George Washington University Launches Interdisciplinary Chair in International Education for Development


Director-General Bokova

On September 19, 2014 George Washington University (GWU) in Washington, DC formally announced a new UNESCO Chair – joining 21 other US institutions in this flagship program.  GWU administrators and faculty, 2 other UNESCO Chairs participated in the event.  Participants from a variety of science, education and United Nations advocacy networks were also in attendance.

Irina Bokova, the Director General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, delivered the keynote address.  U.S. Permanent Representative to UNESCO, Crystal Nix-Hines and former Department of State Assistant Secretary for International Organizations also offered insights on the importance of the U.S.-UNESCO relationship.  Underscoring UNESCO’s, cross-cutting work in education, particularly for girls and women; protection of journalists; advancement of human rights; and protection of cultural and natural heritage, she stressed that the U.S. and UNESCO are natural partners in the effort to expand the rule of law, international peace and security; and scientific progress.  In these challenging times, the partnership has never been more vital.  “We share the same values, and espouse common goals” she emphasized.

The announcement by GWU of the new Chair, which involves three faculty members in research and teaching, illustrates intra-university collaboration which in turn can strengthen international cooperation and research.  There are 821 in the network which involves universities and educators in 128 countries.  The “foundation of education is communication,” Bokova noted, and commented that we have more technology to facilitate such exchange, but seemingly we lack understanding of one another.  UNESCO’s commitment to redress this is crucial as we cannot improve international society without peace, justice, equality and shared appreciation of diversity – in culture, language, and traditions.

DG Bokova reiterated her commitment to resolving the 3 year long impasse on release of U.S. funding which has hampered the organization.  US dues, which are being withheld under legislative provisions that prevent disbursement of funds to any UN organization that admits Palestinian representatives as a state delegation, represent 22% of the organization’s annual revenue.  Despite this challenge, Bokova has undertaken many reforms with a view to maintaining as many programs as possible and she urged the community of UNESCO supporters to work toward a solution.

In a panel, following the DG’s presentation, the visiting UNESCO Chairs and the new Chair at GWU outlined how cooperation with UNESCO leveraged work at the participating universities in expanding knowledge and shared research.  In testimony to the value of this platform, it continues to expand even in the US despite the funding problems.

Source: Melinda Kimble

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