UNESCO was founded in 1945 to develop the “intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind” as a means of building lasting peace. Its pioneering work has helped change the way people everywhere understand each other and the planet we live on.
In its early years, UNESCO helped rebuild schools, libraries, and museums destroyed during World War II, and served as an intellectual forum for exchanging ideas and scientific knowledge.
As newly independent countries joined between the 1950s and 1970s, it turned its attention to access to education for all girls and boys and tackling illiteracy, which remain major challenges.
UNESCO led the movement to protect the environment and sounded the alert over the planet’s shrinking biodiversity. Through its “Man and the Biosphere Program”, established in 1971, it sought to reconcile both the use and conservation of natural resources. It was the first step towards sustainable development.
The Nubian Temples campaign of the 1960s to save Egypt’s most famous monuments from the rising waters of the Aswan High Dam transformed approaches to cultural heritage protection and inspired the creation of the World Heritage programme, dedicated to safeguarding sites of outstanding universal value. This laid the basis for widening UNESCO action to safeguard three dimensions of heritage – tangible, intangible and documentary – and to promote respect for cultural diversity on the basis of human rights.
Through the development of community radio and multimedia centres, training for journalists, helping governments design media laws or, encouraging them to develop broadband services for all, UNESCO has championed freedom of expression, the rights of citizens to information, and helped lay the foundations of tomorrow’s Knowledge Societies.
… to future
UNESCO is firm in the conviction that in this age of immense social change and increasing limits, we must invest in resources that are renewable: education, cultural diversity, scientific research – and the boundless energy of human ingenuity – that will enable and drive the development essential for a just and sustainable future.
Millions of girls and boys still have no access to learning. Illiteracy prevents hundreds of millions of women and men from fully participating in their societies. Youth unemployment is a global challenge. Education remains a top priority on the new global development agenda being shaped by the international community. UNESCO makes the case for a new goal for equitable and quality lifelong learning and is mobilizing governments and a wide range of other partners for this.
Climate change, shrinking biodiversity and increasing demands on natural resources call for more science, and more scientists, to increase our capacity to observe and comprehend the planet. UNESCO’s programmes on the ocean, fresh water resources, the sharing of scientific knowledge, and in the social sciences have an important contribution to make.
Culture, a force for dialogue, social cohesion, economic growth and creativity, remains at the heart of UNESCO’s mission. UNESCO is determined that it should be a priority in the post-2015 agenda, which should be human rights-based, with a focus on governance and the rule of law.
This is why freedom of expression is also so important and why UNESCO will continue to advocate for harnessing information and communication technologies, building knowledge societies and bridging divides.