UNESCO - The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
Founded in 1945, UNESCO is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) which is responsible for promoting international cooperation in the areas of education, science, culture and communication and thus contributing to peacekeeping and security efforts. Its constitution was ratified by 20 states on 4 November 1946. Germany has been a member of UNESCO since 1951. There are 195 Member States and 8 Associate Members (2013). The organs of UNESCO are the General Conference (General Assembly), which has sessions every two years, the Executive Board with its 58 members, which meets twice a year, and the Secretariat in Paris, headed by the Director-General. Scientific committees and intergovernmental and international councils provide expert advice for the programmes.
The programmatic framework for UNESCO's action is set out every six years in Medium-Term Strategies (so-called C/4 documents) which are adopted at the General Conference. The current Medium-Term Strategy 34 C/4 identifies five priorities for UNESCO. They are: education for all, promoting science for sustainable development, promoting ethical principles, cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue, and establishing knowledge societies. Global priority is accorded to Africa, to gender equality and youth.
The C/5 documents, drawn up every two years, formulate and set the budget for UNESCO's programmes and projects.
The German Commission for UNESCO is an intermediary organization for international cultural policy. Its role is to advise the Federal Government and other responsible bodies, participate in the implementation of the UNESCO programme in Germany, keep the public informed about these efforts, and establish contact between UNESCO and specialist organizations, institutions and experts.
UNESCO considers education to be the basis for peace and development. That is why UNESCO is the UN agency responsible for coordinating the Education for All (EFA
) action plan. This programme was launched at the World Education Forum in Dakar in 2000 and includes a commitment to achieving six important international education goals by 2015, including primary education for all and the reduction of illiteracy rates.
As a follow-up to the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development, the United Nations proclaimed 2005-2014 as the World Decade for Sustainable Development (EDS
: Education for Sustainable Development, 2005-2014) and mandated UNESCO to implement it. The objective of this Decade is to spread the idea that education is the key to an ecologically, economically and socially sustainable development across the world.
In Germany, the German Commission for UNESCO is coordinating the implementation of the Global Decade on behalf of the BMBF. To this end, the German Commission for UNESCO has appointed a national committee that selects best practice examples in education for sustainable development as the official German contributions to the World Decade. The second half of the UN Decade was launched at the World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development. It was organized by UNESCO and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, with the German Commission for UNESCO as a cooperation partner, and held in Bonn on 31 March - 2 April 2009. A total of 900 delegates - representatives of UNESCO Member States and other experts - discussed the outcome of the first half of the UN Decade "Education for Sustainable Development" (2005-2014) and developed strategies for the next few years. The final declaration
reflects the talks and offers strategic orientation for the second half of the Decade.
Germany's eight UNESCO Chairs form part of a global network for university cooperation (UNITWIN
) which currently comprises 763 UNESCO Chairs and 69 UNITWIN Networks, involving over 850 institutions in 134 countries.
Two UNESCO educational organizations are based in Germany: UNESCO's Institute for Education (UIP) has been based in Hamburg since 1951. This institute is making an important contribution to the implementation of UNESCO's Education for All programme and the UN World Literacy Decade (2003 -2012.) Its aim is to ensure that the learning needs of young people and adults are met. In order to achieve equality between this institute and other comparable UNESCO educational institutions, a decision was made in 2005 to make the UIP a fully-fleged international UNESCO institute and to give it a new name: the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL
UNESCO's International Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (UNESCO-UNEVOC
) has been operating in Bonn since 2000, with support from the Federal Government. Its aim is to support development of vocational education and training systems worldwide and to promote regional and international cooperation in this area. The global network includes 238 UNEVOC centres in 167 countries (as of July 2011), among them the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB
), as well as the UNEVOC Centre "Technical and Vocational Education and Training for Sustainable Development" in Magdeburg
since 16 September 2010.
The 190 German UNESCO project schools
are part of UNESCO's international associated schools network, which comprises approximately 9000 schools in 180 of UNESCO's member states. Their curricula place special emphasis on human rights, intercultural learning, sustainable development, and a fair distribution of wealth. The main educational goal of the UNESCO project schools is to teach people to live together in a pluralistic world full of cultural diversity.
With its numerous long-term scientific programmes, UNESCO promotes research into - and the protection of - people's living environment, for example under the Man and Biosphere programme (MAB
). The United Nations increased the focus on 580 biosphere reserves in 114 countries (July 2011: 15 reserves in Germany) by declaring the 2011-2020 period as the UN Decade on Biodiversity. They have thereby taken up a proposal made by the signatory states to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD
) at the 10th Conference of the Parties in Nagoya, Japan, in October 2010.
