Reaffirming a long-standing partnership

CERN welcomes many VIP visitors, and each one is special. However, last Saturday’s visit from Irina Bokova, the Director General of UNESCO, has particular significance. UNESCO was the organization that steered CERN into existence in the 1950s, and it is at UNESCO’s headquarters that our founding documents are held.


 Today, CERN and UNESCO have much in common. Both have the promotion of science and of global cooperation as part of their missions, and both set great store by the power of education to change the world for the better.

UNESCO has been an observer at the CERN Council ever since our foundation, and in recent years our converging interest in forging links with the developing world has seen important joint initiatives. In 2009, CERN held two schools in Kigali, Rwanda, covering the subjects of digital libraries and teacher training. Both promoted Rwandan and African expertise, and both were held within the framework of UNESCO’s International Basic Science Programme (IBSP). Their success has led to a repeat being organized next month in the Moroccan city of Rabat, bringing together people from Morocco, Algeria, Benin, Cameroun, Senegal and Tunisia. Some of the participants will then spend a month at CERN.

Ms Bokova’s visit gave us the chance to discuss other initiatives that our two organizations are working towards. One, for example, concerns the differences in school physics curricula from one country to another. A workshop planned for the second half of 2011 will address this question, looking at how good physics teaching can make a real difference to development and sustainability.

On Saturday, Ms Bokova and I also discussed a new agreement between CERN and UNESCO that would allow us to put such initiatives on solid ground, rather than each being managed on an ad-hoc basis. Our discussions confirmed our convergence of views and objectives, and reaffirmed our mutual commitment to develop and strengthen the cooperation between our organizations.

 Rolf Heuer