Building peace in the minds of men and women

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The implementation of the capacity building strategy for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage (ICH) in Namibia is moving to its second phase.

After a series of successful community-based ICH inventorying exercises carried out within the broader framework of the MDGF Culture and Development programme, the UNESCO Office in Windhoek and the Ministry of Youth, National Service, Sports and Culture trained a group of 20 local trainers to ensure sustainability of the ICH inventorying and safeguarding efforts. A national Training of Trainers workshop was held from 8 to 19 April 2013 at Waterberg, Namibia.

Selected from different parts of the country, participants to the workshop focused on specific aspects of ICH identification, inventorying and community interactions. In addition, a component on participatory training methods has been a part of the workshop programme, facilitated by two intangible cultural heritage training experts, Mr Stephen Chifunyise of Zimbabwe and Mr Lovemore Mazibuko of Malawi.

The experience of this pilot workshop in Namibia and its possible replication within the region will be discussed during the upcoming workshop “Southern African Regional ICH strategy, focus on the national Training of Trainers processes” to be organised by UNESCO Windhoek Office in Harare, Zimbabwe from 30 April to 2 May 2013.

How can we better ensure girls’ education, from literacy to higher education?” This is the theme of a round table that UNESCO is organizing in Paris on 20 March, in partnership with the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (IOF) or International Organization of the French-speaking World, on the occasion of the first Global Forum of Francophone Women.

Some 400 Francophone women from all over the world are expected to attend. These women are active for the respect of human rights, access to school and education, gender equality, and women's representation in politics.

The round table will be an opportunity for an exchange of ideas between the public and experts in the field of education of girls and women. The experts, themselves women, will notably focus on issues of women’s literacy, prevention of school dropout among young girls, and women’s access to higher education, especially in the fields of science and technology.  

The round table will be an opportunity for an exchange of ideas between the public and experts in the field of education of girls and women in developing countries. The experts, themselves women, will notably focus on issues of women’s literacy, prevention of school dropout among young girls, and women’s access to higher education, especially in the fields of science and technology.

Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO will open the Forum, along with Yamina Benguigui, Minister for La Francophonie, Abdou Diouf, Secretary-General of the IOF, and Michelle Bachelet, Under Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women. At the end of the Forum, an action plan to promote women’s and girls’ voices in all spheres of life in Francophone countries will be presented to François Hollande, the President of the Republic of France, and Abdou Diouf. 


About 300 hundred species of micro algae are reported at times to form mass occurrence or blooms which can cause anoxia and indiscriminate kills of marine life after reaching dense concentrations. Nearly one fourth of these species are known to produce toxins, which can contaminate seafood or kill fish. The scientific community refers to these events with a generic term, Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB), which covers a broad range of organisms and phenomena such as phytoplankton blooms, micro-algal blooms, or red tides.

In view of the global interest in issues caused by harmful phytoplankton, and the associated mass mortality of marine organisms, public health problems, and economic impacts, UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO) formed an Intergovernmental Panel on Harmful Algal Blooms (IPHAB). The Panel was requested to identify resources for a sufficiently broad programme to address the most pressing problems caused by harmful algae.

During its 11th Session, on 28-30 April 2013, IPHAB will decide on a revised plan for international coordinated research to foster the effective management of, and scientific research on, harmful algal blooms in order to understand their causes, predict their occurrences, and mitigate their effects. The panel will discuss major emerging issues requiring intergovernmental cooperation, such as the need for further research to address Ciguatera Fish Poisoning, strengthening food safety, improving HAB forecasting and the impacts of HABs on desalination facilities.

Ciguatera: a neglected tropical disease
While we have made enormous progress on monitoring and managing shellfish biotoxins, we still have much to learn about the most debilitating human seafood illness: Ciguatera Fish Poisoning (CFP). This human illness impacts human health and fisheries most severely in poor tropical nations. It is caused by eating tropical seafood contaminated by ciguatoxins (CTX) which biotransform and bioaccumulate: produced by benthic Gambierdiscus dinoflagellates (plankton), the toxins move up the food chain, from plankton to herbivorous species, then to carnivorous fish and humans. There is no immunity; toxins are cumulative, persistent, and human symptoms often recur.

Principally tropical in nature, ciguatera is now spreading as the causative organism and toxin-production appears in new regions and through globalised seafood trade between nations. Coastal and near shore infrastructure development associated with ports, seabed extraction of oil and gas, and tourism, as well as coral bleaching and global warming are all believed to increase ciguatera.

