The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO; French: Organisation des Nations unies pour l'éducation, la science et la culture) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) based in Paris. Its declared purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms in order to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the United Nations Charter. It is the successor of the League of Nations' International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation.
UNESCO pursues its objectives through five major programs: education, natural sciences, social/human sciences, culture and communication/information. Projects sponsored by UNESCO include literacy, technical, and teacher-training programs, international science programs, the promotion of independent media and freedom of the press, regional and cultural history projects, the promotion of cultural diversity, translations of world literature, international cooperation agreements to secure the world's 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.
UNESCO's 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". 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.
The broad goals and objectives of the international community – as set out in the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – underpin all UNESCO strategies and activities.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
|Formation||16 November 1945|
|Headquarters||Place de Fontenoy, Paris, France|
|195 member states|
Director-General of UNESCO
UNESCO and its mandate for international cooperation can be traced back to a League of Nations resolution on 21 September 1921, to elect a Commission to study feasibility. On 18 December 1925, the International Bureau of Education (IBE) began work as a non-governmental organization in the service of international educational development. However, the onset of World War II largely interrupted the work of these predecessor organizations.
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 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 with 44 governments represented. A prominent figure in the initiative for UNESCO was Rab Butler, the Minister of Education for the United Kingdom. At the ECO/CONF, the Constitution of UNESCO was introduced and signed by 37 countries, and a Preparatory Commission was established. 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.
The first General Conference took place between 19 November to 10 December 1946, and elected Dr. Julian Huxley to Director-General. 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. This change in governance distinguished UNESCO from its predecessor, the CICI, in 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 Lévi-Strauss) and other scientists in 1950 and concluding with the 1978 Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice. 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." 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. This project was followed by expert missions to other countries, including, for example, a mission to Afghanistan in 1949. In 1948, UNESCO recommended that Member States should make free primary education compulsory and universal. 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. 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.
UNESCO's early activities in culture included, for example, the Nubia Campaign, launched in 1960. 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. The World Heritage Committee was established in 1976 and the first sites inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1978. 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) and 2005 (Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions).
An intergovernmental meeting of UNESCO in Paris in December 1951 led to the creation of the European Council for Nuclear Research, which was responsible for establishing the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in 1954.
Arid Zone programming, 1948–1966, is another example of an early major UNESCO project in the field of natural sciences. 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.
In the field of communication, the "free flow of ideas by word and image" has been in UNESCO's constitution from its beginnings, following the experience of the Second World War when control of information was a factor in indoctrinating populations for aggression. 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. 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, which produced the 1980 MacBride report (named after the Chair of the Commission, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Seán MacBride). The same year, UNESCO created the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), a multilateral forum designed to promote media development in developing countries. In 1991, UNESCO's General Conference endorsed the Windhoek Declaration on media independence and pluralism, which led the UN General Assembly to declare the date of its adoption, 3 May, as World Press Freedom Day. Since 1997, UNESCO has awarded the UNESCO / Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize every 3 May. In the lead up to the World Summit on the Information Society in 2003 (Geneva) and 2005 (Tunis), UNESCO introduced the Information for All Programme.
 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 withdrew its funding which accounted for about 22% of UNESCO's budget. Israel also reacted to Palestine's admittance to UNESCO by freezing Israel payments to the UNESCO and imposing sanctions to the Palestinian Authority, claiming that Palestine's admittance would be detrimental "to potential peace talks". Two years after they stopped paying their dues to UNESCO, US and Israel lost UNESCO voting rights in 2013 without losing the right to be elected; thus, the US was elected as a member of the Executive Board for the period 2016–19.
UNESCO implements its activities through the five programme areas: education, natural sciences, social and human sciences, culture, and communication and information.
UNESCO does not accredit institutions of higher learning.
The UNESCO transparency portal has been designed to enable public access to information regarding Organization's activities, such as its aggregate budget for a biennium, as well as links to relevant programmatic and financial documents. These two distinct sets of information are published on the IATI registry, respectively based on the IATI Activity Standard and the IATI Organization Standard.
UNESCO and its specialized institutions issue a number of magazines.
The UNESCO Courier magazine states its mission to "promote UNESCO’s ideals, maintain a platform for the dialogue between cultures and provide a forum for international debate." Since March 2006 it is available online, with limited printed issues. Its articles express the opinions of the authors which are not necessarily the opinions of UNESCO. As of 2016, the latest issue posted was October–December 2011.
In 1950, UNESCO initiated the quarterly review Impact of Science on Society (also known as Impact) to discuss the influence of science on society. UNESCO also publish museum international quarterly from the year 1948.
