UNESCO’s past strategies and action

The first article of UNESCO's Constitution, adopted on 16 November 1945, stipulates that the Organization shall “contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration amongst 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”.

Since its inception, UNESCO has upheld its commitment to this mandate by mobilizing the scientific community to refute the concept of the “race”. As a result, a series of declarations, that included the Declaration on race and racial prejudice, 1978, produced which helped to revoke unfounded racial prejudices.

Soon afterwards, UNESCO directed its efforts towards drafting international instruments that outlined standard principles, concepts and universal criteria to support the fight against racism and discrimination. The various instruments serve as key standard setting documents to thwart threats on peace and social stability.

UNESCO also developed various operational programs and projects. The special program against Apartheid was launched on behalf of the victims of institutional racism, recognized as early as 1966 by UNESCO as a “crime against humanity”. As another example, the Slave Route project was launched in 1993 with the aim of promoting the development of scientific research and public sensitisation about the transatlantic slave trade. The “Breaking the silence: Transatlantic Slave Trade” programme was launched by the Associated Schools Project (ASPnet) and has helped bring about greater understanding of the tragedy of the slave trade and the ideological foundations of racism.

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