Exhibition "The UNESCO Adventure"

Visit our Exhibition at UNESCO Headquarters
UNESCO: An idea at the service of peace
first General Conference of UNESCO
Birth of a new hope (1945)

‘ We were people from different continents, denominations, races, nations, and probably different political opinions. During our work we did not argue on these matters. We all tried merely to find the best expression for our common feelings and […] longings; and you, by your unanimous vote, have shown that mankind today is rich in constructive ideas, love, mutual understanding and courage.’
Dr. Bernard Drzewieski, Polish Delegation.

Sorbonne University, Paris, 1946.
The first General Conference of UNESCO opened in Paris on 20 November 1946. The inaugural session was held in one of the great amphitheatres of
the Sorbonne University

‘This moment is the beginning of our work.’ Archibald MacLeish, American Delegation.

The Conference for the Establishment of UNESCO met in London in November 1945. Delegates of 44 countries and eight intergovernmental bodies envisioned an organization that would embody a genuine culture of peace, one that must establish ‘a universal moral, social and political culture […] to ensure the triumph in the world of harmony, solidarity and peace.’
On 16 November 1945, the Final Act recognizing the UNESCO Constitution and the seat of the organization in Paris was accepted. With the 20th ratification of the Constitution by Greece on 4 November 1946, UNESCO legally came into being. The first General Conference organized by the Preparatory Commission opened on 20 November 1946. Julian Huxley was elected as UNESCO’s first Director-General and the Preparatory Commission continued as the first Secretariat of UNESCO.
An international currency for peace
One of UNESCO’s earliest programmes was the UNESCO Gift Coupon scheme. It supported diverse projects benefitting individuals and groups such as community centres and universities. It connected complete strangers – donors and beneficiaries – across the globe.
UNESCO published lists of projects, such as a school in Sri Lanka  for blind children in need of supplies or a literacy project in Ghana requiring audiovisual equipment. Donor countries raised funds by selling UNESCO gift stamps. With money from the stamps, donors sent to beneficiaries UNESCO gift coupons, also known as UNUM (UN Unit of Money), which they used to purchase the necessary materials from participating sellers.
The programme had a significant impact. In the Republic of Korea, it is credited with regenerating the nation’s scientific and technical development from the 1960s to the 1990s. It enabled large-scale purchases of scientific equipment and literature at a time when foreign currencies and supplies were scarce.
Through the Gift Coupon scheme, UNESCO facilitated the inter-national exchange of cultural, scientific and educational goods. The programme ran from 1948 to 1975. In 1976, it became the UNESCO Co-Action programme, which ended in 2005.

Mumbai, India, 1951.
Through the UNESCO Gift Coupon scheme, the Bombay Social Education Committee purchased radio sets, film strip projectors and 16 mm films to teach literacy to local men and women living in chawls, or urban residences.
The programme helped supply the various centres the Committee had established. The vice-president of the Committee, Mrs. K. Sayani (right),
looks at the gift coupons with locals.
Hotel Majestic
The roots of UNESCO
(1926 – 1945)
UNESCO was founded on the ambition to construct the ‘intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind,’ in order to secure world peace and prevent the outbreak of another world war.
UNESCO inherited its mission in part from the International Institute of Intellectual Cooperation (IICI), founded in 1926 with funding from France. The IICI was the secretariat of the League of Nations’ International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation (CICI), which aimed to foster exchange amongst scientists, artists, teachers and intellectuals. It engaged personalities such as Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, Thomas Mann and Rabindranath Tagore. The IICI was inaugurated in 1926 at the Palais Royal, Paris, its seat until 1946, when UNESCO assumed its functions.
During World War II, the Conference of Allied Ministers of Education (CAME) convened Allied countries and governments-in-exile to plan for educational needs at war’s end. CAME proposed the idea for an international organization and drafted a Constitution and title for the organization: the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. ‘Science’ was added to the name on the advice of British scientist Joseph Needham, among others. At the San Francisco Conference creating the United Nations, a separate meeting was proposed which led to the Conference for the Establishment of UNESCO in 1945.

