Vol 1 N° 1 [October–December 2002]



p 2 - UNESCO and Johannesburg

p 6 - Member States celebrate first World Science Day
p 7 - Door opens for SESAME
p 8 - CUBES seals partnership between UNESCO and Columbia University
p 9 - Steep increase for women in science prize money
p 9 - A strong voice for small islands
p 9 - UNESCO Chair launched in sciences

p 10 - Maciej Nalecz talks about plans
          for an international basic sciences programme

p 12 - Where have all the beaches gone?
p 15 - Large-scale cultivation protects Himalayan biodiversity

p 20 - Diary
p 20 - New releases
p 20 - Governing bodies

Quick link to A World of Science Vol. 1 n° 1 (PDF document)
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‘Our house is burning’

A World of Science is being launched as part of the new communication strategy of the Sector of Natural Sciences of UNESCO. The aim of this quarterly newsletter is to keep UNESCO’s concerns in the public eye and at the centre of public debate by making information easily available and attractive reading. It is my hope that this will provide a new service for all those who follow with interest developments in UNESCO’s science programmes.

Other innovations in communication include the UNESCO science portal 1 and more specific portals, such as those on water 2 and oceans 3.

Besides being available on the web, A World of Science is being despatched to depository libraries around the world, to government ministries, to the 188 National Commissions for UNESCO and to UNESCO’s partners in the intergovernmental and non-governmental communities.

This first issue of A World of Science is published in the wake of the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 26 August to 4 September.

‘Our house is burning and we are looking the other way’, French President Jacques Chirac chided in his address to the Summit. Chilling but fitting words. Indeed, in the ten years since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro first adopted the conventions on climate change and biodiversity, the state of the planet has deteriorated dramatically: according to a recent BBC news report, in 1999 the human economy was absorbing 120% of the Earth's productive capacity. National delegations to the Summit had before them the arduous – but essential – task of erecting the three pillars of sustainable development (social, economic and environmental) in a 153-point Plan of Implementation.

It is my belief that the Summit has succeeded in instilling a sense of urgency in the most complacent of minds. To those who contend that the Plan of Implementation lacks A teeth, I would draw their attention to a number of ambitious targets agreed upon by governments. Timetables have been fixed, for example, for reducing biodiversity loss and for halving the proportion of those deprived access to water and sanitation, focal areas for UNESCO’s science programmes. The recommendation of a Decade of Education for Sustainable Development also has far-reaching repercussions for UNESCO. The lead story in this issue overviews UNESCO’s contribution to the Summit and examines the implications of the outcome for UNESCO. Only time will tell whether there has been a real, ‘sustainable’ awakening to the threats posed by growing poverty and galloping environmental degradation to our planet’s future.

Only time will tell whether the participants in the Summit heard the warning from one young orator that ‘we don’t have another planet to move to’.

As A World of Science goes to press, the USA has just announced its return to UNESCO after an absence of 18 years. I look forward to extending a warm welcome to our American partners and to seeing the enormous scientific resources of the USA – a country which alone contributes over one-third of the world's effort in research and development – play a full and active part in UNESCO’s science programme.

Last but not least, my best wishes for World Science Day for Peace and Development – being celebrated for the first time on 10 November.

W. Erdelen
Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences


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