The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN). Its declared purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms 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. It is the heir of the League of Nations' International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation.
UNESCO has 195 member states and nine associate members. Most of its field offices are "cluster" offices covering 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 programmes, international science programmes, 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 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.
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". 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.
The broad goals and concrete objectives of the international community – as set out in the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – underpin all UNESCO's strategies and activities.
UNESCO and its mandate for international co-operation can be traced back to the League of Nations resolution on 21 September 1921, to elect a Commission to study feasibility. On 18 December 1925, the International Bureau of Education (IBE) began work as a non-governmental organization in the service of international educational development. However, the work of these predecessor organizations was largely interrupted by the onset of World War II.
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 between 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. A prominent figure in the initiative for UNESCO was Rab Butler, the Minister of Education for the United Kingdom. At the ECO/CONF, the Constitution of UNESCO was introduced and signed by 37 countries, and a Preparatory Commission was established. 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.
The first General Conference took place from 19 November to 10 December 1946, and elected Dr. Julian Huxley to the post of Director-General. 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. This change in governance distinguished UNESCO from its predecessor, the CICI, in terms of 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 and concluding with the 1978 Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice. In 1956, the Republic of South Africa withdrew from UNESCO claiming that some of the organization's publications amounted to "interference" in the country's "racial problems." 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. This project was followed by expert missions to other countries, including, for example, a mission to Afghanistan in 1949. In 1948, UNESCO recommended that Member States should make free primary education compulsory and universal. 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. 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.
UNESCO's early activities in the field of culture included, for example, the Nubia Campaign, launched in 1960. 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. The World Heritage Committee was established in 1976 and the first sites inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1978. 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) and 2005 (Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions).
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) in 1954.
Arid Zone programming, 1948–1966, is another example of an early major UNESCO project in the field of natural sciences. 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.
In the field of communication, the free flow of information has been a priority for UNESCO from its beginnings. 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. 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, which produced the 1980 MacBride report (named after the Chair of the Commission, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Seán MacBride). Following the MacBride report, UNESCO introduced the Information Society for All programme and Toward Knowledge Societies programme in the lead up to the World Summit on the Information Society in 2003 (Geneva) and 2005 (Tunis).
In 2011, Palestine became a UNESCO member following a vote in which 107 member states supported and 14 opposed. 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. As a result, it withdrew its funding which accounted for about 22% of UNESCO's budget. Israel also reacted to Palestine's admittance to UNESCO by freezing Israel payments to the UNESCO and imposing sanctions to the Palestinian Authority, claiming that Palestine's admittance would be detrimental "to potential peace talks". Two years after they stopped paying their dues to UNESCO, US and Israel lost UNESCO voting rights in 2013.
UNESCO implements its activities through the five programme areas: education, natural sciences, social and human sciences, culture, and communication and information.
- Education: UNESCO supports research in comparative education; and provide expertise and fosters partnerships to strengthen national educational leadership and the capacity of countries to offer quality education for all. This includes the
- UNESCO Chairs, an international network of 644 UNESCO Chairs, involving over 770 institutions in 126 countries.
- Environmental Conservation Organisation
- Convention against Discrimination in Education adopted in 1960
- Organization of the International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA) in an interval of 12 years
- Publication of the Education for All Global Monitoring Report
- Publication of the Four Pillars of Learning seminal document
- UNESCO ASPNet, an international network of 8,000 schools in 170 countries.
UNESCO does not accredit institutions of higher learning.
- UNESCO also issues public statements to educate the public:
- Seville Statement on Violence: A statement adopted by UNESCO in 1989 to refute the notion that humans are biologically predisposed to organised violence.
- Designating projects and places of cultural and scientific significance, such as:
- Global Geoparks Network
- Biosphere reserves, through the Programme on Man and the Biosphere (MAB), since 1971
- City of Literature; in 2007, the first city to be given this title was Edinburgh, the site of Scotland's first circulating library. In 2008, Iowa City, Iowa became the City of Literature.