Hotel Majestic, 19 Avenue Kléber, Paris, 1948.
During its time as the site of UNESCO’s original headquarters, the storied Hotel Majestic was known simply as UNESCO House. The Hotel Majestic had many lives, beginning as a luxury hotel visited by famous guests, before serving as a military hospital in World War I, as headquarters for the occupying German military administration in France during World War II, and as UNESCO House from 1946 to 1958
UNESCO Courier, 1955,
The Monitor and the Courier
(1947 – today)

From the beginning, UNESCO undertook to informing the general public of its work. The Monitor first appeared in 1947 as a 4-page tabloid in English and French. In 1948, it was substituted by the Courier at the initiative of Sandy Koffler, the first editor-in-chief of the monthly black-and-white tabloid with 8 pages, in English, French and Spanish. Its format changed in 1954 to become an illustrated magazine. The number of language editions stood at 35 in 1991, including Braille. Some of the Courier’s major contribu-tors include Claude Lévi-Strauss, Trygve Lie and Carlo Levi. Writers Edouard Glissant and Adel Rifaat were among its editors-in-chief.
An exhibition devoted to the Courier was presented at the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris in 1987. In 1989 the magazine under-went a radical transformation with a systematically intercultural approach to world issues and full-colour printing. Available online since 2006, the Courier serves readers in UNESCO’s six official lan-guages, and also in Catalan, Esperanto, Korean and Portuguese.
The Courier holds the memory of UNESCO and has reached millions of readers. It pursues its original mission: to promote UNESCO’s ideals and maintain a platform for dialogue between cultures.

UNESCO Courier, 1955, no. 11:
‘Woman power’ is today an increasingly vital factor in the economic life of most countries as millions more women take up jobs in industry and commerce. Conditions in modern factories are vastly different from those under which women worked even half a century ago. Shorter hours and health and safety regulations are now imposed by law. This young woman factory employee wears a new type of face guard for protection against flying particles of wood or metal.
The preservation of our shared heritage
The Nubia Campaign and the World Heritage Convention

In 1959, the construction of the Aswan High Dam in Egypt resulted in the flooding of an extensive stretch of the Nile Valley, home to ancient Nubian treasures. Mindful that the threatened temples were a priority transcending national interests, UNESCO launched its first international safeguarding campaign in cooperation with the Egyptian and Sudanese governments. Primarily concerned with Abu Simbel and Philae temples, the campaign lasted 20 years. Twenty-two monuments were relocated and reassembled and 40 missions from the five continents provided assistance. UNESCO’s action made people appreciate the universal value of cultural heritage and set a precedent for international cooperation to protect it.

The campaign inspired the adoption in 1972 of UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention and the inscription of sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The Convention defines the natural, cultural or mixed heritage of outstanding universal value to be considered for inscription. One of its most significant features is that it links together nature conservation and the preservation of cultural heritage through community involvement. The List now counts 1,154 properties in 167 States Parties, some of which are transnational. Inscription of these sites are often the result of cooperation between Member States, as with Qhapaq Ñan, Andean Road System, an extensive Inca network of roads across the Andes, shared between six countries.
The Protection and Promotion of Cultural Diversity
The Protection and Promotion of Cultural Diversity

The cultural and creative industries are among the fastest growing sectors in the world. They have become essential for inclusive economic growth and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

UNESCO’s adoption of the 2005 Convention for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions was a milestone in international cultural policy: the global community formally recognized the dual nature, both cultural and economic, of contemporary cultural expressions produced by artists and cultural professionals.

UNESCO assists Parties to the Convention to develop dynamic creative sectors through technical assistance, policy advice, training and consultations. With European Union funding, the UNESCO Office in Juba is supporting South Sudan to develop its first ever copyright legislation, while the UNESCO Office in Havana is working on the Transcultura project to strengthen cooperation within 17 Caribbean countries and with the European Union. With funding from the Republic of Korea and Japan, the UNESCO Offices in Almaty, Bangkok, Hanoi and Jakarta are supporting Asian countries in developing their film industries. Furthermore, every year, the International Fund for Cultural Diversity provides direct funding for new projects in developing countries.

