THE MOST REPORT 2001: LINKING RESEARCH AND ACTIONParis - How should multicultural societies, cities and urbanisation be managed in a world increasingly marked by the flight of people from the countryside and other migration? How can we fight poverty and tackle world problems at local level ?
In today's complex and uncertain world, social sciences are helping to identify, understand and come to grips with ongoing social and other changes. These are some of the issues being dealt with by MOST (Management of Social Transformations), one of UNESCO's five major scientific programmes, which has just released its 2001 annual report.
Launched in 1994, MOST is the first intergovernmental social sciences research programme to be set up within a specialized UN agency. It aims to encourage interdisciplinary and comparative research in fields such as managing multicultural societies, international migration, cities and urbanization, relations between local and world level activities, poverty, governance and sustainable development. MOST operates mainly by setting up regional and international networks that bring together researchers and various users of social sciences, especially city governments and NGOs.
Three broad themes dominate MOST's activity: democratic management of multicultural and multi-ethnic societies, urban governance and urban development strategies, and local and national responses to worldwide environmental problems. The added value of the MOST programme is that each of its networks and projects has two aims: boosting long-term research and providing knowledge and know-how for decision-makers.
The annual report presents one of the projects involving democratic management of multicultural and multi-ethnic societies, the Asia-Pacific Migration Research Network - APMRN), which helps many governments to cope with problems arising from the rural exodus to towns and from international immigration to the region's very large cities. Another project concerns traditional knowledge. The recognition of such knowledge enables those who possess it - either individuals or communities - to play a more active role in decision-making to do with their means of subsistence and management of natural resources. Since 1999 MOST has maintained a database of best practices concerning traditional knowledge (www.unesco.org/most/bpindi.htm).
The report also deals with: the National Integration Programme the Latvian government adopted in February last year to help the one third of the country's population who do not speak Latvian; a network of decision-makers and researchers in the new central and eastern European and central Asian states to monitor and analyse ethnic conflicts and seek ways to prevent them; the Ethno-Net Africa network that systematically trawls news agency wires, newspapers and websites such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for anything concerning ethnic conflict and ethnic relations and passes it on to national members of the Network; and the E-Journal on Multicultural Societies whose two issues last year dealt with religious diversity in the Russian Federation and minority languages in Europe.
On urban problems, the International Project on City Words, that seeks to clarify social and technical communication problems, has produced a wide range of publications, including the Cahiers des mots de la ville series (in French only) and, shortly, a Multilingual Historical Dictionary of cities. The Growing up in Cities project - which has also just provided raw material for a book and been awarded the Environmental DesignResearch Association Prize - explores the relationship between young city-dwellers and their environment. Cities in eight countries served as laboratories and a handbook will list the best practices.
Also in the report: the Cities, the Environment andSocial Relations between Men and Women project that analyses the importance of women's participation in solving environmental and urban development problems, using data from medium-sized cities in seven countries; Urban Research Networks and Research-Action concerning architecture and urban planning; the Cities: Management of Social Transformations and the Environment project, that links MOST and UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme and has pilot projects on the go in Haiti and Senegal.
On globalisation and urban governance, the report discusses the Research Project on the International Drug Problem that is trying to gather serious data in this difficult field and will publish a report in June. Three other activities are also dealt with: MOST's participation at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre (Brazil), the Circumpolar Coping Processes Project on responses to globalisation by different communities in polar regions and the project on strategies for management of transformation risks in central and eastern Europe.
The report also has news about the 40 or so Chairs established by the MOST programme, about the MOST Prize for a Ph.D thesis and about the latest initiatives in the social sciences field.
The English version of the MOST Annual Report 2001 will be out on April 25 and the French and Spanish versions on June 30.