UNESCO is the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. It works to maintain peace and security by promoting cooperation among different nations by means of education, science and culture.
Finnish participation in UNESCO’s activities is the responsibility of the Finnish National Commission for UNESCO, appointed by the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture for a three-year term. The National Commission assists the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in preparing and attending to matters relating to UNESCO.
The Finnish Ministry of Education, Science and Culture has appointed a coordination group for UNESCO’s science programmes. The group’s secretarial tasks are assigned to the Council of Finnish Academies. The group is composed of coordinators for six science programmes (IBSP, IGCP, IHP, IOC, MAB and MOST) and representatives from the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture (Department for Science and Education Policy, and International Relations), the Finnish National Commission for UNESCO, and the Academy of Finland. The Ministry of Education, Science and Culture has invited the above bodies to appoint their representatives to the coordination group. If relevant, the group can later invite additional experts to its meetings.
The UNESCO science sector has intergovernmental science programmes that contribute to implementing the goals and strategies of the organisation:
MAB (Man and the Biosphere Programme) is UNESCO’s major intergovernmental programme focusing on the interaction between man and the environment. Key forms of activity include a global experiment and research area network of sustainable development, including biosphere reserves. Finland has two biosphere reserves accepted into the programme: the North Karelian Biosphere Reserve and the Archipelago Sea Biosphere Reserve, which are being investigated and further developed. The Finnish Ministry of the Environment funds the work of the coordinators of the Finnish MAB reserves.
IHP (International Hydrological Programme) is concerned to promote the international exchange of information, develop education in the field and assist UNESCO Member States in developing joint hydrological activities. The programme’s sixth implementation phase (Water Interactions: Systems at Risk and Social Challenges) in 2003–2007 focused on controlled and responsible research in and use of the environment and natural resources, including the anticipation of water use conflicts. The programme’s latest (seventh) phase (2008–2013) is entitled “Water Dependencies: Systems under Stress and Societal Responses”.
IGCP (International Geoscience Programme) works to compile comparable information on global geological incidents, to gain a better understanding of the natural environment in order to improve general living conditions, to investigate energy and mineral reserves in the soil, and to develop research methods. The application of modern geological research knowledge and methods is particularly important to many developing countries, for instance, where major natural disasters, such as earthquakes, can significantly slow down development. Finland is involved in the research and information collection by participating in IGCP projects both through universities and governmental research institutes.
CSI (Environment and Development in Coastal Regions and in Small Islands) works to support UNESCO Member States in their efforts to develop environmentally sustainable, socially fair and culturally acceptable solutions in their coastal areas. CSI activities include a discussion network entitled “Wise Practices Discussion Board” at www.unesco.org/csi/wise.htm, which forwards information and experiences worldwide.
IBSP (International Basic Sciences Programme), established in 2003, seeks to reinforce the efforts and cooperation of UNESCO Member States to promote basic research and basic science education and to increase the understanding of science among the general public. The programme works to carry out regional projects in cooperation with international, national and regional science organisations and actors. The directions south-north and south-south are important cooperation axes between Member States, which can propose new projects for the programme. The work continues to further develop the structure and focus of the programme.
MOST (Management of Social Transformations Programme) works to enable administration that will support sustainable development in policy-making or problem situations by providing decision-makers with relevant research knowledge. Within the programme, UNESCO is committed to supporting long-term and independent international research projects. Key research fields include globalisation and administration, multicultural and multiethnic communities, the development and management of urbanisation and the abolition of poverty.