Ciguatera poses a major hurdle to fisheries and seafood market development throughout both the tropical Pacific and Caribbean (estimated $20 M loss p.a.), causing fish markets to ban product sales based upon species, size and geographic locations.

Recent technological breakthroughs have triggered a resurgence of interest in ciguatera: it is now possible to address long-standing ecological questions of species-specific habitat preferences, seasonality and environmental effects on cell abundance. However, the medical community’s interest has been declining and CFP is under-reported in endemic regions. Significant finances and sustained international efforts are needed to develop and validate reliable and cost-effective monitoring tools for causative organisms (qPCR), toxic fish (improved CTX screening and analytical methods) and disease confirmation in victims.

The benefits of such efforts would include:

  • Improved human health protection;
  • Increased yield of safe seafood into markets;
  • Diversification of seafood source by allowing fishing in previously disreputable locations;
  • Targeted management of newly at-risk locations; and
  • Increased economic benefits associated with safe seafood products to ciguatera endemic areas and their export markets.

Impacts of HABs on desalination plants and freshwater supply
More than 150 countries worldwide operate desalination plants to produce drinking water from seawater. Global desalination capacity is expected to grow rapidly in coming years as the demand for freshwater increases.  Harmful Algal Blooms had serious impacts on desalination plants in recent years: the cessation of operations due to clogging of filters, fouling of surfaces, damaging reverse osmosis membranes, and causing taste and odour problems. There are also concerns that HAB-derived toxins could be present in the freshwater produced, rendering it unsafe.

Recent research indicates that, when dense blooms of toxin producing HAB species occur in the vicinity of desalination plants, levels of HAB-derived toxins in the treated water could approach the levels of toxins that have been of concern in shellfish. There is a growing risk to public health and to plant operations, which would in turn impact freshwater supply and local economies.

Research on this topic is limited; it is therefore difficult to provide the detailed guidance that Member States need to address these issues. There is a clear need for further research to address the gaps in scientific understanding, engineering solutions, and a consensus on methodologies to reduce risks.

Related links:

A synthesis Open Science of special relevance for the entire international scientific community of researchers and managers engaged in the advance in harmful algal bloom research and mitigation of impacts was held by joint IOC-UNESCO and Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR) Global Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms (GEOHAB) Programme in Paris, France, on 24-26 April 2013.

GEOHAB is an international programme that co-ordinates and builds on related national, regional and international efforts in HAB research within an ecological and oceanographic context.  GEOHAB encourage combined experimental, observational and modelling approaches, using current and innovative technologies in a multidisciplinary approach that is consistent with the multiple scales and oceanographic complexity of HAB phenomena.
This synthesis OSM had two objectives. The first is to review the scientific advances accomplished under GEOHAB since its inception. The second is to identify a near-future roadmap of GEOHAB-like activities to be pursued beyond 2013.

Participants provided concept papers (i.e., proposals for specific activities, such as research projects, training sessions, or comparisons among ecosystems) that could be implemented in a coming 5-10 year period.

The Open Science Meeting will present its conclusions to the IOC’s Intergovernmental Panel on Harmful Algal Blooms, one of the GEOHAB sponsors, in the coming days, particularly as regards:


  • which scientific objectives can effectively be implemented in the coming years,
  • what are the best mechanisms to accomplish them, and
  • how international coordinated research should be structured to most effectively move forward in the future.

The 11th Session of the IOC Intergovernmental Panel on Harmful Algal Blooms will also be help in Paris on 28-30 April 2013.

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The recent events in the Pacific and Indian Oceans have led nations worldwide to reflect on their capacity to respond to such events: while we cannot prevent the occurrence of tsunamis, we can improve our response, and, in doing so, save lives. Tsunamis are a rare occurrence in the Mediterranean, leading to a lack of awareness and preparedness that put these densely populated coasts at greater risk. Since 1840, roughly 10% of all tsunamis have occurred in the Mediterranean, causing extensive loss of lives and properties.

The Tsunami Early Warning and Mitigation System for the North-eastern Atlantic, the Mediterranean and connected seas is one of four such warning systems coordinated by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO). Tsunami warning systems must go hand in hand with awareness and preparedness of the general public. As part of this process, a Tsunami Information Centre (NEAMTIC) was established to provide information on warning systems, risks and good practices in respect of tsunamis and other sea-level related hazards for civil protection agencies, disaster management, decision makers, schools, industries in the coastal zone and the general public.

