UNESCO stands for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) that was outlined in a constitution signed on November 16, 1945. The constitution, which entered into force in 1946, called for the promotion of international collaboration in education, science, and culture. The agency’s permanent headquarters are in Paris, France.
UNESCO seeks to build a culture of peace and inclusive knowledge societies through information and communication. It pursues its objectives through major program areas:
- Education, natural sciences,
- Social and human sciences,
- Communication and information.
It sponsors projects related to literacy, technical training, education, the advancement of science, promoting independent media and freedom of the press, preserving regional and cultural history, and promoting cultural diversity. UNESCO assists in translating and disseminating world literature, establishing international cooperation agreements to secure “World Heritage Sites” of cultural and natural importance, preserving human rights, and bridging the worldwide digital divide. It also launched and leads the Education For All movement and lifelong learning.
UNESCO is a member of the United Nations Development Group, a coalition of UN agencies and organizations aimed at fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals. UNESCO has 193 member states and 11 associate members. Based in Paris, France, most of its field offices are “cluster” offices that cover three or more countries; national and regional offices also exist.
Besides its support of educational and science programs, UNESCO is also involved in efforts to protect the natural environment and humanity’s common cultural heritage.
Ex: In the 1960s UNESCO helped sponsor efforts to save ancient Egyptian monuments from the waters of the Aswan High Dam, and in 1972 it sponsored an international agreement to establish a World Heritage List of cultural sites and natural areas that would enjoy government protection. In the 1980s a controversial study by UNESCO’s International Commission for the Study of Communication Problems, headed by the Irish statesman and Nobel Peace laureate Sean MacBride, proposed a New World Information and Communication Order that would treat communication and freedom of information as basic human rights and seek to eliminate the gap in communications capabilities between developing and developed countries.