To respond to the profound impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNESCO launched the ResiliArt movement and global discussions with key industry professionals, while capturing experiences and voices of resilience from artists on social media. With funding from Norway, UNESCO relaunched the UNESCO-Aschberg programme to develop status of the artist legislation that includes their social protection. UNESCO also launched the tracker ‘Culture & COVID-19: Impact and Response’ on the pandemic’s impact on the cultural sector and the measures taken by Member States in response.
Preserving and promoting the world’s linguistic diversity

Languages are a core component of human rights as well as repositories of unique traditions, values and knowledge. Nevertheless, the vast majority of the approximately 8,000 world’s languages are at risk of falling into desuetude at an alarming rate. UNESCO published the Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger of Disappearing in 1996, 2001 and 2010, which partly contributed to an unprecedented expansion in the study of endangered languages and a rise in media interest. In 2018, UNESCO launched a global survey towards data collection from official sources on the languages spoken and signed across the planet, for the launch of the online platform World Atlas of Languages. The UNESCO World Report on Languages summarizes its methodological framework and outcomes.

The UN General Assembly proclaimed 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages. 800 events raised awareness of the situation and mobilized stakeholders. Building on the momentum generated, the UNGA declared the International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022–2032) and requested UNESCO to serve as lead agency. The need for action to tackle global challenges is even more urgent with the upsurge of the COVID-19 pandemic, as communities using non dominant languages are left behind in terms of the limited access to public services, tools and resources in languages they understand best. To counter the acceleration of language loss due to the pandemic, UNESCO regularly gathers and disseminates online resources to ensure access to health information in indigenous languages.

The UNESCO Office in Mexico collaborates on initiatives to preserve linguistic heritage in Mexico, a country with 68 indigenous languages. One is a public call for participants to share words in indigenous languages which are ‘untranslatable’ in Spanish along with an explanatory text and information on the word’s cultural relevance.
illicit traffic
Prohibiting and preventing the illicit trafficking of cultural property

In the 1950s, there were growing calls to address the looting of archaeological sites and the dismantling of monuments. The subject had already been discussed in the 1930s and had resulted in a draft treaty by the League of Nations. However, the issue of illicit trafficking in cultural property gained momentum with the emergence of young States anxious to recover the elements of their cultural heritage.

The Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property was adopted by UNESCO in 1970. The signatory States began to approve measures within their territories, including the creation of inventories and specialized police units, to control the illicit circulation of cultural goods and return stolen property.

Since then, UNESCO has raised awareness of the issue, helped countries develop laws and preventive measures, created an international network of police and customs officials and auction houses, and encouraged the restitution of cultural property illegally removed from its territory. In 2021, for example, the UNESCO Office in Kingston trained Jamaican border agencies on the diversity and significance of cultural property, as well as on strategies and tools to combat these activities. UNESCO celebrated a significant victory in the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural objects in 2021 when the Gilgamesh tablet, one of the oldest literary works in history, was formally handed back to Iraq by the United States of America.
Raising the challenge of education
The defence of human dignity
The fight against violent extremism and antisemitism

Education plays a key role in preventing genocide by providing a forum to address past violence and strengthen the resilience of learners to antisemitism and all forms of prejudice and discrimination.

Education about the Holocaust, genocide and the prevention of violent extremism is part of the UNESCO’s efforts to promote Global Citizenship Education (GCED), a priority of the Education 2030 Agenda. Every 27 January, UNESCO marks the UN International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, to pay tribute to the victims and recall the Holocaust’s history.

To address contemporary antisemitism, UNESCO cooperates with Jewish communities around the world to strengthen educational responses and preventive measures. Together with the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, it has published the first UN guide on addressing antisemitism.

As social media platforms have become magnets for claims that deny, distort or glorify the history of the Holocaust, UNESCO is advancing research and developing educational resources to counter this trend. From 2021, Facebook connects people searching for terms relating to the Holocaust in 12 languages to the website AboutHolocaust.org, developed by the World Jewish Congress and UNESCO, which provides essential information about the Holocaust and its legacy.

