical Analysis of the World situation: Problems and challenges
Today the world is faced with problems and challenges. These problems and challenges are of different nature and can be categorized as follows:
Although UNESCO has it's own share in finding solutions to the above problems according to its mandate and mission, it is very important to first of all make an analysis of all the problems as they inflict on people who are the central objects for the developmental processes in the world. These problems are dynamic in nature and they overlap in their occurrences and the manner they affect life on the universe. They have inter-linkages and have an interdependent relationship. Therefore before we hasten to pick out or identify only those problems which fall within the fields of competence of UNESCO, we should look at all problems and challenges globally, find their inter-relationship and be able to determine the nature of UNESCO's intervention. For example if a given country is suffering from hunger, malaria, civil war and at the same time, UNESCO comes up to implement literacy, scientific and information technology programmes, the impact is likely to be minimal. It would be like grafting a healthy and viable plant shoot on an infected weathering stalk or one with disease.
This type of approach will require UNESCO to convene her other UN partners and NGOs to present them with the world situation at a round table.
The round table, guided by the goal of achieving the twin objectives of promotion of peace and development in the world, would again analyze the world problems and challenges. Together, a global strategy should be devised where the modality of comperative advantage should be applied. The objective would be to address the problems affecting man/woman and life in a holistic manner for the best results.
UNESCO should lead the crusade to enhance synergy of action among the developmental partners particularly those of the UN family.
If it were true that UNESCO is tackling areas, which have been ably tackled by other Agencies or organizations, the position should speak for itself. Member States should be the living testimonies, to declare that such and such problems have been ably eradicated by such and such an organization, and therefore there is no need for action by UNESCO in a given area.
The situation on the ground is different, UN Agencies and many NGO's are operating everywhere particularly in the developing countries, but problems and challenges continue to afflict on member countries unabated.
The solution therefore is not for UNESCO to abandon some of its programmes because they have been addressed by other organizations, but to sit down with other partners to ensure that their actions are achieving the objective, not in a piecemeal form but in a holistic manner.
Further Categorization of the nature of problems and challenges
The analysis of the problems and challenges should take account of the following categorization:
UNESCO with her partners should be able to address the identified problems at all the three levels above. The practice of reducing action for national projects or programs is not fair. This is because each member state comes to UNESCO with her unique priority needs. If these needs are not addressed at a national level then UNESCO will have no impact in that member state. Thinking globally only at inter-regional or regional levels deprives member states of specific focus on their priority needs.
Examples of the above Categorization of Problems/Challenges:
UNESCO in its report of Perceptions and Analysis of World Problems of 1986 identified the following problems in each category:
Special classification General classification
1 2 3 4 5 6
Pol. Soc. Eco. Ecol.
15 Balancing of population growth +
rates and per capita GNP growth
Although a long time has elapsed since 1986 to-date, the identified problems are still in existence and the classification should still be used as a framework although completely new problems and challenges have evolved and old one have changed course.
Having identified the categories of world problems and challenges in their respective domains and scope of coverage, we can now identify problems under each category.
We should also examine some of the indicators and recommended priority actions to be undertaken by UNESCO to address the situation according to the needs of Member States.
I. POLITICAL PROBLEMS/CHALLENGES:
Armed conflicts in the world and the resulting instability
Peace and Security in the whole world;
Neo-colonialism in Africa
Human rights and democracy
Racism and xenophobia
Dictatorship Ethnic cleansing descrimination.
Peace and security in the world:
There are at present armed conflicts and wars going on in virtually all regions of the world particularly in the Africa and Middle East;
These conflicts have led to an increasing number of refugees and international terrorism.
International relations have deteriorated or have become distorted;
Ethnic conflicts have increased and have become a root cause of worldwide instability;
There are dictatorial tendencies in governance particularly in Africa and various forms of oppression resulting into weakening of dialogue between the state and the society at large;
Enormous shares of resources are devoted to military budget.
There should be increased arms control.
Priority Actions to be undertaken:
The public should be educated to raise their level of awareness to issues pertaining to human rights and democracy, good governance etc. and be able to protect them;
Advocate for participatory democracy whereby there is increased participation of the communities in the decisions that affect them;
Continue to promote the knowledge of the existing Human Rights instruments including the "African Charter on human rights and the rights of the People";
UNESCO should support member states to achieve greater justice by improving their legal systems in order to ensure the application of their agreed laws;
UNESCO should continue to reinforce its project or programme on the culture of peace and continue to demonstrate that without democracy and peace there is no development.
Internationalization of the economy and increasing interdependence of the different regions of the world;
Diminishing Natural resources and call for sustainable development;
Privatization amidst the widening gap between the rich and the poor countries caused by the blanket application of the theory of "comparative advantage" in the international division of labour;
Imbalances in the terms of international trade affecting particularly the developing world and least developed countries (WTO);
Diminishing national resources resulting into worldwide inflation
The debt burden;
Poor Agricultural methods leading to poor production and therefore earnings;
Inadequate food and nutrition
Lack of adequate scientific research and potential;
Inadequate foreign exchange resources due to poor production of raw materials for export.
Globalization has increased the migration from under-developed to developed countries, there is already a fear of increased racism and various forms of xenophobia in the industrialized countries; and
The debt burden will cause a further deterioration in the terms of trade which will increase dependency of certain groups of countries, the developing ones and will cause serious social problems in the countries themselves caused by high rates of inflation and deteriorating capacities in all aspects of development. The structural Adjustment policies of the IMF and the World Bank are a case in point.
