Emblem of the United Nations.svg
UNESCO logo English.svg
Formation4 November 1946; 73 years ago (1946-11-04)
TypeUnited Nations specialised agency
Legal statusActive
HeadquartersParis, France
Audrey Azoulay
Parent organization
A coloured voting box.svg Politics portal

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO;[1] French: Organisation des Nations unies pour l'éducation, la science et la culture) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) based in Paris, France. Its declared purpose is to contribute to promoting international collaboration in education, sciences, and culture 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.[2]It is the successor of the League of Nations' International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation.[3]

UNESCO has 193 member states and 11 associate members.[4] Most of its field offices are "cluster" offices that cover three or more countries; national and regional offices also exist.

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.[5]

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".[6] 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.[7]

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.


UNESCO and its mandate for international cooperation can be traced back to a League of Nations resolution on 21 September 1921, to elect a Commission to study feasibility.[8][9] This new body, the International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation (ICIC) was indeed created in 1922. On 18 December 1925, the International Bureau of Education (IBE) began work as a non-governmental organization in the service of international educational development.[10] However, the onset of World War II largely interrupted the work of these predecessor organizations.

After the signing of the Atlantic Charter and the Declaration of the United Nations, the Conference of Allied Ministers of Education (CAME) began meetings in London which continued from 16 November 1942 to 5 December 1945. On 30 October 1943, the necessity for an international organization was expressed in the Moscow Declaration, agreed upon by China, the United Kingdom, the United States and the USSR. This was followed by the Dumbarton Oaks Conference proposals of 9 October 1944. Upon the proposal of CAME and in accordance with the recommendations of the United Nations Conference on International Organization (UNCIO), held in San Francisco in April–June 1945, a United Nations Conference for the establishment of an educational and cultural organization (ECO/CONF) was convened in London 1–16 November 1945 with 44 governments represented. The idea of UNESCO was largely developed by Rab Butler, the Minister of Education for the United Kingdom, who had a great deal of influence in its development.[11] At the ECO/CONF, the Constitution of UNESCO was introduced and signed by 37 countries, and a Preparatory Commission was established.[12] The Preparatory Commission operated between 16 November 1945, and 4 November 1946—the date when UNESCO's Constitution came into force with the deposit of the twentieth ratification by a member state.[13]

The first General Conference took place from 19 November to 10 December 1946, and elected Dr. Julian Huxley to Director-General.[14] The Constitution was amended in November 1954 when the General Conference resolved that members of the Executive Board would be representatives of the governments of the States of which they are nationals and would not, as before, act in their personal capacity.[15] This change in governance distinguished UNESCO from its predecessor, the ICIC, in how member states would work together in the organization's fields of competence. As member states worked together over time to realize UNESCO's mandate, political and historical factors have shaped the organization's operations in particular during the Cold War, the decolonization process, and the dissolution of the USSR.

Among the major achievements of the organization is its work against racism, for example through influential statements on race starting with a declaration of anthropologists (among them was Claude Lévi-Strauss) and other scientists in 1950[16] and concluding with the 1978 Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice.[17] In 1956, the Republic of South Africa withdrew from UNESCO saying that some of the organization's publications amounted to "interference" in the country's "racial problems."[18] South Africa rejoined the organization in 1994 under the leadership of Nelson Mandela.

UNESCO's early work in the field of education included the pilot project on fundamental education in the Marbial Valley, Haiti, started in 1947.[19] This project was followed by expert missions to other countries, including, for example, a mission to Afghanistan in 1949.[20] In 1948, UNESCO recommended that Member States should make free primary education compulsory and universal.[21] In 1990, the World Conference on Education for All, in Jomtien, Thailand, launched a global movement to provide basic education for all children, youths and adults.[22] Ten years later, the 2000 World Education Forum held in Dakar, Senegal, led member governments to commit to achieving basic education for all by 2015.[23]

UNESCO's early activities in culture included, for example, the Nubia Campaign, launched in 1960.[24] The purpose of the campaign was to move the Great Temple of Abu Simbel to keep it from being swamped by the Nile after construction of the Aswan Dam. During the 20-year campaign, 22 monuments and architectural complexes were relocated. This was the first and largest in a series of campaigns including Mohenjo-daro (Pakistan), Fes (Morocco), Kathmandu (Nepal), Borobudur (Indonesia) and the Acropolis (Greece). The organization's work on heritage led to the adoption, in 1972, of the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.[25] The World Heritage Committee was established in 1976 and the first sites inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1978.[26] Since then important legal instruments on cultural heritage and diversity have been adopted by UNESCO member states in 2003 (Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage[27]) and 2005 (Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions[28]).

An intergovernmental meeting of UNESCO in Paris in December 1951 led to the creation of the European Council for Nuclear Research, which was responsible for establishing the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)[29] later on, in 1954.

Arid Zone programming, 1948–1966, is another example of an early major UNESCO project in the field of natural sciences.[30] In 1968, UNESCO organized the first intergovernmental conference aimed at reconciling the environment and development, a problem which continues to be addressed in the field of sustainable development. The main outcome of the 1968 conference was the creation of UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme.[31]

In the field of communication, the "free flow of ideas by word and image" has been in UNESCO's constitution from its beginnings, following the experience of the Second World War when control of information was a factor in indoctrinating populations for aggression.[32] In the years immediately following World War II, efforts were concentrated on reconstruction and on the identification of needs for means of mass communication around the world. UNESCO started organizing training and education for journalists in the 1950s.[33] In response to calls for a "New World Information and Communication Order" in the late 1970s, UNESCO established the International Commission for the Study of Communication Problems,[34] which produced the 1980 MacBride report (named after the Chair of the Commission, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Seán MacBride).[35] The same year, UNESCO created the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), a multilateral forum designed to promote media development in developing countries.[36][37] In 1991, UNESCO's General Conference endorsed the Windhoek Declaration on media independence and pluralism, which led the UN General Assembly to declare the date of its adoption, 3 May, as World Press Freedom Day.[38] Since 1997, UNESCO has awarded the UNESCO / Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize every 3 May. In the lead up to the World Summit on the Information Society in 2003 (Geneva) and 2005 (Tunis), UNESCO introduced the Information for All Programme.