UNESCO has also developed guidance for policy-makers and teachers on education to prevent violent extremism and organized capacity-building initiatives in several regions for educators. In 2021, the UNESCO Office in Dakar began supporting a project to reinforce the resilience of young people from Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger to prevent violent extremism. In Niger, the Dakar Office is supporting a teacher’s guide on the prevention of violent extremism for the Sahel region, designed by UNESCO’s International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa (IICBA).

The UNESCO Office in Harare recently commissioned a review within the Southern African Development Community which revealed that curricula of all 13 countries included GCED components, whereas the South African Liberation History (SALH) was minimally taught. The study identified recommendations for integrating this history to promote peaceful coexistence in the region.
The race question

A lack of historical perspective prevents [the Western white man’s] realizing not merely how recent is his privileged position, but how transitory it may prove, and he regards it as a sign that he is predestined to create the values which men of other races and other cultures are at best merely capable of receiving from him.
(Michel Leiris, Race and Culture, UNESCO, 1958, p. 5)

In 1949, UNESCO launched an information campaign, based on meetings of anthropologists and biologists, to expose the fallacies of racism. The Race Question in Modern Science (1950) contained the first of a series of declarations on race and racial prejudice, followed in due course by others in 1951, 1964 and 1967. This work had tremendous consequences and influenced the 1954 US Supreme Court decision which declared unconstitutional to separate schools for Black and White students (Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka).

This was also the origin of the UNESCO series entitled The Race Question with titles by some of the 20th-century’s most acclaimed scientists and intellectuals: Race and Biology (L.C. Dunn), Race and Culture (Michel Leiris), Race and Psychology (Otto Klineberg), Racial Myths (Juan Comas) and Race and History (Claude Lévi-Strauss).

Some of these books had a resounding impact. In 1955, South Africa announced its decision to withdraw from UNESCO. Nelson Mandela –a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador-embodied the universal aspiration for freedom that stands at the heart of UNESCO’s mission. In 1967, upon request from the UN General Assembly, UNESCO published Apartheid: Its Effects on Education, Science, Culture and Information.

The certitude that theories about racial superiority are both scientifically and morally barren led to a series of subsequent statements, including the Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice (1978). In 2003, UNESCO adopted an Integrated Strategy to Combat Racism, Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.

As world communications have become increasingly massive and digital, UNESCO has transformed its fight against racism and discrimination with its International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities, its Master Class Series against Racism and Discriminations, its partnerships with leading football clubs such as FC Barcelona, FC Malaga and Juventus FC.

UNESCO echoed the #IAmNotAVirus and #BlackLivesMatter movements with United against Racism, a video with prominent personalities issuing an urgent call for racial justice. In 2021, UNESCO held the first Global Forum against Racism and Discrimination.
ethics of science 1
The ethics of science: from the human genome to artificial intelligence

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes every person’s right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress. Yet rapid development in science and technology have resulted in major dilemmas for humankind and the environment.

UNESCO’s work on the ethics of science and bioethics dates back to the 1970s, but it was in 1993, with the establishment of the International Bioethics Committee and the preparation of an international instrument on the protection of the human genome, that it began to oversee the universal regulation of scientific discoveries in medicine, life sciences and their applications. The Bioethics and Ethics of Science and Technology Programme’s greatest achievements were the adoption of the only legal instruments concerning bioethics: the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights (1997); the International Declaration on Human Genetic Data (2003); the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights (2005); the Declaration of Ethical Principles in relation to Climate Change and the revised Recommendation on Science and Scientific Researchers (2017).

Artificial intelligence (AI) has enormous potential for accelerating human progress and sustainable development. Applications have drawn on AI even more since the outbreak of COVID-19, to accelerate vaccine research and improve tracing of the virus. However, its rapid development raises numerous ethical concerns. In 2019, UNESCO Member States decided to task UNESCO with the development of the first global normative instrument on AI.
In June 2021, an Intergovernmental Committee agreed on a draft text with recommendations by 24 international leading experts, scheduled for adoption in November 2021.
From women’s empowerment to gender equality

In order to contribute to ending discrimination against women, the United Nations proclaimed 1975 International Women’s Year. It was on that year that the UN convened the first World Conference on Women in Mexico City, with the objective to fight for their rights to fully participate in social, economic, cultural and political life.

