CL 124/INF/15


Hundred and Twenty-Fourth Session

Rome, 23 – 28 June 2003



1. Cooperation between FAO and UNESCO covers a broad range of activities where both organizations share common interests. There are at present over twenty areas of collaboration, in addition to new emerging initiatives involving thirteen technical units at FAO and their respective counterparts in UNESCO, both working on issues related to poverty alleviation, food security and sustainable development.


2. From the point of view of Activity 4 of the Leipzig Global Plan Action on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (Promoting in situ conservation of wild crops relatives and wild plants for food production), which was adopted by 150 countries in 1996, UNESCO’s work in the Man and the Biosphere (MAP) Programme is relevant to the identification of important sites for in situ conservation. The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, adopted by the Thirty First Session of the FAO Conference in November 2001, in Article 5,1d stipulates that: "Each Contracting Party shall promote in situ conservation of wild-crop relatives and wild-plants for fruit production, including in protected areas, by supporting, inter alia, the efforts of indigenous and local communities”. The MAP Programme is relevant for supporting a number of activities that are of particular importance for the conservation of forest genetic resources, genetically important wild crop relatives (for example, the Mazatlan Biosphere Reserve in Mexico for wild perennial teosinte/maize), and the use of indigenous animal breeds with traditional agricultural practices (for example, the ancient white cattle of the Hortobagy Biosphere Reserve in Hungary). In-situ conservation through utilization can be an effective measure to halt the dramatic erosion of animal genetic resources. There is a great potential for further collaboration in this area. This is both an important area of UNESCO’s work per se, and an area in which collaboration with FAO could be developed.

3. In 2002 FAO launched a multi-agency, multi-stakeholder initiative for the global recognition, dynamic conservation and sustainable management of remarkable agricultural systems and landscapes, and their associated biodiversity and knowledge systems: The Globally Important Ingenious Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) Project. This global UNDP-GEF funded initiative is intended to be implemented in 10 pilot agricultural heritage systems in 10 countries building on existing UN programmes for the in situ conservation and sustainable management of agricultural biodiversity, landscapes and knowledge systems. UNESCO has joined the GIAHS initiative creating links with UNESCO supported World Heritage Convention and Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme. One of the challenges of this new FAO-UNESCO collaboration is the possible creation of a new (sub-) category of World Heritage for Agricultural Heritage Systems. UNESCO’s Rome based sister organisation ICCROM (The International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property) has also joined the project’s Steering Committee.

4. At its 57th session, the UN General Assembly declared 2004 the International Year of Rice. In this context, FAO has been requested to act as facilitator in the implementation of the various activities related to this event, in consultation with several stakeholders. The Informal International Coordinating Meeting held from 6-7 March at FAO headquarters, proposed UNESCO to join as a partner in celebrating the cultural aspects of rice, with a view to enhancing a global public awareness particularly in Asia, given UNESCO major role in cultural heritage.

5. FAO has been collaborating with UNESCO on a range of scientific and educational topics of mutual interest on economic development and nutrition issues. Specific examples of this collaboration include: the Fifth Conference of the International Society for Trace Element Research in Humans, Lyon, 27-30 September 1998 and the UNESCO-sponsored International Conference on "Biotecnologie e SocietÓ del 21 Secolo", Genova, 22-23 March 1999, which provided opportunities for joint FAO/UNESCO cooperation in scientific endeavours. A chapter was prepared by FAO on "Food and Agriculture-based Strategies for Alleviating and Preventing Malnutrition" for publication in a UNESCO/EOLSS encyclopaedia. In education, FAO is cooperating with UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO and the World Bank in an initiative known as FRESH, which aims to Focus Resources on Effective School Health, by promoting a shared framework to strengthen school health, hygiene and nutrition programmes. UNESCO is also reviewing nutrition education curriculum materials being developed by FAO for distribution to primary schools later this year.