UNESCO admitted Palestine as a member in 2011.[39][40] Laws passed in the United States in 1990 and 1994 mean that it cannot contribute financially to any UN organisation that accepts Palestine as a full member.[41] As a result, it withdrew its funding which accounted for about 22% of UNESCO's budget.[42] Israel also reacted to Palestine's admittance to UNESCO by freezing Israeli payments to the UNESCO and imposing sanctions to the Palestinian Authority,[43] stating that Palestine's admittance would be detrimental "to potential peace talks".[44] Two years after they stopped paying their dues to UNESCO, US and Israel lost UNESCO voting rights in 2013 without losing the right to be elected; thus, the US was elected as a member of the Executive Board for the period 2016–19.[45]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Unesco
Alemannisch: UNESCO
አማርኛ: ዩኔስኮ
العربية: يونسكو
aragonés: Unesco
asturianu: UNESCO
Avañe'ẽ: Unesco
azərbaycanca: UNESCO
تۆرکجه: یونسکو
Bân-lâm-gú: UNESCO
башҡортса: ЮНЕСКО
беларуская: ЮНЕСКА
भोजपुरी: यूनेस्को
български: ЮНЕСКО
Boarisch: UNESCO
bosanski: UNESCO
brezhoneg: UNESCO
català: UNESCO
Чӑвашла: ЮНЕСКО
čeština: UNESCO
Cymraeg: UNESCO
dansk: UNESCO
Deutsch: UNESCO
eesti: UNESCO
emiliàn e rumagnòl: UNESCO
español: Unesco
Esperanto: Unesko
estremeñu: UNESCO
euskara: UNESCO
فارسی: یونسکو
Fiji Hindi: UNESCO
føroyskt: UNESCO
Fulfulde: UNESCO
Gaeilge: UNESCO
galego: UNESCO
한국어: 유네스코
հայերեն: ՅՈՒՆԵՍԿՕ
Արեւմտահայերէն: ԵՈՒՆԵՍՔՕ
हिन्दी: युनेस्को
hornjoserbsce: UNESCO
hrvatski: UNESCO
Ilokano: UNESCO
interlingua: UNESCO
Interlingue: UNESCO
isiXhosa: I-UNESCO
עברית: אונסק"ו
ქართული: იუნესკო
қазақша: ЮНЕСКО
Kiswahili: UNESCO
Kreyòl ayisyen: INESKO
kurdî: UNESCO
Кыргызча: ЮНЕСКО
Ladino: UNESCO
Latina: UNESCO
latviešu: UNESCO
Lëtzebuergesch: UNESCO
lietuvių: UNESCO
Ligure: UNESCO
Limburgs: UNESCO
Livvinkarjala: UNESCO
lumbaart: UNESCO
magyar: UNESCO
मैथिली: युनेस्को
македонски: УНЕСКО
Malagasy: UNESCO
മലയാളം: യുനെസ്കോ
मराठी: युनेस्को
მარგალური: იუნესკო
مصرى: يونيسكو
مازِرونی: یونسکو
Bahasa Melayu: UNESCO
монгол: ЮНЕСКО
မြန်မာဘာသာ: ယူနက်စကို
Nederlands: UNESCO
नेपाली: युनेस्को
नेपाल भाषा: युनेस्को
Nordfriisk: UNESCO
norsk: UNESCO
norsk nynorsk: UNESCO
occitan: UNESCO
ଓଡ଼ିଆ: ୟୁନେସ୍କୋ
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: UNESCO
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਯੂਨੈਸਕੋ
پنجابی: یونیسکو
Papiamentu: UNESCO
ភាសាខ្មែរ: យូណេស្កូ
Piemontèis: UNESCO
Plattdüütsch: UNESCO
polski: UNESCO
rumantsch: UNESCO
Runa Simi: UNESCO
русиньскый: ЮНЕСКО
русский: ЮНЕСКО
саха тыла: ЮНЕСКО
ᱥᱟᱱᱛᱟᱲᱤ: ᱭᱩᱱᱮᱥᱠᱚ
sardu: UNESCO
Seeltersk: UNESCO
shqip: UNESCO
sicilianu: UNESCO
සිංහල: යුනෙස්කෝ
Simple English: UNESCO
سنڌي: يونيسڪو
Soomaaliga: UNESCO
کوردی: یوونێسکۆ
српски / srpski: Унеско
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: UNESCO
suomi: Unesco
svenska: Unesco
Tagalog: UNESCO
Taqbaylit: Tuddsa n UNESCO
తెలుగు: యునెస్కో
тоҷикӣ: ЮНЕСКО
Türkçe: UNESCO
удмурт: ЮНЕСКО
українська: ЮНЕСКО
اردو: یونیسکو
ئۇيغۇرچە / Uyghurche: YUNËSKO
vèneto: UNESCO
vepsän kel’: UNESCO
West-Vlams: UNESCO
Winaray: UNESCO
ייִדיש: אונעסקא
Yorùbá: UNESCO
žemaitėška: UNESCO