Since its beginning, UNESCO contributed to this goal, and decided to take measures to improve the lives of women around the world, starting with girls’ right to education. A shift in perspective took place in 1995 in line with the outcomes of the Fourth UN World Conference on Women, in Beijing, China, which called on decision-makers to aim at a more ambitious, holistic and systematic change: towards gender equality. In response, UNESCO’s Medium Term Strategy (1996–2001) adopted a gender main streaming approach in all UNESCO’s programmes and activities. The General Conference unanimously adopted Gender Equality as a UNESCO Global Priority, along with Africa, in 2007.

The transformation of UNESCO’s engagement from women’s empowerment to gender equality has been echoed in both programme implementation activities and major partnerships. For instance, in 1998, UNESCO joined forces with L’Oréal to issue the first Prize for Women in Science. Since then, over 3,000 women scientists have been celebrated and three of the laureates have since been awarded the Nobel Prize. In 2019, UNESCO sparked a global conversation with its landmark research on gender bias in artificial intelligence that will continue through the implementation of its 2021 Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence.

In the wake of the COVID-19 school closures, UNESCO has been leading a global coalition of partners to address the deepening gender disparities in education and ensure that #LearningNeverStops.

Today, UNESCO is supporting governments and their partners to ensure equal access to gender-transformative inclusive education that empowers all learners, without discrimination. It is supporting women who dare to innovate and shape the global discussions, such as artists, journalists and scientists, to prevent them from becoming victims of censorship and attacks, to ensure their safety and to build their space in leadership and decision-making. UNESCO also stands side by side with men who take actions to reject harmful forms of masculinity.
Weaving the common thread of humanity
The enterprise of scientific cooperation
Sesam Jordan
Science diplomacy and cooperation for the benefit of humanity: CERN and SESAME

In the early fifties, the cost of building a large cyclotron for penetrating the nucleus of the atom and its operating expenses were estimated in millions of dollars. It would further require the work of teams of scientists of many fields. No university had the means to undertake this venture and very few governments could afford to finance a nuclear research programme. The only solution was international collaboration.

In 1954, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution for the development of atomic energy for peaceful uses, and expressed the hope that an international atomic energy agency be set up. About the same time, UNESCO received proposals from India, France and Japan to undertake studies on atomic energy. Once the UN’s decision was made, UNESCO adopted a programme to accord with it.

The European Organization for Nuclear Research came into being in Geneva, Switzerland. CERN (Conseil européen pour la recherche nucléaire) was set up by an intergovernmental Convention.

In over 60 years, CERN has become one of the most striking examples of scientific cooperation. Scientists have undertaken the study of atomic energy under CERN’s principles: to have ‘no concern with work for military requirements’ and to ensure that ‘the results of its experimental and theoretical work be published or otherwise made generally available’. Scientific cooperation around its large hadron collider allowed for the discovery of the Higgs Boson in 2012. UNESCO and CERN collaborate through the International Basic Sciences Programme (IBSP) and the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP)

The SESAME (Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East) Centre in Allan, Jordan, inaugurated in 2017, is the fruit of UNESCO’s action to set up an international body for the establishment of a synchrotron light source in the Middle East. Today, SESAME is a fully independent intergovernmental organization and a beacon of science diplomacy, as the project brings together representatives of Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, Palestine and Turkey. SESAME is also designed to help stem the brain-drain and to attract many of the region’s brightest young talents to pursue higher education in the sciences.
Pequeño Alpamayo, Bolivia, 5,410 m.
Studying water – and the lack of it

The arid and semiarid regions of the world cover more than a quarter of the land surface. They range from deserts to populated areas where economic life is maintained only by the careful management of water. In 1948, UNESCO was asked to produce reports for the eight arid areas of the world. These reports were the origin of the Arid Zone Research series, which included 30 publications between 1952 and 1970.

Intergovernmental efforts for the International Hydrological Decade (1965–1974) gave rise to increased knowledge about the earth’s water cycle. 1975 saw the constitution of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme (UNESCO-IHP) devoted to water research and management, and related capacity development.