- Endangered languages and linguistic diversity projects
- Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity
- Memory of the World International Register, since 1997
- Water resources management, through the International Hydrological Programme (IHP), since 1965
- World Heritage Sites
- World Digital Library
- Encouraging the "free flow of ideas by images and words" by:
- Promoting freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom of information legislation, through the International Programme for the Development of Communication and the Communication and Information Programme
- Promoting universal access to Information and Communications Technology, through the Information for All Programme
- Promoting pluralism and cultural diversity in the media
- Promoting events, such as:
- International Decade for the Promotion of a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World: 2001–2010, proclaimed by the UN in 1998
- World Press Freedom Day, 3 May each year, to promote freedom of expression and freedom of the press as a basic human right and as crucial components of any healthy, democratic and free society.
- Criança Esperança in Brazil, in partnership with Rede Globo, to raise funds for community-based projects that foster social integration and violence prevention.
- International Literacy Day
- International Year for the Culture of Peace
- Founding and funding projects, such as:
- Migration Museums Initiative: Promoting the establishment of museums for cultural dialogue with migrant populations.
- UNESCO-CEPES, the European Centre for Higher Education: established in 1972 in Bucharest, Romania, as a de-centralized office to promote international co-operation in higher education in Europe as well as Canada, USA and Israel. Higher Education in Europe is its official journal.
- Free Software Directory: since 1998 UNESCO and the Free Software Foundation have jointly funded this project cataloguing free software.
- FRESH Focussing Resources on Effective School Health.
- OANA, Organization of Asia-Pacific News Agencies
- International Council of Science
- UNESCO Goodwill Ambassadors
- ASOMPS, Asian Symposium on Medicinal Plants and Spices, a series of scientific conferences held in Asia
- Botany 2000, a programme supporting taxonomy, and biological and cultural diversity of medicinal and ornamental plants, and their protection against environmental pollution
- The UNESCO Collection of Representative Works, translating works of world literature both to and from multiple languages, from 1948 to 2005
- GoUNESCO, an umbrella of initiatives to make heritage fun supported by UNESCO, New Delhi Office
UNESCO and its specialized institutions issue a number of magazines.
The UNESCO Courier magazine states its mission to "promote UNESCO’s ideals, maintain a platform for the dialogue between cultures and provide a forum for international debate." Since March 2006 it is available online, with limited printed issues. Its articles express the opinions of the authors which are not necessarily the opinions of UNESCO. As of 2016, the latest issue posted was October–December 2011.
In 1950 UNESCO initiated the quarterly review Impact of Science on Society (also known as Impact) to discuss the influence of science on society.
Official UNESCO NGOs
UNESCO has official relations with 322 international non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Most of these are what UNESCO calls "operational", a select few are "formal". The highest form of affiliation to UNESCO is "formal associate", and the 22 NGOs with formal associate (ASC) relations occupying offices at UNESCO are:
Institutes and centres
The institutes are specialized departments of the organization that support UNESCO's programme, providing specialized support for cluster and national offices.
|IBE||International Bureau of Education||Geneva|
|UIL||UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning||Hamburg|
|IIEP||UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning||Paris (headquarters) and Buenos Aires (regional office)|
|IITE||UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education||Moscow|
|IICBA||UNESCO International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa||Addis Ababa|
|IESALC||UNESCO International Institute for Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean||Caracas|
|UICTVET||UNESCO-UNEVOC International Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training||Bonn|
|CEPES||UNESCO European Centre for Higher Education||Bucharest|
|UNESCO-IHE||UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education||Delft|
|ICTP||International Centre for Theoretical Physics||Trieste|
|UIS||UNESCO Institute for Statistics||Montreal|
|UNESCO VG||UNESCO Centre British Virgin Islands|
UNESCO awards 22 prizes in education, science, culture and peace:
- Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize
- L'Oréal-UNESCO Awards for Women in Science
- UNESCO/King Sejong Literacy Prize
- UNESCO/Confucius Prize for Literacy
- UNESCO/Emir Jaber al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah Prize to promote Quality Education for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities
- UNESCO King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa Prize for the Use of Information and Communication Technologies in Education
- UNESCO/Hamdan Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Prize for Outstanding Practice and Performance in Enhancing the Effectiveness of Teachers
- UNESCO/Kalinga Prize for the Popularization of Science
- UNESCO/Institut Pasteur Medal for an outstanding contribution to the development of scientific knowledge that has a beneficial impact on human health
- UNESCO/Sultan Qaboos Prize for Environmental Preservation
- Great Man-Made River International Water Prize for Water Resources in Arid Zones presented by UNESCO (title to be reconsidered)
- Michel Batisse Award for Biosphere Reserve Management
- UNESCO/Bilbao Prize for the Promotion of a Culture of Human Rights
- UNESCO Prize for Peace Education
- UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence
- UNESCO/International José Martí Prize
- UNESCO/Avicenna Prize for Ethics in Science
- UNESCO/Juan Bosch Prize for the Promotion of Social Science Research in Latin America and the Caribbean
- Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture
- Melina Mercouri International Prize for the Safeguarding and Management of Cultural Landscapes (UNESCO-Greece)
- IPDC-UNESCO Prize for Rural Communication
- UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize
- UNESCO/Jikji Memory of the World Prize
- Carlos J. Finlay Prize for Microbiology (inactive since 2005)
- International Simón Bolívar Prize (inactive since 2004)
- UNESCO Prize for Human Rights Education
- UNESCO/Obiang Nguema Mbasogo International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences (inactive since 2010)
- UNESCO Prize for the Promotion of the Arts
International Days observed at UNESCO
UNESCO counts 195 member states and 9 associate members. Some members are not independent states and some members have additional National Organizing Committees from some of their dependent territories. UNESCO state parties are the United Nations member states (except Liechtenstein), Cook Islands, Niue, and the State of Palestine.
