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The history of UNESCO

Soon after WWII, in November 1945, United Nations Conference for the establishment of an educational and cultural organization was convened in London with representatives from 44 countries. Initiated by France and the United Kingdom, the delegates decided to create an organization that would embody a genuine culture of peace.

At the end of the conference, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization was founded and the constitution came into force on November 4, 1946. From the beginning, there were 20 member countries, and Denmark was one of them. Today, there are 193 member countries and 11 associated member countries, including the Faroe Islands.

Since wars start in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed - UNESCO Constitution

UNESCO's mandate

UNESCO is mandated by the UN to promote the right to education, the right to freely participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits plus ensuring freedom of expression.

UNESCO provides a platform where member states can meet and exchange ideas on opportunities, innovative solutions and the needed actions to help the global community to respond properly to the ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

UNESCO has the following instruments:

  • Normative instruments (conventions and recommendations) that help member states to e.g. preserve cultural heritage and ensure artistic freedom of expression.
  • A headquarters with a secretariat for each of UNESCO’s mandates and a number of field offices around the world.
  • A range of institutes with a global mandate and intergovernmental commissions and programs in all UNESCO areas such as the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) and International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC).
  • Advisory National Commissions and strong international networks and resourceful persons within the core areas of UNESCO.

Structure of UNESCO

The governing bodies of UNESCO are the General Conference, the Executive Board and the Secretariat led by UNESCO’s Director-General.

The General Conference meets every two years and consists of representatives from all UNESCO Member States. It is designated to:

  • Set the direction for UNESCO's work
  • Adopt activity program and budget
  • Assign members to the Executive Board 
  • Appoint a Director-General every four years

The Executive Board consists of 58 Member States and meets twice a year. It is responsible for the governance of UNESCO between sessions of the General Conference and for ensuring proper execution of the program activities adopted by the General Conference.

UNESCO headquarters

UNESCO headquarter is located in Paris on Place de Fontenoy. In and outside the building you will find numerous examples of some of the greatest artists of modernism such as Picasso, Miró and Calder. The Danish architect Erik Reitzel (1941 - 2012) designed the beautiful GLOBE SYMBOLIQUE in front of the building.

Sidst opdateret: 22. september 2022