UNESCO - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

UNESCO is a specialised agency of the United Nations tasked with contributing to the maintenance of peace and security by promoting international cooperation in education, science, culture and communication. It was founded on 16 November 1945 as an intergovernmental organisation. Currently, 195 countries are members of UNESCO (as of 2018). The Federal Republic of Germany joined UNESCO in July 1951.

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Current developments

As a forum for global intellectual cooperation, UNESCO has the widest range of programmes of all UN specialised agencies. This includes education, science, culture, communication and information. The concrete objectives in the individual programme areas are redefined every two years by the UNESCO General Conference.  Medium-Term Strategies set out overarching programme objectives.

The Secretariat implements the UNESCO programmes operationally. In November 2017, Audrey Azoulay (France) was elected as Director-General of The Secretariat. She is the second woman in this position since 2009; succeeding Irina Bokova (Bulgaria).

UNESCO has a total budget of $ 1.2 billion for the years 2018 and 2019, of which $ 595.2 million is through membership fees. Germany is the third largest contributor to UNESCO after Japan and China. The financial situation has been tense since the failure of US contributions since 2011 - until then the largest contributor. This difficult situation will continue in the medium term: In October 2017,  the US announced its withdrawal from UNESCO, which came into effect at the end of 2018.

Long-term developments

Education

UNESCO makes an important contribution to improving education worldwide.

In the context of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), UNESCO has tasked itself with implementing SDG4 – ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. In 2015, the UNESCO member states adopted the Global Education Agenda 2030 in order to achieve these goals. This agenda defines how the goals set out in SDG4 are to be implemented by 2030. UNESCO coordinates the implementation of this agenda within the United Nations and provides global monitoring of progress in education.

In this context, the Global Education Monitoring Report 2019 was launched at the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin in November 2018.

In addition, the SDG4 implementation progress will be reviewed at regular international conferences. One example is the latest Global Education Meeting (GEM) in Brussels in December 2018, which took stock of the progress made and the challenges faced while implementing the universal goals and commitments of the Global Education Agenda 2030. The conference results will lend strategic impetus to the next United Nations High Level Political Forum (HLPF) meeting in New York in July 2019.

UNESCO is responsible for the implementation of the World Action Programme 'Education for Sustainable Development' (2015-2019). Its aim is to promote the idea of sustainable development in all areas of the education system so that the overall concept of ecologically, economically and socially sustainable development will be taught and learned in kindergartens, schools, universities, further education and cultural institutions, and research institutes alike.

For UNESCO, quality of education is not synonymous with meeting certain performance standards; Tolerance, solidarity and respect for human rights must also be taught in schools. In the UNESCO Associated Schools Network, the motto of the curriculum is: 'Learning to live together in a pluralistic world of cultural diversity'. International projects, such as tsunami aid for Sri Lanka or Euro-Arab dialogue projects, as well as school partnerships, penpalships and electronic contacts are bringing this ambition to life.

In the UNESCO Chairs Programme more than 40 UNITWIN networks and more than 700 UNESCO chairs in more than 116 countries are currently working together to anchor UNESCO's goals in science and education. The programme supports the establishment of UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Networks in key priority areas related to UNESCO’s fields of competence – i.e. in education, the natural and social sciences, culture and communication.

Science

UNESCO offers a global forum in which science and politics work together to formulate guidelines for sustainable development. UNESCO does not research itself and is not a research funding institution. It supports its Member States in capacity-building (such as training of staff or  equipment of institutions), promotes international research cooperation and open data exchange, and defines global standards.

Goals of the UNESCO Science Programme:

  • promoting peace through scientific cooperation;
  • help developing and emerging economies to build research infrastructures to participate in technical and economic progress;
  • develop scientific knowledge to set concrete, locally adapted sustainable development goals, including through an improved environmental management;
  • ask ethical questions about global change and new technologies.

