Monday, August 5, 2013

A communication from the IUGS President urging support 
for UNESCO Earth Science Section and IGCP

Dear Colleagues,

The UNESCO home page ( features the report of the UNESCO Executive Board from July 2013, which contains some extremely concerning facts and statements that should interest every geoscientist! Some examples follow:

- “….set priorities due to an impaired cash flow stemming from the non-payment of a significant sum of assessed contributions….”

- “… designate in each Major Programme the following order of priorities amongst the expected results taking into consideration the priorities identified….”

- “.. budget priority C: 0 – 40% of the amount foreseen…”

The most dramatic statement is that Geosciences are summarized as “global cooperation in thee ecological and geological sciences expanded”, but have been allocated the lowest possible rank, C! Geophysics is summarized under “risk reduction improvement, early warning of natural hazards strengthened and disaster preparedness and resilience enhanced”, and is rated B. (The Geosciences are in good company, with “human rights….” also ranked C !).

This endangers the Earth Science Section at UNESCO, given that it is stated that:

“Where the available resources make it impossible to maintain a critical mass of programme activity, the Director General shall make proposals as appropriate to: reallocate the resources to a higher budgetary priority”.

Collectively, these statements sound like the announcement of an end to the Earth sciences at UNESCO, which is currently the only non-governmental world organization including the geosciences. The need for Earth sciences representation in the world educational organization should be obvious.

As President of IUGS, I encourage all of you to take a personal look at the document 191 EX/Decisions (5 X/EX/DECISIONS) at the link:

Please think about any steps you can take with the members of your national committee, UNESCO Ambassador or any member of the UNESCO Executive Board. If there is a chance to help the Earth Science Section to survive the next two years, it is imperative that we take action now to show that our science is still active, alive and, most importantly, needed in the future for providing natural resources for future generations in a socio-economic balance with humanity.

Attentive observers would have noted UNESCO’s progressive reduction of funding of IGCP, which has been a very successful joint IUGS-UNESCO program for over 40 years. Although IGCP was evaluated positively early this year it is endangered within UNESCO. IUGS alone is not able to fund and administer IGCP. It is my conviction that it is very important to continue this international, bottom-up science programme, which enables major collaborative research projects. It brings together scientists from industrialized and emerging countries, provides excellent international networking for young scientists and is instrumental in attracting additional research funds.

Several countries are intending to financially support the IGCP programme with dedicated funding through UNESCO. If such action is taken more widely, this would be of considerable assistance to the UNESCO Earth Science Section and the IGCP programme.


Roland Oberhänsli
(President, IUGS)