quinta-feira, 24 de setembro de 2009

O que há de errado com a UNESCO

O que há de errado com a UNESCO: Má política e pouca ação

Disputas políticas, visão equivocada, falta de liderança científica e
afastamento dos princípios que nortearam sua criação. Esse é o clima
na UNESCO, órgão das Nações Unidas para Meio Ambiente e Ciência.
Confira no editorial de hoje da revista Nature, entitulado "O que há
de errado com a UNESCO".


Nature 461, 447 (24 September 2009) | doi:10.1038/461447a; Published
online 23 September 2009

What's wrong with UNESCO


The new director-general needs to buck all expectations and transform
the agency.

As Nature went to press, Irina Gueorguieva Bokova, a Bulgarian
diplomat, and Farouk Hosny, Egypt's minister of culture, faced off in
a final electoral round to become director-general of the United
Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The vote, by the agency's executive board, is subject to confirmation
in October by its general conference.

The election highlights UNESCO's faults. The agency publishes a list
of the candidates' names, but nothing on their qualifications or
vision for the agency. In truth, nominations and the secret voting are
largely down to horse-trading among member states.

Such anachronistic processes need to change, but so does much else at
this suffocatingly bureaucratic organization. An independent review of
UNESCO's science portfolio in 2007 reached the damning conclusion that
"UNESCO has over time lost its leadership credibility as an
international spokesman for science, and its programmes are now seen
by the scientific community as fragmented, over-ambitious, unfocused
and lacking a clear vision and scientific strategy".

That should have been a wake-up call. But the panel's suite of
recommendations, including prioritizing and refocusing the agency's
science activities, and establishing an advisory committee of outside
scientists reporting to the director general (see
http://tinyurl.com/unesco-science), met with a defensive response. The
agency rejected the idea of an expert committee, while implementation
of the panel's other recommendations
(http://tinyurl.com/unesco-genconf) does not go far enough. Business
as usual continues.

UNESCO's science section has an annual regular budget of around US$55
million and 160 staff. It needs to focus its efforts on a few areas
where it might make an impact. With science-based issues now
omnipresent throughout the United Nations (UN) and many other
international agencies, UNESCO must slash everything superfluous, such
as its puny programme on renewable energy.

UNESCO has strengths to build on. Its water programme is large and
flabby, but outside scientists rate some parts of it highly, such as
the International Hydrological Programme on water research and
management. These should be reinforced and integrated with the
activities of the two dozen other UN agencies that work on water Too
often, UNESCO's science programmes are isolated from related work
elsewhere, and even from its own social science, education, and
culture arms. The agency also has an important resource in its network
of national offices, and UNESCO-branded field centres such as
biosphere reserves and science labs, where many potential synergies,
for example for ecological monitoring, are under-exploited.

Yet despite its shortcomings, UNESCO is uniquely placed in being the
only UN agency with an explicit mandate to promote science. And its
intergovernmental status, although often a handicap, potentially gives
it the power to convene the world's best expertise to take forward
important agendas.

UNESCO has made a start along those lines. Its advice to Nigeria on
building a science system is credited as a factor in the Nigerian
government's $5 billion commitment to science in 2006. UNESCO has the
potential to become a leader in such areas, providing policy analysis
and benchmarking for less scientifically advanced countries. This
seems a better road to promoting infrastructure than its current
smattering of tiny grants in its International Basic Sciences
Programme. UNESCO should give up the hopeless notion that it can be a
research funder, and focus on policy and leverage.

The outgoing director general Koïchiro Matsuura, a Japanese diplomat,
has reformed UNESCO's finances and recruitment practices. But he
brought little vision or change to the science programme. His
successor should take the 2007 review as the starting point for a
root-and-branch review of the science programme, persuade the member
states to weed out all activities that have little or no impact and
create a culture of performance, transparency and evaluation. An
upcoming wave of retirement at the agency provides an opportunity to
bring in fresh blood.

The history and culture of UNESCO do not bode well for serious change.
But business as usual is not an option if UNESCO is to have a
scientific raison d'être.