Sunday, October 29, 2006

Remembering Jack Fobes

On June 17th, 2005, Americans for UNESCO and the Board on International Scientific Organizations of The National Academies held a celebration of the life of John E. Fobes. Special guests for the event were Federico Mayor Zaragoza (Former Director-General of UNESCO), Harriet M. Fulbright and Harlan Cleveland. The website of Americans for UNESCO was not working when Dr. Fobes died, but we are now taking this opportunity to commemorate his life and his contributions.

John Edwin Fobes died at his home at the age of 86 on Jan. 20, 2005. A distinguished diplomat, he served as Deputy Director-General of UNESCO, the organization's chief operating officer, from 1971 to 1977, and as Chair of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO on his return from Paris. When the United States withdrew from UNESCO, Jack Fobes immediately founded Americans for the Universality of UNESCO (which subsequently became Americans for UNESCO). From 1985-2002, he headed AUU; through the organization's network and its Newsletter, he virtually single-handedly kept the idea of UNESCO alive in the American mind. In 2002, he assumed the Chair of the Advisory Council of Americans for UNESCO.
He was widely known as a model of global engagement and solidarity. Whether as a United States diplomat or UNESCO official, he was unstintingly dedicated to the cause of peace, human dignity and international understanding. He played an important role in the establishment of the United Nations, and remained an energetic promoter and defender of the Organization’s Charter and global mission. I understand that even shortly before his death, he took the floor at a public meeting to make an impassioned statement in support of the UN’s ideals. Such deeply held commitment was clearly why so many younger people found in him a mentor and teacher, and why his legacy is sure to be felt by future generations.
Kofi Annan
Secretary General of the United Nations
in a letter of condolence to Hazel Fobes

Excerpts from the Remarks of Federico Mayor

The equal dignity of all the human beings...

They are our commitment, they are our permanent "raison d'être"
· 50,000 of our brothers and sisters die of hunger every day. We cannot forget it – we have a duty of memory.
· It is this feeling that allows us to dare. "Dare to care" was one of the expressions I took from Jack Fobes in 1988 – dare to share... and to care!

Dear friends, Dear Hazel, family:

I have an immense debt of gratitude to Jack Fobes. He was very helpful, inspiring...

I share your profound grief at the loss of our beloved friend.


Jack is my friend. He is not physically present anymore, but he remains present in my everyday life as one who had an important part in forging our attitudes. temper, behavior... As I wrote in a poem to Melina Mercouri: '"The stars lead us long after they have gone dark". Jack was and will ever be a star leading me on my way...

· Jack, a man of vision.
In the watch tower, because what matters is future... to ensure a brighter future to our children..
The succeeding generations: they were the every-day essential thought of Jack Fobes. They deserve to freely write their own future, and we cannot in social, economic, environmental, cultural and ethical terms leave them a legacy of muscle, insolidarity, fear, disorder, confusion, injustice...

He was a great American – he loved his country and its principles – but he was more: he was a world citizen and he had all human beings in his eyes when looking for better sharing, for better care... yes, above all, better sharing! Dare to share! Time, goods, funds, knowledge – sharing better, we can avoid frustration, radicalization, violence, aggression; sharing and listening, we can place the word, the dialog, conciliation where today we have confrontation, the sword, the force...


From a speech of Robert Kennedy, I quote: "This world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease."...

Listen to the young people – to work for them is not enough, we must work with them!

The future generations, always in the mind of Jack Fobes: "Education for all... It's time for action"...


Life is a mystery. Death is a mystery too. Every single human being is unique, is able to create, to invent.

Jack Fobes: you left, you remain in our mind. You have now immense wings for the endless space. And infinite time. We are still here trying to act as you wanted, in a constant search, with faith and resolve. And freedom. And knowing that if there is no wind, we must row.

"Never gloat" was his motto; he never sought nor accepted glory. I remember his reluctance when UNESCO awarded to him the Nehru Gold Medal. Now, I understand Jack's grace: now, only now, he is with a force so strong he must accept his glory. Jack, I truly believe, “has gone to Glory”.

John E. Fobes The Man
A presentation by Richard Nobbe

On The Occasion of The June 17, 2005 Memorial Service

Much has been written and said about John E. Fobes the scholar, diplomat, international civil servant, visionary - and unabashedly pro-UN activist. But who was Jack Fobes the Man?

I don't profess to have mastered the subject because the truth of the matter is Jack was a very private and complex person. But what I have done is to assemble a collage of images based on anecdotal remembrances which will provide you a glimpse into his character.

His wife Hazel tells me he was raised by a protective mother and a prudish intellectual maiden aunt on his mother's side and by two aunts on his father's side (the wealthier side of the family) who inculcated in him a love of archaeology and geography.

Jack was a train buff. As a youth, he used to slip away to visit the train yards to study and master the number wheels that gave a locomotive its name. He also had a valuable collection of "Lionel" trains with belching vapor, blinking lights, and piercing whistles. His first job upon graduating cum laude from college was as Director of Train Tours through the Canadian Rockies down the west coast into Mexico. In fact, it was on one of those trips that he met his wife Hazel. According to her, it was an instant whirlwind romance, love at first sight, ever constant, ever true. Today, as we commemorate Jack's life, the rear bumper tag on his car still reads, "I'd rather be riding a train." Toot! Toot!

Jack was an ardent lover of classical music. He could identity compositions and composers by listening to the music. As a youth. he participated regularly in meetings of musical groups established throughout the country by the late Leonard Bernstein to foster appreciation on the subject. And he won several prizes.

