UNESCO Access to Information Policy

The Policy version on this page is in effect since 22 February 2023. 


  1. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is committed to making information about its policies, strategies, programmes and operations accessible to the public. The Access to Information Policy (hereinafter referred to as the “Policy”) outlines the principles and modalities guiding this approach.
  2. UNESCO is dedicated to freedom of information and considers public access to information a key component of the Organization’s commitment to openness and transparency and its accountability vis-à-vis stakeholders.[1] UNESCO recognizes that there is a positive correlation between a high level of transparency through information sharing and public participation in UNESCO-supported activities.
  3. The Policy is guided by the presumption that any information concerning UNESCO’s policies, strategies, programmes and operations as described in paragraph Policies: Public Access is in principle to be made accessible to the public.
  4. Exceptions to accessibility are outlined in paragraph Policies: Exceptions.


Information means printed or electronic materials.


  1. Public Access:
    1. The public may consult UNESCO information that is normally made accessible through various means, inter alia through the:
      1. UNESCO public website
      2. UNESCO website for Member States and their National Commissions
      3. UNESCO Core Data Portal [2]
      4. UNESCO Digital Library
      5. UNESCO Careers website
      6. UNESCO information services
        1. General queries
        2. Visits or via the external Cultival website
        3. Logo
        4. Archives
        5. Library
        6. Copyright and publication reproduction
        7. Media and audiovisual materials
          Or, subject-based Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
        8. General
        9. World Heritage
        10. Intangible Cultural Heritage
    2. The following categories of UNESCO information are available for public access:
      1. General information about the role and functions of the Organization;
      2. Public statements by the Organization, including statements by the Director-General;
      3. The Organization’s main strategy and programme/ budget documents;
      4. Documents of public sessions, including decisions taken and summary records, of the Governing Bodies (Executive Board and General Conference);
      5. Information on UNESCO’s Regular Programme and Voluntary Contribution activities;
      6. UNESCO Country Strategy documents (UCS);
      7. General information about UNESCO Voluntary Contribution projects;
      8. Audited financial statements of the Organization;
      9. Other types of financial information:
        1. Financial information on programme budget execution as published and reported to the UNESCO Executive Board every six months;
        2. Financial Information on individual projects (available on the UNESCO Core Data Portal);
        3. Status of Member States’ payment of assessed contributions as published monthly on the UNESCO website;
        4. Annual financial information on nature of funding, donors, expenditures as available on the UN CEB website;
      10. Procurement information:
        1. Recipient and value contracts awarded over US$150,000 as published on the UNESCO Procurement Portal;
      11. Evaluation reports on programmes and projects;
      12. Final reports of the External Auditor;
      13. Results of all internal audits;
      14. Technical publications and papers, such as studies, reports and working documents of the Secretariat;
      15. Open Access resources (available on the UNESCO Digital Library) [3]; and,
      16. Archives (in compliance with established access rules).
  2. Exceptions
    1. UNESCO is committed to openness and transparency. However, the effective functioning of the Organization, confidentiality concerns and the need to protect its staff, stakeholders and partners require that some information cannot be disclosed. This Policy is consistent with the provisions in UNESCO's Information Sensitivity Classification policy. Categories of information on which there will be restrictions on access include the following:
      1. Information of a sensitive nature contained in the Secretariat records, such as correspondence and administrative files, and in particuliar:
        1. files containing sensitive information on relations between UNESCO and its Member States, between UNESCO and the United Nations, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, and between UNESCO and its partners, which, if disclosed, in UNESCO’s view would seriously undermine those relations, or any process of policy dialogue with Member States or implementing partners;
        2. personnel files, and any additional information which, if divulged, is likely to endanger or compromise the life, health or safety and security of staff and their families, non-staff personnel or other individuals in relation with the Organization. UNESCO Rules require the Organization to establish and maintain appropriate safeguards to respect the privacy of UNESCO employees and protect the confidentiality of personal information about them. UNESCO will therefore not provide access to information that would compromise these safeguards;
      2. Information which, if divulged, might violate the right to reputation, affect the privacy or endanger the safety of individuals;
      3. Information which, if divulged, is likely to endanger or prejudice the security or proper conduct of any operation or activity of UNESCO;
      4. Information covered by legal privilege or related to individual investigations or inquiries;
      5. Commercial information the disclosure of which could harm either the financial interests of UNESCO or those of third parties involved, or which is covered by a confidentiality agreement;
      6. Information on UNESCO’s own internal deliberations and communications.

