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UNESCO official to talk on plight of children




Helene-Marie Gosselin, director of the UNESCO liaison office in New York, will visit Lehigh to discuss “Reconstructing the lives of children after war or natural disaster.”

The talk, slated for 4:10 p.m. Tuesday, March 10, in Neville Hall, is free and open to the public.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, encourages international dialogue between the 193 members of the United Nations, placing particular emphasis on emerging issues in education, science and culture.

The event is jointly sponsored by the College of Education’s Comparative and International Education (CIE) program and the Lehigh University-United Nations Partnership. In 2004, Lehigh became only the sixth university in the world to be fully recognized as a Non-Governmental Organization by the United Nations.

"It is important to place this topic in a global context: Global warming, food crisis, natural disasters, and the latest global financial crisis have all shown how different corners of the world are interlinked and, therefore, vulnerable to major challenges,” says Iveta Silova, assistant professor of comparative and international education.

“And it is critical to understand what can make a positive difference for education in times of crisis, in both national and international settings,” she says. “For Lehigh students and faculty, it is a unique opportunity to engage in a conversation with one of the leaders in international education development.”

Gosselin joined the United Nations in 1979 and, since then, has held leadership positions with both UNICEF and UNESCO. She has earned several appointments by the UN Secretary-General during her long and successful career with the international organization.

Gosselin’s topic is of paramount concern for the global community and UNESCO, which has said that more than 200 million people are affected every year by natural catastrophes. Children are often the most vulnerable. In just one month in 2005, a UNESCO press release reported, 160 schools were destroyed in Iran due to an earthquake, while another 200 Filipino children died when a mudslide covered their school.

Since its founding in 1945, UNESCO has been a forceful advocate for peace and equality, especially in areas of the world that remain comparatively undeveloped.

Gosselin’s visit coincides with an important announcement from UNESCO concerning the global financial crisis. A recent report drafted by the organization’s Education for All Global Monitoring Team indicates that children living in poverty are disproportionately suffering from the economic downturn.

The report says that the 390 million people already living in extreme poverty throughout sub-Saharan Africa will lose $46 dollars per person in 2009—nearly 20 percent of their per capita income.

Lehigh has forged a close relationship with the United Nations in recent years. Last month, students traveled to the United Nations’ New York City headquarters for the group’s World Day of Social Justice. And in January, Lehigh attended a session titled, “Issue of the Moment: The Changing Face of Race,” which was held in observation of the International Day of Tolerance and the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

--Tom Yencho


Posted on Thursday, March 05, 2009

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