Jack professed not to be interested in sports. He was in fact a great athlete and excelled in track and swimming, having served as captain of the varsity swimming team at Northwestern University. His daughter informs me she is alive because of his prowess in swimming. During his assignment to India, the family went to the ocean one day and she got caught up m a riptide which carried her out to sea. Sensing danger, Jack raced to the water's edge, hurtled the waves, and rescued her.

Jack never mentioned his military experience, but he was drafted by the air force and rose to the eminent position of Lieutenant Major. He was a spotter, his job being to identify key targets and installations behind enemy lines for destruction and elimination. Hazel tells me she did not see him for three years and that this experience completely changed his personality.

Although not well known, Jack was an amateur biblical scholar. In his spare time, he would regularly read the Old and New testaments and could quote scripture by memory and at random.

Rank and privilege were not the same for lack. Rank mean) the acceptance of responsibility and the execution of authority. As for privileges, he did not believe in them. For example, with few exceptions, he traveled air coach on all his foreign missions for UNESCO, although he was entitled to first class. As an extension of this philosophy, he practiced an open-door policy during his 14 years as the top administrator and subsequently Deputy-Director general for UNESCO during which the staff regardless of rank could visit him about personal and professional matters- He is still regarded today by those who remember him, especially by those whom he fondly called "the little staff people" (telephone operators, machinists, drivers, workers etc.) as the quintessential American of good heart, faith, and fairness.

Jack was especially fond and laudatory of people who, like him, felt passionate about their advocacy. Such was the case of the late Barbara Good (a former National Commission staff member) who prepared in the mid-1970s a blockbuster resolution on the promotion of women which required three weeks of advance preparation. Upon adoption by acclamation, Jack left the podium to congratulate Barbara with a handshake and a hug. Shortly thereafter, overcome by joy, emotion, and a sense of fulfillment, she fainted and had to be wheeled off to the UNESCO nursery under Jack's watchful eye.

Another of Jack's great passions was his belief that the wives of senior-ranking UNESCO officials should play a major role in promoting the well-being of the UNESCO family, especially members of delegations from third-world countries. Many of these women found themselves in a large hustling city for the first time. Some had never seen tall buildings or elevators before. And many knew nothing about French customs, practices, idiosyncrasies. And so was born the UNESCO Community Service, coordinated and strengthened by Hazel Fobes. Among its many accomplishments was the publication of a well received booklet by the French media entitled "Practically Yours, Paris and France" (unfortunately now out of print) which greatly contributed to the enrichment of the lives of members of foreign delegations and international civil servants as well. Had it not been for Jack's strong support, the protect might have failed for lack of funding.

Unbeknownst to many, Jack was a prankster extraordinaire. Let me add one other to those mentioned by Dr. Arndt. On Earth Day, which was never officially recognized by UNESCO, Jack asked his personal assistant to go to the market and purchase hundreds of the biggest, juiciest, and reddest radishes she could find and place them on silver trays in the main lobby. His entire staff was then ushered in only to be met by Jack who gave them an up-beat sermonette about Earth Day. Needless to say, the environmental community was thrilled but what amused Jack was how rapidly the radishes disappeared. Anyone who has partaken of this treat will understand what I mean.

In conclusion. what all this suggests to me, ladies and gentlemen, is that Jack, behind that intellectual facade, scholarly mien, and sometimes stern countenance, was at heart a fun-loving guy with bouts of fantasy and whimsicality, a good sense of humor, a sentimentalist who cared deeply about this family and the human race and who, on occasion, liked to let his hair down and engage in self-deprecation and introspection about the frailties of the human condition. Indeed, he was happiest and at peace with himself when dedicating his life to promoting the causes of humanity.

And so, Jack, on behalf of those present, especially those of Americans for UNESCO, we wish you God speed. You were truly a great person and a source of inspiration to many of us. Thank you.

Biographical Details

Born and raised in Chicago, John Edwin Fobes graduated cum laude from Northwestern University in 1939, and received his M.S. from Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. He served in the U.S. Army Air Corps from 1942-1946, rising from private to major. After the war, he served in the Secretariat to the United Nations from 1945-1946, during its organizational stages. As a U.S. civil servant in the Bureau of the Budget from 1946-1951, he addressed issues arising from increased multilateral activity immediately following World War II.

He moved to Paris with his family in 1952, where he served for three years as Attaché to the U.S. Delegation to NATO and OEEC, helping to administer the Marshall Plan. On return, he was named director of the State Department's Office of International Administration.

In 1960. the family moved to New Delhi, India, where Dr. Fobes served as assistant director, then deputy director, of the U.S. Mission to India, the largest U.S. foreign-aid program at the time. His ambassador was John Kenneth Galbraith.

In 1964, he returned to Pans, to join UNESCO, the Untied Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization, as Assistant Director-General for Administration. In 1971, he was appointed Deputy Director-General, the organization's chief operating officer, where until his retirement in 1977 he served under two directors: France's René Maheu and Senegal's Amadou Mahtar M'Bow.

Renaming to the U.S., he was named m the US National Commission for UNESCO and elected chairman by the 100-member body. Meanwhile he was working with like-minded colleagues to found the Club of Rome, in which he retained membership from 1978 to 2000.

