Letters to the Editor. UNESCO guidelines

I was quite surprised by references to UNESCO in the article on the banning of South African scientists from a meeting in Great Britain next September [``Ban against South African scientists threatens academic freedom,'' Nov. 26]. The writer says that the British organizing committee for the 11th World Archaeological Congress defended its banning decision by saying it was ``following UNESCO's questionable guidelines `to refrain from cultural or academic interaction with South Africa.' '' UNESCO's guidelines are longstanding. They conform with those of all other United Nations agencies in this regard, and they were evolved, not by the agency itself, but by decision of its member states, including the Western democracies.

He also says that UNESCO ``should not be setting standards'' for the committee anyway and that UNESCO ``is a highly politicized body which also disapproves of Israel.'' UNESCO, in fact, is hardly ``setting standards'' for the host committee but has enunciated a global community consensus to which this committee chooses to adhere.

The ``disapproves of Israel'' quotation is even more puzzling and disturbing. Israel is now and always has been a full-fledged member of UNESCO and participates in worldwide programs in science and other areas. This does not indicate ``disapproval.'' Joseph A. Mehan UNESCO Chief, Public Information New York

I read with great interest David Willis's article ``Locating the `third world,' '' [Nov. 4]. According to my sources, the term third world to designate the less affluent countries of the world was coined through an egregious error in translation in the 1960s. A French journalist used the term tiers monde in designating the poorest one-third of the countries of the world. Unfortunately there is no single world in the English language for the word tiers, which means one of three equal parts. Either out of ignorance or carelessness, tiers was translated as third in a sequence. The damage was compounded when someone added the ethnocentric designations of the industrial democracies as the first world and the communist bloc as

the second.

Unfortunately, these errors in translation have led to untold confusion, worldwide resentment, and an outlet for international arrogance and patronage. Howard B. Leavitt Amherst, Mass.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published and none individually acknowledged. All are subject to condensation. Please address letters to ``readers write.''

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.