UNESCO IN EUROPE AND NORTH AMERICA

1945
Signature in London of:
  • Constitution of UNESCO
  • ‘Final Act’
  • Instrument establishing the Preparatory Commission

1946

  • France, Norway, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States create National Commissions for UNESCO
  • First Session of the General Conference of UNESCO, Paris, November/December
  • Julian Huxley (United Kingdom), first Director-General of UNESCO

1947

  • Creation of the Temporary International Council for Educational Reconstruction (TICER)
  • Publication of The Book of Needs
  • Publication of Universities in Need
  • Seminar on international understanding at school in Sèvres, France
  • Co-operation with the allied authorities to promote UNESCO’s ideals in Germany

1948
Preparatory Conference of Representatives of Universities, Utrecht, The Netherlands

PROMOTING THE CULTURAL, HUMANISTIC AND INTERNATIONAL DIMENSION OF EDUCATION

In the aftermath of the Second World War when each one of the two parts of Europe - the West and the East - had their own mechanisms for co-operation, UNESCO was the only international organization to gather the whole continent together. From the very beginning, the Organization offered the Member States in the Europe Region (1) a framework for co-operation in all its fields of competence. The first continent-wide conference at ministerial level was organized in 1967 in Vienna. The theme was that of access to higher education which, even then, was a problem of the utmost importance for all European countries. UNESCO is the only institution in the United Nations System which, since 1972, maintained a regional centre in Eastern Europe on a permanent basis - CEPES in Bucharest. Priority has been given in the Organization’s action in Europe to the physical sciences and mathematics. (2) For education, with the exception of emergency activities and reconstruction at the end of the 1940s and in the 1990s, activities in this domain were, and remain, essentially qualitative: the promotion, through intellectual co-operation, of the humanistic, cultural and international dimension of education.

Map Europe and North America

MATERIAL AS WELL AS MORAL RECONSTRUCTION


After the Second World War it was essential in the first place to address the issue of greatest urgency, in other words, reconstruction. Europe had been devastated by the conflict, schools destroyed, libraries ransacked, (3) laboratory equipment lost. Via the Temporary International Council for Educational Reconstruction (TICER) (4), the Secretariat participated in the development and co-ordination of national and international campaigns launched to muster the funds needed to respond to such enormous needs; it kept up-to-date a wealth of written and audiovisual documentation on this subject, such as the Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Newsletter, (5) produced a documentary film on university rebuilding, shipped to America a photographic exhibition on the children of Europe and initiated appeal after appeal. (6)

But, as UNESCO’s Director-General Jaime Torres Bodet explained in 1949, ‘This problem cannot be solved simply by sending material, however necessary. The havoc wrought by the war in people’s minds, and especially in children’s minds, is even more serious than the material destruction. The problem of the re-education of child victims of the war is one of those to which UNESCO intends to devote closest concern’. (7) Hence, the Organization undertook to restore to these young people ‘whose minds are obsessed by so much violence and poisoned by so much hatred [...] the desire to reconstruct and to share the experience of human fellowship’. UNESCO organized youth camps, (8) and was instrumental in the creation in 1948 of the International Federation of Children’s Communities, one of the first NGOs established under its auspices. It invited teachers to training courses and seminars on international understanding, (9) the development of which was to become one of the prime objectives assigned to the UNESCO Institute for Education, created in Hamburg in 1951.

BIRTH OF THE ‘UNESCO SEMINAR’, SÈVRES

During the summer of 1947 UNESCO organized its first Summer Seminar in Sèvres (France). This seminar focused attention on two main areas of interest:

  1. Ways and means of improving the curriculum, within the educational systems of the Member States, as a means of developing world-mindedness;
  2. The influence of differences in cultural environment on the growth and adjustment of adolescents of various countries.

The UNESCO Courier, May 1948.

Léon Blum with educators who partecipated in the Seminar Léon Blum with educators who partecipated in the Seminar

Léon Blum
(France)
President of the First Session of UNESCO’s General Conference

I have faith in UNESCO, because I have faith in peace and humanity.

Paris, November 1946

Archibald MacLeish
(United States)
Vice-president of the Conference to establish UNESCO, co-author of UNESCO’s Constitution

UNESCO will prove a great and powerful instrument for the broadest possible purpose, the purpose of the common understanding of man for peace.

Paris, December 1946

Julian Huxley
(United Kingdom)
Director-General of UNESCO from 1946 to 1948

In the field of reconstruction [...] we cannot give much money directly – which might run into thousands of millions of dollars [...] after all, our total budget is under eight million dollars. But we are stimulating private organizations and governments throughout the world.

Speech on 13 January 1948 at UNESCO after the Second Session of the General Conference

Carlo Levi
(Italy)
Author of Christ Stopped at Eboli

Post-war Italy has shown an amazing spirit of enterprise, as if a long pent-up vitality had suddenly found release and come out as naturally as the leaves on the trees unfolding, after winter had ended, under the first warm rays of the sun.

The UNESCO Courier, March 1952

UNESCO TO PROMOTE RECONSTRUCTION FUND

reconstruction An extended programme, designed to assist and stimulate educational, scientific and cultural reconstruction was adopted by delegates to UNESCO’s Second General Conference for implementation in Member States during 1948. Committees who considered the draft programme recommended that Member States form national committees of non-governmental organizations.

From The UNESCO Courier, February 1948. The Book of Needs The Book of Needs


previous page                 index                 next page

FOOTNOTES:

(1) UNESCO’s definition of the Europe Region includes the United States, Canada and Israel, and stretches from Vancouver to Vladivostock.

(2) UNESCO contributed to the creation of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, the International Centre for Pure and Applied Mathematics in Nice, the International Computation Centre in Rome, etc.

(3) 537 Czech libraries pillaged, not one single book in Polish left in Poland, etc.

(4) ‘TICER is a co-ordinating council of international non-governmental organizations actively contributing to the rehabilitation of education and culture in war- devastated areas. Its membership is limited to those international organizations most actively engaged in this field, but as each member is actually a federation of national branches, the participants of TICER represent over 700 national organizations in more than 60 countries. While preserving their full autonomy and independence, the members of TICER have formally associated themselves with UNESCO and hold their meetings in UNESCO House.’ (The UNESCO Courier, 1949).

(5) Monthly review published under different titles from 1947 to 1950 (English, French and Spanish). See also ‘Universities in Need’. UNESCO, 1948 (English).

(6) ‘Refugee children from the Northern provinces of Greece have no schools, no teachers, and no teaching materials...’.

(7) Conference on UNESCO’s Mission. Palais des Académies, Brussels, 21 February 1949.

(8) In 1947, in Belgium, France, Poland and Czechoslovakia.

(9) The first seminar took place in 1947 at Sèvres (France).