United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

In The Oxford International Encyclopedia of Peace (four volumes), 2010.
Editor-in Chief Nigel Young. Oxford University Press.

The League of Nations after World War I and the United Nations after World War II were dedicated to peace, but UNESCO's dedication to peace was different. It was founded at the same historical moment as the United Nations, but has always been an independent specialized agency with its own governance, budget, etc. (while the UN is based in New York, UNESCO is based in Paris). Those who drafted the UNESCO Constitution recognized that peace, conceived as the absence of war, was not. enough, and they wrote into the Preamble of the UNESCO Constitution "that a peace based exclusively upon the political and economic arrangements of governments would not be a peace which could secure the unanimous, lasting and sincere support of the peoples of the world, and that the peace must therefore be founded, if it is not to fail, upon the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind." Based on this principle, the Preamble contains the unforgettable phrase, "since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed."

UNESCO's work for education, culture, communication and science was not conceived as an end in itself. Instead, the Preamble of the Constitution concludes that the Organization's purpose is to advance, "through the educational and scientific and cultural relations of the peoples of the world, the objectives of international peace and of the common welfare for which the United Nations Organization was established and which its Charter proclaims." Indirectly, UNESCO contributes to peace through all of its work, such its programs of Education for All, World Heritage Sites, support for social and natural sciences and support for the free flow of information. For more details see the UNESCO Website and the book, UNESCO and a Just World Order (2002).

At times, UNESCO's work is interpreted by the most powerful member states as an impingement on their own policies. The most dramatic example came in the 1970's when the countries of the south demanded a "New World Information and Communication Order" to challenge the dominance of the rich countries over the information media. Largely in response to the 1980 report of the McBride Commission to UNESCO on this subject, the United States and the United Kingdom withdrew from UNESCO in 1983. A critical analysis of the American position may be found in UNESCO and the Media (1989).

A similar "revolt" by the powerful states occurred in 1999 in response to the proposal for the Human Right to Peace (see The Human Right to Peace, 2003, and notes from the UNESCO debate on the Human Right to Peace available on the Internet).

During the early 1990's, under the leadership of Director-General Federico Mayor, UNESCO became involved actively in post-conflict peacebuilding. It proposed through its culture of peace programme to supplement the military peacekeeping activities launched by the United Nations Security Council. National Culture of Peace Programs were instituted in EI Salvador and Mozambique, and a similar programme was planned for Burundi with the experience of EI Salvador recorded in an academic paper (Lacayo et aI, 1996). UNESCO organized national culture of peace forums in Congo-Brazzaville, Philippines, Russian Federation, Sudan and Somalia.

Although national culture of peace programmes were discontinued by the late 1990's, the concept of the culture of peace received a favorable reception by the countries of the South in the UN General Assembly. UNESCO was asked to prepare a Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, which was adopted by the General Assembly as Resolution A/53/243 on 13 September 1999. During the same period, the General Assembly declared the Year 2000 as the International Year for the Culture of Peace and the Years 2001-2010 as the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World, giving UNESCO the responsibility as lead agency. For more information see the website of Brief Illustrated History of Culture of Peace.

As part of the International Year for the Culture of Peace, UNESCO organized a vast campaign of individual commitments to cultivate a culture of peace in everyday life, with 75 million signatures on the Manifesto 2000. This campaign drew upon other UN agencies, UNESCO's field offices and many partners around the world, including National Commissions for UNESCO, the World Federation of UNESCO Clubs, Centers and Associations, the Associated Schools Project, and non-governmental organizations and universities associated with UNESCO. For example, the associated non-governmental organization Brahma Kumaris and the associated university MAEER's MIT of Pune were largely responsible for 35 million signatures from India; the UNESCO field office in Brazil coordinated the collection of 15 million signatures from Brazil, the UN Development Agency coordinated over 11 million signatures from Colombia, the National Commission of Korea for UNESCO mobilized over a million signatures from Korea, and the National Federation of UNESCO Associations of Japan mobilized over a million signatures from that country.

UNESCO's role in drafting the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace continued a tradition that it has maintained since its founding, the preparation of normative instruments and standard-setting documents for peace. Here are some of the most important:

The Convention against Discrimination in Education (1960)
The Declaration of the Principles of International Cultural Co-operation (1966)
The Recommendation concerning Education for International Understanding, Co- operation and Peace and Education relating to Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1974)
The Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice (1978)
Declaration on Fundamental Principles concerning the Contribution of the Mass Media to Strengthening Peace and International Understanding, to the Promotion of Human Rights and to countering Racialism, Apartheid and Incitement to War (1978)
The Yamoussoukro Declaration on Peace in the Minds of Men (1989)
The Seville Statement on Violence (1989)
The Declaration of the 44th Session of the International Conference on Education (1994)
The Declaration of Principles on Tolerance (1995)
The Declaration on the Responsibilities of the Present Generations towards Future Generations (1997)
The Declaration on Cultural Diversity (2001)
The documents listed here are the tip of an iceberg, considering that there have been hundreds of documents relating to the various aspects of a culture of peace that have issued from conferences, forums and working groups established by UNESCO over the years in every part of the world. For example, when UNESCO submitted its draft culture of peace declaration and programme of action to the United Nations in 1998 (A/53/370), it listed 27 culture of peace declarations issued just in the years 1989-1998, from, among others, Cote D'Ivoire, Burundi, Congo, Sudan, Mali, Mozambique, Morocco, Burkina Faso, EI Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Brazil, Spain,

UNESCO organizes a number of prizes that reward contributions related to peace and a culture of peace, as well as recognizing major artists as UNESCO Artist for Peace.

UNESCO Prize for Peace Education
UNESCO Prize for Human Rights Education
L'Oreal-UNESCO Awards "For Women in Science"
Sultan Qaboos Prize for Environmental Preservation
Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence
International Music Council Music Prize (on living arts and their contribution to dialogue and understanding)
UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom
Felix Houphouet-Boigny Peace Prize
Over the years, UNESCO has published many books promoting peace and culture of peace. These have included the monograph, UNESCO and a Culture of Peace (1995), annual Yearbooks on Peace and Conflict Studies, and directories of Peace and Human Rights organizations.



Dutt, Sagarika. UNESCO and a Just World Order. New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc., 2002.

Giffard , C. Anthony. UNESCO and the Media. New York: Longman., 1989.

Van Boven, Theo. "Advances and obstacles in Building Understanding and Respect Between People of Diverse Religions and Beliefs," Human Rights Quarterly 13, no 4 (1991): 437-449.

Francisco Lacayo Parajon, Mirta Lourenšo and David Adams. "The Unesco Culture of Peace Programme in El Salvador: An initial Report", The International Journal of Peace Studies. 2, no 2 (1996): 1-20. Available on Internet at http://www.gmu.edu/academic/ijps/vol2_2/UNESCO.htm.

UNESCO and a Culture of Peace. 1995. UNESCO publishing. Available on Internet at http://www.culture-of-peace.info/monograph/page1.html.

UNESCO Website: http://www.unesco.org (English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Chinese). Culture of peace pages are located at http://www.unesco.org/cp.

Brief Illustrated History of Culture of Peace. Available only on Internet at http://www.culture-of-peace.info/history/introduction.html

Roche, Douglas. The Human Right to Peace. Toronto: Novalis, 2003

Notes from Commission V debate on Culture of Peace in 30th General Conference Available only on Internet at http://www.culture-of-peace.info/annexes/commissionV/summary.html
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