UNESCO appreciates the invitation to participate in the Consultation. We are also representing the International Scientific Council for Island Development (INSULA).
Francesco di Castri has likened sustainable development to a chair with four legs - economic, social, cultural and environmental. Development is a single reality, and within it these four elements must be in balance. This metaphor will guide the description of how UNESCO can contribute to sustainable development in Pacific island countries.
Three general points on UNESCO activities in the Pacific are described below:
- In almost all of its programmes UNESCO collaborates with regional organizations, notably USP, SPC, SPREP and SOPAC. We keep close contact with our partners in the UN family, and with relevant NGOs, and look forward to expanding our collaboration with them.
- UNESCO, like other intergovernmental organizations, exists to serve its Member States, and derives its mandate from them. It is not something apart. All the FAO Member States in the Pacific Islands are also Member States of UNESCO.
- Part of UNESCO's function is to provide links to the global intellectual community, and to promote synthesis at the global level. However in the Pacific, we take care to drive this process from the practical experience of resource managers. We also put emphasis on the effective dissemination of the results to technical personnel and the community, so that they are actually put to good use.
While economics in general is not within UNESCO's mandate, UNESCO has worked with the World Bank and others to stimulate the development of environmental economics.
Regarding culture, UNESCO's World Commission on Culture and Development, chaired
by Dr. Javier Perez de Cuellar, and the World Decade for Cultural Development have
underlined that the inclusion of the cultural dimension is essential for true sustainable
development. In the Pacific, UNESCO is promoting this viewpoint through the Vaka Moana
With reference to the social element, UNESCO has an international coordinating role in social and human sciences. Recently this programme has been merged with the natural sciences as we recognize that technical and social aspects of sustainable development must be tackled together.
UNESCO has run major environmental science programmes for many years. There is a new emphasis on integrating the various disciplines, and applying their insights to practical resource management.
In the Pacific, UNESCO, with SOPAC and the UN, convened a Workshop on Pacific Water Sector Planning, Research and Training, Honiara, Solomon Islands, June 1994. The Workshop Report contains a wealth of information on this sector. Following the recommendations of the Workshop, UNESCO and SOPAC are organizing three field studies to analyze specific water resource problems, and provide training in scientific approaches for regional personnel. Strong efforts are being made to involve the communities in the studies, to analyze social aspects and to feed back the results obtained.
The initial field work and training for the groundwater pollution study in Lifuka Island, Tonga, has just been carried out with UNESCO funding. A second study on groundwater recharge in Kiribati will start later this year. The third study on catchment deforestation in the Solomon Islands was reviewed by a recent UNESCO International Hydrological Programme (IHP) Working Group meeting, and is being redesigned for wider applicability. This study is not yet being funded.
Other UNESCO science programmes include:
- UNESCO-WWF-Royal Botanic Garden "People & Plants" initiative to preserve culturally important plants and the knowledge about them and their uses;
- UNESCO MIRCEN Pacific network to support university teaching and research in microbial biotechnology. This technology has potential applications in agricultural processing, waste management and bio-fuel;
- UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission is the lead agency in the IOC-WMO-UNEP Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) which has a coastal module of particular interest to the Pacific. This and the climate module will be developed for the Pacific in collaboration with SPREP.
From 1 January 1996, UNESCO has established a new multi-disciplinary project on Coastal Regions and Small Islands which will apply broad environmental science expertise to advance the art of coastal area management. A pilot project in the Pacific will build on the water resources field studies to examine the role of freshwater resources in the sustainable development of small islands. Subsequently, results from this and other pilot projects will be shared.
The two remaining UNESCO programmes provide essential foundations for sustainable development. In the long term, education is vital to give men, women and children living in the Pacific the knowledge and understanding they need to pursue sustainability. UNESCO formulated, and until regionalization last year, executed the multi-donor sub-regional Basic Education and Life Skills programme which included school curriculum development in agricultural topics. At the request of sub-regional directors of education, UNESCO with USP has led the formulation of a Science Education for Pacific Schools programme being considered for the next funding cycle.
The communication, information and informatics programme stimulates infrastructure development (including technology advance), education and training related to journalism and the media, library and information services, and the application of computer and communications technology. This includes a project with SPREP and SPC to establish a Pacific Environmental Information Network.