Sponsors of the Science Programme are (in addition to the main Secretariat of UNESCO in Paris):

  • UNESCO regional and country offices (for example, Regional Office for South-Eastern Europe in Venice),
  • UNESCO science institutes (eg IHE in Delft for training in water topics),
    Scientific Institutes under UNESCO auspices,
  • Intergovernmental and expert panels of long-term scientific programs,
    National Commissions for UNESCO,
  • National Committees of Scientific Long-Term Programs,
  • and UNESCO Chairs.

National committees have been set up in many countries to involve scientists at national level in the work of UNESCO as fully as possible. In Germany, national committees exist for four of the six long-term programmes: IHP, MAB, IGCP and the German IOC section.

A central instrument for achieving the goals of the UNESCO Science Programme are intergovernmental, long-term scientific programmes on concrete research topics and in specific disciplines:

Other important programme elements include bioethics and human rights.

Culture

The protection and conservation of cultural heritage, the preservation and promotion of cultural diversity and dialogue between cultures are the main tasks of UNESCO in this programme area. There are over 1,073 monuments in 167 countries on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Convention for the Protection of Intangible Cultural Heritage, which entered into force in April 2006, and the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, which entered into force in March 2007, are new and important UNESCO instruments for international cultural policy. Detailed information about this area can be found here.

Communication

Here, the focus is on the promotion of modern knowledge societies ('knowledge societies'),  freedom of speech and freedom of the press as well as on free access to information and knowledge. UNESCO promotes information technologies to overcome the 'digital divide'. In developing and conflict regions, it trains journalists and builds independent media. The 'Memory of the World' programme serves to preserve the documentary heritage. Detailed information about this area can be found here.

Structure

UNESCO has three bodies according to its constitution:

  • The General Conference
  • The Executive Board
  • The Secretariat

The General Conference is the assembly of all Member States, which meets every two years. At the General Conference, each Member State has one vote. It is the supreme decision-making and controlling body of UNESCO. The General Conference sets the objectives and general guidelines of UNESCO's work. It convenes state conferences and adopts recommendations or agreements. The General Conference elects the members of the Executive Board and, at its suggestion, appoints the Director-General.

The Executive Board consists of 58 member states and meets five times in the Biennium. It reviews UNESCO's work program and makes recommendations to the General Conference.

The Secretariat implements the UNESCO programmes operationally. In November 2017, Audrey Azoulay (France) was elected as Director-General to the head of the secretariat. She is the second woman to have held this position after Irina Bokova (Bulgaria), who took office in 2009. The Secretariat is headquartered in Paris and has more than 50 field offices worldwide.

UNESCO is a forum for international cooperation and exchange of information, experience and ideas. It is not a development aid organisation or agency for project funding. It builds model projects, advises governments through expert missions and ministerial conferences, and promotes knowledge sharing through more than 250 larger and countless smaller expert networks. Permanent facilities are the intergovernmental programmes, e.g. the International Hydrological Program.

An important function of UNESCO is the development of normative instruments at intergovernmental level. It has passed numerous international conventions, recommendations and declarations, most notably the 1972 Convention on the Protection of Cultural and Natural Heritage.

Budget

UNESCO has a total budget of $ 1.2 billion for the years 2018 and 2019, of which $ 595.2 million is through membership fees. Germany is the third largest contributor to UNESCO after Japan and China. The financial situation has been tense since the failure to pay the US contributions since 2011 - until then the largest contributor. This difficult situation will continue in the medium term: In October 2017, the US announced its withdrawal from UNESCO, which came into effect at the end of 2018.

Contact

UNESCO
7, place de Fontenoy
F-75352 Paris 07 SP
Phone: 00 33 1 - 45 68 10 00
Fax: 00 33 1 - 45 67 19 00
Website: http://www.unesco.org/

German Commission for UNESCO (Deutsche UNESCO Kommission e.V.)
Colmantstraße 15
D-53115 Bonn
Internet: http://www.unesco.de