UNESCO has official relations with 322 international non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Most of these are what UNESCO calls "operational", a select few are "formal". The highest form of affiliation to UNESCO is "formal associate", and the 22 NGOs with formal associate (ASC) relations occupying offices at UNESCO are:
|CCIVS||Co-ordinating Committee for International Voluntary Service|
|IAU||International Association of Universities|
|IFTC||International Council for Film, Television and Audiovisual Communication|
|ICPHS||International Council for Philosophy and Humanistic Studies which publishes Diogenes|
|ICSU||International Council for Science|
|ICOM||International Council of Museums|
|ICSSPE||International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education|
|ICA||International Council on Archives|
|ICOMOS||International Council on Monuments and Sites|
|IFJ||International Federation of Journalists|
|IFLA||International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions|
|IFPA||International Federation of Poetry Associations|
|IMC||International Music Council|
|IPA||International Police Association|
|INSULA||International Scientific Council for Island Development|
|ISSC||International Social Science Council|
|ITI||International Theatre Institute|
|IUCN||International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources|
|IUTAO||International Union of Technical Associations and Organizations|
|UIA||Union of International Associations|
|WAN||World Association of Newspapers|
|WFEO||World Federation of Engineering Organizations|
|WFUCA||World Federation of UNESCO Clubs, Centres and Associations|
The institutes are specialized departments of the organization that support UNESCO's programme, providing specialized support for cluster and national offices.
|IBE||International Bureau of Education||Geneva|
|UIL||UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning||Hamburg|
|IIEP||UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning||Paris (headquarters) and Buenos Aires (regional office)|
|IITE||UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education||Moscow|
|IICBA||UNESCO International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa||Addis Ababa|
|IESALC||UNESCO International Institute for Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean||Caracas|
|UNESCO-UNEVOC||UNESCO-UNEVOC International Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training||Bonn|
|CEPES||UNESCO European Centre for Higher Education||Bucharest|
|UNESCO-IHE||UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education||Delft|
|ICTP||International Centre for Theoretical Physics||Trieste|
|UIS||UNESCO Institute for Statistics||Montreal|
UNESCO awards 22 prizes in education, science, culture and peace:
|27 January||International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust|
|13 February||World Radio Day|
|21 February||International Mother Language Day|
|8 March||International Women's Day|
|20 March||International Francophonie Day|
|21 March||International Day of Nowruz|
|21 March||World Poetry Day|
|21 March||International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination|
|22 March||World Day for Water|
|23 April||World Book and Copyright Day|
|30 April||International Jazz Day|
|3 May||World Press Freedom Day|
|21 May||World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development|
|22 May||International Day for Biological Diversity|
|25 May||Africa Day / Africa Week|
|5 June||World Environment Day|
|8 June||World Oceans Day|
|21 June||International Yoga Day|
|9 August||International Day of the World's Indigenous People|
|12 August||International Youth Day|
|23 August||International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition|
|8 September||International Literacy Day|
|15 September||International Day of Democracy|
|21 September||International Day of Peace|
|28 September||International Day for the Universal Access to Information|
|5 October||World Teachers' Day|
|2nd Wednesday in October||International Day for Disaster Reduction|
|17 October||International Day for the Eradication of Poverty|
|20 October||World Statistics Day|
|27 October||World Day for Audiovisual Heritage|
|2 November||International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists|
|10 November||World Science Day for Peace and Development|
|3rd Thursday in November||World Philosophy Day|
|16 November||International Day for Tolerance|
|19 November||International Men's Day|
|25 November||International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women|
|29 November||International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People|
|1 December||World AIDS Day|
|10 December||Human Rights Day|
|18 December||International Migrants Day|
UNESCO counts 195 member states and 10 associate members. Some members are not independent states and some members have additional National Organizing Committees from some of their dependent territories. UNESCO state parties are the United Nations member states (except Liechtenstein), Cook Islands, Niue, and the State of Palestine. The USA and Israel plan to leave UNESCO on 31 December 2018 over anti-Israel bias.
Elections for the renewal of the position of Director-General took place in Paris from 7 to 23 September 2009. Eight candidates ran for the position, and 58 countries voted for them. The Executive Council gathered from 7 to 23 September, the vote itself beginning on the 17th. Irina Bokova was elected the new Director-General.