When the Reagan Administration made its decision to withdraw from UNESCO, Fobes immediately resigned his chairmanship of the U.S. National Commission and retired to Asheville, NC. There he founded Americans for the Universality of UNESCO, an organization of UNESCO-experienced Americans intent upon persuading the U.S. to re-enter the multilateral organization; he kept it alive on family funds, and later with some help from the MacArthur Foundation, for the two decades of U.S. absence from UNESCO. From 1985-2002, he headed AUU; through the organization's network and its Newsletter, he virtually single-handedly kept the idea of UNESCO alive in the American mind. When the U.S. announced re-entry in the Fall of 2002, he passed the leadership of AUU to the next generation, retaining a role as Founder President Emeritus and Chair of its Advisory Council; AUU took a new post re-entry name, Americans for UNESCO (AU), and moved to Washington DC. He was also president of the Western North Carolina Chapter of the United Nations Association and participated vigorously in its programs until the eve of his death.

His honors include: Doctor of humanities (honoris causa), Bucknell University, 1973; the UNESCO Silver Medal for Service, 1983; the UNESCO Nehru Gold Medal in 1992, in recognition of "profound commitment to the Organization and outstanding contribution to the achievement of its goals"; and election as Fellow of the World Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1992.

John Edwin Fobes died at his home at the age of 86 on Jan. 20, 2005. His survivors include his citizen-activist wife of 64 years, Hazel Weaver Fobes; a daughter, Patricia Sanson, of Maryville, TN; a son Jeff Fobes, publisher of the Asheville Mountain Express; three granddaughters; and five great grandchildren.

Read the Tributes to John Fobes by Koïchiro Matsuura and Paul Schafer
Read the Jack Fobes: Lien-Link Memorial Articles by Richard Arndt and Gérard Bolla.

Jack Fobes: Lien-Link Memorial Articles

Lien/Link, the newsletter of the Association of Former Staff Members of UNESCO, devoted two articles to memorializing Jack Fobes in 2005 (Issue 92, April-June 2005). That issue is no longer online, so we publish here the articles by Dick Arndt (Chair of the Advisory Council and former President of Americans for UNESCO) and Gérard Bolla (Former Assistant Director General of UNESCO -- in French).

Remembering Jack Fobes

John Edwin Fobes, or Jack as we all knew him, died at his home in Asheville, North Carolina, on January 20, as with his beloved Hazel he practiced their regular morning hour of meditation.

It is late for a traditional obituary. Reflecting on the rich and dedicated life of Jack Fobes, his American friends conclude that it is already time to move beyond tributes, testimonials and tears and to begin collecting the hundreds of tessera which must be assembled into the mosaic of this remarkable American life.

Jack himself was seized with the urgency of this task. Those who knew him best agree that he would have wanted us, by now, to cease our mourning and “get on with it,” as he might have put it. As early as the summer of 2003, he was thinking about it: his colleagues in Americans for UNESCO (AU) had collected a gift to enable him and Hazel to witness the return of the U.S. to the Organization and to attend the General Conference meetings in Paris; unable to make the trip, Jack sent back to AU a larger check, asking that it be devoted to an archival project with a university in the U.S. to preserve U.S.-related UNESCO documents, like his papers, for the world’s scholars.

The last chore he proudly completed before his death was to gather the complete run of the Newsletter he and his son Jeff designed and published from 19 years, the voice of Americans for the Universality of UNESCO (AUU); copies of this loose-leaf collection arrived in our office two weeks before his death. On a recent visit, I glanced quickly at the files in his Asheville office and store-room, perhaps forty full file-drawers, tightly packed with meticulously-labeled folders and already in the kind of preliminary order one would expect from this scrupulous administrator. In retrospect, various conversations during his last months make it clear that he was facing up to the task of preparing these papers for transfer to an archive.

His UNESCO friends do not always remember that UNESCO was only part of Jack’s life, even if it centered his thinking in the last four decades and lifted his global vision to new levels. When he came to Paris from the USAID mission in New Delhi in 1964, his arrival at Place de Fontenoy refocused his life. But there was already much of that life already in place.

With his academic background in public administration, it was natural that the U.S. Army Air Force should have detached this young captain, well before the end of World War II, for work with the Strategic Bombing Survey and the UN preparatory commission in London. In parallel and in the same building, the regular wartime meetings of the Allied Ministers of Education were taking place. And when the U.S. delegation headed by young Congressman J. William Fulbright came to London to attend those meetings in the Spring of 1944, he followed their work from his nearby vantage-point. Fulbright’s delegation to what would become UNESCO included Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish; Dean Mildred Thompson of Vassar College, surrogate for Eleanor Roosevelt; Nobel physicist Arthur Compton, President of Washington University in St. Louis; and President George Shuster of Hunter College in New York, among others. To honor the U.S. presence, the Allied Ministers elected Fulbright – a Rhodes Scholar and four-year veteran of Oxford – to chair their meetings. All this was happening while Fobes was laboring alongside men like Ralph Bunche to design the UN.

Returning to Washington, he helped design and administer the Marshall Plan for European recovery, from his base in the State Department, where he became a central architect of U.S. engagement with the UN and other multilateral bodies. Moving with his young family to New Delhi in the Kennedy years, he served Ambassador John Kenneth Galbraith as Deputy Director of the USAID mission.