6. FAO and UNESCO are among the founding partners of the Feeding Minds, Fighting Hunger (FMFH) global education initiative aimed at helping teachers and youth group leaders around the world to involve students and youth in the fight against hunger and malnutrition. Model lesson plans have been prepared in 10 languages at primary, intermediate and secondary levels on the topics: What are hunger and malnutrition, and who are the hungry? Why are people hungry and malnourished? And what can we do to help end hunger? Lesson plans and resource materials are available in hard-copy, on CD-ROM and internet ( Working in close collaboration with UNESCO’s Associated Schools Project Network (ASPnet), ESN organised in 2002 inter-country workshops in Mali, India and Italy to promote the FMFH initiative and to seek ways to expand and improve it. Demand for FMFH materials is very high, and to date, 134 countries have logged on to the FMFH website. Feedback from several countries, both developed and developing, indicate the popularity of the initiative and the potential for expanding and promoting FMFH is very large.

7. FAO has had a long standing collaboration with the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO. This collaboration continues in areas such as: (1) the development of the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), initially through FAO participation in the Living Marine Resources (LMR) Panel, that since 2000 was merged into the Coastal Ocean Observation Panel (COOP) which FAO co-sponsors; (2) the development and maintenance of the web-based UN Atlas of the Oceans, a joint initiative of a number of UN Agencies dealing with Oceans, led by FAO; and (3) making available to IOC the FAO-developed Community Directory Server as a potential basis for the IOC web information system.

8. In the follow-up to the International Year of Mountains and Forests and Water, close collaboration has been established with UNESCO, including: UNESCO’s participation as an active member of the Inter-Agency Group on Mountains; collaboration on research in mountain biosphere reserves through the Mountain Research Initiative; collaboration in the framework of watershed management in the International Year of Freshwater; potential for future collaboration in the development of educational material related to mountain issues.

9. FAO and UNESCO jointly support higher level forest and environment education institutions in Central Africa.

10. With the support of the United Nations Foundation, the World Heritage programme has resources for conserving and developing natural heritage sites and could be an exceptionally valuable instrument for forest conservation. FAO expertise in forestry and the development of forest-based community enterprises could contribute significantly to making optimal use of this opportunity. The long partnership between UNESCO and FAO in the context of MAP needs to be strengthened by developing joint activities in areas where FAO expertise can be brought to bear. Opportunities for this exist in several areas which are both World Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserves.

11. Under its “Education for All” programme, UNESCO is becoming involved in distance education through new e-learning technologies and information and communication technologies (ICTs). The UNESCO Information Society Division has recently joined FAO in the development of a computer-based distance learning initiative led by FAO, called the Information Management Resource Kit. UNESCO will be collaborating in the development of four modules, including a module for documentation management, a specific module for librarians, a module on electronic community building, and a module for managers and decision-makers.

12. UNESCO maintains the textual database system CDS ISIS and other freeware software tools of particular interest for FAO member countries. FAO uses the CDS-ISIS systems at headquarters and in various capacity building programs in the context of AGRIS. Together with other stakeholders, particularly IFAD and GTZ (Germany) UNESCO and FAO are working to set up a consortium for the further development of these tools.

13. Related to language services, FAO and UNESCO collaborate in a range of areas of mutual interest. For example, exchange of staff interpreters under conditions set out in the Inter Agency Loan Policy (an average of 20 days/year), regular exchange of information on language policy and related matters such as quality and availability of interpreters and translators, cost sharing of travel costs for Chinese interpreters recruited from China, and exchange of translators on a reciprocal basis.

14. FAO and UNESCO continue to share experiences and explore opportunities for collaborative partnerships in the field of rural radio. This collaboration, which dates back to the early 1960s, has focussed in more recent years on the identification of innovative communication strategies, including assessment of the role of the new information and communication technologies (ICTs) in rural development. Common approaches have been developed for the integrated use of ICTs and other traditional media, particularly rural radio, to combine local and global information for enhanced knowledge sharing and communication. Within this context FAO will be carrying out information needs assessment studies in selected countries of Eastern and Central Europe in order to build a rural development component into UNESCO’s Community Multimedia Centres initiative. Further collaboration is envisaged in the development of appropriate content for grass-roots use, training in information management and participatory communication, and implementation of rural radio/ICTs pilot projects.

15. Following the UN Inter-Agencies Round Table on Communication for Development held in Nicaragua in November 2001, FAO was requested by UNESCO and UNFPA to take the lead in the organization of the 2004 Round Table. Consultations with other UN agencies are ongoing at present, to select the theme of the meeting, planned in September 2004 at FAO headquarters.