Other forms of international cooperation in environmental research occur through the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC
) which coordinates marine research, the International Geoscience Programme (IGCP
) which carries out research on geological processes, and the International Hydrological Programme (IHP
), which researches the water cycle and sustainable water resources management.
The International Basic Science Programme (IBSP
) was launched in 2004. It focuses on areas such as chemistry, physics, mathematics and certain fields of engineering that do not fall within the remit of other UN agencies. Germany is involved in numerous research projects within UNESCO's science programme. In consultation with the German Commission for UNESCO, the Federal Ministers responsible for the relevant areas have appointed national committees for a total of four UNESCO programmes.
In addition, UNESCO runs an intergovernmental programme for the Management of Social Transformation (MOST
), through which it promotes social science research projects that are comparable and networked across different regions and which focus on topics such as urbanization, living together in cultural diversity, and migration.
In its scientific areas of work, UNESCO supports the establishment and development of scientific research and training institutions and international basic research networks for science and technology, particularly in developing countries.
Because scientific and technological progress in the life sciences is so fast-paced, there is a great need for international coordination regarding values and norms in this area. That is why UNESCO created the International Bioethics Committee (IBC
) and the Intergovernmental Bioethics Committee (IGBC
). The Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights was prepared by the International Bioethics Committee and adopted at the 29th session of the UNESCO General Conference in November 2007. The impact of this declaration was analysed in subsequent years. The Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights was adopted unanimously in 2005.
Ethical aspects of progress in science and technology are also dealt with by the World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST
). This commission initially focused on issues relating to freshwater, space and energy. Ever since a conference in Berlin in late 2001, however, the subject of ethics in information technology has been at the forefront of its work.
Within the UN system, UNESCO is the only specialized agency with responsibility for cultural matters. Its main responsibilities are the protection and preservation of cultural heritage, the conservation and support of cultural diversity and the promotion of dialogue between different cultures.
The programme for the preservation of the world's cultural and natural heritage is the most famous of all UNESCO programmes (WHC
: World Heritage Convention). The UNESCO World Heritage List currently features more than 800 world heritage sites, including 36 in Germany. Primeval beech forests, the Fagus Factory in Alfeld, and pre-historic pile dwellings in the Alps - of which 18 are located in Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria - are the latest to be added (in June 2011).
The UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage
was adopted in 2003 and entered into force in 2006. It will ensure that UNESCO's long-standing efforts to gather, archive and revitalize cultural traditions, skills and endangered languages are given a binding status in international law.
Communication and Information:
UNESCO supports access to information and knowledge for all worldwide. It promotes the use of information technology as an instrument for narrowing the "digital divide" between wealthy and poor nations. The development for independent media will promote freedom of the press.
As part of its communication programme, UNESCO is supporting the development of modern knowledge societies in which freedom of opinion and equal access to information and knowledge are as important as education for all and cultural diversity. These overarching goals are also reflected in the Open Access
, Media development and Freedom of expression initiatives, and in the work done through the intergovernmental platforms Information for All Programme (IFAP
) and International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC
The Memory of the World programme
has the aim of protecting and disseminating documentary heritage. The international Memory of the World Register contains more than 238 entries (as of July 2011), including thirteen from Germany (e.g. Beethoven's Symphony No. 9).
UNESCO's regular budget consists of the direct contributions paid by the member states. For the years 2010 and 2011, it amounted to 653 million US dollars in total. This was a nominal growth of 3.5 percent when compared to the previous budget. Germany is the third largest contributor to UNESCO, after USA and Japan.
Of the total budget, 118.5 million dollars will be devoted to education, 88.8 million dollars will go to science (59.1 million to the natural sciences and 29.7 million to the social sciences and the humanities), 53.8 million dollars to culture and 33.2 million US dollars to the communication and information programme. In addition, there are considerable amounts in extrabudgetary available which come from voluntary contributions from the Member States.
UNESCO Headquarters in Paris have two locations:
- 7, place de Fontenoy,F-75352 Paris 07 SP France
- 1, rue Miollis 75732 Paris Cedex 15 France
Tel.: 00 33 1 - 45 68 10 00
Fax: 00 33 1 - 45 67 19 00
Permanent Delegation of Germany to UNESCO
13-15 Av. Franklin D. Roosevelt
Tel.: 00 33 1 - 53 83 46 63
German Commission for UNESCO (Deutsche UNESCO Kommission; DUK)
Tel.: 00 49 228 - 60 49 70
Fax: 00 49 228 - 60 49 730