He began his life in, with and for UNESCO as ADG for Administration in 1964, then became DDG in 1971, a position he retained until retirement in 1977. Back in Washington, he was quickly named to the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO and in 1979 was elected to its Chair. By December 1983, overriding the Commission’s strong objections and those of the involved U.S. agencies in Washington, as well as a considerable number of NGOs across the nation, the U.S. announced withdrawal from UNESCO at the end of the following year, pledging that its sole purpose was to stimulate the kind of internal reform that Jack Fobes had been quietly putting in place for a decade. When it became obvious that the U.S. pledge to recognize successful reforms over time would not be honored, scholars like Roger Coate concluded that the withdrawal was part of a larger ideological agenda and that the call for reform was no more than tactical.

Whether out of principle or under pressure from political forces in the new administration, Jack Fobes resigned from the U.S. National Commission and its Chair that same December. Despite continued objection from his successor Chairman and the Executive Committee, U.S. withdrawal took place a year later (31 December 1984), when the Commission was disbanded and commissioners relieved of their duties. Fobes’ immediate response, with no financial backing, was to found AUU, a citizen support group which tried to fill the vacuum left by the disappearance of the U.S. Commission. The purposes of AUU, as he expressed them, reveal his thinking at the time. From his base in North Carolina, he spent a great deal of his first year working with the UK but failed to persuade the British government not to follow the U.S. withdrawal one year later.

Early issues of the AUU Newsletter reveal the shaping of Fobes’ goals. He was as intent as ever on reforming UNESCO, but from within; he insisted at the same time that along with reform in Paris the U.S. had to look hard at its own house and its dreary record of engagement since 1946. He pressed the British to maintain their involvement. He knew that U.S. civil society would continue to cooperate with UNESCO and sought to facilitate such activity. He was looking for ways to re-educate the American public from the ground up, with particular focus on the utility of UNESCO’s agenda to broad U.S. goals. Soon he had begun to see that AUU, to carry out such an agenda, needed financial support – the pleas for contributions mount from issue to issue.

In February 1986, the fifth issue of the Newsletter told the sad tale of Fobes’ involvement in the death of the National Commission, during a Washington conference call in 12-13 December 1985. At dinner on 12 December, there were two speakers: Ivo Margan, Chair of UNESCO’s Executive Board, and Elliott Richardson, head of the American UN Association. The next day his successor Chairman James Holderman informed all commissioners of the Presidentially-approved decision to withdraw, cancel their appointments and disband the Commission.

During the half-day of meetings on 13 December, Fobes made a major statement, summarized in his own words in February. He was sad, he said, but not disheartened: sad about the handling of the UK withdrawal and “the bitterness it has engendered,” yet encouraged by the global outpouring of dismay over the two withdrawals.

He made four points. On reform, he believed it would inevitable reach far beyond internal adjustments once it took account of the new kinds of multilateral cooperation the world already needed; after forty years it was time to rethink the UNESCO Constitution; he called for “a synthesis of resolutions and declarations of the past 40 years,” what he called a “Meta Constitution,” as a roadmap to guide UNESCO through this period of transition.

On surviving the brutal budgetary consequences of the two withdrawals, he called for men and women “of strong faith and vision” inside UNESCO and urged that there be more “universality and renewal groups” around the world, akin to what he had in mind for AUU.

On international support, he noted the role of the Executive Board and Chairman Margan and the promise held out by a new DG in the Fall of 1987. He noted the importance of the “middle States” like Canada and the Nordic countries and called on them to enhance their cooperation with the key international NGOs. He anticipated help from “some” National Commissions.

On the broader context, he indicated his overarching belief that UNESCO’s crisis has its origins in a crisis of civilizations, felt with special acuity in “that part of the UN system which deals with the heart, mind, conscience and learning capacities of human society.”

Concluding, he turned to his own country: “It is unthinkable that this nation, rich in interests and ideas, can deal with its world relationships in a fragmented fashion, leaving NGOs, universities and business to work separately . . . from government agencies.”

The death of the U.S. Commission prompted his dream of “a proper citizens’ commission for UNESCO.” He went on to predict: America may re-invent a central citizens’ body similar to but more autonomous than the Commission…. The pattern of voluntary coalitions concerned with the advance of knowledge, learning, understanding and human dignity could be repeated at the level of communities all across the country…. In some cases, they will be groups for “the universality of UNESCO.” In others, UNA chapters, World Affairs Councils, World Federalist units and other bodies will expand their horizons. They should all have a voice….

Jack Fobes’ legacy to Americans for UNESCO went well beyond the crisis of 1984. The fall of this “mighty oak,” as one admirer called him, has left the burden to lesser trees, not only in the American forest but everywhere in the world. We are grateful to the editors of Liens/Links for this opportunity to share a fragment of Jack’s vision with the UNESCO family and to seek their help in assembling the mosaic of this rich, generous and noble life.

Richard T. Arndt
President Americans for UNESCO

Jack Fobes n’est plus.

Comment ceux qui ont eu la chance et le bonheur de travailler auprès de lui et qui l’ont aimé et admiré, peuvent-ils, en quelques mots, faire comprendre ce que Jack a représenté pour eux et pour l’Unesco?

Deux choses me viennent tout de suite à l’esprit : Jack était un grand administrateur qui aimait les programmes de l’Unesco et Jack était un administrateur qui avait du coeur !

Profondément attaché aux idéaux de l’Unesco, Jack l’a été jusqu’à ses derniers jours. Responsable de l’administration, il a toujours aimé et protégé ves activités dites de programme et les functionnaires qui en étaient chargés. Ceux-ci le savaient bien qui frappaient directement à sa porte et trouvaient avec lui des solutions à leurs problèmes. Aux yeux de Jack, les services administratifs, qu’il dirigeait si bien, avaient pour táche essentielle d’aider leurs colleagues à mettre en oeuvre ces activités de programme qui étaient – et restent – l’unique justification de l’existence même de l’organisation. Pour lui, ces activités de programme, surtout celles en faveur du développement ont toujours en priorité sur les routines et les obstacles administratifs.