Priority Actions and recommendations:
UNESCO should continue advocating and supporting universal basic and primary education putting emphasis on education in the rural areas particularly in Africa;
Increased efforts should be put to ensuring scientific and technological progress in all member states with great focus in developing and least developed countries. Great importance should be put on more research and the development of Bio-technologies, together with more efficient utilization of the available resources, a quantitative and qualitative improvement in products, better means of preventing the deterioration of the environment and increased use of appropriate technologies;
Developing Member States should be assisted to improve agricultural productivity by industrialization of agriculture and the development of Agro-food industry;
UNESCO should lobby donor countries and organizations to cancel all or part of the debt and implement long term rescheduling of the rest.
UNESCO should continue to assist Africa to promote Regional Integration and endogenous and regional development.
Member States should continue to be assisted to combat desertification and deforestation and to improve water resource management and combat water pollution;
Programmes to increase ecological awareness should be stepped up and those of research and technological development in the fields of environmental protection solidarity and international cooperation should be stepped up in these areas.
global warming/climatic changes;
environmentally related diseases/epidemics of diseases;
soil erosion/land degradation/poor land use planning;
loss of biodiversity/biodiversity conservation;
Wetland destruction/lack of water;
Rural urban migration;
Poor water resource management;
Limited research capacity/lack of environmental impact assessment experts/lack of environmental issues awareness skills and participation.
Indicators and Recommendations:
Global warming has led to a number of climatic changes causing big threat to humanity. Therefore the greenhouse gas effects need to be assessed and continuously monitored.
There is need to institute corrective measures by development of suitable programmes to reduced emission of gasses, which cause the green house effect.
Natural and human induced disasters such as floods, landslides, fires, earthquakes cause untold suffering to mankind and loss of life.
Africa especially should be assisted through capacity building to design appropriate structures/buildings which resist earthquakes, provide appropriate monitoring to enhance early warning systems and development of model rescue procedures when disaster strikes.
Humanity, particularly in Africa is still afflicted by a number of epidemic diseases such as HIV/AIDS (malaria, Ebola virus and environmentally related disease like guinea worm etc.
There is therefore urgent need to develop appropriate vaccinations to save human populations
There is a lot of pressure on plant materials as sources of fuel energy. There is therefore need for UNESCO to assist Africa to build capacity for the development of appropriate alternative sources of energy supplies for rural use that is cheap. Great emphasis should be put on the World Solar programme particularly in Africa.
All the environmental problems and challenges, which are listed above, are inter-related and therefore call for global and regional programmes to address them.
In Africa especially there is urgent need for UNESCO to assist by building capacities in environmental research and environmental impact assessment. UNESCO should boost its environmental education programme through dissemination of more information on the state of the earth and on climatic phenomenon such as el-nino, global warming and disaster preparedness.
UNESCO should facilitate an Environmental Education and awareness audit in member states and encourage policies, legal and necessary reforms in systems.
SOCIAL CULTURAL PROBLEMS AND CHALLENGES:
Inadequate Education and training of human Resources;
Youth (increased population);
Inadequate demographic studies
Inadequate manpower planning programmes
Moral decadence leading to increased corruption tendencies;
The vast increase in the number of young people has resulted in limiting the resources to educate and provide for them. Due to limited economic expansion to create jobs for the young people's, there is rampant unemployment. The young peoples anxiety about the future has risen and are demanding for their rights;
Over-urbanization has increased insecurity and delinquency. It has resulted into a prolification of deviant behaviour patterns. The decline in moral standards has led to ever more widespread use of drugs of all sorts, alcoholism, theft, prostitution and rape and an upsurge in number of robbery and murder. These are likely to increase in the third millennium.
Increasingly marginalized groups trying by various means to escape, from their degraded way of life by migrating to towns will suffer more severe repression;
The abject poverty and decline in living conditions and therefore quality of lives of the people will lead to a further decline in traditional values (community spirit, family values, solidarity etc), and the adoption of more materialistic values of an egotistic nature. Another aspect of falling living standards will be increased morbidity and mortality rates, which will put increased pressure on health systems, especially as these conditions favour the spread of contagious diseases;
These conditions also favour the spread of HIV/AIDS and increase the prevalence of the disease for lack of proper medical care and nutrition;
Lastly, the number of orphans and children receiving no schooling is likely to increase even further than it is now;
The widening gap between the rich and the poor will cause destabilizing social tengious between the rich and the poor. The problem will further be aggravated by the fact that corresponding to the poverty of rural areas, which lead to the rural exodus and depopularization of the rural areas, there is increasing popularization of the urban areas leading to worsening problems of over crowding, congestion and disease. This makes the towns a slum area causing the planned facilities over burdened and inadequate for the increased population.
Priority Action and Recommendations:
UNESCO should continue to mobilize the political leaders to allocate more resources to education and training;
UNESCO should continue to push for substantial innovations into the education systems of Member States;
Technical and Vocational Education and training should be much encouraged in order to adapt education to the technological environment and the changing work environment;
Young people represent a force for change and innovation, UNESCO and the member states should take advantage of this;
UNESCO should assist Member States to achieve balance between towns and rural areas by devoting more and more resources to expansion of infrastructure in the urban or town areas and also construct infrastructure in the rural areas so as to improve the conditions of living and limit the exodius to the urban areas.