With the support of the European Commission, NEAMTIC developed educational material and activities to improve the preparedness of citizens, especially youth, and civil protection authorities. The main results of the project were presented to representatives of the European Commission, Member States and the European Parliament during a workshop in Brussels, Belgium, on 25 April 2013. The tools developed include an online course, games, guidelines, a video, case studies and posters. They will be made available on the NEAMTIC website and its virtual library in several languages, including Arabic and French.

The Mediterranean is the world's leading tourism destination, with a highly populated coastal zone, many industrial centres and some of the largest ports in the world. While rare, tsunamis rank among the most life-threatening of all natural disasters, and Europe lags behind in disaster preparedness when compared to other tsunami-prone regions. Through NEAMTIC, IOC-UNESCO is contributing to enhance the capacity of Member States to be equipped for such a risk in partnership with the Commissariat à l’Énergie Atomique (CEA), France; the National Observatory of Athens (NOA), Greece; the Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri Dipartimento della Protezione Civile (DPC), Italy; and the Fundação da Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa (FFCUL), Portugal.

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On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the World Press Freedom Day (WPFD), UNESCO’s Office for Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia, the Moroccan Association for investigative journalism (AMJI) and the Ibn Rochd Centre are organizing a three-day festival in Rabat. The Festival will include various activities such as conferences, training sessions, art exhibition, movie screening and live entertainments.

Each year, the World Press Freedom Day celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom as well as professionals and citizens who fight for the right for freedom of expression, despite the dangers existing in many areas.

The Rabat festival aims to provide a professional and public platform to foster dialogue and exchanges on freedom of expression and press freedom as fundamental pillars of a democratic society.

Among the planned key activities, the conference on 3 May, entitled "Safe to speak: ensuring freedom of expression in all media", will focus on issues of journalists’ safety, combating impunity and online safety, with journalists and bloggers’ testimonies, workshops and a presentation of the UN plan of action on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity.

The World Press Freedom Day 2013 general theme will be discussed from a North African perspective with a particular focus on the specificities, challenges and opportunities that exist in Morocco. The conference will bring together journalists, bloggers, media professionals, civil society as well as governmental representatives. The conference will be followed by the official presentation of the new press code by the Moroccan Ministry of Communication and discussions around.

Another highlight of the festival is the international exhibition of Mail Art to promote press freedom and freedom of expression in the Arab world called "Once upon a time ... the Arab Spring" that will be launched on 4 May. The festival also includes three trainings on investigative journalism, on the techniques of web search, and on new media and citizen journalism.

The festival receives support from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), Free Press Unlimited, International Media Support and the Embassy of Netherlands in Morocco.

Detailed programme is available at: and

A workshop on the Inclusive Wealth Report (IWR) will take place on 29-30 April 2013 at UNESCO Headquarters. The objective is to promote the report presented during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20, Brazil) in June 2012. This report puts forward a new index to measure the economic and social progress of nations. Sometimes called the “Green GDP”, the Inclusive Wealth Index assesses economies and social progress in an inclusive way, considering not only manufactured capital but also human and natural capital.

The workshop aims to draw the attention of decision makers from the 20 countries* assessed in the first edition of the report —representing 58% of the global population and 72% of the world’s GDP in 2010— and introduce a brief overview of the next report, to be published in 2014. Organized by UNESCO, the United Nations University (UNU) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the workshop will bring together government officials and scientists as well as representatives of development banks, regional organizations and other UN agencies.

Many experts have observed the limitations of current indicators such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to measure national economic and social progress. In response to the urgent need for new indicators, the Inclusive Wealth Index (IWI) proposes a radical shift in the way we measure nations’ performances. Instead of focusing on monetary flows as the GDP does, the IWI focuses its attention on the stock of assets, including human capital (education, demographic curve, income, etc.) and natural capital (fossil fuels, minerals, forests, farmland, fisheries).

The first IWR assessed 20 countries including high, middle and low-income economies from all continents over a period of 19 years (1990-2008) with a focus on natural capital. The next IWR, to be presented in 2014, will focus primarily on human capital and health.

Related links:

·         Workshop details

·         Inclusive Wealth Report

Media Contact:
Agnès Bardon, UNESCO Press service.
Tel :+33 (0) 1 45 68 17 64
Email: a.bardon(at)

*(Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Germany, India, Japan, Kenya, Nigeria, Norway, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, United States of America, United Kingdom and Venezuela.)


Myanmar’s most common types of hazards and disasters and how to report on such issues were discussed among national journalists at a recent disaster risk reduction training in Yangon, Myanmar on 28 March 2013.

