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The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (French L'Organisation des Nations unies pour l ducation, la science et la culture : UNESCO; ) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN). Its stated purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through education, science, and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the UN Charter.[1] It is the heir of the League of Nations' International Commission on Intellectual Cooperation.

UNESCO has 196 Member States[2] (it recently added Palestine in November 2011) and eight Associate Members.[3][4] Most of the field offices are "cluster" offices covering three or more countries; there are also national and regional offices. UNESCO pursues its objectives through five major programs: education, natural sciences, social and human sciences, culture, and communication and information. Projects sponsored by UNESCO include literacy, technical, and teacher-training programmes; international science programmes; the promotion of independent media and freedom of the press; regional and cultural history projects; the promotion of cultural diversity; international cooperation agreements to secure the world cultural and natural heritage (World Heritage Sites) and to preserve human rights, and attempts to bridge the worldwide digital divide. It is also a member of the United Nations Development Group.[5]


Mission and priorities

UNESCO s stated aim is "to contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information".[6]

Other priorities of the Organization include attaining quality education for all and lifelong learning, addressing emerging social and ethical challenges, fostering cultural diversity, a culture of peace and building inclusive knowledge societies through information and communication.[7]

The broad goals and concrete objectives of the international community as set out in the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) underpin all UNESCO s strategies and activities.


The UNESCO flag

UNESCO and its mandate for international intellectual co-operation can be traced back to the League of Nations resolution on 21 September 1921, to elect a Commission to study the question.[8] The International Committee on Intellectual Co-operation (ICIC) was officially created on 4 January 1922, as a consultative organ composed of individuals elected based on their personal qualifications. The International Institute for Intellectual Cooperation (IIIC) was then created in Paris on 9 August 1925, to act as the executing agency for the CICI.[9] On 18 December 1925, the International Bureau of Education (IBE) began work as a non-governmental organization in the service of international educational development.[10] However, the work of these predecessor organizations was largely interrupted by the onset of World War II.

After the signing of the Atlantic Charter and the Declaration of the United Nations, the Conference of Allied Ministers of Education (CAME) began meetings in London which continued between 16 November 1942 to 5 December 1945. On 30 October 1943, the necessity for an international organization was expressed in the Moscow Declaration, agreed upon by China, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and the USSR. This was followed by the Dumbarton Oaks Conference proposals of 9 October 1944. Upon the proposal of CAME and in accordance with the recommendations of the United Nations Conference on International Organization (UNCIO), held in San Francisco in April June 1945, a United Nations Conference for the establishment of an educational and cultural organization (ECO/CONF) was convened in London 1 16 November 1945. 44 governments were represented. At the ECO/CONF, the Constitution of UNESCO was introduced and signed by 37 countries, and a Preparatory Commission was established.[11] The Preparatory Commission operated between 16 November 1945, and 4 November 1946 the date when UNESCO s Constitution came into force with the deposit of the twentieth ratification by a member state.[12]

The first General Conference took place from 19 November to 10 December 1946, and elected Dr. Julian Huxley to the post of Director-General.[13] The Constitution was amended in November 1954 when the General Conference resolved that members of the Executive Board would be representatives of the governments of the States of which they are nationals and would not, as before, act in their personal capacity.[14] This change in governance distinguished UNESCO from its predecessor, the CICI, in terms of how member states would work together in the Organization s fields of competence. As member states worked together over time to realize UNESCO s mandate, political and historical factors have shaped the Organization s operations in particular during the Cold War, the decolonization process, and the dissolution of the USSR.

Among the major achievements of the Organization is its work against racism, for example through influential statements on race starting with a declaration of anthropologists (among them was Claude L vi-Strauss) and other scientists in 1950[15] and concluding with the 1978 Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice.[16] In 1956, the Republic of South Africa withdrew from UNESCO claiming that some of the Organization s publications amounted to interference in the country s racial problems. [17] South Africa rejoined the Organization in 1994 under the leadership of Nelson Mandela.

UNESCO s early work in the field of education included the pilot project on fundamental education in the Marbial Valley, Haiti, started in 1947.[18] This project was followed by expert missions to other countries, including, for example, a mission to Afghanistan in 1949.[19] In 1948, UNESCO recommended that Member States should make free primary education compulsory and universal.[20] In 1990 the World Conference on Education for All, in Jomtien, Thailand, launched a global movement to provide basic education for all children, youths and adults.[21] Ten years later, the 2000 World Education Forum held in Dakar, Senegal, led member governments to commit to achieving basic education for all by 2015.[22]

UNESCO s early activities in the field of culture included, for example, the Nubia Campaign, launched in 1960.[23] The purpose of the campaign was to move the Great Temple of Abu Simbel to keep it from being swamped by the Nile after construction of the Aswan Dam. During the 20-year campaign, 22 monuments and architectural complexes were relocated. This was the first and largest in a series of campaigns including Mohenjo-daro (Pakistan), Fes (Morocco), Kathmandu (Nepal), Borobudur (Indonesia) and the Acropolis (Greece). The Organization s work on heritage led to the adoption, in 1972, of the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.[24] The World Heritage Committee was established in 1976 and the first sites inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1978.[25] Since then important legal instruments on cultural heritage and diversity have been adopted by UNESCO member states in 2003 (Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage[26]) and 2005 (Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions[27]).

