UNESCO: United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization

The Organisation


Heloisa Maria Bertol Domingues

Heloisa Maria Bertol Domingues is Professor at the Museu de Astronomia, Department of History of Science, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, working in the area of social history of natural sciences in Brazil in the 19th and 20th Centuries.
She organized, with M.Romero Sá and Thomas Glick, the book “A recepção do Darwinismo no Brazil”; the edition of Castro Faria, Luiz, “Another look:a Diary of Serra do Norte Expedition, 1938, Mato Grosso”.
On UNESCO’s History, she has published, as part of the research on the History of the Division of Natural Sciences and Brazil, many articles as “A redescoberta da Amazônia num projeto da Unesco: o Instituto Internacional da Hiléia Amazônica”; “A Unesco, o Instituto Internacional da Hiléia Amazônica e a Antropologia no final dos anos 40”; “International Sciences, Brazil and the Diplomacy in UNESCO (1946-50)”, all these with Patrick Petitjean, and “La cooperación cientifica internacional, la UNESCO en Brasil a fines de los años cuarenta” and “International Sciences or Imperialist Sciences: the case of the International Institute of Hylean Amazon”.
“UNESCO and Projects on Men and Nature”

UNESCO, under the Natural Sciences Division, was the first organism to promote studies about Man and Nature as an unit, based in a scientific international practice. Since the beginning, UNESCO supported, with priority, international scientific projects on the environment and the natural resources.

Among those projects, the first was that of the International Institute of Hylean Amazon (IIIHA), proposed by the Brazilian delegation in 1946, still in the preparatory meetings of UNESCO. This first international institution of research would embrace the countries integrating the Amazonian region: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Ecuator, Venezuela and the Guyanas. To make it real UNESCO created in Manaus, where it would be the headquarters of the Institute, the first Scientific Office of International Cooperation, in Latin America, in 1947. The project of IIHA identified itself with the ideas of evolutionism and biological and cultural diversity, summarized in the scientific humanism, predominant in UNESCO, under Julian Huxley's direction. The scientific background of the Institute was the Ecology. This project did not have success. So, there appeared the Humid Tropic Program, in the years 1950 and 1960, to face the scientific problems related to the tropical areas.

At the end of the 40’s, in the immediate postwar, the environmental subject mobilized scientists of the several areas. In UNESCO, as well as in UN the exploration of the nature stimulated different conferences, standing out, in 1947, the first meeting of IIHA, that took place in Belém, Brazil, the Economical and Social Conference, taken place in Paris, that treated of the forests, forestry, soils and the problems of the erosion and conservation. In 1948, it took place the Interamerican Conference of Denver and the important conference of Fontainebleau where the idea of preservation of the nature was defined, including the concepts of nature reserves and of national parks. In the following year UN, promoted the Scientific Conference on the Conservation and Use of the Natural Resources (UNSCCUR) and UNESCO the International Technical Conference for the Protection of the Nature, both taken place in Lake Success, in August of 1949. In these conferences new scientific institutional projects of UNESCO appeared for the environment.
The Humid Tropic Program was presented in Denver, in 1947, and was developed in form of congresses that took place along the fifties, and the one of 1956 took place in Manaus, Amazon. The question related to the humid tropic was debated under a number of aspects involving the forest ones, the nature of the soils and of their sedimentation cycles and erosion, the atmospheric problems taken into account the pluviosity, the hydrochemistry, the reactions of the soils to the rains, finally, the ecological questions in general.

In 1948, in the General Conference of UNESCO, in Beyrouth, the Indian delegation presented a proposal for the creation of an International Institute for the Arid Areas (IIZA), in the molds of the International Institute of Hylean Amazon. This project of an international laboratory for the arid areas was already anticipated in the 1947 UNESCO's Report about the establishment of international laboratories. IIZA would study problems concerning to the adaptation of vegetable species to the arid areas, to the eolic erosion, to the conservation, purification and economy of water, worrying at avoiding the desertification, and, also, because the arid areas are characterized by the abundance of solar energy and should be carried out studies for its use. In Lake Success, in 1949, UNESCO created a Committee with the main objective of studying the use and conservation of the waters, defining that the works on the arid areas would not limit themselves to the fundamental research, and that the Committee would participate in its practical application. In this sense, they would count with the international cooperation of FAO, WHO and UN itself.
In Fontainebleau, in 1948, UNESCO, together with the French government and UN, carried out the conference in order to capitalize themes that would be debated in the following year in the meeting of UNSCCUR. In this conference UNESCO presented the project of constitution of the International Union for the Protection of the Nature, initiative of the Swiss League of Protection of Nature that gathered, in 1946, several European countries that proposed the creation of an international organism for the protection of the nature. In the conference of Fontainebleau it was constituted the International Union for the Protection of the Nature (IUPN), understanding "protection to the nature" as the safeguards of the alive world as a whole, the man's natural environment. This whole embraces the renewable natural "resources of the earth, primordial factor of all the civilization."

The history of these projects and its unfolding in several other projects of scientific vanguard, happened in a context of democratic ideas and in an ecological approach, shows how UNESCO pointing out the intrinsic social problems of all areas of the sciences, and as well as it has been seeking for solutions.

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