The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) was established in 1945. It is one of the United Nations’ specialised organisations whose principal mission is to advance world peace via global cooperation in science, culture, and education. The need for such an organisation was expressed in the Moscow Declaration of 1943; China, USSR, USA, and UK were a part of this Declaration. UNESCO’s Constitution entered into force in 1946. As of April 2020, it has 193 Members and 11 Associate Members. UNESCO’s General Conference, at its 41st session, elected Ms. Audrey Azoulay to a second term as Director-General. UNESCO funds numerous programmes in teacher education, science, media and press freedom promotion, translation of world literature, and human rights.
History of UNESCO
During World War II, in 1942, the governments of the European countries opposing Germany and its allies convened in the United Kingdom for the Conference of Allied Ministers of Education (CAME). UNESCO’s General -Conference convened in Paris for the first time in November-December 1946. At present, the United States, Israel, and Liechtenstein are all members of the United Nations; however, they are not members of UNESCO. The United States and Israel withdrew from the organisation in 2019, citing bias in the organisation’s handling of the Palestine problem. It also has partners in the private, government, and inter-governmental sectors. Though UNESCO Headquarters are situated in Paris, it has over 53 regional offices and 199 national commissions.
Objectives of UNESCO
- Contributing in peace and nation-building
- Eradication of poverty
- Providing universal access to high-quality education and lifelong learning
- Mobilising science knowledge and policy for sustainable development
- Protection of heritage sites
- Addressing rising social and ethical concerns
- Promoting cultural diversity, intercultural discussion, and the promotion of a peaceful culture
- Use information and communication technologies (ICTs) to build inclusive knowledge societies
- Concentrates on two global objectives: ‘Africa’ and ‘Gender Equality’
UNESCO’s programmes accomplish the Sustainable Development Goals outlined in the United Nations General Assembly’s 2015-adopted 2030 Agenda. Africa and gender equality are UNESCO’s worldwide priorities. Currently, it pays closer attention to 54 African nations through a focused strategy. It is governed by a general conference, which includes associate members and member states. The meeting takes place bi-annually.
Areas of Specialisation of UNESCO
Education Transforms Lives
As the only United Nations body with a mandate to cover all elements of education, the organisation is unique in this regard. The ‘Education 2030 Framework for Action’ (also known as the Incheon Declaration) serves as a road map for achieving the global education 2030 objective. Its work spans the spectrum of educational development, from pre-kindergarten to postsecondary education and beyond. Several topics are covered, including sustainable development, global citizenship, human rights, HIV and AIDS, and technical and vocational skills development.
Preserving Cultural Heritage while Promoting Creativity
Culture must assume its proper position in developing policies and processes, and UNESCO has taken a tri-pronged approach to achieve this goal:
- The organisation is a leader in international advocacy for development and culture.
- It engages with the global community to establish clear policies and laws.
- It works to assist governments and relevant stakeholders in preserving history, strengthening creative industries, and encouraging cultural pluralism to promote cultural diversity.
Important Initiatives of UNESCO
World Heritage Convention and List:
The 1972 World Heritage Convention combines nature protection and traditional values in one comprehensive document. In addition, the Convention specifies the types of cultural or natural sites (World Heritage Sites) that can be considered for inscription in the World Heritage List and the criteria for consideration.
The World Heritage List currently includes 1154 sites in 167 countries, with 897 cultural and 218 natural sites; the remaining are 39 mixed assets among the 1154 sites as of July 2021. In India, there are now 40 World Heritage Sites designated as such. According to the organisation’s selection criteria, 32 are cultural, 7 are natural, and 1 is a hybrid (matching both cultural and natural qualities).India has the sixth-highest number of sites globally, such as Taj Mahal, Ajanta Caves, and Hampi.
Man, Animals, and the Biosphere (MAB)
UNESCO has launched an intergovernmental scientific initiative to establish a scientific foundation for improving the interaction between people and their ecosystems. It encourages the development of new ways to economic development that are socially and culturally relevant and environmentally beneficial. The World Network of Biosphere Reserves now has 701 sites in 124 nations worldwide, with 21 of those sites being located in transboundary areas of the world. Man and Biosphere (MAB) programme has acknowledged 12 biosphere reserves in India out of 18 Indian Biosphere reserves.
UNESCO’s Most Important Reports
- The UNESCO Science Report (It is released every five years on 10 November to commemorate World Science Day for Peace and Development),
- The Global Education Monitoring Report
- McBride Report of 1980
- The UNESCO State of the Education Report for India: Children with Disabilities.
- UNESCO Science Report : Towards 2030
- United Nations World Water Report 2018
UNESCO is a United Nations specialised organisation whose principal mission is to advance world peace via global cooperation in science, culture, and education. It was established in 1945. UNESCO funds numerous programmes in teacher education, science, media and press freedom promotion, translation of world literature, and human rights.