An intergovernmental meeting of UNESCO in Paris in December 1951 led to the creation of the European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN)[28] in 1954.

Arid Zone programming, 1948 1966, is another example of an early major UNESCO project in the field of natural sciences.[29] In 1968, UNESCO organized the first intergovernmental conference aimed at reconciling the environment and development, a problem which continues to be addressed in the field of sustainable development. The main outcome of the 1968 conference was the creation of UNESCO s Man and the Biosphere Programme.[30]

In the field of communication, the free flow of information has been a priority for UNESCO from its beginnings. In the years immediately following World War II, efforts were concentrated on reconstruction and on the identification of needs for means of mass communication around the world. UNESCO started organizing training and education for journalists in the 1950s.[31] In response to calls for a "New World Information and Communication Order" in the late 1970s, UNESCO established the International Commission for the Study of Communication Problems,[32] which produced the 1980 MacBride report (named after the Chair of the Commission, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Se n MacBride).[33] Following the MacBride report, UNESCO introduced the Information Society for All[34] programme and Toward Knowledge Societies[35] programme in the lead up to the World Summit on the Information Society in 2003 (Geneva) and 2005 (Tunis).

In 2011, Palestine became a UNESCO member following a vote in which 107 member states supported and 14 opposed.[36][37] Laws passed in the United States in 1990 and 1994 mean that it cannot contribute financially to any UN organisation that accepts Palestine as a full member. As a result, it will withdraw its funding which accounts for about 22% of UNESCO's budget.[38] Israel also reacted to Palestine's admittance to UNESCO by freezing Israel payments to the UNESCO and imposing sanctions to the Palestinian Authority,[39] claiming that Palestine's admittance would be detrimental "to potential peace talks".[40]


UNESCO offices in Bras lia

UNESCO implements its activities through the five programme areas of Education, Natural Sciences, Social and Human Sciences, Culture, and Communication and Information.

UNESCO does not accredit institutions of higher learning.[41]

  • UNESCO also issues public 'statements' to educate the public:
    • Seville Statement on Violence: A statement adopted by UNESCO in 1989 to refute the notion that humans are biologically predisposed to organised violence.

Official UNESCO NGOs

UNESCO enjoys official relations with 322 international non-governmental organizations (NGOs).[45] Most of these are what UNESCO calls "operational", a select few are "formal".[46] The highest form of affiliation to UNESCO is "formal associate", and the 22 NGOs[47] with formal associate (ASC) relations occupying offices at UNESCO are:

  1. International Baccalaureate (IB)
  2. Coordinating Committee for International Voluntary Service (CCIVS)
  3. Education International (EI)
  4. International Association of Universities (IAU)
  5. International Council for Film, Television and Audiovisual Communication (IFTC)
  6. International Council for Philosophy and Humanistic Studies (ICPHS) which publishes Diogenes
  7. International Council for Science (ICSU)
  8. International Council of Museums (ICOM), whose Director General is currently Mr Julien Anfruns
  9. International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education (ICSSPE)
  10. International Council on Archives (ICA)
  11. International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS)
  12. International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
  13. International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)
  14. International Federation of Poetry Associations (IFPA)
  15. International Music Council (IMC)
  16. International Scientific Council for Island Development (INSULA)
  17. International Social Science Council (ISSC)
  18. International Theatre Institute (ITI)
  19. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN)
  20. International Union of Technical Associations and Organizations
  21. Union of International Associations (UIA)
  22. World Association of Newspapers (WAN)
  23. World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO)
  24. World Federation of UNESCO Clubs, Centres and Associations (WFUCA)

UNESCO Institutes and Centres

UNESCO Institute for Water Education]] in Delft The institutes are specialized departments of the Organization that support UNESCO's programme, providing specialized support for cluster and national offices.

Official list of UNESCO prizes

UNESCO currently awards 22 prizes[48] in education, science, culture and peace:

Inactive UNESCO prizes

Member states

, UNESCO counts 195 member states and 8 associate members.[49] Some members are not independent states and some members have additional National Organizing Committees from some of their dependent territories.[50] UNESCO state parties are most of the United Nations member states (except Liechtenstein), Cook Islands, Niue and Palestine.[51][52]

UNESCO's governing bodies


Elections for the renewal of the position of Director-General took place in Paris from 7 September to 23 September 2009. Eight candidates ran for the position, and 58 countries[53] voted for them. The Executive Council gathered from 7 September to 23 September, the vote itself beginning on the 17th. Irina Bokova was elected the new Director-General.

