United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization

United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), agency of the United Nations (UN), created in 1946 to promote world peace by focusing on the areas of culture and communication, education, natural sciences, and social and human sciences. UNESCO’s principal decision-making body is the General Conference, which is composed of representatives of the 188 member states (UNESCO also has 6 associate members). The General Conference elects the members of the executive board and appoints the director-general. The executive board is made up of representatives of 58 member states and meets twice a year, between the sessions of the General Conference, to supervise the execution of UNESCO’s two-year programmes. The two-year programmes are executed by the secretariat, which is headed by the director-general. Koichiro Matsuura became director-general in November 1999.

The main priorities of UNESCO’s programmes include achieving education for all, establishing a culture of peace through education, promoting the free flow of information between countries, as well as freedom of the press, protecting natural and cultural heritage, and supporting the expression of cultural identities. Prioritized issues include education, development, urbanization, population, youth, human rights and parity for women, democracy, and peace. Examples of research activities include the ways in which societies react to climatic and environmental change and change affecting women and families. UNESCO’s social and human sciences programme gives high priority to the problems of young people who are the first victims of unemployment, economic and social inequalities, and the widening gap between developing and industrialized countries. The budget for 2002-2003 was just over US$544 million.


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