C’est bien avant de prendre ses fonctions au troisième étage du bâtiment de la place Fontenoy que Jack avait fait connaissance, par la biais de son budget, avec les activités d’une organisation à laquelle il allait consacrer de nombreuses années de sa vie. Représentant des Etats Unis au Comité de coordination administrative des Nations Unies un orange composé d’ « administratifs » purs et durs – Jack avait étonné Maheu qui défendait sur le plan technique le budget de l’Organisation, par des questions qui démontraient un grand intérêt pour les objectifs et les activités de l’Unesco, surtout celles sur le terrain. Ce sont ces échanges courtois au sein d’un Comité où les débats sont plutôt arides, qui devaient plus tard faire dire à Maheu que « Fobes » [sic] est un homme gentil », c’est-à-dire, dans le sense original et historique de cette épithète « dèlicat, généreux et noble ».

Ce sont ces qualités d’administrateur s’intéressant avant tout aux opèrations concrètes qu’une organisation comme l’Unesco peut avoir dans le monde et surtout dans sa partie la plus défavorisée, qui ont déterminé le choix que fit le Directeur général d’alors. J’ai rencontré Jack pour la première fois à Orly où il débarquait seul pour prendre ses nouvelles fonctions. Il a apprécié la vue « culturelle » de son bureau donnant sur l’Ecole militaire et la Tour Eiffel, alors que les dossiers commençaient déjà à s’accumuler sur son bureau. Chacun sait que l’arrivée d’un nouvel administrateur suscite toujours d’abondantes requêtes.

Amoureux des programmes de l’Unesco, Jack avait – je crois pouvoir le dire – un certain faible pour les sciences sociales, qui correspondaient à sa formation universitaire, et parmi les projets relevants alors du secteur des sciences sociales, ceux relatifs à la défense des droits de l’homme retenaient le plus son attention. Une des rares occasions où les veus de Jack ont divergé des miennes concernaient la place des activités d’architecture dans l’organigramme du Secrétariat. Pour des raisons – que je reconnais avoir été purement pragmatiques – je voyais l’architecture associée aux programmes de technologie ou de culture. Jack les considérait comme appartenent aux sciences sociales. Je dois reconnaître aujourd’hui que Jack, avec sa profonde connaissance de tout ce qui touche à l’humain, avait probablement raison.

Jack, l’administrateur, avait du coeur: premier responsable d’une gestion qui se devait d’être juste et transparente, Jack a su, avec son calme et son sourire, appliquer strictement les statuts et règlements de l’organisation tout en trouvant des solutions humaines et raisonnables aux nombreux problèmes financiers et de personnel que posaient alors une croissance très rapide des activités de l’Unesco et leur évolution en direction du terrain. Tout ce qui touchait à l’homme et à sa famille primait lorsque Jack, le gestionnaire, devait prendre des décisions parfois difficiles concernant la vie et l’avenir des fonctionnaires. L’experience que Jack avait eue en Inde, avant de joindre l’Unesco, le prédisposait aussi à bien comprendre les difficultés que les « experts » pouvaient rencontrer dans leur travail et leur vie familiale.

Ce sens de l’humain et sa fidélité à ses amis et à l’Unesco seront sans doute les souvenirs les plus marquants que Jack laissera à tous ceux qui l’ont bien connu et qui le regrettent aujourd’hui.

Gérard Bolla
Former Assistant Director General

Read Remembering Jack Fobes: remarks by Kofi Annan, Federico Mayor and Richard Nobbe and a biographical sketch.

Read Tributes to John Fobes by Koïchiro Matsuura and Paul Schafer

Tributes to John Fobes by Koïchiro Matsuura and Paul Schafer

On June 17th, 2005, Americans for UNESCO and the Board on International Scientific Organizations of The National Academies held a celebration of the life of John E. Fobes. Special guests for the event were Federico Mayor Zaragoza (Former Director-General of UNESCO), Harriet M. Fulbright and Harlan Cleveland. The website of Americans for UNESCO was not working when Dr. Fobes died, but we are now taking this opportunity to commemorate his life and his contributions.

Message from Mr. Koïchiro Matsuura
Director-General of UNESCO,
on the occasion of the Memorial Service in honor of Jack Fobes
17 June 2005

I am pleased to offer words of praise and remembrance in honor of Jack Fobes, former Deputy Director-General of UNESCO, whose service to this institution left a lasting legacy.

Jack Fobes arrived at UNESCO in 1964, fresh from his New Delhi posting as Deputy Director of the USAID Mission to India. Jack Fobes’ service to the United Nations systems predates the UN itself, since he was detailed in 1942 to the Preparatory Commission of the United Nations in London. There, as Secretary to the Committee on Administration and Budgetary Matters, he worked to lay out the first UN budget and financial regulations, Member State contributions scale and staff policy. These were to find life as text of the UN Charter and other documents. In the 1950s, he advised the US Delegations to the UN General Assembly and was elected for 5 years by the General Assembly to serve on its Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions.