This is the list of the Directors-General of UNESCO since its establishment in 1946:[54]

  1. Julian Huxley (1946 1948)
  2. Jaime Torres Bodet (1948 1952)
  3. John Wilkinson Taylor (acting 1952 1953)
  4. Luther Evans (1953 1958)
  5. Vittorino Veronese (1958 1961)
  6. Ren Maheu (1961 1974; acting 1961)
  7. Amadou-Mahtar M'Bow (1974 1987)
  8. Federico Mayor Zaragoza (1987 1999)
  9. Ko chiro Matsuura (1999 2009)
  10. Irina Bokova (2009 )

General Conference

This is the list of the sessions of UNESCO General Conference held since 1946:[55]

  • 1st session (Paris, 1946) - chaired by L on Blum (France)
  • 2nd session (Mexico City, 1947) - chaired by Manuel Gual Vidal (Mexico)
  • 3rd session (Beirut, 1948) chaired by Hamid Bey Frangie (Lebanon)
  • 1st extraordinary session (Paris, 1948)
  • 4th session (Paris, 1949) chaired by Ronald Walker (Australia)
  • 5th session (Florence, 1950) chaired by Count Stefano Jacini (Italy)
  • 6th session (Paris, 1951) chaired by Howland Sargeant (United States)
  • 7th session (Paris, 1952) chaired by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (India)
  • 2nd extraordinary session (Paris, 1953)
  • 8th session (Montevideo, 1954) chaired by Justino Zavala Mu iz (Uruguay)
  • 9th session (New Delhi, 1956) chaired by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (India)
  • 10th session (Paris, 1958) chaired by Jean Berthoin (France)
  • 11th session (Paris, 1960) chaired by Akale-Work Abte-Wold (Ethiopia)
  • 12th session (Paris, 1962) chaired by Paulo de Berr do Carneiro (Brazil)
  • 13th session (Paris, 1964) chaired by Norair Sissakian (Soviet Union)
  • 14th session (Paris, 1966) chaired by Bedrettin Tuncel (Turkey)
  • 15th session (Paris, 1968) chaired by Willian Eteki-Mboumoua (Cameroon)
  • 16th session (Paris, 1970) chaired by Atilio Dell'Oro Maini (Argentina)
  • 17th session (Paris, 1972) chaired by Toru Haguiwara (Japan)
  • 3rd extraordinary session (Paris, 1973)
  • 18th session (Paris, 1974) chaired by Magda Joboru (Hungary)
  • 19th session (Nairobi, 1976) chaired by Taaita Toweett (Kenya)
  • 20th session (Paris, 1978) chaired by Napol on LeBlanc (Canada)
  • 21st session (Belgrade, 1980) chaired by Ivo Margan (Yugoslavia)
  • 4th extraordinary session (Paris, 1982)
  • 22nd session (Paris, 1983) chaired by Sa d Tell (Jordan)
  • 23rd session (Sofia, 1985) chaired by Nikola Todorov (Bulgaria)
  • 24th session (Paris, 1987) chaired by Guillermo Putzeys Alvarez (Guatemala)
  • 25th session (Paris, 1989) chaired by Anwar Ibrahim (Malaysia)
  • 26th session (Paris, 1991) chaired by Bethwell Allan Ogot (Kenya)
  • 27th session (Paris, 1993) chaired by Ahmed Saleh Sayyad (Yemen)
  • 28th session (Paris, 1995) chaired by Torben Krogh (Denmark)
  • 29th session (Paris, 1997) chaired by Eduardo Portella (Brazil)
  • 30th session (Paris, 1999) chaired by Jaroslava Moserova (Czech Republic)
  • 31st session (Paris, 2001) chaired by Ahmad Jalali (Iran)
  • 32nd session (Paris, 2003) chaired by Michael Omolewa (Nigeria)
  • 33rd session (Paris, 2005) chaired by Musa bin Jaafar bin Hassan (Oman)
  • 34th session (Paris, 2007) chaired by George N. Anastassopoulos (Greece)
  • 35th session (Paris, 2009) chaired by Davidson Hepburn (Bahamas)
  • 36th session (Paris, 2011) chaired by Katalin Bogyay (Hungary)

UNESCO offices

UNESCO has offices in many locations across the globe; its headquarters are located at Place de Fontenoy in Paris, France.

UNESCO's field offices are categorized into four primary office types based upon their function and geographic coverage: cluster offices, national offices, regional bureaux and liaison offices.

