Stronger synergies

CERN was founded 58 years ago under the auspices of UNESCO. Since then, both organisations have grown to become world leaders in their respective fields. The links between the two have always existed but today they are even stronger, with new projects under way to develop a more efficient way of exchanging information and devise a common strategy on topics of mutual interest.


CERN and UNESCO are a perfect example of natural partners: their common field is science and education is one of the pillars on which both are built. Historically, they share a common heritage. Both UNESCO and CERN were born of the desire to use scientific cooperation to rebuild peace and security in the aftermath of the Second World War.

"Recently, building on our common roots and in close collaboration with UNESCO, we have been developing more structured links to ensure the continuity of the actions taken over the years," says Maurizio Bona, who is in charge of CERN relations with international organisations. For years, the two organisations have been working together on projects like the development of digital libraries in Africa and the training of science teachers from developing countries.

"With our recent initiatives, we have reinforced the joint activities provided for in the existing co-operation agreement, which both parties are looking forward to updating," confirms Sonia Bahri, UNESCO’s Chief of Section for Science Policy and Reform, who is in charge of UNESCO relations with CERN. "Our aim is to build on each organisation’s strength to leverage synergies for building capacity in science and technology in developing countries, notably in Africa."

UNESCO is a natural entry point to the world of the United Nations for all science-related matters. Through its strengthened links with UNESCO, CERN will be able to contribute better to projects that foster education in science and technology. UNESCO develops specific programmes designed to inspire youth and women. For example, in collaboration with L’Oréal, UNESCO organises the L’Oréal−UNESCO for Women in Science Programme, recognising scientific excellence among women and encouraging young female researchers to pursue their scientific career worldwide. "Next year, for the first time, CERN will be involved in the project, which is a great honour for the Laboratory," says Maurizio Bona.

CERN and UNESCO have launched a common fundraising initiative to allow them to continue running – and possibly to extend – the very successful digital library schools in Africa. Many librarians and information technology engineers in Africa have no training in how to install and use the software, which is made available by CERN free of charge. The training workshops offered by CERN and UNESCO help bridge this divide. So far, the two Organizations have organised three such schools, the first in 2009 in Rwanda, followed by another two in Morocco and Senegal. The next one will take place in Ghana at the beginning of 2013. Each school is attended by experts from the host country and five to six countries from the same region. CERN and UNESCO also run schools for high-school teachers from African countries, who are invited to participate in dedicated training courses in Geneva that were originally developed for teachers from CERN Member States. The fundraising initiative also aims to help support these special programmes.

The links between CERN and UNESCO have never been so promising and, as Maurizio Bona confirms, "this is only the beginning. The strengthened reciprocal awareness and interaction will certainly bring both organisations new ideas for collaboration." On 10 November each year, UNESCO celebrates World Science Day for Peace and Development. Next year CERN will be involved in organising the event.

by Antonella Del Rosso