Milestones

2011: South Sudan and Palestine become UNESCO’s 194th and 195th members.

2009: General Conference elects Irina Bokova of Bulgaria to be UNESCO's tenth Director-General and the first woman to occupy the post.

2008:  The 1,700 year-old Aksum obelisk, taken to Rome by Mussolini’s troops in 1937, is reinstalled in its original location in northern Ethiopia. 

2007: Montenegro and Singapore join UNESCO, bringing the number of Member States to 193.

2005: Brunei Darussalam becomes UNESCO’s 191st Member State.

2003: The United States of America returns to UNESCO.

2001: UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity is adopted by the General Conference.

© UNESCO/Michel Ravassard
The Aksum Obelisk re-installed in its original location in Ethiopia

© UNESCO/Nenadovic
UNESCO's international campaign to safeguard the Nubian monuments

1998: The Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights, developed and adopted by UNESCO in 1997, is endorsed by the UN.

1997: The United Kingdom returns to UNESCO.

1992: Creation of the Memory of the World programme to protect irreplaceable library treasures and archive collections. It includes sound recordings, film, videotape, newsprint, photographs or digital documents.    

1990: The World Conference on Education for All, in Jomtien, Thailand, launches a global movement to provide basic education for all children, youth and adults. Held ten years later in Dakar, Senegal, the World Education Forum commits governments to achieving basic education for all by 2015.

1984: The United States withdraws from the Organization citing disagreement over management and other issues. The United Kingdom and Singapore withdraw in 1985. The Organization’s budget drops considerably.

1980: The first two volumes of UNESCO’s General History of Africa are published. Similar series focus on other regions, notably Central Asia and the Caribbean.

1978: UNESCO adopts the Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice. Subsequent reports on the issue by the Director-General serve to discredit and dismiss the pseudo-scientific foundations of racism.

1975: The United Nations University is established in Tokyo under the auspices of the UN and UNESCO.

1974: H.H. Pope Paul VI awards the John XXIII Peace Prize to UNESCO.

1972: The Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage is adopted. The World Heritage Committee is established in 1976 and the first sites are inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1978.

1968: UNESCO organizes the first intergovernmental conference aimed at reconciling the environment and development, now known as “sustainable development”. This led to the creation of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme.

1960: Launching of the Nubia Campaign in Egypt to move the Great Temple of Abu Simbel to keep it from being swamped by the Nile after construction of the Aswan Dam. During the 20-year campaign, 22 monuments and architectural complexes are relocated. This is the first and largest in a series of campaigns including Moenjodaro (Pakistan), Fez (Morocco), Kathmandu (Nepal), Borobudur (Indonesia) and the Acropolis (Greece).

1958: Inauguration of UNESCO’s permanent Headquarters in Paris designed by Marcel Breuer (US), Pier-Luigi Nervi (Italy) and Bernard Zehrfuss (France).

1956: The Republic of South Africa withdraws from UNESCO claiming that some of the Organization’s publications amount to “interference” in the country’s “racial problems”. The state rejoins the Organization in 1994 under the leadership of Nelson Mandela.

1952: An intergovernmental conference convened by UNESCO adopts the Universal Copyright Convention. In the decades following World War II, the Convention served to extend copyright protection to numerous states not then party to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (1886).

1948: UNESCO recommends that Member States make free primary education compulsory and universal.

16 November 1945: representatives of 37 countries meet in London to sign UNESCO’s Constitution which comes into force on November 4, 1946 after ratification by 20 signatories.

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