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United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

1. Introduction: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is an inter-governmental specialized agency of the United Nations. The representatives of 37 countries meet in London to sign UNESCO’s Constitution which came into force on November 4, 1946 after ratification by 20 signatories. The UNESCO’s permanent Headquarters is in Paris, France. UNESCO’s website can be found over (http://portal.unesco.org).

2. Objectives: UNESCO deploys its action in the fields of Education, Natural Sciences, Social and Human Sciences, Culture, Communication and Information. UNESCO works on a number of priorities that require a trans-disciplinary approach alongside the traditional focus of its five programme sectors. Here in this discussion we will only deal with Communication and Information.

The main objective for UNESCO is to build a knowledge society based on the sharing of knowledge and incorporating all the socio-cultural and ethical dimensions of sustainable development. UNESCO’s priorities in the field of Communication and Information include:
i) Empowering people through access to information and knowledge with special emphasis on freedom of expression;
ii) Promoting communication development;
iii) Advancing the use of ICTs for education, science and culture.

3. Organization: The General Conference consists of the representatives of the Member states of the Organization. It meets every two years, and is attended by Member States and Associate Members, together with observers for non-Member-States, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Each country has one vote, irrespective of its size or the extent of its contribution to the budget.

The Executive Board, in a sense, assures the overall management of UNESCO. It prepares the work of the General Conference and sees that its decisions are properly carried out. The Secretariat consists of the Director-General and the Staff appointed by him. As of January 2007, the Secretariat employed around 2,100 civil servants from some 170 countries. The staff is divided into Professional and General Service categories. Under a recent decentralization policy, more than 700 staff members work in UNESCO's 58 field offices around the world.

4. Membership: In short, UNESCO promotes international co-operation among its 195 Member States and 9 Associate Members in the fields of education, science, culture, and communication.

5. Functions and Activities: The aim of UNESCO in the field of Communication and Information is to Empower people through the free flow of ideas by word and image, and by access to information and knowledge. The Communication and Information Sector (CI) was established in its present form in 1990.

a) UNISIST: United Nations International Scientific Information System (UNISIST) is an international project sponsored by UNESCO to foster and coordinate international bibliographical services being provided by various organizations. It is an inter-governmental programme to encourage and guide voluntary cooperation in the exchange of information at national, regional and international levels.

b) National Information System (NATIS): NATIS is a brain-child of UNESCO. It implies that governments at different levels (national, state and local) should maximize the availability of all relevant information.

c) General Information Programme (PGI): PGI is the initials of its French name Program General d’ Information. It was established in 1976 combining both the NATIS and UNISIST programmes. The primary role of PGI is to promote computer application and communication technologies in library and information services, information network and provision of on line facilities for sharing and exchanging information between different countries all over the world.

d) Universal Availability Publications (UAP): The ILL concept is expanded by UNESCO’s Universal Availability Publications Program (often called UAP). UAP has the goal of making any publication available to any person anywhere in the world.

e) Universal Bibliographic Control (UBC): For compilation of bibliographies UNESCO has launched an ambitious project in cooperation with IFLA known as Universal Bibliographic Control (UBC).

f) ASTINFO: In 1984 UNESCO established Regional Network for Exchange of Information and Experience in Science and Technology in Asia and Pacific (ASTINFO) to promote regional cooperation, better understanding and socio-economic development in Asia and Pacific region.

g) APINESS: In 1986 another network called Asia Pacific Information Network in Social Sciences (APINESS) was established.

h) Common Communication Format (CCF): CCF is a structure format for creating bibliographical records and for exchanging records between groups of information agency and libraries. An international symposium in Taormina, Sicily conducted by UNESCO was held in April, 1978. On the recommendations of the symposium UNESCO / PGI formed the adhoc group on the establishment of a Common Communication Format (CCF). The first edition of CCF was published in 1984 under the editorship of Peter Simmons and Alan Hopkins and its second edition was published in 1988 in two volumes called CCF/B and CCF/F. Several countries have adopted this standard for exchange and creation of bibliographic records at national level.

i) Public Library Manifesto: The UNESCO Public Library Manifesto first issued in 1949 and revised in 1972 by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) on the occasion of International Book Year is a broad charter of public library goals.

j) Softwares: UNESCO supports Greenstone Digital Library Software (GSDL). It also developed CDS/ISIS through NISSAT.

k) Universal Copyright Conventions (UCC): In the early 1950s UNESCO set about devising a union that would combine Berne and Montivideo convention and the outcome was the establishment of Universal Copyright Conventions (UCC) in 1952. In the decades following World War II, the Convention served to extend copyright protection to numerous states. U. S. joined it in 1955.

l) Paris Revision of 1971: In 1971 both Berne and UCC was revised. This is what goes by the name of Paris revision of 1971. This has made some realistic concession to the developing countries with regard to reproduction and translation of material having great educational value.

m) Publication: In 1980 the first two volumes of UNESCO’s General History of Africa were published. UNESCO also brought out a publication namely “Public Library Manifesto” 1949, revised in 1972, which gives a new image and a wider scope to the principles upon which the documentation and library services are based. Other publications include UNESCO Courier (monthly), Copyright Bulleting (Quarterly), Impact of Science in Society, Index Treanslationum, World guide to Library Schools and Training courses in Documentation, 1981. Public Libraries and their mission (1961) by Andre Maurios etc.

n) Seminars, Conference and Workshop: UNESCO has supported library conferences, seminars and meetings. In 1952 an intergovernmental conference convened by UNESCO adopted the Universal Copyright Convention. In the decades following World War II, the Convention served to extend copyright protection to numerous states.

