UNESCO works to create the conditions for peace through international cooperation. This is done through education, science, culture and the mass media. Current issues include efforts for literacy, research, freedom of the press and information, protection of the world’s cultural and natural heritage.
The overall goal of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (short for UNESCO by Abbreviationfinder) is to create the conditions for peace through international cooperation in education, science, culture and the media.
The idea is that free exchange of ideas and knowledge prevents conflicts.
Unesco functions primarily as an information center where experts meet and ideas are bumped and soaked. The organization thereby formulates recommendations and agreements, which aim to influence the policies of the member states. In addition, the organization implements a number of different programs and also provides assistance to some countries.
However, UNESCO’s broad mandate and complex structure often make it difficult for outsiders to assess what the organization is accomplishing. The field of work is wide and includes everything from campaigns for literacy and the development of mass media in the third world to translations of important works in world literature.
One problem that the organization struggles with is the insufficient budget. The money is not enough for the entire business, and some critics believe that the organization should limit its activities to a smaller number of main projects, instead of continuing with the broad business.
In April 2007, Unesco had 192 member countries and six associated members.
Unesco was founded in November 1945, and a year later the constitution came into force. The UN saw the need for an organization that, through intellectual cooperation between countries, could support peacebuilding and bridge the contradictions that caused the Second World War.
The starting point was that Unesco would be a forum where prominent intellectuals in the organization’s various disciplines could propose solutions to the earth’s problems, acute as well as more long-term. From the beginning, the board consisted of people elected on personal merits, and not primarily as representatives of a member state.
When Unesco was formed, the organization had 20 member countries. Sweden joined in 1950. During the 1960’s, more and more newly formed countries were added. Both the business and the resources grew strongly, and in the former colonies in particular a large number of aid projects were started.
A heated international debate on communication issues in the 1970’s led to increased demands within Unesco for a “new world order for information and communication”. The goal was, among other things, to try to reduce the third world’s dependence on the Western world’s news monopoly and to promote cultural identity.
Some countries were critical and considered that the “new world order” undermined freedom of expression, among other things by advocating the right to regulation in order to protect national media against dominant foreign media. The proponents, many of whom were developing countries, rejected the criticism and considered it to be based on the desire of Westerners to maintain their position of power as a leading disseminator of information. The diametrically opposed views led to a very protracted conflict which resulted in the whole idea being shelved in favor of a new communication strategy.
The conflict came to a head when the United States left Unesco at the end of 1984, followed by Britain and Singapore a year later. They justified the resignation by saying that the organization pursued an overly anti-Western cultural and media policy and that it was permeated by corruption and inefficiency. The withdrawal led to an economic crisis; it caused a budget loss of almost a third.
To improve UNESCO’s organization, a commission was appointed in 1988, led by the Swede Knut Hammarskjöld. In 1990, the Commission made recommendations that staff recruitment should be based on merit rather than political reasons, and that operations should be streamlined and decentralized.
Following pressure from, above all, member states in the West, Unesco began to be reformed. Several attempts were made to combat bureaucracy. The Secretariat’s staff of over 4,000 people was halved, the number of managers was significantly reduced and the program activities were eventually concentrated in three priority areas: Africa, the least developed countries and women.
Following the restructuring, the United Kingdom rejoined in 1997 and the United States in 2003, while Singapore remained outside the organization in early 2007.
Some critics, especially in the Conservative camp, are not convinced that any real changes have taken place. Others defend Unesco by saying that the reforms have certainly contributed to change and that it is also natural for large international organizations to suffer from bureaucracy and a certain heaviness.