Elections for the renewal of the position of Director-General took place in Paris from 7 to 23 September 2009. Eight candidates ran for the position, and 58 countries voted for them. The Executive Council gathered from 7 to 23 September, the vote itself beginning on the 17th. Irina Bokova was elected the new Director-General.
The list of the Directors-General of UNESCO since its establishment in 1946 is as follows:
|Federico Mayor Zaragoza||Spain||1987–99|
|René Maheu||France||1961–74; acting 1961|
|Luther Evans||United States||1953–58|
|John Wilkinson Taylor||United States||acting 1952–53|
|Jaime Torres Bodet||Mexico||1948–52|
|Julian Huxley||United Kingdom||1946–48|
This is the list of the sessions of UNESCO General Conference held since 1946:
|38th||Paris||2015||Stanley Mutumba Simataa||Namibia|
|34th||Paris||2007||George N. Anastassopoulos||Greece|
|33rd||Paris||2005||Musa Bin Jaafar Bin Hassan||Oman|
|30th||Paris||1999||Jaroslava Moserova||Czech Republic|
|27th||Paris||1993||Ahmed Saleh Sayyad||Yemen|
|26th||Paris||1991||Bethwell Allan Ogot||Kenya|
|24th||Paris||1987||Guillermo Putzeys Alvarez||Guatemala|
|16th||Paris||1970||Atilio Dell'Oro Maini||Argentina|
|13th||Paris||1964||Norair Sisakian||Armenian SSR|
|12th||Paris||1962||Paulo de Berrêdo Carneiro||Brazil|
|9th||New Delhi||1956||Abul Kalam Azad||India|
|8th||Montevideo||1954||Justino Zavala Muñiz||Uruguay|
|6th||Paris||1951||Howland H. Sargeant||United States|
|4th||Paris||1949||Edward Ronald Walker||Australia|
|3rd||Beirut||1948||Hamid Bey Frangie||Lebanon|
|2nd||Mexico City||1947||Manuel Gual Vidal||Mexico|
UNESCO headquarters are located at Place de Fontenoy in Paris, France.
UNESCO's field offices across the globe are categorized into four primary office types based upon their function and geographic coverage: cluster offices, national offices, regional bureaus and liaison offices.
Field offices by region
The following list of all UNESCO Field Offices is organized geographically by UNESCO Region and identifies the members states and associate members of UNESCO which are served by each office.
