water centre finds mooring in Chile
28 June 2002 An agreement has been signed between UNESCO
and the Chilean government to use $400,000 of Flemish funds
to start up the new Water Centre for Arid and Semi-arid Regions
of Latin America and the Caribbean.
centre is to be located in the University of La Serena (Chile).
In addition to coordinating research in arid and semi-arid zones
of the region, the centre will disseminate research findings
and provide countries with assistance.
centre is part of a UNESCO strategy adopted by the International
Hydrology Programme (IHP) in June 2000 to develop regional water
centres around the world as part of World Conference on Science
strategy recognizes the increasing importance of water issues
on a local, regional and global scale and the need for building
regional know-how to solve water problems. Each centre is to
serve as a knowledge base for a particular type of water management.
recently established under the auspices of UNESCO are the Regional
Centre on Urban Water Management in Teheran (Iran) and the Regional
Centre for Water Studies of Arid and Semi-arid Zones (Egypt).
A Regional Centre for Ecohydrology in Warsaw (Poland) is in
agreement for use by the Chilean centre of the UNESCO-Flanders
Trust Fund for the Sciences was signed on 18 June at UNESCO
Headquarters in Paris (France) during the 15th session of the
IHP Intergovernmental Council. The Flemish start-up funds will
be complemented by Chilean contributions.
report or contact Vincent
launches national plan for the environment
21 June 2002 - Algeria has launched a National Plan of
Action for the Environment and Sustainable Development. The
Plan was presented to all Algeria's partners, including UNESCO,
at an an international conference organized for the purpose
on 17 June in the Algerian capital.
of a ten-year programme, the Plan has been calculated to ensure
that ecological factors are taken into account in the process
of sustainable development. During his visit to Algiers, the
Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, signed a memorandum
of cooperation with the Algerian Minister of Land-Use Planning
and Environment, Chérif Rahmani. This provides for the strengthening
of cooperation between Algeria and UNESCO in training for the
various environment-related professions through virtual universities
and in school education for sustainable development and environment
further information, contact Jeanne
Damlamian, Programme Specialist.
‘social contract’ for Johannesburg forum echoes Budapest
10 June 2002 -
Three years after the World Conference on Science adopted a
‘social contract’ between science and society, the country hosting
the World Summit on Sustainable Development this year has proposed
that a similar contract be concluded in Johannesburg.
a statement made in Bali during the fourth and final preparatory
meeting for the week-long World
Summit on Sustainable Development, which begins on 26 August,
the South African government has announced that a forum will
be held in parallel to the Summit.
the forum, members of civil society and industry, and policy-
and decision-makers will together examine the contributions
of science, technology and innovation to sustainable development.
South African government proposes the following themes for discussion:
a new ‘social contract’ between science and society, capacity-building
to narrow the knowledge and technology divides, increased interdisciplinarity,
greater dialogue between scientists and policy-makers, developments
in monitoring and early warning systems and success stories
which have marked sustainable development.
‘social contract’ between science and society adopted in Budapest
took the form of a Declaration
Agenda. The twin documents contain recommendations
for capacity-building to narrow the knowledge and technology
divides, increased interdisciplinarity, greater dialogue between
scientists and policy-makers and the development of monitoring
and early warning systems. (See for example Section
2.2 of the Science Agenda on Science, environment and
is actively involved in preparations for the Johannesburg Summit
and took part in the Bali preparatory meeting.
for further information, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
politics of power in biodiversity management
June 2002 -
When it comes to managing biodiversity, relations between scientists,
non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
and indigenous peoples can be complex, even conflictual affairs.