In 2000, UNESCO established the World Water Assessment Programme, in response to a call from the UN Commission on Sustainable Development to produce a UN system-wide periodic overview of the status, use and management of fresh-water resources: the yearly World Water Development Report.

UNESCO-IHP facilitates an interdisciplinary approach to watershed and aquifer management, incorporating the social dimension of water. One example is its digital interactive exhibition, Droughts in the Anthropocene, co-produced in 2019, using a number of case studies to showcase the social, environmental and cultural impacts of droughts and water scarcity, while highlighting collaborative solutions.

UNESCO-IHP works towards the improvement of scientific knowledge on ice and snow processes and their socio-economic and environmental interactions in Latin America and the Caribbean, focusing primarily on Andean glaciers. The UNESCO Office in Montevideo provides a forum for collaboration and training, and contributes to the quality of life of the local communities.
Oceans observation
Promoting ocean science for peace and sustainable development
(1960 – today)

In 1960, the scientific questions concerning the ocean called for the setting-up of a mechanism for international cooperation: UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO).

One of IOC-UNESCO’s first tasks was to coordinate the International Indian Ocean Expedition, which involved 40 oceanographic vessels. Other expeditions and studies followed. In 1969, it launched an Integrated Global Ocean Station System, and later set up, with the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), an inter-agency group for a world study of pollution in the marine environment.

In 1976, IOC-UNESCO released The Health of the Oceans. This report had a ground-breaking impact, at a time when, as its foreword declares, it was ‘widely realized that the study of marine pollution was still in its infancy and that conflicting views were the rule rather than the exception’. Six years later, IOC-UNESCO co-published The General Bathymetric Map of the Oceans. In 2009, its Ocean Biodiversity Information System was created documenting ocean living species.

IOC-UNESCO provides a focus for all UN bodies working to improve the management of the ocean, coasts and marine ecosystems. IOC-UNESCO also supports its 150 Member States in building their capacity in order to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction.

The ocean is threatened by global warming, acidification and pollution. The consequences are not just environmental: nearly three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity to survive. As IOC-UNESCO once took the lead of the International Decade of Ocean Exploration (1971–1980), it has taken the lead for the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021–2030).

IOC-UNESCO’s partnership in 2020 with the International Monohull Open Class Association allowed for skippers taking part in the Vendée Globe race to carry scientific observation instruments. As some 2,000 profiling floats and drifting buoys need to be deployed every year to sustain the Global Ocean Observing System – created with the World Meteorological Organization, UNEP and the International Science Council –, yachts provide a cheaper alternative and can reach remote areas. The data is used in climate studies, weather forecasting and the monitoring of marine ecosystems.

UNESCO also conducts research and conservation initiatives of marine sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List. UNESCO’s World Heritage Marine Programme prepares evaluations on how countries protect their sites; connects managers from the marine protected areas to share conservation solutions; assesses climate change impacts on these sites and invests in building resilience.
carte geologique du monde
Mapping the globe

Situated at the interface of art and science, cartography offers an irreplaceable synthesis of information scattered through numerous books, articles and documents. It therefore calls for the cooperation of specialists in a variety of fields from all over the world. The unique position occupied by UNESCO among scientific institutions enables it to take
an active part in this type of activity.
The UNESCO Courier, June 1991, p. 47

Mapping the world’s natural resources was a colossal task. Although many thematic maps had been produced in several countries, they used various measuring techniques. In 1956, the International Society of Soil Science decided to publish soil maps on the basis of the existing material. Several soil maps were produced, proving that reconciling criteria was possible.

UNESCO launched in 1961 a joint project with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to prepare a soil map of the world. The differences between the American, French and Russian systems of representation needed to be reconciled. The result was the Soil Map of the World (1978), consisting of 1,600 pages, with a standard terminology and classification.

The Geological World Atlas was the second UNESCO series of thematic maps. It began with The Geological Map of Africa, published in 1964 with the Association of African Geological Surveys. By 1976, UNESCO had completed this global project, in cooperation with the Commission of the Geological Map of the World (CGMW).

During the International Hydrological Decade (1965–1974), in 1970, UNESCO joined forces with the International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH) and the International Association of Hydrological Sciences (IAHS) to develop the International Legend for Hydrogeological Maps.

