Recommendation concerning Education for International Understanding, Co-operation and Peace and Education relating to Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, UNESCO General Conference, Paris (updated in 1995)

First international Conference of Ministers responsible for Physical Education and Sport, Paris


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Adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO

Intergovernmental Conference on the Implementation of the 1974 Recommendation, Paris

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International Congress and Declaration on peace in the minds of men, Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire

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The term ‘international understanding’, whilst not specifically defined in UNESCO’s Constitution, was, in the early years, taken to mean developing fraternal and positive attitudes conducive to mutual accord. However, the scope of education for international understanding soon evolved to include teaching about the United Nations and human rights, and to address the problem of peace and other major world issues (8). In 1968, the International Conference on Public Education subscribed to various propositions on this topic before adopting a more comprehensive Recommendation on Education for International Understanding as an integral part of the curriculum and life of the school. Referring to the main international normative instruments, it not only reviewed the contribution of various subject matters to the development of international understanding, but also pointed out what needed to be done in terms of school life, curricular and extra-curricular activities, and teacher training.
A vision of mankind transformed

‘Education in its present form encourages the child’s sense of isolation and his pursuit of his own interests [...] Children are taught not to help one another, not to prompt those who do not know something, to think of nothing but their own advancement, to aim solely at winning prizes in competition with their companions. And these pathetic egotists, mentally wearied as experimental psychology reveals them to be, then go out into the world, where they live side by side like grains of sand in the desert - every one cut off from his neighbour, and all sterile. If a gale arises, this human dust, with no spiritual essence to give it life, will be swept away in a death-dealing whirlwind.’

[...] and this death-dealing whirlwind was just appearing on the horizon; for this was in 1937.

Maria Montessori image of pupils image of pupils

The doctor who opened a new door to education

On 7 December 1949, during a reception in her honour at UNESCO House, Jaime Torres Bodet, UNESCO’s Director-General, paid tribute to her life’s work, when in the course of a speech he said:
‘The new education, so strongly marked since its inception by the impress of your thought can properly be described as revolutionary [...] And there is yet a further tribute of thanks and admiration to be paid to one who brought so clear and keen a vision to the problem of peace: for it was you who reminded us all that care lavished on the child would all be wasted unless it made him a responsible citizen, strong to meet the challenge of our age. Here your concerns and ours are one: our task is to help the teachers of all nations to train those future citizens of the world without whom all our understandings would rest sterile.’

Adapted fromThe UNESCO Courier, December 1949 and 1964.

In 1974, in the continuing cold war period, a compromise between Eastern and Western countries enabled UNESCO’s General Conference to adopt a Recommendation concerning Education for International Understanding, Co-operation and Peace and Education relating to Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Enlarged to cover human rights and basic freedom, this instrument defines education for international understanding as a key component in all stages and forms of modern education, ‘necessarily interdisciplinary’, aimed at achieving the overall development of the personality in all its cognitive, ethical, affective and aesthetic aspects. It also provides a framework and guidelines for implementation. Consequently, a Plan for the Development of Teaching of Human Rights was elaborated in 1980 (9). In 1983 UNESCO organized an intergovernmental conference,(10) which had inter alia, to review measures taken in different countries to apply the 1974 Recommendation with a view to creating a climate of opinion favourable to strengthening security and disarmament. This conference attracted considerable governmental attention, because the issue of education for disarmament was perceived as controversial. Nevertheless, the conference recommended that a plan for the development of education for international understanding, co-operation and peace be prepared. A ten-year Action Plan was established accordingly and adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO in November 1983.



Pupils of Associated Schools
Lionel Elvin (United Kingdom)
Director of the Department of Education, UNESCO, from 1950 to 1956

If UNESCO were only an office in Paris, its task would be impossible. It is more than that: it is an association of some sixty-five countries which have pledged themselves to do all they can, not only internationally but within their own boundaries, to advance the common aim of educating for peace. The international side comes in because we shall obviously do this faster and better and with more mutual trust if we do it together.

The UNESCO Courier, May 1953

Jawaharlal NehruJawaharlal Nehru
Prime Minister of India from 1947 to 1964

It is then the minds and the hearts of men that have to be approached for mutual understanding, knowledge and appreciation of each other and through the proper kind of education [...] But we have seen that education by itself does not necessarily lead to a conversion of minds towards peaceful purposes. Something more is necessary, new standards, new values and perhaps a kind of spiritual background and a feeling of commonness of mankind.

Address on the occasion of his visit to UNESCO, September 1962

James P. Grant (United States)
Executive Director of UNICEF from 1980 to 1995

Education for peace must be global, for as the communications revolution transforms the world into a single community, everyone must come to understand that they are affected by what happens elsewhere and that their lives, too, have an impact. Solidarity is a survival strategy in the global village.

International Conference on Education, Geneva, 1994

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(9) As follow-up to an international congress in Strasbourg, France (1978)
and the World Congress on Disarmament Education held in Vienna in 1980.

(10) Intergovernmental Conference on Education for International Understanding,
Co-operation and Peace and Education relating to Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms,
with a view to Developing a Climate of Opinion Favourable to the Strengthening of Security
and Disarmament, UNESCO, Paris, April 1983.