UNESCO’s files still preserve the letters from Director-General René Maheu offering Jack Fobes his first position of Assistant Director-General for Administration. Jack Fobes went on to serve with great distinction at UNESCO until 1977, improving budgeting and administrative procedures including personnel policy and working methods. Along the way, he and his wife Hazel made lifelong friends. In December 1970, René Maheu, having duly consulted UNESCO’s Executive Board, showed the professional and personal regard in which he held his close adviser in a letter offering him the position of Deputy Director-General, which referred to the “very great esteem” he had for his competence and capacities, as well as for the “integrity and loyalty” of his character, “founded upon the experience of a long and close collaboration”. On another occasion, René Maheu was to say of Jack Fobes: “I greatly appreciate, in particular, the qualities of heart that you unite with an informed intelligence in your treatment of human affairs.”

Jack Fobes remained a loyal advocate of UNESCO in the productive decades that followed his retirement, during which, among other activities, he founded Americans for the Universality of UNESCO and worked with the UN Association of the United States of America and other civil society groups. With Jack Fobes’ death, a true friend of UNESCO departed. I am glad that, before he died, he had the satisfaction of seeing his great country’s re-entry into the Organization, after a period of separation which pained him.

Koïchiro Matsuura
Director General


Jack Fobes was one of those rare individuals who touched people on many different levels. He did so through his commitment, compassion, administrative abilities, and dedication to UNESCO, the United Nations, and making the world a better place for all.

I first met Jack in 1975. It was at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. I was there to receive a briefing prior to undertaking an advisory mission to New Zealand for the organization. While I was in Paris, I had arranged to meet with Guy Métraux, editor of UNESCO’s Cultures, to discuss a paper of mine – Towards a New World Order: The Age of Culture – he had accepted for publication. As it turned out, Guy was a close friend of Jack’s – a friend who did as much to advance UNESCO’s scholarly interests as Jack did to advance its administrative and developmental interests.

You can imagine how thrilled I was when Guy informed me that the Deputy Director General of UNESCO – Jack Fobes – had asked to meet with me when I was in Paris. He went on to say that Jack had ordered a special printing of my paper for distribution to the delegates at the Round Table on Cultural and Intellectual Cooperation and the New International Economic Order planned for 1976. In retrospect, this confirmation by Jack of my writing on the subject of culture was a defining feature in my life. It convinced me to spend the rest of my life working to broaden and deepen understanding of culture and cultures in general and the role they are capable of playing in the world of the future in particular.

Following our meeting in Paris, Jack and I stayed in touch on a number of issues. However, I did not see Jack again until 1980, when we were asked to attend a series of meetings in Durango and Mexico City on The Future of the Past: Historical Identity and Permanence and Change organized by Jack’s friend, Magda Cordell McHale. Since the meetings extended over many days, I had the opportunity to get to know Jack and his charming wife Hazel on a more personal basis, as well as to become more acquainted with Jack’s formidable talents and accomplishments. I will always remember how impressed I was with Jack’s humanity, humility, and considerable administrative capabilities. As chair of many of the session, he demonstrated a remarkable capacity to guide and steer the discussion. He knew exactly how long and how hard to push the delegates, as well as when it was time to take a rest and “fluff the pillow” as he liked to call it.

Jack and I stayed in touch after our get together in Durango and Mexico City on a number of matters of mutual interest and concern. He was particularly helpful to me when I started the World Culture Project to commemorate the World Decade for Cultural Development in 1989, acting as an advisor to the Project. It was at this time that I became aware of the fact that Jack was not only well known in the cultural community, but also in the futures and political communities. In addition to his numerous other skills and abilities – skills and abilities that made it possible for him to accomplish an enormous amount without ruffling many if any feathers – Jack possessed an incredible capacity for far-sightedness and vision. He understood very well the need for new thinking and new ideas with respect to international affairs, multinational relations, the world of the future, and especially the role all the diverse cultures and peoples of the world and civil society could play in this.

When the United States pulled out of UNESCO, Jack was deeply hurt. While most people would throw up their hands and lament the fact that little or nothing could be done about it, Jack immediately started a powerful movement to push for the return of the United States to UNESCO. He did so by creating Americans for the Universality of UNESCO, now Americans for UNESCO. It is a cause that Jack worked on tirelessly for two decades. While it is largely conjecture on my part, I do not believe the United States would be a member of UNESCO today if it hadn’t been for Jack’s persistent efforts in this regard.

When I think about Jack’s contributions to people and countries in all parts of the world – from the local and regional to the national and international – I am reminded of Martin Luther King’s comment that “I seek nothing more than to leave behind me a life wholly devoted to a cause.” This was Jack. He was wholly dedicated to the cause of improving the quality of life for all members of the human family and humanity as a whole. In the process, he became “a world citizen” and “mighty oak” as one colleague called him who touched, moved and assisted people from many diverse walks of life and parts of the world. His countless friends, colleagues and admirers throughout the world will be eternally grateful to him for this.

D. Paul Schafer
The World Culture Project
Markham, Canada

Read Remembering Jack Fobes with comments by Kofi Annan, Federico Mayor, Richard Nobbe, and a biographical sketch.

