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What is UNESCO?

What is UNESCO?
Highlights

The United States and Israel announced on Thursday they were quitting the U.N.-'s cultural agency UNESCO, after Washington accused it of anti-Israeli...

The United States and Israel announced on Thursday they were quitting the U.N.'s cultural agency UNESCO, after Washington accused it of anti-Israeli bias. The withdrawal of the United States, which is meant to provide a fifth of UNESCO's funding, is a major blow for the Paris-based organisation, founded after World War Two to help protect cultural and natural heritage around the world.

UNESCO is responsible for coordinating international cooperation in education, science, culture and communication. It strengthens the ties between nations and societies, and mobilizes the wider public so that each child and citizen: has access to quality education; a basic human right and an indispensable prerequisite for sustainable development; may grow and live in a cultural environment rich in diversity and dialogue, where heritage serves as a bridge between generations and peoples; can fully benefit from scientific advances; and, can enjoy full freedom of expression; the basis of democracy, development and human dignity. The Organization has at present has 193 Members and 10 Associate Members.

As early as 1942, in wartime, the governments of the European countries, which were confronting Nazi Germany and its allies, met in the United Kingdom for the Conference of Allied Ministers of Education (CAME). The Second World War was far from over, yet those countries were looking for ways and means to reconstruct their systems of education once peace was restored.

Very quickly, the project gained momentum and soon took on a universal note. New governments, including that of the United States, decided to join in. Upon the proposal of CAME, a United Nations Conference for the establishment of an educational and cultural organization (ECO/CONF) was convened in London from 1 to 16 November 1945.

The Constitution of UNESCO, signed on 16 November 1945, came into force on 4 November 1946 after ratification by twenty countries. Some countries withdrew from the Organization for political reasons at various points in time, but they had all rejoined UNESCO. Following the withdrawal of US, Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, said: “This is a loss to UNESCO.

This is a loss to the United Nations family. This is a loss for multilateralism. UNESCO’s task is not over, and we will continue taking it forward, to build a 21st century that is more just, peaceful, equitable, and, for this, UNESCO needs the leadership of all States.”

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