|Org type||Specialized Agency|
|Established||November 16, 1945|
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO; pronounced /juːˈnɛskoʊ/, yoo-NES-koh) is a specialized agency of the United Nations established on 16 November 1945. 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 the human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the UN Charter. It is the heir of the League of Nations' International Commission on Intellectual Cooperation.
UNESCO has 193 Member States and seven Associate Members. The organization is based in Paris, with over 50 field offices and many specialized institutes and centres throughout the world. 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.
As early as 1942, in wartime, the governments of the European countries, which were confronting Nazi Germany and its allies, met in the United Kingdom for the Conference of Allied Ministers of Education (CAME). The Second World War was far from over, yet those countries were looking for ways and means to reconstruct their systems of education once peace was restored. Very quickly, the project gained momentum and soon took on a universal note. New governments, including that of the United States, decided to join in.
Upon the proposal of CAME, a United Nations Conference for the establishment of an educational and cultural organization (ECO/CONF) was convened in London from 1 to 16 November 1945. Scarcely had the war ended when the conference opened. It gathered together the representatives of forty-four countries. Spurred on by France and the United Kingdom, two countries that had known great hardship during the conflict, the delegates decided to create an organization that would embody a genuine culture of peace. In their eyes, the new organization must establish the "intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind" and, in so doing, prevent the outbreak of another world war.
At the end of the conference, thirty-seven countries founded the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The Constitution of UNESCO, signed on 16 November 1945, came into force on 4 November 1946 after ratification by twenty countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, France, Greece, India, Lebanon, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom and United States. The first session of the General Conference of UNESCO was held in Paris from 19 November to 10 December 1946 with the participation of representatives from 30 governments entitled to vote.
The ashes of the Second World War are reflected in the composition of the founding Member States of UNESCO. Japan and the Federal Republic of Germany became members in 1951, Spain in 1953. Other major historical factors, as the Cold War, the decolonization process and the dissolution of the USSR, also left their trace on UNESCO. The USSR joined UNESCO in 1954 and was replaced by the Russian Federation in 1992. Nineteen African States became Members in 1960. Twelve Republics from the former Soviet Union joined UNESCO in the period 1991 to 1993.
As a consequence of its entry into the United Nations, the People's Republic of China has been the only legitimate representative of China at UNESCO since 1971. The German Democratic Republic was a Member from 1972 to 1990, when it joined the Federal Republic of Germany.
The League of Nations, the United Nations' ancestor, also had an institution to deal with intellectual cooperation: the "International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation" (ICIC), which had prestigious members such as Albert Einstein, Thomas Mann, Marie Curie and Paul Valéry.
The General Conference is a gathering of the organization's member states and associate members, in which each state has one vote. Meeting every two years, it sets general policies and defines programme lines for the organization.
The Executive Board's 58 members are elected by the General Conference for staggered four-year terms. The Executive Board prepares the sessions of the General Conference and ensures that its instructions are carried out. It also discharges other specific mandates assigned to it by the General Conference.
The Secretariat consists of the Director-General and his staff and is responsible for the day-to-day running of the organization. The Director-General, who serves as the public face of UNESCO, is elected for a (renewable) four-year term by the General Conference. The staff currently numbers some 2100, of whom some two-thirds are based in Paris, with the remaining third spread around the world in UNESCO's 58 field offices. The Secretariat is divided into various administrative offices and five programme sectors that reflect the organization's major areas of focus.
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 communist and Third World countries to attack the West, a stark 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 and Singapore in 1986. Following a change of government in 1997, the UK rejoined. The United States rejoined in 2003, followed by Singapore on 8 October 2007.
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 1287 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. The evaluation of relevance and effectiveness of programmes is carried out by the Evaluation Section of IOS.
Programming coherence and relevance remains a challenge at UNESCO. One of the main reasons for this is that activities and projects can be identified and supervised by various services within the organization.
UNESCO implements its activities through the five programme areas of Education, Natural Sciences, Social and Human Sciences, Culture, and Communication and Information.
UNESCO enjoys official relations with 322 international NGOs. Most of these are what UNESCO calls "operational", a select few are "formal". Operational relations are reserved for an NGO with an active presence in the field, with special expertise and with an ability to channel the concerns of their clients. Requests for admission by an NGO to UNESCO for operational relations can be made to the Director-General at any time. Formal relations are reserved for those NGOs who have a sustained role in cooperating with UNESCO both upstream and downstream. Admission for formal recognition is only granted to international NGOs that are widely representative and expert in their field of activity, and with a genuinely international structure and membership. Formal relations are themselves sub-divided into two types, "consultative" or "associate", depending on the role and structure of the NGO itself. The Executive Board, one of UNESCO's governing bodies, decides on requests for admission by NGOs to one or the other type of formal relation on the basis of recommendations made by the Director-General. Formal relations are established for renewable periods of six years.
The highest form of affiliation to UNESCO is "formal associate", and the 22 NGOs with formal associate (ASC) relations occupying offices at UNESCO are:
The institutes are specialized departments of the Organization that support UNESCO's programme, providing specialized support for cluster and national offices.
UNESCO institutes and centres in the sector of education
UNESCO institutes and centres in the sector of natural sciences
UNESCO Institute for Statistics
UNESCO awards several prizes in education, science, culture and peace, such as:
As of October 2009, UNESCO counts 193 Member States and seven Associate Members.
Various countries have issued postage stamps commemorating UNESCO. The organization's seal and its headquarters building have been common themes. In 1955 the United Nations Postal Administration (UNPA) issued its first ones honouring the organization.
While UNESCO has never separately issued stamps valid for postage, from 1951 to 1966 it issued a series of 41 "gift stamps" to raise money for its activities. Designed by artists in various countries, they were sold at a desk by the UNPA counter located in the United Nations Headquarters building in New York City. No longer available at the UN, most of these Cinderella stamps can be purchased at low cost from speciality stamp dealers.
Elections for the renewal of the position of Director-General will take place in Paris from 7 September to 23 September. Eight candidates are running for the position, and 58 countries are to vote for them. The Executive Council will gather from 7 September to 23 September, the vote itself beginning on the 17th.
This article is a travel topic.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site  is a site that has been nominated for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's International World Heritage program. The program aims to catalogue and preserve sites of outstanding importance, either cultural or natural, to the common heritage of humankind.
See also UNESCO Creative Cities, describing a recently instituted program recognizing entire cities with some similar characteristics, and the UNESCO Global Geoparks Network, for parks of great geological interest.
If you would like to help expanding Wikitravel's coverage of world heritage sites, like starting new guides etc., please check the Wikitravel:World Heritage Expedition
The following are sites that were once registered World Heritage Sites but have since been taken off the list: