UNESCO promotes a culture of peace by fostering intercultural dialogue and international cooperation through collaborative work in the fields of education, the natural and social sciences, culture, communication and information.
In the preamble to the UNESCO Constitution, adopted in London on 16 November 1945, it reads:
“That since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed; […] the States Parties to this Constitution, believing in full and equal opportunities for education for all, the unrestricted pursuit of objective truth, the free exchange of ideas and knowledge, […] hereby create the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization for the purpose of advancing […] international peace and the common welfare of mankind.
Since its inception, UNESCO has pursued its high-minded mission by functioning as a:
1. laboratory of ideas;
2. standard setter;
3. capacity builder;
4. catalyst for international cooperation;
5. clearing house.
These functions have remained constant since 1945, helping guide the Organisation through changing global currents across the last seven decades. We explore these five functions here, looking to some of UNESCO’s past achievements and the role it must now play to remain relevant and respond to the complex challenges of today’s interconnected world.