Topics such as disaster risk reduction – what it is, how the media fit in, what are the best stories and media ethics and code of conduct in reporting were also addressed at this two-day "Towards a new approach to disasters from consequences to causes" event attended by journalists from 15 print and TV outlets.

A case study of Cyclone Nargis, one of the most devastating natural disasters ever recorded in the Asia-Pacific region in May 2008 and how the media could work together was also presented at the training. An estimated 146,000 lives lose at Cyclone Nargis. Some 3,761 schools were damaged in the Ayeyarwady and Yangon regions, leaving 360,000 children in affected areas without safe places to learn.
The training objective is to better media knowledge and skills in reporting about disaster risk reduction to best serve community needs.

Based on the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) media manual and UNESCO’s principles for journalism, the participants went through a series of exercises and discussions on professional, balanced, well-informed, and critical reporting before, during and after disasters to better profile disaster risk reduction issues in the news.

Journalists attending the training were also asked to write at least two stories on disaster risk reduction issues.

National media organizations play an important role in promoting national disaster risk reduction policies and programmes. To do so, they need to know what disaster risk reduction is about and to have established contacts with key disaster risk professionals who can provide them with accurate and timely information. In response to these needs, UNISDR, together with the support of UNESCO, co-organized this media seminar.

A new regional centre will be established in Montevideo, Uruguay, to train managers and decision makers from the public and private sectors of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. The centre’s training programme will focus on issues related to climate change, particularly those concerning decision making and negotiations and its economic and social impact.

The initiative is facilitated by an institutional alliance between AVINA Foundation and UNESCO and includes the participation of the following institutions: the Latin American Social Sciences Institute (FLACSO) and Catholic University of Argentina; Getulio Vargas Foundation and University of Sao Paulo, Brazil; Pontifical Catholic University of Chile; Moisés Bertoni Foundation for the Conservation of Nature (Paraguay) and Catholic University of Paraguay; University of the Republic, South American Institute for Resilience and Sustainability Studies (SARAS Institute), ORT University from Uruguay and the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research.

The objective  of the initiative is to develop solutions for current and future global sustainability challenges through an effective sciences-policy interface where decision making is informed by the most reliable and relevant  available knowledge through academia and peer review.

The Centre will consist of a consortium of regional universities, institutions and renowned specialists with diverse backgrounds. This approach will improve the existing resources (initiatives, platforms, and knowledge databases) and support exchange and mutual learning concerning best practices on scientific and managerial issues related to sustainable development and its economic and social aspects. This joint effort will also ultimately generate a regional public good, resulting from a regional network of academic, political, economic and civil actors who are able to support decision-making on scientific and managerial issues related to sustainable development.

The Centre was officially launched on 19 March 2013 and will start its activities in August this year.

More information (in Spanish)

On 24 April, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, and the Minister of Education, Science and Technological Development of Serbia, Zarko Obradovic, signed an agreement on the establishment of a Centre for “Water for Sustainable Development and Adaptation to Climate Change” in Belgrade, Serbia, as a Category 2 Centre under the auspices of UNESCO.

“The Centre will play an important role in South East Europe,” said the Director-General. “It will foster scientific cooperation and the exchange of information among different organizations involved in sustainable water resources management.”

The Minister underlined that the Centre will undertake these functions within “the framework of relevant ongoing UNESCO initiatives, in particular the International Hydrological Programme (IHP), and the family of Water Chairs and Centres”.

The Centre will act as a regional Centre in South East Europe focusing on cooperation in the areas of applied research, water management, development and promotion of adaptation strategies, capacity development, and research for application, education, and training in the field of climate change impact on water resources management and the adaptation to such impacts.

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova expressed her deep distress over reports of the continuing destruction which has severely damaged the ancient city of Aleppo, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1986. Today, the minaret of one of Syria's most famous mosques was destroyed during clashes in the northern city of Aleppo.

The mosque, which is located within the UNESCO World Heritage site, has been devastated during the clashes and its minaret was reduced to debris.


The Great Mosque, at the heart of the ancient city of Aleppo, had already been badly damaged by fire during heavy fighting in the ancient city in October 2012. On that occasion, the Director-General reminded all parties of the country’s obligations under the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, to which Syria is a signatory.


The Ancient City of Aleppo was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1986, in recognition of its “rare and authentic Arab architectural styles” and its testimony to the city's cultural, social, and technological development from the Mameluke period. It is one of six Syrian World Heritage sites.