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[CAIRO] The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has pledged US$100,000 to allow the Israeli-Palestinian Science Organization (IPSO) to begin implementing 30 new research projects involving both Palestinian and Israeli scientists.

The grant was announced at a 23 May meeting at UNESCO's Paris headquarters, convened to review IPSO's progress.

IPSO was launched in November 2004 with an initial seed fund provided by the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, the Rothschild Foundation and the US National Academies of Science.

But at the launch, Sari Nusseibeh, deputy chair of IPSO's executive committee and president of Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem, said the organisation's funding fell far short of what was needed.

According to Nusseibeh, IPSO will need US$2.5 million each year if it is to meet its goal of funding 30 new projects every year.

Those invited to this month's meeting included representatives of UNESCO member states that had registered interest in the UN agency's efforts in the Middle East.

UNESCO director-general Koïchiro Matsuura said the meeting was an opportunity for these potential donor countries "to get to know IPSO's concrete projects better and to see how they can back them".

Harald Reuter, a pharmacologist at the University of Bern, Switzerland, and a member of IPSO's International Scientific Council, told SciDev.Net that IPSO's research projects cover subjects as varied as agriculture, water, irrigation, genetics, environment, medicine, biology, nanotechnology, psychology, chemistry, physics and education.

Reuter said IPSO supports high-quality scientific research projects that involve collaborations between Israeli and Palestinian scientists and scholars, with the goal of promoting peace in the region.

The organisation's aims are endorsed by 25 scientific academies worldwide, including the academies of Brazil, Colombia, Nigeria, the United Kingdom and the United States. 

Although Arab countries have no involvement with IPSO — with the exception of Farida Faouzia Charfi, a Tunisian member of IPSO's science council — Reuter says that any support from the Arab world would be most welcome.