UNESCO, based in Paris, has three main bodies: the General Conference, the Management Board and the Secretariat. The General Conference, the highest decision – making body, is held every two years with representatives of all UNESCO member countries.
The General Conference, the highest decision – making body, is held every two years with representatives of all UNESCO member countries. Its main task is to determine the organization’s program and budget.
The General Conference elects the Board, which consists of representatives from 58 member countries appointed from six regional groups. The Board meets at least twice a year and acts as an administrative council which, among other things, prepares the work of the General Conference.
The Nordic countries take turns being members of the board. The last time Sweden sat on the board was 2013–2017.
The Secretariat is the executive body of UNESCO. It implements decisions taken by the Member States at the General Conference. The work is led by the Director General, currently Audrey Azoulay.
The rest of the workforce amounts to approximately 2,100 people. Just over two thirds work at the head office in Paris and one third at the organization’s more than 50 field offices.
According to businesscarriers, UNESCO’s goal is to create the conditions for peace through international cooperation in education, science, culture and the mass media.
To achieve its goals, UNESCO draws up conventions, recommendations and declarations. The conventions become binding when they are ratified by a state, the recommendations provide guidelines for how states should behave and the declarations express opinions. Among the conventions, the one on the world’s natural and cultural heritage, from 1972, is particularly well known. In 2005, two new conventions were added, one on support for cultural diversity and one against doping in sport.
An important task for Unesco is to examine how well the member states live up to concluded international agreements.
UNESCO also organizes meetings and conferences, researches various topics and publishes reports and books. Every year, for example, the UNESCO Statistical Yearbook is published and twice a year the World Educational Report is published.
UNESCO also organizes courses and seminars and provides financial assistance for study trips. In this way, networks and information exchange are created between the member countries and UNESCO fulfills an important function by creating channels between the developed countries and the third world.
Member countries also receive technical support for implementing development projects within UNESCO’s areas of activity. In addition, UNESCO provides assistance to individual countries, for example in the event of disasters.
But not everyone agrees that the organization should be involved in aid. Many developing countries think it is good, but Sweden, among others, believes that UNESCO should limit itself to being an intellectual co-operation organization focused only on influencing the member states’ policies. At the same time, however, Sweden makes a contribution to development assistance activities through SIDA.
UNESCO’s work now prioritises four areas: Africa, the least developed countries, women and children and young people. The organization’s activities can be divided into five main programs: education, culture, communication / media, social sciences and natural sciences. Below are presented some of the most important projects within each program.
Communication and media
UNESCO’s communication strategy supports freedom of the press and information and seeks to strengthen independence and diversity in the mass media. A free flow of ideas and free access to information are seen as basic preconditions for development.
An important idea is to create a knowledge society for everyone, among other things by giving everyone access to new information technology. The Information for All Program (IFAP) aims to bridge the so-called digital divide in the world – that is, the distance between those who are “connected” and those who are outside the enormous information flow of the modern world.
The IPDC (International Program for the Development of Communication) program supports the development of mass media in the third world by helping to start newspapers and radio stations and by training staff.
Through the same program, UNESCO also works to maintain independent news reporting from conflict-affected areas. For example, a forum was set up in 1998 to support cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian journalists.