Recognizing the lack of information on transboundary aquifers and the absence of regulation and international law instruments, UNESCO-IHP launched the International Shared Aquifer Resources Management Initiative (ISARM) in 2000. The first inventory of transboundary aquifers was prepared with Germany’s Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) and published in 2006. The Map of Transboundary Aquifers was published in 2015 by the UNESCO IGRAC Centre to assist Member States with the development of best practices on groundwater resource management and governance.
The production of knowledge and the free flow of ideas
Liberté de presse
Press freedom and the safety of journalists

In 1991, African independent journalists gathered in Windhoek, Namibia at a UNESCO seminar on the promotion of independent and pluralistic African media. In a climate of optimism, partly due to Namibia’s newfound freedom, the Windhoek Declaration was adopted: it asserted that States should be proactive in protecting journalists and advancing opportunities for citizens to exercise freedom of expression, while avoiding control of the media.

In 1993, 3 May was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly World Press Freedom Day. It has been commemorated ever since to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, to discuss key trends in press freedom around the world and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.

Since 1997, the annual UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize honours a person or organization that has made an outstanding contribution to the defence of press freedom. UNESCO condemns each killing of a journalist, and presents the biannual Report on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity to the Intergovernmental Council of the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) since 2008.

The UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, endorsed in 2012 by the UN Chief Executives Board, is the result of a process that began upon request of the IPDC. The International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists was proclaimed in 2013.

According to UNESCO’s latest statistics, 89 per cent of crimes against journalists go unpunished. Such impunity perpetuates cycles of violence and the resulting self-censorship deprives society of information. It directly impacts the UNs’ human rights-based efforts to promote peace, security and sustainable development, particularly SDG 16, ‘to promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies’, and its target 16.10 on ensuring public access to information and protecting fundamental freedoms, on which the IPDC monitors progress. In 2018, UNESCO launched the Observatory of Killed Journalists, which gathers information on each killing and on the judicial follow-up, based on the information provided by the country in which the killing took place. The most recent of a series of UNESCO co-organized online awareness-raising campaigns was #TruthNeverDies, which reached 800 million people through social media. Every year UNESCO co-organizes capacity-building workshops for judges and prosecutors in many countries with the support of local judiciary institutions.

UNESCO takes effective measures to tackle the issue of the safety of women journalists. For instance, UNESCO inquires on specific actions taken to address safety of women journalists in its annual request to Member States regarding judicial follow-up of killings of journalists. In 2021, UNESCO released a pioneering discussion paper pointing to a sharp increase in online violence against women journalists and dissecting the orchestrated campaigns behind this toxic phenomenon
 media development
Shaping the meaning of media development

To comply with its constitutional mandate to ‘collaborate in the work of advancing the mutual knowledge and understanding of peoples through all means of mass communication’, UNESCO produced in 1949 a study on the training of journalists, and launched the book series Press, Film and Radio in the World Today.

In 1957, UNESCO cooperated in the establishment at Strasbourg, France of the first International Centre for Higher Education in Journalism, and of a similar institution in Quito, Ecuador, in 1959. Throughout the 1960s, UNESCO’s promotion of broadcasting in the service of education and development in Asia led to the creation of numerous institutes for the development of communications. In 1972, UNESCO launched a training programme for radio and television specialists in Asia, which paved the way for the creation of the Asian Institute for Broadcasting Development. In the late 1980s, UNESCO promoted the production and marketing of Latin American audiovisual products.

The International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) was established within UNESCO in 1980. By 1982, IPDC had helped to create the Pan-African News Agency (PANA) in Dakar, Senegal – under a programme that extended to Latin American and Arab countries – and the Asian News Network (ANN) in Malaysia. The West Africa News Agencies Development (WANAD) Project was set up by UNESCO in 1984. In the 1990s, it extended to South-East and Central Africa.

Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, UNESCO mobilized European radio and television organizations to identify their needs and foster cooperation. In 1989, IPDC supported the computerization of the Maghreb Arab Press Agency (MAP) and training courses for MAP’s and the Agence de Presse Tunisienne’s (APT) staff. It also helped computerize the Caribbean News Agency (CANA).