UNESCO field offices by region

The following list of all UNESCO Field Offices is organized geographically by UNESCO Region and identifies the members states and associate members of UNESCO which are served by each office.[56]


Arab States

Asia and Pacific

Europe and North America

Latin America and the Caribbean

Controversy and reform

New World Information and Communication order

UNESCO has been the center of controversy in the past, particularly in its relationships with the United States, the United Kingdom, Singapore, and the former Soviet Union. During the 1970s and 1980s, UNESCO's support for a "New World Information and Communication Order" and its MacBride report calling for democratization of the media and more egalitarian access to information was condemned in these countries as attempts to curb freedom of the press. UNESCO was perceived by some as a platform for communists and Third World dictators to attack the West, a stark contrast to accusations made by the USSR in the late 1940s and early 1950s.[57] In 1984, the United States withheld its contributions and withdrew from the organization in protest, followed by the United Kingdom in 1985. Singapore took the opportunity to withdraw also at the end of 1985, citing rising membership fees.[58] Following a change of government in 1997, the UK rejoined. The United States rejoined in 2003, followed by Singapore on 8 October 2007.

Internal reforms

Part of the reason for their change of stance was due to considerable reforms implemented by UNESCO over the past 10 years. These included the following measures: the number of divisions in UNESCO was cut in half, allowing a corresponding halving of the number of Directors from 200 to under 100, out of a total staff of approximately 2,000 worldwide. At the same time, the number of field units was cut from a peak of 1,287 in 1998 to 93 today. Parallel management structures, including 35 Cabinet-level special adviser positions, were abolished. Between 1998 and 2009, 245 negotiated staff departures and buy-outs took place, causing the inherited $12 million staff cost deficit to disappear. The staff pyramid, which was the most top-heavy in the UN system, was cut back as the number of high-level posts was halved and the "inflation" of posts was reversed through the down-grading of many positions. Open competitive recruitment, results-based appraisal of staff, training of all managers and field rotation were instituted, as well as SISTER and SAP systems for transparency in results-based programming and budgeting. In addition, the Internal Oversight Service (IOS) was established in 2001 to improve organizational performance by including the lessons learned from programme evaluations into the overall reform process. It regularly carries out audits of UNESCO offices that essentially look into administrative and procedural compliance, but do not assess the relevance and usefulness of the activities and projects that are carried out. At least in theory, the evaluation of the relevance and effectiveness of programmes is carried out by the Evaluation Section of IOS, although evidence of using "lessons learned" in programming is less clear and not always free from donor preferences.


Israel was admitted to UNESCO in 1949, one year after its creation. In 1974, UNESCO stripped Israel of its membership on the grounds of alleged damage being done by Israel's archaeological excavations on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. UNESCO defended this decision with two statements in 1974 and 1975, but renewed Israel's membership in 1977, after the United States threatened to withhold $40 million of funding from the organization.[59]

In 2010, Israel designated the Tomb of the Patriarchs, Hebron and Rachel's Tomb, Bethlehem as National Heritage Sites and announced restoration work, prompting criticism from the United States and protests from Palestinians.[60] In October 2010, UNESCO s Executive Board voted to declare the sites as "al-Haram al-Ibrahimi/Tomb of the Patriarchs" and "Bilal bin Rabah Mosque/Rachel s Tomb" and stated that they were "an integral part of the occupied Palestinian Territories" and any unilateral Israeli action was a violation of international law.[61] UNESCO described the sites as significant to "people of the Muslim, Christian and Jewish traditions", and accused Israel of highlighting only the Jewish character of the sites.[62] Israel in turn accused UNESCO of "detach[ing] the Nation of Israel from its heritage", and accused it of being politically motivated.[63] The Rabbi of the Western Wall claimed that Rachel's tomb had not previously been declared a holy Muslim site.[64] Israel partially suspended ties with UNESCO. Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon declared that the resolution was a "part of Palestinian escalation". Zevulun Orlev, chairman of the Knesset Education and Culture Committee, referred to the resolutions as an attempt to undermine the mission of UNESCO as a scientific and cultural organization that promotes cooperation throughout the world.[65][66]

On June 28, 2011, UNESCO's World Heritage Committee, at Jordan's insistence, censured Israel's decision to demolish and rebuild the Mughrabi Gate Bridge in Jerusalem for safety reasons. Israel stated that Jordan had signed an agreement with Israel stipulating that the existing bridge must be razed for safety reasons; Jordan disputed the agreement, saying it was only signed under U.S. pressure. Israel was also unable to address the UNESCO committee over objections from Egypt.[67]

Palestinian Authority

In February 2011, an article was published in a Palestinian youth magazine in which a teenage girl depicted one of her four role-models as being Adolf Hitler. In December 2011, UNESCO, which partly funded the magazine, condemned the material and subsequently withdrew support.[68]

References and notes

External links

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