First UNESCO General Conference at Sorbonne university

History of UNESCO

UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. It seeks to build peace through international cooperation in Education, the Sciences and Culture. UNESCO’s Constitution was adopted in London in 1945, it entered into force in 1946.

After two World Wars in less than thirty years, UNESCO was born of a clear vision: to achieve lasting peace, economic and political agreements among States are not enough. We must bring people together and strengthen the intellectual and moral solidarity of humankind, through mutual understanding and dialogue between cultures.

Over the years, UNESCO has launched pioneering programmes to achieve this. 

UNESCO mobilized philosophers, artists, intellectuals from every nation. From the very beginning we debunked racist theories and we developed innovative projects that changed the world:

  • The Universal Copyright Convention (1952)
  • Man and the Biosphere programme (1971)
  • World heritage Convention (1972)
  • Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003)

UNESCO gave rise to global centres of scientific research, from CERN (1952) to SESAME (2017), and developed a global tsunami early warning system. UNESCO brought together experts and scholars to write the first ever general history of Africa and all five continents.

UNESCO carried out literacy campaigns that spearheaded the development of nations, in Italy… in the Republic of Korea... in Afghanistan.

UNESCO established universal principles for scientific ethics and the human genome, and protected the best that humanity has to offer: the temples of ancient Egypt…. saved from rising waters; The treasures of Venice….and Angkor; The old Bridge of Mostar… rebuilt after war

Our History

75 years of history in the service of peace!

A history in the service of our common humanity. 

75th anniversary Family photo

UNESCO in numbers

Member States
2,217 staff
with 53 regional offices

and 136 institutes and research centres.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites
UNESCO biospheres in

131 countries all over the world, occupying more than 6% of the earth’s landmass.

1.4 billion
US dollars

UNESCO's total budget for 2020-2021.


in UNESCO's Global Education Coalition.

schools being partially reconstructed or rehabilitated

in Beirut following the devastating explosions in the city’s port in August 2020.

judges and magistrates

took part in training sessions in 19 different countries in Latin America provided by UNESCO.

Asian countries

benefit from the South China Sea Tsunami Advisory Center.

120 million
US dollars of funding mobilized by UNESCO

for over 2000 media development projects in the last 40 years.

policy-makers, scientists and community leaders

are being trained to manage early warning systems for droughts and floods around Lake Chad.

families from 30 fishing communities

benefited from the Project on Sustainable Fishing on the Amazon Coast.

800+ million
people across social media

platforms generated over 80,000 engagements on UNESCO’s #truthneverdies campaign.

Faced with the challenges of our age, UNESCO’s mandate is more relevant than ever – and with all our Member States, UNESCO continues to lead the way forward.

  • By imagining the futures of education to navigate to our new world and to live in peace with others and with the planet
  • By establishing common standards on open science and the ethics of artificial intelligence
  • By developing new tools to fight new forms of racism, hate speech and misinformation

UNESCO works on the ground, in Beirut, In Mosul, to revive the spirit of the people.

After 75 years, our mission is as critical as ever: the world needs education, science, culture and information. The world needs humanity.

Flagship initiatives in 2021

Futures of education

UNESCO’s Futures of Education initiative aims to rethink education and shape the future.

Ethics of AI

UNESCO proposes the development of a comprehensive global standard-setting instrument to provide artificial intelligence with a strong ethical basis.

Revive the Spirit of Mosul

Initiative focusing on reconstructing heritage sites, strengthening the educational system and revitalizing Mosul’s cultural and intellectual life.

Global recommendation on open Science

UNESCO is the legitimate global organization enabled to build a coherent vision for Open Science and the idea that key scientific research should be universally available for the good of human kind.