Measuring the contribution of UNESCO designations to the UN Sustainable Development Goals – a pilot study published

An international pilot study has been published demonstrating how UNESCO Chairs contribute to the United Nations Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The pilot study, Assessing the Value of UNESCO within a Framework of International Cooperation (VINCI), demonstrates how the activities, programmes and networking of 30 UNESCO Chairs are actively contributing to the SDGs and should be included within Member States progress measurements towards the SDGs.

The study was conducted by a coalition of seven National Commissions for UNESCO (Germany, Iceland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Slovenia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom).

The report finds UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Networks are directly contributing to the majority of the 17 SDGs and have a significant impact on many of them. The study also highlights that they are playing a pivotal role in promoting international cooperation and networking to enhance Member State capacities through knowledge sharing and collaborative work. Importantly, the report demonstrates that UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Networks are having a measurable and world-class impact on practice, policy and society.

These findings are significant at a time when the Member States are developing their national development plans and strategies on mapping their contribution to achieving the SDGs.

Professor Kiran Fernandes, Vice-Chair and Non-Executive Director of the UK National Commission for UNESCO, said:

“With 12 years to go until the deadline of 2030, how the Member States fully calculate their national contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals is critical. The findings of this pilot study demonstrate that UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Networks are contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and this should be reflected in their respective national strategies. Like other UNESCO designations, UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Networks should be better resourced by UNESCO to fulfil this role.”

Nicolas Mathieu, Secretary-General of the Swiss Commission for UNESCO, said:

“The wealth of the ‘UNESCO family’ is a power that must be used more effectively. UNESCO National Commissions and UNESCO itself have a growing interest in the impact of the UNESCO labelled entities and networks on the SDGs, at both the individual as well as wider levels. That’s the challenge the VINCI project has tried to address: to find an innovative way to clearly demonstrate the quantitative as well as qualitative added-value of the UNESCO designations, and, to cooperate with a new level of confidence between different countries to achieve the study. It’s a success for both expectations.”

Presented recently in UNESCO during the 205th UNESCO Executive Board, the next steps involve collecting feedback from the global network of National Commissions to consider how the project could be developed further. The six partner countries will also explore how the pilot can be expanded to include the participation of more countries, and also explore the contribution of other UNESCO sites and projects to the SDGs, such as UNESCO World Heritage Sites and UNESCO Creative Cities.

The study makes four recommendations on how the impact of UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Networks can be fully realised:

  1. Extend and augment UNESCO Chair and UNITWIN Networks guidelines to contain an explicit demonstration of the impact of intellectual contributions on SDGs.
  2. Studies examining the linkages between scholarly inquiry and the SDGs should be explored.
  3. A recognition programme to publicise high-impact research by UNESCO Chairs/UNITWIN Networks for SDGs should be developed.
  4. UNESCO mechanisms should be developed to strengthen the interaction between UNESCO Chairs and UNESCO Programmes in the production of knowledge and impact in areas of the SDGs.