This emerges from a seminar examining ‘NGOs, indigenous peoples
and local knowledge: politics of power in the biodiversity domain’.
seminar was organized at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on 27
and 28 May by the Apsonat
team within the Centre national de recherche scientifique (CNRS),
in collaboration with the transdisciplinary LINKS programme
launched by UNESCO as World Conference on Science follow-up.
problem of prior informed consent is illustrated by the mésaventure
of ethnobotanists Brent and Elois Ann Berlin of the University
of Georgia. They found themselves in the middle of a conflict
which forced them to cancel their bioprospecting programme in
the Highland Chiapas in Mexico. They were there to identify
a number of medicinal plants used by the indignenous Mayas communties
(8,000 in total) as part of a project to commercialize these
plants with a pharmaceutical company. Despite the fact that
the ethnobotanists were there to help develop local income,
two NGOs, one local and the other international, accused the
couple of biopiratery.
discussion on the Maya mishap, Gonzalo Oviedo acknowledged the
‘fundamentalism’ of some NGOs, whose extremism harmed rather
than helped indigenous populations. To make matters worse, he
added, scientists lacked the courage to denounce true acts of
local development projects were able to get off the ground,
anthropologist Edvard Hviding noted, this was because mutual
incomprehension as to the agenda of the other party was not
necessarily an obstacle. To illustrate his point, he cited the
example of the Solomon Islands, where forestry groups, conservation
NGOs and local peoples had managed to collaborate on a project
which meant different things to different people.
highlighted some effects of globalization on local biodiversity
management. Local knowledge has gained formal international
recognition, for example, thanks in part to Agenda 21 and the
Convention on Biological Diversity
adopted at the United Nations Conference on Environment and
Development in 1992. Yet these same texts have accorded NGOs
a mediation role in an area in which they are simply intermediaries.
whaling issue has been globalized through the creation of the
Whaling Commission. Since 1946, it has been trying to ensure
a fragile equilibrium between local and international NGOs wishing
to protect the whales, indigenous peoples who wish to hunt for
subsistence and countries who advocate or oppose whaling protection.
Bridgewater, Director of UNESCO’s Division
of Ecological Sciences, related one outcome of this year’s
session. Furious at being denied the right to hunt commercially
some 50 small whales this year, Japan has retaliated by preventing
the hunting quota from being renewed for the indigenous Inuit
Inupiat in Alaska, who hunt whales for subsistence. Japan argues
that whale hunting is as much a tradition for its coastal areas
as for the indigenous Inuit.
from original text by Marie Roué. For further information,
Weakening of traditional knowledge must
be reversed, notes ICSU report
June 2002 -
An ICSU report on Science
and Traditional Knowledge has expressed concern at the gradual
weakening and disappearance of traditional knowledge. ‘This
is a trend that must be reversed’, the authors write.
in March of this year, the report makes a number of recommendations
for strengthening ties between modern science and traditional
include recommendations that ICSU support societies that are
keepers and developers of traditional knowledge, that it foster
training which equips young scientists and indigenous people
to carry out research on traditional knowledge and that it organize
an international symposium on science and traditional knowledge.
report does not propose any major changes to current activities
of ICSU and its Member Organizations to strengthen science education
and the understanding of modern science in developing countries.
It does however remark that, to be fully effective, science
curricula need to interact properly with local experiences and
systems of traditional knowledge, particularly in the biological
and environmental sciences.
report recommends the creation of an ad hoc working group on
science and traditional knowledge. As a first step, the Study
Group recommends that ICSU actively promote cooperation between
traditional knowledge and science at the United Nations World
Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg (South
Africa) in August 2002.
first part of the report examines the nature of traditional
knowledge and the triangular relationship between science, traditional
knowledge and pseudo-science.’ A proper understanding of [this]
relationship’, the authors write, ‘is important for the further
development of both science and traditional knowledge.’
defining science, they cite Paul Hoyningen-Heune’s paper on
The Nature of Science, delivered to the World Conference
the demarcation between science and pseudo-science is difficult,
they note, the demarcation between pseudo-science and traditional
knowledge is fairly straightforward. Traditional knowledge,
they affirm, ‘has typically originated quite independently of
science in a particular cultural setting, mostly also quite
independently of Western culture‘. Pseudo-science, on the other
hand, competes with science, ‘pos[ing] as science by mimicking
report was commissioned by ICSU’s General Assembly in September
1999 to make a ‘critical study’ of the paragraphs in the Declaration
and Science Agenda referring to traditional knowledge
systems. The Study Group drafting the report was also invited
to examine how, as WCS follow-up, ICSU might support cooperation
between holders of traditional holders and scientists for mutual
ICSU General Assembly will formally examine the report in September