United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

  • 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.
  • September 8 was declared International Literacy Day by UNESCO on October 26, 1966 at 14th session of UNESCO’s General conference. It was celebrated for the first time in 1967. Its aim is to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies. Celebrations take place in several countries.

Origins of UNESCO

The main predecessors of UNESCO were:

  • The International Committee of Intellectual Co-operation (CICI), Geneva 1922-1946, and its executing agency, the International Institute of Intellectual Co-operation (IICI), Paris, 1925-1946;
  • The International Bureau of Education (IBE), Geneva, 1925-1968; since 1969 IBE has been part of the UNESCO Secretariat under its own statutes.

Designating projects and places of cultural and scientific significance, such as:

  • Global Geoparks Network
  • Biosphere reserves, through the Programme on Man and the Biosphere (MAB), since 1971
  • City of Literature; in 2007, the first city to be given this title was Edinburgh, the site of Scotland’s first circulating library. In 2008, Iowa City, Iowa became the City of Literature.
  • Endangered languages and linguistic diversity projects
  • Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity
  • Memory of the World International Register, since 1997
  • Water resources management, through the International Hydrological Programme (IHP), since 1965
  • World Heritage Sites
  • World Digital Library