The list of the Directors-General of UNESCO since its establishment in 1946 is as follows:
|Federico Mayor Zaragoza||Spain||1987–99|
|René Maheu||France||1961–74; acting 1961|
|Luther Evans||United States||1953–58|
|John Wilkinson Taylor||United States||acting 1952–53|
|Jaime Torres Bodet||Mexico||1948–52|
|Julian Huxley||United Kingdom||1946–48|
This is the list of the sessions of UNESCO General Conference held since 1946:
|38th||Paris||2015||Stanley Mutumba Simataa||Namibia|
|34th||Paris||2007||George N. Anastassopoulos||Greece|
|33rd||Paris||2005||Musa Bin Jaafar Bin Hassan||Oman|
|30th||Paris||1999||Jaroslava Moserova||Czech Republic|
|27th||Paris||1993||Ahmed Saleh Sayyad||Yemen|
|26th||Paris||1991||Bethwell Allan Ogot||Kenya|
|24th||Paris||1987||Guillermo Putzeys Alvarez||Guatemala|
|16th||Paris||1970||Atilio Dell'Oro Maini||Argentina|
|15th||Paris||1968||William Eteki Mboumoua||Cameroon|
|13th||Paris||1964||Norair Sisakian||Soviet Union|
|12th||Paris||1962||Paulo de Berrêdo Carneiro||Brazil|
|9th||New Delhi||1956||Abul Kalam Azad||India|
|8th||Montevideo||1954||Justino Zavala Muñiz||Uruguay|
|6th||Paris||1951||Howland H. Sargeant||United States|
|4th||Paris||1949||Edward Ronald Walker||Australia|
|3rd||Beirut||1948||Hamid Bey Frangie||Lebanon|
|2nd||Mexico City||1947||Manuel Gual Vidal||Mexico|
UNESCO headquarters are located at Place de Fontenoy in Paris, France.
UNESCO's field offices across the globe are categorized into four primary office types based upon their function and geographic coverage: cluster offices, national offices, regional bureaus and liaison offices.
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.
UNESCO has been the centre 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 as a platform for communists and Third World dictators to attack the West, in contrast to accusations made by the USSR in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In 1984, the United States withheld its contributions and withdrew from the organization in protest, followed by the United Kingdom in 1985. Singapore withdrew also at the end of 1985, citing rising membership fees. Following a change of government in 1997, the UK rejoined. The United States rejoined in 2003, followed by Singapore on 8 October 2007.
Israel was admitted to UNESCO in 1949, one year after its creation. Israel has maintained its membership since 1949. In 2010, Israel designated the Cave 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. 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. 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. Israel in turn accused UNESCO of "detach[ing] the Nation of Israel from its heritage", and accused it of being politically motivated. The Rabbi of the Western Wall claimed that Rachel's tomb had not previously been declared a holy Muslim site. 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.
On 28 June 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 dismantled for safety reasons; Jordan disputed the agreement, saying that it was only signed under U.S. pressure. Israel was also unable to address the UNESCO committee over objections from Egypt.
In January 2014, days before it was scheduled to open, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, "indefinitely postponed" and effectively cancelled an exhibit created by the Simon Wiesenthal Center entitled, "The People, The Book, The Land: The 3,500-year relationship between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel." The event was scheduled to run from 21 January through 30 January in Paris. Bokova cancelled the event after representatives of Arab states at UNESCO argued that its display would "harm the peace process". The author of the exhibition, Professor Robert Wistrich of the Hebrew University's Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism, called the cancellation an "appalling act," and characterized Bokova's decision as "an arbitrary act of total cynicism and, really, contempt for the Jewish people and its history." UNESCO amended the decision to cancel the exhibit within the year, and it quickly achieved popularity and was viewed as a great success.
On 13 October 2016, UNESCO passed a resolution on East Jerusalem that condemned Israel for "aggressions" by Israeli police and soldiers and "illegal measures" against the freedom of worship and Muslims' access to their holy sites, while also recognizing Israel as the occupying power. Palestinian leaders welcomed the decision. While the text acknowledged the "importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its walls for the three monotheistic religions", it referred to the sacred hilltop compound in Jerusalem's Old City only by its Muslim name "Al-Haram al-Sharif", Arabic for Noble Sanctuary. In response, Israel denounced the UNESCO resolution for its omission of the words "Temple Mount" or "Har HaBayit," stating that it denies Jewish ties to the key holy site. After receiving criticism from numerous Israeli politicians and diplomats, including Benjamin Netanyahu and Ayelet Shaked, Israel froze all ties with the organization. The resolution was condemned by Ban ki-Moon and the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, who said that Judaism, Islam and Christianity have clear historical connections to Jerusalem and "to deny, conceal or erase any of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim traditions undermines the integrity of the site. Al-Aqsa Mosque is also Temple Mount, whose Western Wall is the holiest place in Judaism." It was also rejected by the Czech Parliament which said the resolution reflects a "hateful anti-Israel sentiment", and hundreds of Italian Jews demonstrated in Rome over Italy's abstention. On 26 October, UNESCO approved a reviewed version of the resolution, which also criticized Israel for its continuous "refusal to let the body's experts access Jerusalem's holy sites to determine their conservation status." Despite containing some softening of language following Israeli protests over a previous version, Israel continued to denounce the text. The resolution refers to the site Jews and Christians refer to as the Temple Mount, or Har HaBayit in Hebrew, only by its Arab name — a significant semantic decision also adopted by UNESCO's executive board, triggering condemnation from Israel and its allies. U.S. Ambassador Crystal Nix Hines stated: "This item should have been defeated. These politicized and one-sided resolutions are damaging the credibility of UNESCO."