Roles, Authorities and Accountabilities

  1. Access to Information Desk
    1. The Executive Office of the Sector for Administration and Management (ADM/EO) is responsible for administering the Policy through the Access to Information Desk (hereinafter referred to as “the ATI Desk”). ADM/EO also ensures the Secretariat for the Access to Information Panel (hereinafter referred to as “the Panel”).
  2. Access to Information Panel
    1. The Panel’s mandate is to assist the Director-General in monitoring the implementation of the Policy and to consider and review appeals relating to a request for information. The Panel’s primary function is to review appeals submitted to it and to determine whether the Policy has been properly applied. Determinations shall be guided by the principle of seeking amicable solutions in the context of the request and the parties who may be affected by the release of the information.
    2. The Panel consists of five members, all appointed by the Director-General. The Panel may deliberate with a quorum of three members. The Chair of the Panel will be selected from amongst, and by, the Panel members. Members will serve for a term of two years, which may be extended for another term at the discretion of the Director-General.
    3. Members of the Panel will be selected on the basis of the following criteria: in-depth knowledge and thorough understanding of UNESCO policies, structures, programmes and operations at Headquarters and Field Unit levels; thorough knowledge of, and familiarity with, information disclosure and access to information policies; and proven ability to work with UNESCO partners.
    4. The Panel will meet virtually or in situ whenever there is an appeal for review. The Panel may also meet to consider policy matters related to the Policy and its application, as necessary.
    5. The Panel may decide to call upon additional internal or external expertise when it deems appropriate to do so.
    6. The Panel will report to the Director-General on a yearly basis on the volume and content of the appeals reviewed by the Panel in that year. In this annual report the Panel may, if it deems relevant, also make recommendations on how to improve the implementation of the Policy.
  3. Staff members and other personnel are responsible for ensuring that any access to information request received by their business unit is responded to in accordance with this Policy. The ATI Desk (access-to-Information@unesco.org) shall be copied on all responses and exchanges with requesters.

Procedures and Processes

  1. Access to information request
    1. Information that is not accessible through UNESCO’s websites and information services (see paragraph Policies: Public Access) may exceptionally be made available upon request.
    2. Access to information requests should be directed to:
      Access to Information Desk
      Sector for Administration and Management, Executive Office
      Address :  7, Place de Fontenoy, 75007 Paris, France
      Email :  access-to-Information@unesco.org
    3. Every access to information request will be acknowledged. A response will normally be provided within 30 calendar days of receipt. For requests that involve research and/or the reproduction of material, UNESCO may charge a fee for material and labor cost, which will be communicated to the requester and will have to be paid in advance.
    4. The disclosure of information in response to a request for access, will not constitute a waiver, express or implied, of any of the privileges and immunities of UNESCO, pursuant to the 1947 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the Specialized Agencies and Annex IV thereof, or otherwise.
    5. UNESCO may partially or wholly deny a request, as follows:
      1. In accordance with exceptions set out or referred to in this Policy;
      2. If the request would place an excessive burden upon UNESCO’s resources;
      3. If the request is vexatious and/or repetitive.
    6. If a request is denied, written justification for the decision to deny access will be provided along with information on the appeal procedure provided for in paragraph Procedures and Processes: Review and appeal process below.
  2. Review and appeal process
    1. If a formal request for information is denied, the requester may ask for a review of this determination by the Panel (see para. Roles, Authorities and Accountabilities: Access to Information Panel). 
    2. Every request for review will be acknowledged within 30 calendar days. The Panel shall review the denial of requests to provide access to a document or portion of a document, and provide a final determination within 90 calendar days of receipt of the appeal.
    3. Harm test and public interest override: In exceptional circumstances, UNESCO reserves the right to disclose the information deemed confidential in paragraph Policies: Exceptions. The Panel will consider all requests. UNESCO may exercise this right if it determines that the overall benefits and public interest of such disclosure outweighs the likely harm to the interest(s) protected by the exception(s). This may include situations in which the disclosure of certain confidential information would, in UNESCO’s view, be likely to avert imminent and serious harm to public health or safety, and/or imminent and significant adverse impacts on the environment. Such disclosure by UNESCO would be on the most restricted basis necessary to achieve the purpose of the disclosure. If the confidential information has been provided by or relates to a Member State or third party, UNESCO would make such disclosure only after informing the Member State or third party of its concerns and considering their plans to address and mitigate the potential harm involved.



Not applicable


Forms and templates

Not applicable

Additional Help

  1. Privacy notice
    1. UNESCO will:
      1. Collect and use the information you provide to process your request. Your information will not be used for any other purpose than that for which it was collected;
      2. Make the information you provide available only to employees who require it in order to process and respond to your request;
      3. Retain your information on its servers for the time required to process your request;
      4. Maintain a summary of each request for statistical analysis;
      5. If applicable, share your name and credit card information with the Organization’s payment processor (see para. Procedures and Processes: Access to information request (3)).

For further information, see UNESCO’s Principles on Personal Data Protection and Privacy.


[1] UNESCO is the Custodian Agency for SDG Indicator 16.10.2.

[2] UNESCO’s Core Data Portal publishes data in accordance with the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) standard. It has been designed to enable public access to information about the Organization's activities across sectors, countries, and regions, accompanied by details on budgetary and donor information - See more at: https://core.unesco.org/en/home.

[3] UNESCO adopted in 2013 an Open Access Policy for publications of the Organization (191 EX/Decisions II).

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