- Abidjan – National Office to Côte d'Ivoire
- Abuja – National Office to Nigeria
- Accra – Cluster Office for Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Togo
- Addis Ababa – Liaison Office with the African Union and with the Economic Commission for Africa
- Bamako – Cluster Office for Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali and Niger
- Brazzaville – National Office to the Republic of the Congo
- Bujumbura – National Office to Burundi
- Dakar – Regional Bureau for Education in Africa and Cluster Office for Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, and Senegal
- Dar es Salaam – Cluster Office for Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles and Tanzania
- Harare – Cluster Office for Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe
- Juba – National Office to South Sudan
- Kinshasa – National Office to the Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Libreville – Cluster Office for the Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Sao Tome and Principe
- Maputo – National Office to Mozambique
- Nairobi – Regional Bureau for Sciences in Africa and Cluster Office for Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan and Uganda
- Windhoek – National Office to Namibia
- Yaoundé – Cluster Office to Cameroon, Central African Republic and Chad
- Amman – National Office to Jordan
- Beirut – Regional Bureau for Education in the Arab States and Cluster Office to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Palestine
- Cairo – Regional Bureau for Sciences in the Arab States and Cluster Office for Egypt, Libya and Sudan
- Doha – Cluster Office to Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen
- Iraq – National Office for Iraq (currently located in Amman, Jordan)
- Khartoum – National Office to Sudan
- Rabat – Cluster Office to Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia
- Ramallah – National Office to the Palestinian Territories
Asia and Pacific
- Apia – Cluster Office to Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Tokelau (Associate Member)
- Bangkok – Regional Bureau for Education in Asia and the Pacific and Cluster Office to Thailand, Burma, Laos, Singapore and Vietnam
- Beijing – Cluster Office to North Korea, Japan, Mongolia, the People's Republic of China and South Korea
- Dhaka – National Office to Bangladesh
- Hanoi – National Office to Vietnam
- Islamabad – National Office to Pakistan
- Jakarta – Regional Bureau for Sciences in Asia and the Pacific and Cluster Office to Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and East Timor
- Kabul – National Office to Afghanistan
- Kathmandu – National Office to Nepal
- New Delhi – Cluster Office to Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka
- Phnom Penh – National Office to Cambodia
- Tashkent – National Office to Uzbekistan
- Tehran – Cluster Office to Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Turkmenistan
Europe and North America
- Almaty – Cluster Office to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan
- Brussels – Liaison Office to the European Union and its subsidiary bodies in Brussels
- Geneva – Liaison Office to the United Nations in Geneva
- New York City – Liaison Office to the United Nations in New York
- Moscow – Cluster Office to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Moldova and Russia
- Venice – Regional Bureau for Sciences and Culture in Europe
Latin America and the Caribbean
- Brasilia – National Office to Brazil
- Guatemala City – National Office to Guatemala
- Havana – Regional Bureau for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean and Cluster Office to Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti and Aruba
- Kingston – Cluster Office to Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago as well as the associate member states of British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Curaçao and Sint Maarten
- Lima – National Office to Peru
- Mexico City – National Office to Mexico
- Montevideo – Regional Bureau for Sciences in Latin America and the Caribbean and Cluster Office to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay
- Port-au-Prince – National Office to Haiti
- Quito – Cluster Office to Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela
- San José – Cluster Office to Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama
- Santiago de Chile – Regional Bureau for Education in Latin America and the Caribbean and National Office to Chile
New World Information and Communication order
UNESCO has been the centre of controversy in the past, particularly in its relationships with the United States, the United Kingdom, Singapore and the former Soviet Union. During the 1970s and 1980s, UNESCO's support for a "New World Information and Communication Order" and its MacBride report calling for democratization of the media and more egalitarian access to information was condemned in these countries as attempts to curb freedom of the press. UNESCO was perceived by some as a platform for communists and Third World dictators to attack the West, a stark contrast to accusations made by the USSR in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In 1984, the United States withheld its contributions and withdrew from the organization in protest, followed by the United Kingdom in 1985. Singapore took the opportunity to withdraw also at the end of 1985, citing rising membership fees. Following a change of government in 1997, the UK rejoined. The United States rejoined in 2003, followed by Singapore on 8 October 2007.
Israel was admitted to UNESCO in 1949, one year after its creation. Israel has maintained its membership since 1949. In 2010, Israel designated the Cave of the Patriarchs, Hebron and Rachel's Tomb, Bethlehem as National Heritage Sites and announced restoration work, prompting criticism from the United States and protests from Palestinians. In October 2010, UNESCO's Executive Board voted to declare the sites as "al-Haram al-Ibrahimi/Tomb of the Patriarchs" and "Bilal bin Rabah Mosque/Rachel's Tomb" and stated that they were "an integral part of the occupied Palestinian Territories" and any unilateral Israeli action was a violation of international law. UNESCO described the sites as significant to "people of the Muslim, Christian and Jewish traditions", and accused Israel of highlighting only the Jewish character of the sites. Israel in turn accused UNESCO of "detach[ing] the Nation of Israel from its heritage", and accused it of being politically motivated. The Rabbi of the Western Wall claimed that Rachel's tomb had not previously been declared a holy Muslim site. Israel partially suspended ties with UNESCO. Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon declared that the resolution was a "part of Palestinian escalation". Zevulun Orlev, chairman of the Knesset Education and Culture Committee, referred to the resolutions as an attempt to undermine the mission of UNESCO as a scientific and cultural organization that promotes cooperation throughout the world.
