UNESCO celebrates its fiftieth anniversary

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  • UNESCO celebrated itd fftieth nnnivermry

    O n 24 October 1945, the United Nations Charter came into effect. The new-born organization carried with it the. seeds of an- other international partnership: its Article 57 provided forthe creation ofaspecialized agency in the educational and cultural Fields.

    One week later, on 1 November, representa- tives from forty-four countries began meeting in London at a Conference to establish an Educational and Cultural Organization of the United Nations, which was jointly convened by the British and Frenchgovernments. In his welcoming address, British Prime Minister Clement Attlee set the stage for the work to be accomplished: Today the peoples oftheworld are islands shouting at each other over seas of misunderstanding.. . Know thyself,said the old proverb. Know your neighbour, w e say today. And the whole world is our neighbour.

    After two weeks of lively debate, much of it focused on extending the new institutions role to reflect the spectacular progress made in the field of science, delegates hammered out the text of the draft constitution of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization- UNESCO. O n 16November, it was signed by thirty-seven states and the Final Act by 41. Its opening lines, penned by the poet and Librarian of Congress Archibald Macleish who headed the United States del- egation, gave the Organization its mandate - and its vision: Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed. . . .

    In its fifty-year existence, UNESCO has worked unceasingly to break down geo- graphic barriers to the spread of scientific and intellectual knowledge, and to encour- age dialogue between cultures. Its activities have ranged from the spectacular - such as the safeguarding of great monuments and sites -to the humanistic -as in its persistent battle against apartheid - to the normative, for example, the Universal Copyright Con- vention. Along the way, it has helped train librarians, educate teachers, launch and sus- tain major programmes of research on the

    oceans and the biosphere, and provide thou- sands of fellowships for students from Af- rica, Asia and the Pacific, the Arab States and Latin America. It was instrumental in the founding of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) in 1946, and has pro- vided expertise and technical assistance to create and improve museums throughout the world. The publication of ~Jfiuei~in biter- izn~in/zal, first issued in 1948 under the title iJfiirw~iin, bears witness to the Organizations commitment to enlisting museum profession- als in the common task of sharing expertise and promoting international understanding.

    Today, UNESCOcounts 183MemberStates. Its 2,200 staff members are stationed in 54 countries. They comprise educators, scien- tists, archaeologists, anthropologists, journal- ists, jurists . . . They provide assistance to help eliminate thegreatest obstacle to development - illiteracy; to improve education systems; to preserve the environment and master the phe- nomenon of population growth; to increase access to science and technology while stem- mingthebraindrain; toprotect cultural prop- erty in the face of natural and human-made disasters; to strengthen communication ca- pacities and facilitate the circulation of in- formation; to foster mutual respect and toler- ance, democratic participation and awareness of human rights.

    The emergence of a new international situa- tion as a result of the end of the Cold War has added renewed urgency to these objectives. As it prepares to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century, UNESCO is ever more conscious of the importance of its ethical mis- sion and of its unique role as a forum and a focus for international co-operation on the key issues of our time.



    1. See Michel Conil Lacoste, Th Simyof!fa G ~ n d Dyi,vz: - UNESCO i96-1999j8 Paris, UNESCO Publishing, 1995.

    ISSN 1350.0775, ibfzrseirnz hmri?crtionn[ (UNESCO. Paris), No. 187 (Vol. 47, No. 3. 1995) 0 UNESCO 1995

    Puhiisiiecl by 13lrickwell Iuhlisliers, IOX Cowley Road. Oxford. OX* IJF ILK) and 238 Main Srrrer. Camhridge. MA 021.Q (USA)


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