UNESCO at a glance

“ ... since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed” — excerpt from the preamble to the Constitution of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization — better known as UNESCO — is a specialized agency of the United Nations. Founded in 1945 in the wake of the Second World War, UNESCO currently has 195 member states, including Canada, which is one of the signatories of the Organization’s constitution.

According to Article 1 of this founding document, the purpose of UNESCO is to “contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among the nations through education, science and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion, by the Charter of the United Nations.”

UNESCO pursues its objectives through five major programs:

  1. Education
  2. Exact and natural sciences
  3. Human and social sciences
  4. Culture
  5. Communication and information

Two global priorities, Africa and gender equality, are currently target by all five programs.

Irina Bokova was elected Director-General of UNESCO in 2009, becoming the first woman to head the Organization. She was appointed for a second period of four years in 2013.

UNESCO’s governing bodies are the General Conference and the Executive Board.

The General Conference determines the Organization’s main orientations and adopts its budget and action plan. It is made up of representatives of all of the member states and meets every two years.

The Executive Board plays a role similar to that of a board of directors. It sees that the decisions of the General Conference are implemented. Its 58 member states, elected by the General Conference, meet twice a year.

A global network of national cooperation organizations, called national commissions, serve as intermediaries between UNESCO, civil society and governments.

Created in 1957, the Canadian Commission for UNESCO provides support for Québec civil society stakeholders in dealings with UNESCO (among other responsibilities).

Last update: 2017-03-17 3:07:45 PM