The United States has been an important part of UNESCO since its creation.
American poet and statesman Archibald MacLeish, the first American member of UNESCO's Executive Board, was a key drafter of its1945 Constitution, which cited a shared belief “in full and equal opportunities for education for all, in the unrestricted pursuit of objective truth, and in the free exchange of ideas and knowledge”.
When UNESCO in October 2003 after a 19-year absence (1984-2002), Mrs Laura Bush, United States First Lady and UNESCO Honorary Ambassador for the Decade of Literacy, made education and literacy the centerpiece of a renewed partnership undertaken in support of human rights, tolerance and learning worldwide.
In addition to its priority focus on improving access to quality education, the United States is an active member of the World Heritage Committee. A partnership between UNESCO and the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) extends the benefits of NASA earth science research and remote sensing data, with an education and teacher-training component. A major partnership with the UN Foundation supports World Heritage biodiversity; other US partnerships include programs with Microsoft and Intel advancing education and the new technologies.
Working with UNESCO in the field of ocean science, the United States is supporting the development of a global, all-hazards warning system, conducted under the aegis of GEOSS and building on the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Tsunami Warning System in the Pacific.
The United States is also an active party to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, and supports cultural property protection and museum development with UNESCO’s culture sector and leading international NGOs.
UNESCO chairs in the United States range from coastal resource management to inclusive education. The United States has two UNESCO liaison bodies: the Permanent Mission to UNESCO in Paris and the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO in Washington, DC. The National Commission includes state, local, and federal government representatives, as well as individuals from leading universities, foundations and learned societies. The National Commission liaises with organizations, institutions, and individuals in the United States interested in the work of UNESCO.