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Emphasising potential in UNESCO's science programmes

Some elements of your article (see UNESCO 'must rethink science strategies') may give the general reader an unfortunate impression of UNESCO's worth in science. This worth is in fact substantial, and it was this and the potential for UNESCO to greatly enhance the impact of its science programmes that motivated the review referred to in the article.

I recognise of course that one can only be brief in such a news report and that, since the point of the review is to guide improvement, the balance of what is said in the article would be directed to the recommended changes.

The points on strengthening policy advice towards capacity building in developing countries are important for UNESCO and are well made, but some of the other comments attributed to me give a very unbalanced message, taken as they are without the benefit of the context in which I made them.

In particular, my reference to water was actually meant to be positive, although the selected comments suggest the reverse. My stress was that while UNESCO's internal activity budget was small, UNESCO could motivate key research in the water area.

This is because in its International Hydrological Programme (IHP) it has access to a large array of water-related research sites, institutes, scientific bodies and networks. Together they represent a unique asset for cooperative work in critical directions.

I then pointed to UNESCO's other related programmes: its Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), the Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) and the International Geoscience Programme (IGCP), all of whose widely distributed research assets and associated survey facilities can enormously amplify UNESCO's global effect.

And the report stresses, as I emphasised, the unique benefits of close cooperative scientific action among IHP, IOC, MAB and IGCP, as well as with the many other related UN agencies working in these fields.

These together would give UNESCO a key role in gaining priority scientific evidence for global environmental and sustainability policy-making.

With mention of the above, the article would be much fairer in conveying the current state of UNESCO's science programmes and the real potential in its future enhancement.