In October 2017, the United States and Israel announced they would withdraw from the organization, citing in-part anti-Israel bias.
In February 2011, an article was published in a Palestinian youth magazine in which a teenage girl described one of her four role-models as Adolf Hitler. In December 2011, UNESCO, which partly funded the magazine, condemned the material and subsequently withdrew support.
In 2012, UNESCO decided to establish a chair at the Islamic University of Gaza in the field of astronomy, astrophysics, and space sciences, fueling controversy and criticism. Israel bombed the school in 2008 claiming they develop and store weapons there, a claim Israel restated in criticizing UNESCO's move.
The head, Kamalain Shaath, defended UNESCO, stating that "the Islamic University is a purely academic university that is interested only in education and its development". Israeli ambassador to UNESCO Nimrod Barkan planned to submit a letter of protest with information about the university's ties to Hamas, especially angry that this was the first Palestinian university that UNESCO chose to cooperate with. The Jewish organization B'nai B'rith criticized the move as well.
On 16 and 17 February 2012, UNESCO held a conference entitled, "The Media World after WikiLeaks and News of the World." Despite all six panels being focused on WikiLeaks, no member of WikiLeaks staff was invited to speak. After receiving a complaint from WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson, UNESCO invited him to attend, but did not offer a place on any panels. The offer also came only a week before the conference, which was held in Paris, France. Many of the speakers featured, including David Leigh and Heather Brooke, had spoken out openly against WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange in the past. WikiLeaks released a press statement on 15 February 2012 denouncing UNESCO which stated, "UNESCO has made itself an international human rights joke. To use "freedom of expression" to censor WikiLeaks from a conference about WikiLeaks is an Orwellian absurdity beyond words."
In 2013, UNESCO announced that the collection "The Life and Works of Ernesto Che Guevara" became part of the Memory of the World Register. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a US congresswoman, condemned this decision, saying that the organization acts against its own ideals:
This decision is more than an insult to the families of those Cubans who were lined up and summarily executed by Che and his merciless cronies it also serves as a direct contradiction to the UNESCO ideals of encouraging peace and universal respect for human rights.
In 2015, Japan threatened to halt funding for UNESCO over the organization's decision to include documents relating to the 1937 Nanjing massacre in the latest listing for its "Memory of the World" program. In October 2016, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida confirmed that Japan's 2016 annual funding of ¥4.4 billion had been suspended although denied any direct link with the Nanjing document controversy.
The reasons for the withdrawal of the United States from UNESCO in 1984 are well-known; my view is that we overreacted to the calls of some who wanted to radicalize UNESCO, and the calls of others who wanted the United States to lead in emasculating the UN system. The fact is UNESCO is one of the least dangerous international institutions ever created. While some member countries within UNESCO attempted to push journalistic views antithetical to the values of the west, and engage in Israel bashing, UNESCO itself never adopted such radical postures. The U.S. opted for empty-chair diplomacy, after winning, not losing, the battles we engaged in… It was nuts to get out, and would be nuttier not to rejoin.
He concluded that the record showed Israel bashing, a call for a new world information order, money management, and arms control policy to be the impetus behind the withdrawal; he asserted that before the UNESCO withdrawal, a withdrawal from the IAEA had been pushed on him. The United States rejoined UNESCO shortly thereafter.
On 12 October 2017, the United States notified UNESCO that it will again withdraw from the organization on 31 December 2018 and will seek to establish a permanent observer mission beginning in 2019. The Department of State cited "mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO."
UNESCO develops, maintains and disseminates, free-of-charge, two interrelated software packages for database management (CDS/ISIS [not to be confused with UK police software package ISIS]) and data mining/statistical analysis (IDAMS).
The International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation (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 ICIC.