Read Jack Fobes: Lien-Link Memorial Articles by Richard Arndt and Gérard Bolla.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


By Annette Hartenstein

Children in a Congo Refugee Camp
Image by F. Loock, © UNESCO

Traditionally considered too hot for a global institution to handle, the issue of international migration has recently been moving up the UN agenda. Pierre Sané, Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences (SHS), discusses this issue in the September edition of the SHS Views from the perspective of a complex cross-cutting issue that Social and Human Sciences can address. He emphasizes the contribution of policy-oriented research to human rights-focused understanding and management of social transformations. Without comprehensive intelligence and interventions by the many competent actors, fragmentation, duplication and inefficiency occurs in addressing this issue. The Social and Human Sciences Sector is responsible for implementing the program on international migration. Its aim is to promote respect for migrants’ rights and to contribute to the social integration of migrants. To carry this out, the Sector has five main lines of action:
• Increasing the protection of migrants through participation with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), as well as several NGOs, in an international campaign to encourage States to adhere to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families;

• Improving national policies of the sending, transit and receiving countries, through promoting research and providing training for policy makers so that there is better management of the impact that migration has on societies;

• Promoting the value of and respect for cultural diversity in multicultural societies and improving the balance between policies that favor diversity and those that favor social integration, by developing initiatives that advocate consideration of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (1992), and the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity;

• Supporting capacity-building, permanence and effectiveness of migrants’ networks as a means of promoting intellectual contribution – as against the current brain drain – through the use of new information and communication technologies; and

• Contributing to the global fight against human trafficking and the exploitation of migrants.
In the September SHS Views issue, articles also examine the issue of International Migration and provide examples of exemplary national efforts.

UN Migration Report

In 2005, the International Labour Organization adopted a non-binding Multilateral Framework on Labour Migration. Last year, the independent Global Commission on International Migration presented a report and recommendations to the UN Secretary-General. Secretary-General Kofi Annan proposed a standing forum which governments could use to explore and compare policy approaches. It would make new policy ideas more widely known, add value to existing regional consultations, and encourage an integrated approach to migration and development at both the national and international levels.

This report finds that migration has become a major feature of international life. People living outside their home countries numbered 191 million in 2005 -- 115 million in developed countries, 75 million in the developing world. One third of all current immigrants in the world have moved from one developing country to another, while about the same number have moved from the developing world to the developed. In other words, “South-South” migration is roughly as common as “South-North”. But migration to countries designated as “high-income” – a category which includes some developing countries, such as the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – has grown much faster than to the rest of the world.

Annan pointed out that “the advantages that migration brings are not as well understood as they should be.” Migrants not only take on necessary jobs seen as less desirable by the established residents of host countries, the report finds, but also stimulate demand and improve economic performance overall. They help to shore up pension systems in countries with aging populations.

Throughout human history, migration has been a courageous expression of the individual’s will to overcome adversity and to live a better life. Today, globalization, together with advances in communication and transport, has greatly increased the number of people who have both the desire and the capacity to move.

For their part, developing countries benefit from an estimated $167 billion a year sent home by migrant workers. The exodus of talent from poor countries to more prosperous often poses a severe development loss. But in many countries this is at least partially compensated by migrants’ later return to, and/or investment in, their home countries, where profitable new businesses are established.
It is time to take a more comprehensive look at the various dimensions of the migration issue, which now involves hundreds of millions of people and affects countries of origin, transit and destination. We need to understand better the causes of international flows of people and their complex interrelationship with development."
Kofi Annan in his report on strengthening the Organization 9/11/2002
“It is for Governments to decide whether more or less migration is desirable,” the Secretary-General says in his introduction to the report. “Our focus in the international community should be on the quality and safety of the migration experience and on what can be done to maximize its development benefits.”

There are benefits at both ends of the voyage. The UN report reviews scores of promising policy developments -- multiple-entry visas that provide more fluid and better regulated access to needed immigrant workers, support for immigrant entrepreneurship and host-country training programs, international cooperation to increase training of skilled workers in migrant-sending countries to allay brain drain, and country-of-origin outreach to overseas diasporas.

Migration is not a zero-sum game, the report finds. It can benefit both sending and receiving countries at once. Significantly, many countries once known for emigration – Ireland, the Republic of Korea and Spain among them – now boast thriving economies and host large numbers of immigrants.

The UN report recognizes governments’ right to decide who is allowed to enter their territory, subject to international treaty obligations, as well as their capacity to work together to upgrade economic and social benefits at both ends of the migrant voyage, and to promote the well-being of the migrants themselves. “We find that while countries share people through migration, they often neglect to share knowledge about how to manage the movement of people,” Mr. Annan writes. “We need to learn more systematically from each other.”


In September 2006, the General Assembly explored international migration, including most promising aspects: its relationship to development. The potential for migrants to help transform their native countries is capturing the imaginations of national and local authorities, international institutions and the private sector.

In his introductory remarks, Anan pointed out that advancing immigration policy can help meet the UN’s development goals. The scale of migration’s potential for good is huge. To take just the most tangible example, the funds that migrants send back to developing countries—at least $167 billion in 2005 alone—now dwarf all forms of international aid combined.

We have gained many new insights into migration and, especially, into its impact on development. We now understand, better than ever before, that migration is not a zero-sum game. In the best cases, it benefits the receiving country, the country of origin, and migrants themselves. It should be no surprise that countries once associated exclusively with emigration—such as Ireland, the Republic of Korea, Spain, and many others—now boast thriving economies which themselves attract large numbers of migrants. Emigration has played a decisive role in reinvigorating their economies, as has the eventual return of many of their citizens.

International migration is changing as labor markets and society become more global. Those who emigrate no longer separate themselves as thoroughly as they once did from the families and communities they leave behind. No longer do the vast majority settle in just a small number of developed countries: about a third of the world’s nearly 200 million migrants have moved from one developing country to another, while an equal proportion have gone from the developing to the developed world. Nor are migrants engaged only in menial activities. Nearly half the increase in the number of international migrants aged 25 or over in OECD countries during the 1990s was made up of highly skilled people.

