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International Year Of Planet Earth Wins Full Unesco Backing


The plan to win full United Nations backing for an International Year of Planet Earth has come a step closer as the proposal wins the backing of the Executive Board of UNESCO, the United Nations Scientific, Cultural and Educational Organization in Paris [Note 1].

The Project, already supported by the geoscience communities in most IUGS countries was introduced to the Agenda by the Permanent Delegation of the United Republic of Tanzania, led by the ambassador to UNESCO, Prof. Mohammed Sheya. Twenty five (25) nations either spoke in favour or recorded their approval for the project at the meeting, which took place on April 28, and marked a high point in a political and scientific process that began five years ago in 2000 [Note 1]. No nation spoke against, and the proposal was accepted nem. con. The grand total of UN nations supporting the Year politically now stands at 34, representing well over half the population of the Earth.

The proposal will now go forward to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the only body that is able to proclaim UN years. To maximise its chances of early success, the Management Team [Note 2] has decided to pursue two parallel diplomatic routes. The Year’s sponsorship committee is already beginning work to raise the estimated $20 million to fund the Year’s ambitious Science and Outreach Programmes.

Prof. Mohammed Sheya (UNESCO Permanent Delegation, United Republic of Tanzania, and Goodwill Ambassador for the International Year) said: “I am delighted that Tanzania was able to spearhead this excellent project at the UNESCO Executive Board. Tanzania, like all developing nations, relies upon its natural resources and wonders for the economic benefit of its people. This process must be managed in a sustainable way, and that is what the International Year is all about.”

Prof. Eduardo de Mulder (Netherlands Geological Survey) said: “The Earth sciences hold the key to the future safe habitation of our planet by human beings; yet its vast store of knowledge is sadly underused. Around the shores of the Indian Ocean, 300,000 people are now dead – many of whom could have been saved if Earth sciences had been given the resources to apply what they know. This is one tragic example, but the problem runs much deeper. Everything human beings do involves energy and raw materials, nearly all of which must come from the Earth. Earth sciences must become more visible to public and politicians, and now we have achieved a major step towards making that possible.”

International Year research will be sponsored under 10 broad multidisciplinary themes chosen for their scientific potential and societal relevance: Groundwater, Hazards, Earth & Health, Climate, Resources, Megacities, Deep Earth, Ocean, Soil and Life. Each theme is described in a prospectus inviting matching-fund applications from scientists. Most of these, each written by a team of world-renowned experts, are now published and available at [Note 3].

As with the science programme, the Outreach Programme (which will be of equal status and funding to the Science Programme) will also operate in a ‘bottom-up’ mode. Individuals and organisations will be invited to submit proposals for realization through the Year largely at regional and local levels [Note 4].


1.UNESCO’s former Earth Sciences Division was co-initiator of the Year, together with the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS). UNESCO’s Earth Sciences Division has since been incorporated in the Division of Ecological and Earth Sciences.

2.The Management Team of the Year includes: Prof. Eduardo F J de Mulder (Netherlands Geological Survey, former President, IUGS), Team Leader: Prof. Edward Derbyshire (Royal Holloway, University of London), Chair, Science Committee; Dr Ted Nield (Geological Society of London), Chair, Outreach Committee; Dr Werner Janoschek (Austrian Geological Survey), Treasurer; Dr Wolfgang Eder (former Director, Earth Sciences Division, UNESCO), Larry D Woodfork (Star City WV, USA), Representative, North America. Other members are Felix Toteu, Representative, Africa; Andrej Volkov, Representative, Russia and former USSR; Li Zhijian, Representative, China; Charlie Barton (eGY liaison).

3.The preliminary URL has now been superseded by a new and more memorable one, The older URL will continue to work.

4.Countries and regions will be encouraged to develop their own outreach programmes, as was successfully achieved by Germany in 2002. Components in the outreach programme may include: Cooperation for increased visibility: affiliation with the Year; Educational material; Supporting scientists from countries with weak economies; Citizen science: involving the public in research Competitions; Stories (news, books); Programme making; and Art commissioning. More details about how the scheme will work can be found in the Outreach prospectus, Bringing Earth Sciences to Everyone, available at

Ted Nield | alfa
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