o) Fellowships, Funds and Grants: The UNESCO Fellowships Programme, through the award and administration of fellowships, study and travel grants provide various opportunities for librarians. UNESCO is also responsible for sending a large number of experts as consultants and advisors to developing countries for the purpose of initiating and expanding library services. UNESCO also helps its member states to rebuild their libraries during the Second World War. It also gives a huge grant to International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and International Federation for Information and Documentation (FID). UNESCO initiated the pilot public libraries at New Delhi (India), Enugu (Nigeria) and Medellin (Colombia), which demonstrates UNESCO’s Faith in public libraries. UNESCO also sponsored research on librarianship especially for the developing countries.

p) Cooperation: UNESCO maintains healthy cooperation with IFLA, International Council on Archives (ICA), Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CoDATA) established by International Council of Scientific Union (ICSU), etc.

q) Mailing Lists and Forum: The WebWorld Portals Discussion forum is the place to discuss various topics related to Libraries, Archives, Information Society, Free and Open Source Software. It also provides feedback on and discusses all aspects of WebWorld Portals. WebWorld, the website of UNESCO's Communication and Information Sector, offers a daily news service to its users. The news articles mainly cover UNESCO's activities in the area of communication and information, both at UNESCO's Headquarters and its field offices.

r) UNESCO Library Portal: The UNESCO Libraries Portal gives access to websites of library institutions around the world. It serves as an international gateway to information for librarians and library users and international co-operation in this area. The UNESCO Archives Portal gives access to websites of archival institutions around the world. It is also a gateway to resources related to records and archives management and international co-operation in the area. The Observatory on the Information Society monitors the impact of globalization on knowledge societies through the collection of pertinent information and by observing the trends. The UNESCO Free Software Portal gives access to documents and websites, which are references for the Free Software/Open Source Technology movement. It is also a gateway to resources related to Free Software.

s) Others: New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO), Intergovernmental Programmes for the Development of Communication (IDDC), International System in Research in Documentation (ISORID), Science and Technology Policies Information Exchange System (SPINES), Data Retrieval System for Documentation in the Social and Human Sciences (DARE), International Bureau of Education Documentation and Information System (IBEDOC) are some other programmes of the UNESCO. The ISORID was established for collection and dissemination of information on research activities in documentation, libraries and archives.

6. India and UNESCO: India became a member of UNESCO on 4 November 1946. Thereafter, UNESCO gives a new dimension to the Library and Information Science in India. The great contribution of UNESCO towards the library profession in India is that it gave it an international status. Its role for the growth and development of the professional can be looked upon from the following angles.

a) National Information System for Science and Technology (NISSAT): In 1971 the government of India made a request to UNESCO for advising the government about the establishment of an information network in science and technology in the country. In 1972, Dr. Peter Lazer, who worked as a consultants submitted a report on NISSAT. In 1973, the panel group of National Committee on Science and Technology (NCST) recommended the establishment of NISSAT under the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and finally NISSAT was launched on 13th May 1977 under the Department of Science and Technology and was put under the charges of Department of Scientific and Industrial Research in the Ministry of Science and Technology.

b) National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources (NISCAIR): The Indian National Scientific Documentation Centre (INSDOC) was set up in 1952 by the government of India with technical assistance from UNESCO. In 1964 UNESCO assisted INSDOC, again, in setting up its regional centre in Bangalore. Now Indian National Scientific Documentation Centre (INSDOC) has merged with National Institute of Science COMmunication (NISCOM) to form National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources (NISCAIR) on 30 September 2002. NISCAIR devotes itself to science communication, dissemination and Science & Technology information management systems and services user with the application of modern Information Technology infrastructure.

c) Delhi Public Library: UNESCO for the first time started the first pilot project in library in India by establishing the Delhi Public Library in October 1951. This later on developed into Delhi Public Library. The main aim of this project was to provide information on the problem of public library service for the parts of India in particular and for Asia in general.

d) Honoured the Professionals: The UNESCO honoured the Indian librarians by inviting them to advise upon various library projects meant for the member country. The prominent among them were Dr. S. R. Ranganathan, B. S. Kesavan, S. S. Saith and a few others.

e) Sponsored Events: India also organized a few conferences and regional seminars of UNESCO. Notable among them are Seminar of the development of public libraries in Asia held at Delhi from October 6-26, 1955. It was the first international meeting on this subject to be organized in an Asian country. On the whole, the seminar was a great success for the library profession in India. Another UNESCO seminar which had far reaching effect on library profession in India was the “Regional seminar on library development in South Asia”. It was held in the University of Delhi library from 3-14 October 1960. The most significant achievement of this seminar was the “grading of staff”, “salary scales” and “status of librarian”. Other events includes Ninth General conference at Delhi in 1956; Seminar on Handling and Retrieval of Chemical Information, Delhi, 1986, etc.

f) Research Projects: UNESCO allocated two projects to Indian Library Association (ILA). They are “Rendering of Asian Names” and “Directory of Asian Periodicals”.

The Indian National Commission is the official agency of UNESCO and National Information System for Science and Technology (NISSAT) in the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) is the focal point for UNISIST (PGI) and is also the coordinating centre for ASTINFO programme. NASSDOC of ICSSR is the focal point for UNESCO supporting APINESS programme.

7. Conclusion: UNESCO's aim is "to contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information". UNESCO’s purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through education, science, and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the United Nations Charter.
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