What is UNESCO?

UNESCO - the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) was founded on 16 November 1945

UNESCO works to create the conditions for dialogue among civilisations, cultures and peoples, based upon respect for commonly shared values.

Its slogan reads that: “It is not enough to build classrooms in devastated countries or to publish scientific breakthroughs. Education, Social and Natural Science, Culture and Communication are the means to a far more ambitious goal : to build peace in the minds of men.”

What does it do?

Through its strategies and activities, UNESCO is actively contributing to the achievement of the Development Goals of the United Nations Millennium Declaration by 2015 including those aiming to:

  • Halve the proportion of people living in extreme poverty
  • Achieve universal primary education
  • Eliminate gender disparity in primary
    and secondary education
  • Combat HIV and AIDS, malaria and other diseases

Focus on education

The international community has pledged to achieve Education for All (EFA) by 2015. The World Education Forum (Dakar 2000) agreed to reach 6 goals by 2015:

  • expand early childhood care and education
  • improve access to complete, free schooling of good quality for all primary school-age children
  • greatly increase learning opportunities for youth and adults
  • improve adult literacy rates by 50 per cent
  • eliminate gender disparities in schooling
  • improve all aspects of education quality.

For more information, visit: www.unesco.org/education/efa/wef_2000 

UNESCO says it is leading global efforts to achieve these goals by mobilising political will and coordinating efforts of all stakeholders in education including development partners, governments, NGOs and civil society. EFA is at the heart of UNESCO’s major educational activities to:

  • assist countries in formulating educational policies
  • develop and disseminate materials such as best practices, manuals and teacher training packages designed to cover a wide range of issues, from sustainable development to peace education
  • establish new norms and standards on vocational and technical education and the recognition of higher education qualifications
  • identify new trends and appropriate strategies to cope with emerging issues in education, such as AIDS
  • direct special attention to Africa, the least developed countries and the nine high population countries – Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria and Pakistan – that are home to more than 70 per cent of the world’s illiterate adults and almost half of its out-of-school children
  • develop innovative ways of providing education for people with special needs, living on the streets and in conflict and emergency zones
  • broker partnerships between public, private and non-governmental actors to ensure better coordination of efforts and to sustain political momentum.

Read more here

To accelerate action towards EFA goals, UNESCO is focusing on 3 core initiatives in key areas:

  • the Literacy Initiative for Empowerment (LIFE), aimed at people with insufficient literacy skills and implemented in 33 countries
  • the Global Initiative on HIV and AIDS and Education (EDUCAIDS), promoting massive expansion of prevention education for vulnerable young people
  • the Initiative on Teacher Training in Sub-Saharan Africa, addressing the region’s teacher shortage crisis (due to HIV and AIDS, armed conflict and other causes)

Every year, UNESCO publishes the EFA Global Monitoring Report assessing where the world stands on its commitment to provide a basic education to all children, youth and adults by 2015. See: www.unesco.org/education/efa 

These reports are also posted on CRIN.

UNESCO is the lead agency for the UN Literacy Decade (2003–2012). While coordinating the efforts of diverse partners, UNESCO is developing new tools to measure the impact of literacy campaigns and programmes. Visit: www.unesco.org/education/litdecade 

UNESCO is also leading the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005–2014) to highlight the central role of education in the pursuit of sustainable development. Visit: www.unesco.org/education/desd 

Read more about UNESCO's focus areas here

Visit UNESCO's education portal: http://portal.unesco.org/education/en/ev.php-URL_ID=48712&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html  

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural OrganizationUNESCO


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