Give UNESCO another chance
`SINCE wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that peace must be constructed.'' That felicitous phrasing of the preamble to the constitution of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization is attributed to British scientist Julian Huxley. Though it would doubtless include women if drafted today, the statement is as valid now as in those optimistic days of four decades ago; it is also just as difficult to bring to reality. With the election of a new director general of UNESCO and the generally positive international atmosphere engendered by Soviet glasnost and the momentum toward peace in Central America, it would seem a propitious time for the United States and Britain to reverse their 1985 decision to withdraw from the organization and publicly indicate their intention to return.Skip to next paragraph
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The newly elected leader of UNESCO should assert his leadership and affirm his intention to direct the organization to its original goals of drawing on the advances of science, education, and culture toward the end of world peace.
This could well begin with a clear rejection of the insidious campaign to stifle media freedoms and the free flow of information by an international media declaration, the licensing of journalists under the pretext of protecting them, or ``balancing'' the flow of information.
This campaign dogged UNESCO during the three terms of the autocratic and contentious Amadou M'Bow. In what would appear a direct contradiction of the intent of its constitution, UNESCO has been perceived as embracing a series of proposals that could only result in strengthening governmental controls or other limits on the free flow of information in the world.
If the thoughts of humankind are to be the basis for constructing true peace, people must be free to seek, analyze, and disseminate facts. Only complete freedom of inquiry and freedom to publish the results can offer that possibility.
Federico Mayor, the former Spanish minister of education and distinguished research scientist who now heads UNESCO, seems the right person to exercise vigorous leadership in this regard. His candidacy was originally suggested by an impressive list of several dozen Nobel laureates. Freedom of inquiry is as important to the scientific researcher as it is to the social scientist or the journalist.
Mr. Mayor's task of leadership will not be easy. Dr. M'Bow's dictatorial style and alleged corruption have left an organization with severe administrative problems and shattered morale. The new director general must confront the serious problem of UNESCO's fiscal responsibility. The profligate spending authorized by the third-world majority of members that contribute only 2 percent of the budget must somehow be made to take into account the concerns of the eight or nine industrial democracies that provide the bulk of the organization's funds. Also to be faced is the chaotic personnel situation left by M'Bow. Conscientious and competent employees were forced out or relegated to inconsequential tasks as politics and cronyism became the standards for employment and promotion. None of these situations is easily remedied.
The US and Britain, mindful of all these problems, should nevertheless assume a forward posture and indicate their positive intentions toward UNESCO. At the same time, in conjunction with the other major financial contributors, they should make very clear their requirements for continued support.
Such action would be a most positive move toward fulfilling UNESCO's stated goal of strengthening the search for peace in the minds of men and women everywhere.
Hewson A. Ryan, a former deputy director of the US Information Agency, is the Edward R. Morrow professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.