Although it has yet to be officially announced, it is thought that UNESCO will dissolve its Earth sciences division.
Geoscientists say this would have dire consequences for the highly successful International Geoscience Programme, which has funded more than 500 international projects in the past 30 years (see UNESCO 'plans to cut funds for geoscience programme').
In this article in The Guardian, Jan Zalasiewicz argues that dissolving the Earth sciences division would have a major impact on the ability of the world's poorest nations to understand and manage their own resources.
Zalasiewicz says UNESCO's input into the budget of the International Geoscience Programme is to be cut by half. This, he says, would make it difficult for scientists from developing countries to get involved in long-term and significant projects. It would also severely reduce their chances of publishing research in top journals and of receiving any attention, funding or support for their work.
Zalasiewicz adds that Earth sciences is a still widely unexplored field and should not be considered less important than research on water or ecology. Closing UNESCO's earth sciences division at a time when there is a strong political will to improve conditions in poorer countries is particularly bad timing, he says.