Meanwhile, research continues to undermine old assumptions—it shows, for example, that women are somewhat more likely than men to migrate to the developed world, that migrants can maintain transnational lives, and that remittances can dramatically help local economies. At the same time, innovations in policymaking are allowing us to manage international migration in new ways—China and the Republic of Korea attract expatriate researchers back home with state-of-the-art science parks; Governments collaborate with migrant associations abroad to improve livelihoods at home; and development programs help migrant entrepreneurs start small
businesses in their countries of origin.

Owing to the communications and transport revolution, today’s international migrants are, more than ever before, a dynamic human link between cultures, economies and societies. And the wealth of migrants is not measured only in the remittances they send home. Through the skills and know-how they accumulate, they also help to transfer technology and institutional knowledge. They inspire new ways of thinking, both socially and politically. India’s software industry has emerged in large part from intensive networking among expatriates, returning migrants, and Indian entrepreneurs at home and abroad. After working in Greece, Albanians bring home new agricultural skills that enable them to increase production. By promoting the exchange of experience and helping build partnerships, the international community can do much to increase—and spread—these positive effects of migration on development.

Many promising policies are already in place making migration work better for everyone. Some countries are experimenting with more fluid types of migration that afford greater freedom of movement through multiple-entry visas. Others are promoting the entrepreneurial spirit of migrants by easing access to loans and providing management training. Governments are also seeking ways to attract their expatriates’ home: directly, through professional and financial incentives, and indirectly by creating legal and institutional frameworks conducive to return—including dual citizenship and portable pensions. Local authorities, too, are using innovative measures to attract expatriate talent to their cities or regions.

In a closing statement by the president of the 61st session of the General Assembly, H. E. Sheikha Haya Rashed al Khalifa, emphasized the opportunities and challenges that international migration poses for development in each of their countries. He noted that the participants examined the impact of international migration on economic and social development, the centrality of human rights to ensure the development benefits of migration, the importance of remittances, and the crucial role of international cooperation and partnerships to address the challenges posed by international migration. Above all, the forum proven that international migration and development can be debated constructively in the United Nations.

The High-Level Dialogue has affirmed a number of key messages. First, that international migration is a growing phenomenon and is a key component of development in both developing and developed countries. Second, that international migration can be a positive force for development in countries of origin and countries of destination, provided it is supported by the right set of policies. Third, that it is important to strengthen international cooperation on international migration, bilaterally, regionally and globally.

This dialogue has emphasized that respect for human rights is the necessary foundation for the beneficial effects of migration on development to accrue. Some vulnerable groups, such as migrant women and children, need special protection.

Migration is no substitute for development. Too often, migrants are forced to seek employment abroad due to poverty, conflict and the lack of human rights. There has been widespread support for incorporating international migration to the development agenda and for integrating migration issues into national development strategies, including possibly into poverty reduction strategies. There is a need to provide decent work and decent working conditions in countries of origin and countries of destination. This would alleviate the negative aspects of migration including the brain-drain.

Furthermore, remittances are considered one of the most tangible benefits of international migration for development. They improve the lives of millions of migrant families, but also have a positive effect on the economy at large. However, called for are the reduction in the costs of remittances transfers and for maximizing their development potential.

Check out these UNESCO websites:
* International Migration and Multicultural Policies

* Migration Research Institutes Database

* Recognition of Qualifications of Migrants
Subscribe to UNESCO's Migration and Multicultural Policies Mailing List.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Debate on Challenges, Roles and Functions of UNESCO

UNESCO's Executive Board is to hold a public debate on the challenges, roles and functions of UNESCO tomorrow, October 4, 2006. The debate will take place in the UNESCO headquarters in Paris from 9.30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Paris time.

The debate is to be available by streaming video over the Internet.

The Chairman of the UNESCO Executive Board, Zhang Xinsheng, is to open the first session which is then to feature an introduction by its moderator, Baroness Valerie Amos, Leader of the House of Lords (U.K.). At 10.10 a.m., Chen Ning Yang, Nobel Laureate in Physics and Professor at Tsinghua University (China), is to speak of “science in the 20th and 21st centuries and its relevance to UNESCO.” He is to be followed by Richard C. Levin, President of Yale University, on “international cooperation in education and the role of UNESCO.” Alpha Omar Konaré, Chairperson of the African Union Commission and former President of the Republic of Mali, is to speak about “cultural diversity in the age of globalization and Africa’s perspectives of UNESCO’s role and potentials for partnership,” at 10.40 a.m. A two-hour open debate will follow.

Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon, former President of Mexico, is to speak about “the impact, benefits and challenges of globalization as it relates to UNESCO,” in the session starting at 3 p.m., which he is also to moderate. The Tunisian Minister of Communication Technologies, Montasser Ouaïli, is scheduled to speak of “UNESCO implementing the recommendations of the World Summit on Information Societies: role of the media and communication” at 3.20 p.m. Evgeny Sidorov, Ambassador at Large and former Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation is to speak of “aspects of globalization and culture.” A two-hour debate is to follow, with remarks by the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, at 5.50 p.m. At 6.15, an open-ended symposium is to be moderated by Dominique Wolton, Research Director at the CNRS, France’s National Centre for Scientific Research, who is to speak about “building the defences of peace in the minds of men through education, the sciences, culture and communication and information: future role of UNESCO.”

Read the full press release on the symposium.