On 28 June 2011, UNESCO's World Heritage Committee, at Jordan's insistence, censured Israel's decision to demolish and rebuild the Mughrabi Gate Bridge in Jerusalem for safety reasons. Israel stated that Jordan had signed an agreement with Israel stipulating that the existing bridge must be dismantled for safety reasons; Jordan disputed the agreement, saying it was only signed under U.S. pressure. Israel was also unable to address the UNESCO committee over objections from Egypt.
In January 2014, days before it was scheduled to open, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, "indefinitely postponed" and effectively cancelled an exhibit created by the Simon Wiesenthal Center entitled, "The People, The Book, The Land: The 3,500-year relationship between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel." The event was scheduled to run from 21 January through 30 January in Paris. Bokova cancelled the event after representatives of Arab states at UNESCO argued that its display would "harm the peace process". The author of the exhibition, Professor Robert Wistrich of the Hebrew University's Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism, called the cancellation an "appalling act," and characterized Bokova's decision as "an arbitrary act of total cynicism and, really, contempt for the Jewish people and its history." UNESCO amended the decision to cancel the exhibit within the year, and it quickly achieved popularity and was viewed a great success.
Palestinian Youth Magazine controversy
In February 2011, an article was published in a Palestinian youth magazine in which a teenage girl described one of her four role-models as Adolf Hitler. In December 2011, UNESCO, which partly funded the magazine, condemned the material and subsequently withdrew support.
Islamic University of Gaza controversy
In 2012, UNESCO decided to establish a chair at the Islamic University of Gaza in the field of astronomy, astrophysics, and space sciences, fueling much controversy and criticism. Israel's foreign ministry criticized the move and stated that the university supports Hamas (which Israel and other countries designate as a terrorist organization) and houses bomb laboratories for Hamas.
The university has been linked to Hamas in the past. However, the university head, Kamalain Shaath, defended UNESCO, stating that "the Islamic University is a purely academic university that is interested only in education and its development". Israeli ambassador to UNESCO Nimrod Barkan planned to submit a letter of protest with information about the university's ties to Hamas, especially angry that this was the first Palestinian university that UNESCO chose to cooperate with. The Jewish organization B'nai B'rith criticized the move as well.
On 16 and 17 February 2012 UNESCO held a conference entitled, "The Media World after WikiLeaks and News of the World." Despite all six panels being focused on WikiLeaks, no member of WikiLeaks staff were invited to speak. After receiving a complaint from WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson, UNESCO invited him to attend, but did not offer a place on any panels. The offer also came only a week before the conference, which was held in Paris, France. Many of the speakers featured, including David Leigh and Heather Brooke, had spoken out openly against WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange in the past. WikiLeaks released a press statement on 15 February 2012 denouncing UNESCO which stated, "UNESCO has made itself an international human rights joke. To use "freedom of expression" to censor WikiLeaks from a conference about WikiLeaks is an Orwellian absurdity beyond words."
In 2013, UNESCO announced that the collection "The Life and Works of Ernesto Che Guevara" became part of the Memory of the World Register. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the US congresswoman, condemned this decision, saying the organization acts against its own ideals:
This decision is more than an insult to the families of those Cubans who were lined up and summarily executed by Che and his merciless cronies but it also serves as a direct contradiction to the UNESCO ideals of encouraging peace and universal respect for human rights..
The UN Watch, also condemned this selection of UNESCO.
Listing Nanjing Massacre documents
In 2015, Japan threatened to halt funding for UNESCO over the organization's decision to include documents relating to the 1937 Nanjing massacre in the latest listing for its "Memory of the World" program.
Products or services
- – Contains over 146,000 UNESCO documents in full text published since 1945 as well as metadata from the collections of the UNESCO Library and documentation centres in Field Offices and Institutes.
- IDAMS – a software package for processing and analysing numerical data developed, maintained and disseminated by UNESCO. The original package was proprietary but UNESCO has initiated a project to provide it as open source.