The IPDC is the only multilateral forum in the UN system designed to convene the international community to discuss and promote media development in developing countries. It has mobilized some US $120 million for over 2,000 projects in more than 140 countries.

The IPDC has endorsed specific indicators to asses media and internet policy development, with a view to identifying and addressing gaps through recommendations. It also focuses on marginalized communities, promotes gender-transformative media development, and has supported responses to urgent media development needs during the Ebola crisis, the Rohingya refugee crisis in Myanmar and the COVID-19 pandemic.
From the development of radio stations to community media sustainability

Radio is a powerful, low cost communication tool suited to reach remote communities and vulnerable people, while offering a platform for public debate. It also has a strong role in emergency communication and disaster relief.

UNESCO advocates for independent community media, run for and by the community. In 1956, UNESCO and India cooperated in the Radio Forum pilot project for literacy and development in 150 villages in the Poona region. Similar projects were launched in Gambia, Ghana and Senegal. By 1982, the first citizens’ FM radio station based on UNESCO’s technical design went on air from Homa Bay, Kenya. Other stations were opened in Sri Lanka in 1984 and in Niue in 1986. 1988 saw the launch of a UNESCO project to assist Radio Bhutan FM.

Today, UNESCO is focused on the development of community media to ensure media pluralism and freedom of expression. As an alternative medium to public, commercial and social media, these are characterized by their accountability to, and participation of, the communities they serve. The UNESCO Empowering Local Radio with ICTs project (2012–2018), supported by Sweden, built the capacities of 59 stations in ten African countries. Integration of ICTs improved the quality of programmes and the interaction with listeners. The geographical coverage of news improved with new networks of local correspondents, composed of trained community members. Today, the UNESCO Office in Dar es Salaam is working with community radios to raise awareness on gender-related issues. These programmes have reached more than 1 million people and have seen an increase in women’s participation.

To raise greater awareness among the public and the media of the importance of radio, UNESCO began celebrating World Radio Day in 2011. The Day was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2012.
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Convening cities to create innovative solutions

By 2030, 60 per cent of the world’s population will live in urban areas. As cities grow, their social, economic and environmental challenges equally increase. UNESCO has become a leading agency in building strong networks and platforms between cities to share good practices and create solutions to common problems.

The UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN), launched in 2004, promotes cooperation with and among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for development. As of September 2021, the Network includes 246 cities and covers seven #elds: Crafts and Folk Art, Media Arts, Film, Design, Gastronomy, Literature and Music. Among numerous examples of collaboration, several Creative Cities of Literature celebrated the 2021 International Literacy Day together, focusing on participation in cultural activities for vulnerable and marginalized people. UNESCO has further published a diversity of culture-led responses to COVID-19 by Creative Cities, and convened an online conference to share good practices.

The International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities (ICCAR), launched by UNESCO in 2004, assists local authorities in combating discrimination in areas as diverse as education, employment, housing provision and cultural activities. It has grown to become an active global front against racism and discrimination with over 500 members across the globe, and a unique city-level platform in the UN system.

Launched in 2015, the Megacities Alliance for Water and Climate (MAWAC) is an international collaboration platform for dialogue on water to help megacities – or metropolitan areas of more than 10 million inhabitants – adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change. UNESCO serves as the Secretariat for the MAWAC The Alliance’s terms of reference are set for adoption at the EauMéga Conference in 2022.

The UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities (GNLC) is an international policy-oriented network providing inspiration, know-how and best practices on promoting lifelong learning for all in urban areas and supporting the achievement of all 17 SDGs. The GNLC currently has 229 active member cities from 55 countries. Several cities in particular have been recognized for their contributions, such as Aswan, Egypt, for gardening and water-conservation programmes in schools and entrepreneurial training opportunities, and Medellín, Colombia, for successfully reintegrating over 4,650 school drop-outs.

These networks are part of the UNESCO Cities Platform, launched in 2019 to support effective implementation of the New Urban Agenda and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Platform also includes the Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience network, the World Heritage Cities Programme, Media and Information Literacy Cities, and the UNESCO-Netexplo Observatory Cooperation on Smart Cities.