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United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations established on November 16 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.[1] It is the heir of the League of Nations' International Commission on Intellectual Cooperation.

UNESCO has 193 Member States and 6 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 programmes: 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 world-wide digital divide.


Three bodies are responsible for policy-making, governance, and day-to-day administration at UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

  • The General Conference
  • The Executive Board
  • The Secretariat
File:UNESCO Headquarters in Paris from Flickr 81486733.jpg

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.

Controversy and reformEdit

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 USSR. 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 a 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 40s and early 50s.[1] 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 8th 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. Template:Fact 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. Template:Fact Between 1998 and 2009, 245 negotiated staff departures and buy-outs took place, causing the inherited $12 million staff cost deficit to disappear. Template:Fact 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. Template:Fact 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. In reality though, IOS's main tasks involve auditing rather than programme oversight; 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. Template:Fact

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. Template:Fact


UNESCO implements its activities through the 5 programme areas of Education, Natural Sciences, Social and Human Sciences, Culture, and Communication and Information.

Prizes, awards and medalsEdit

UNESCO awards several prizes in science, culture and peace, such as:

Postage StampsEdit

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.

Directors GeneralEdit

  1. Julian Huxley, Template:UK (1946–1948)
  2. Jaime Torres Bodet, Template:MEX (1948–1952)
  3. John Wilkinson Taylor, Template:USA (acting 1952–1953)
  4. Luther Evans, Template:USA (1953–1958)
  5. Vittorino Veronese, Template:ITA (1958–1961)
  6. René Maheu, Template:FRA (1961–1974; acting 1961)
  7. Amadou-Mahtar M'Bow, Template:SEN (1974–1987)
  8. Federico Mayor Zaragoza, Template:ESP (1987–1999)
  9. Koïchiro Matsuura, Template:JPN (1999–present)


UNESCO has offices in many locations across the globe; its headquarters are located in Paris, France. Template:Geolinks-buildingscale

References Edit

  1. Template:Cite journal
  2. Template:Cite book

External linksEdit

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