News: AAAS News & Notes
Project Aids U.N. Human Rights Efforts
At the request of a top U.N. official, AAAS is designing an information management system that will improve the capability of U.N. human rights treaty monitoring bodies.
The committees are charged with evaluating how well countries are complying with obligations they have agreed to in a number of U.N. human rights covenants and conventions.
"These monitoring procedures have never worked satisfactorily, and the lack of a computerized information management system has contributed to that inadequacy," says Audrey Chapman, director of the AAAS Science and Human Rights Program, which is carrying out the project.
AAAS program associate Stephen Hansen says the system he is developing will make it possible to compare information over the years and across U.N. human rights monitoring bodies, and to integrate data from other sources for more thorough country profiles. "Right now, the treaty monitoring bodies are dependent on what countries tell them," he says. "With this system, committees and staff will be able to have far better information at their disposal when they query states parties, so they may see discrepancies and request additional information." A primary goal, Hansen adds, is to aid the development of early-warning capabilities for evaluating the severity of human rights abuses and the need for emergency intervention.
The mandates of the various human rights covenants are varied, and more than 100 countries are signatories to each agreement, so the information is vast and the monitoring process is complex. But, says Chapman, record-keeping methods at the U.N. Center for Human Rights in Geneva, which serves as the secretariat for all U.N. human rights work, are so outdated that the center "is still consigned to a League of Nations-style paper filing system." Remarkably, "there were no computers until 2 years ago," she notes. Automation has begun, but progress is slow because of scarce resources.
The project was undertaken at the request of Ibrahima Fall, the U.N. assistant secretary- general for human rights. Due for completion next year, it is supported by grants from the United States Institute of Peace and the Joyce Mertz-Gilmore Foundation.
Marking A Milestone
Senior officials of the District of Columbia were among the featured speakers at a "topping out" ceremony last month at the Association's new headquarters in downtown Washington. The event was held to celebrate completion of the first phase of construction of the 12-story building, which will house AAAS and other nonprofit scientific organizations.
Photo by Herman Farrer
Merrick T. Malone (center), D.C. assistant administrator for economic development, and D.C. Council Member Charlene Drew Jarvis (right) signed a symbolic I beam, along with Mike Flynn of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, the architectural firm.
The project was financed in part by the sale of $52 million in low-interest, tax-exempt revenue bonds authorized by the D.C. government. "I use AAAS often as an example to other nonprofits" of the benefits of the city's revenue bond program, Jarvis said.
AAAS has about 25,000 visitors a year. Association officials estimate that the many specialized facilities in the new Center for Science and Engineering -- including a 180-seat auditorium, a model science classroom, conference areas, and a science and technology bookstore-will double that number.
Caribbean Division Founder Dies
Juan Bonnet-Diez, the founder and first president of the Caribbean Division of AAAS, was killed in Puerto Rico in August when he walked into a convenience store during an armed robbery. He was 56.
Throughout his career, Dr. Bonnet worked to promote the development of science and technology in the Western Hemisphere. He first approached AAAS with the idea of establishing a Caribbean Division. It became a reality in 1984, and as president from 1985-88 he helped shape the direction of the division.
Among its activities, the division last month co-sponsored the Environmental Chemistry Symposium of the Third Pan-American Congress of Chemistry. Despite its being held between Hurricanes Luis and Marilyn, the event drew 1,200 chemists from the Americas and the Caribbean. In December the division will co-sponsor a major conference in San Juan on neuroscience research.
|Dr. Bonnet held a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the University of Michigan and was the author of more than 100 scientific and technical publications. He had served as director of the University of Puerto Rico Nuclear Center and of the Department of Chemistry and Physics at Bayamon Technical College. In recent years he was director of the graduate program at the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico, where he also taught.|
He had headed several major scientific and engineering organizations, including the Puerto Rico Academy of Sciences and the Pan-American Union of Engineering Associations.
He is survived by a wife and 6 children.
A Decade Of Science Education Reform
In 1981, AAAS put science literacy at the top of its priority list and began exploring possibilities for a large-scale project that would bring deep and lasting reform to science education. Next month is the 10th anniversary of the launch of that initiative: Project 2061.
The startup coincided with the 1985 approach of Halley's Comet, prompting the planners to consider all the scientific and technological changes a child entering school in 1985 would witness before the return of the comet in 2061-- hence the name.
|The project took an ambitious approach, aiming to rebuild K-12 education
from scratch. Its report, Science
for All Americans, set goals for adult science literacy and has sold
more than 100,000 copies since its release in 1989. A companion volume, Benchmarks
for Science Literacy, was published in 1993 and described what students
in grades 2, 5, 8, and 12 should know and be able to do in science, mathematics,
For more information, contact Mary Koppal at 202-326-6643 or by Internet at: firstname.lastname@example.org.