UNESCO past and present


Constitution and mandate
The Constitution of UNESCO was signed in London on 16 November 1945 by 37 countries and came into force with its 20th ratification on 4 November 1946. The purpose of the Organization was defined as: “to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among nations through education, science and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion, by the Charter of the United Nations.”

Building peace in the minds of men: UNESCO

Origins of UNESCO
The main predecessors of UNESCO were the International Committee of Intellectual Co-operation, Geneva 1922-1946, its executing agency: the International Institute of Intellectual Co-operation (IIIC), Paris 1925-1946, and the International Bureau of Education (IBE), Geneva 1925-1968. The latter has since 1969 been part of the UNESCO Secretariat with its own statutes.
A Conference of Allied Ministers of Education (CAME) started its meeting in London on 16 November 1942 and continued until 5 December 1945. 18 governments were represented. 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. 44 governments were represented. On 16 November 1945 the Constitution of UNESCO was signed and a Preparatory Commission (Prep.Com.) established. The first session of the General Conference of UNESCO took place in Paris from 19 November to 10 December 1946. More about the history of UNESCO


UNESCO today
Today, after more than 60 years of existence, UNESCO functions as a laboratory of ideas and a standard-setter to forge universal agreements on emerging ethical issues. The Organization also serves as a clearinghouse – for the dissemination and sharing of information and knowledge – while helping Member States to build their human and institutional capacities in diverse fields. For all of UNESCO's major areas of focus (Culture, Education, Natural Science, Social and Human Science, and Communication and Information), it is possible to trace the ideas on which UNESCO was based to the Organization's present activities. More about UNESCO


Official languages of UNESCO:

For the secretariat: English and French since 1946.

For the General Conference: English and French since 1946, Spanish since 1950, Russian since 1954, Arabic since 1974 and Chinese since 1980.

For the Executive Board: English and French since 1946, Russian and Spanish since 1954, Arabic since 1974 and Chinese since 1977.