16. The UNESCO Education for All strategy discussed at the Dakar Forum in 2000 and adopted by the global community explicitly addressed issues related to how best to respond to the education needs of rural populations and rural development. As a follow-up to that Forum, a partnership arrangement was developed in 2001 by FAO and the International Institute of Education Planning of UNESCO (IIEP-UNESCO) to conduct a global study entitled “ Education for rural development: towards new policy responses”. The study reviews trends and innovations in basic education for rural children, and looks at training issues and higher education strategies to foster knowledge and skills in rural societies. Fifteen case studies from around the world have been compiled in a book to be published in 2003.

17. During the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in 2002, FAO and UNESCO launched a new global flagship on “Education for Rural People”, lead by FAO. This initiative seeks to address rural-urban disparities. About 70 percent of the poor live in rural areas. Yet, despite the fact that education is a basic right in itself and an essential prerequisite for reducing poverty, improving the living conditions of the rural people and building a food-secure world, children’s access to education in rural areas is still much lower than in urban areas, adult illiteracy is much higher and quality of education is poorer. The flagship aims at (i) building awareness on the importance of education for rural people as a crucial step to achieve the Millennium Development Goals of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and achieve universal primary education; (ii) overcoming the urban/rural education gap; (iii) increasing access to basic education for rural people; (iv) improving quality of basic education in rural areas; and (v) fostering national capacity to plan and implement basic education plans to address learning needs of rural people. Over 50 members have thus far joined the partnership, including international organizations, governments, NGOs, universities, foundations and the private sector. The UN System Network on Rural Development and Food Security, of which UNESCO and FAO are members, published an article on the FAO/UNESCO partnership in favour of education for rural people in its February 2003 newsletter.

18. Parallel to the flagship, FAO and UNESCO are jointly organising seminar series on Education for Rural People. A first seminar was held in Bangkok, Thailand, in November 2002 and brought together high-level policy makers from Ministries of Education and Agriculture of 10 Asian countries to discuss possible common actions in support of education for rural people in Asia. A book on “Education for Rural People in Asia: experiences and policy lessons“ was published in 2002 . Moreover, an aid agencies workshop was held at FAO, Rome, from 12-13 December 2002. Approximately 50 senior representatives from educational and rural development sectors of international aid and development agencies met to discuss ways to improve collaboration at international and national levels on education for rural people. A third such event was the International Symposium on Rural Education organized by UNESCO and the International Research and Training Centre for Rural Education (INRULED) in Baodin, China, from 20-23 January 2003, where FAO was a key contributor and organizer of workshops addressing approaches to education in rural areas for girls and women and disadvantaged populations and vocational and higher education for local development and lifelong learning in rural areas.

19. Since 1996, FAO and UNESCO have been sharing financial and technical resources to develop the data and information needed to assess the impact of global environmental change in the areas of biodiversity, land quality, freshwater, climate and toxic chemicals. As co-sponsor of the Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS), UNESCO provides annual financial support to FAO and undertakes technical collaboration in the area of integrated monitoring of the international system of biosphere reserves. FAO would like to further strengthen UNESCO collaboration with GTOS through initiatives in the areas of meta-database development (e.g. TEMS); the development of hydrological data observing network for policy development; access to data and information from biosphere reserves for use in global change studies; and exchange of data between existing terrestrial observation networks (e.g. GT-Net).

20. UNESCO has recently requested FAO to contribute in the implementation of the Plan of Action of the Declaration on Cultural Diversity, adopted by the General Conference at its 31st session in November 2001. A focal point has been appointed in FAO to liaise with UNESCO on issues related to the implementation of the Plan.

21. As a follow-up to earlier contacts, FAO and UNESCO continue to explore collaboration with universities in France, and training and research institutions to develop a gender programme in agriculture for francophone countries.

22. FAO collaborates with UNESCO in the area of culture and development, also by contributing to articles on "Culture, agriculture and rural development on the” on the UNESCO web site. FAO could benefit from UNESCO's vast experience in cultural aspects and could provide the agricultural and rural development dimension. This initiative could be extended to all technical units in FAO.

23. UNESCO is preparing an international declaration on human genetic data for submission to an intergovernmental meeting of all States with a view to its adoption by the General Conference at its 32nd session. FAO has been invited to provide inputs to the form and content of an international instrument on human genetic data, as an extension of the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights.

24. FAO stands ready to continue to work in partnership with UNESCO and explore new initiatives in the future.