Annual Report 2012-13

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

The Australian National Commission (NatCom) for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) comprises 17 board members drawn from the community, Parliament and federal government agencies. Under its Charter, the NatCom serves as a focal point for UNESCO matters in Australia. Its mission is to assist with the development and delivery of UNESCO-related programs, to offer advice to the Government on UNESCO issues, and to support UNESCO priorities in Australia and the broader Asia-Pacific region.

The NatCom has played an active role to further core UNESCO objectives in the areas of communication and information, education, natural sciences, culture and social and human sciences. This report highlights some of the NatCom's key activities in the 2012-13 financial year.

Pacific Consultations

The NatCom joined 13 other Pacific NatComs at a UNESCO subregional seminar in Honiara, Solomon Islands, on 14-16 May 2013. The NatCom's Secretary-General represented Australia at the seminar which served two main functions. First, the seminar aimed to build the capacity of regional NatComs by providing training and offering an opportunity to share lessons about best practices. Secondly, it provided a forum for Pacific NatComs to prepare for the UNESCO General Conference scheduled in Paris on 5-20 November 2013. We took advantage of the consultations to underscore the importance of UNESCO's work in education, world heritage, higher education qualification recognition, oceans, cultural diversity and anti-doping in sport, and supported Pacific partners' calls for further UNESCO funding support.

Grants Round

The NatCom's small-scale grants program has been an effective tool through which to promote UNESCO objectives. The program, which drew on $80,000 (excl. GST) in International Relations Grant Program funding, has also served to raise Australia's profile by ensuring Australian ideas and expertise contribute to UNESCO's programs.

In 2012-13, the NatCom allocated funding to support a record ten projects:

New Australian UNESCO University Chair

The NatCom was pleased to support the launch of a new UNESCO Chair at Deakin University in mid-2013. The Chair in Comparative Research on Cultural Diversity and Social Justice, which was endorsed by the NatCom in 2012, is held by Professor Fethi Mansouri, Director, Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation at Deakin University. The new Chair will help promote an integrated system of research, training, information and documentation, and facilitate collaboration of high-level researchers, in the cultural diversity and social justice spheres.

UNESCO-L'Oreal Fellowships for Young Women in Life Sciences

The NatCom was pleased to continue its tradition of supporting Australian women in science through the UNESCO-L'Oreal International Fellowships for Young Women in Life Sciences. The NatCom helped to advertise the Fellowships on its website and endorsed relevant Australian candidates who applied. While Australia was not awarded any Fellowships this year, Australian women continue to set high standards in science, including Australian Professor Ingrid Scheffer, who was awarded the prestigious L'Oreal-UNESCO Awards in Life Sciences for the Asia-Pacific in 2012.

MOST Scientific Advisory Committee

The NatCom was pleased to contribute to Australia's international engagement on social sciences. In August 2012, the NatCom nominated two Australian candidates to UNESCO's Intergovernmental Social Science Programme "Management of Social Transformations" (MOST) Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC). We were pleased that one of Australia's candidates, Dr Michael Woolcock, Lead Social Development Specialist in the Development Research Group at the World Bank and Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, was appointed to the SAC.

MOST was established in 1994 and works principally to transfer relevant social sciences research findings and data to decision-makers and other relevant stakeholders. The SAC functions as a permanent committee, offering guidance on programme conceptualisation, strategy development and scientific advisory research regarding MOST projects.

Engineering Publication

The NatCom was pleased to raise Australia's international profile under UNESCO's engineering program by lending its support to two Australians in Melbourne, David Beanland and Roger Hadgraft, seeking to publish a book entitled "Engineering Education: Transformation and Innovation". Drawing on the NatCom's support in November 2012, Mr Beanland and Mr Hadgraft were able to secure UNESCO's patronage of the publication. The book deals with the need for change and reform in engineering education - to make engineering education more interesting and attractive to young people, consonant with modern teaching methods and e-learning.