icon twittericon facebookicon youtubeInstagram

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

UNESCOI. Core Areas

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is mandated to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among nations through education, science, culture and communication in order to further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion, by the Charter of the United Nations.

UNESCO functions as a standard-setter to help forge universal agreements on emerging ethical issues. It also serves as a clearinghouse—for the dissemination and sharing of information and knowledge—while helping Member States to build their human and institutional capacities in diverse fields. UNESCO promotes international cooperation in the fields of education, science, culture and communication.

UNESCO draws upon two types of financial resources. One source comes from the regular budget, which comprises the contributions paid by Member States, calculated according to the economic strength of each country. Another source of funding is extrabudgetary funds from bilateral government donors, UN funds and programmes, multilateral development banks, and the private sector. Headed by a Director-General, Ms. Irina Bokova, UNESCO employs around 2,100 staff, two-thirds of which are based at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.

II. Engagement with External Actors

Civil Society

UNESCO has a flexible and comprehensive notion of civil society. This includes NGOs, professional associations and community groups, youth and women’s movements and other clusters such as the UNESCO Clubs movement, parliamentarians, cities, mayors, local authorities and the business sector. Such civil society actors can play an effective role in forging innovative alliances with UNESCO with a view to promoting the principles and values enshrined in the Organization’s Constitution.

National Commissions for UNESCO constitute a mechanism for establishing outreach to civil society and for mobilizing its potential. Numbering 191, these bodies form a worldwide network mandated to involve all groups in civil society at the national level as the Organization seeks to extend its range of contacts with key social decision makers in diverse domains of action.

Since its founding, UNESCO has sought to collaborate with NGOs, and many activities undertaken worldwide in its fields of competence, i.e. education, science, social and human sciences, culture, communication and information, are carried out in cooperation with a wide range of NGOs. The synergy is vital for the pursuit of UNESCO’s mandate and indispensable in the design, implementation and monitoring of a range of UNESCO projects and programmes.

Article XI, paragraph 4 of UNESCO’s Constitution defines the basis for cooperation between UNESCO and NGOs as follows: “The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization may make suitable arrangements for consultation and cooperation with non-governmental international organizations concerned with matters within its competence, and may invite them to undertake specific tasks. Such cooperation may also include appropriate participation by representatives of such organizations on advisory committees set up by the General Conference.”

The current statutory framework for cooperation with NGOs is defined in the “Directives concerning UNESCO’s relations with non-governmental organizations”1 that were approved by UNESCO’s General Conference at is 28th session in 1995 and amended in 2001 and 2007. In accordance with these Directives, UNESCO establishes two forms of statutory relations with international NGOs: formal or operational, depending on the role and structure of the NGOs concerned and the record of their effective cooperation with UNESCO. The Directives stipulate among other things the obligations and advantages granted to such organizations as well as the modalities for modification, termination and suspension of statutory relations with them.

Complementary to the above statutory framework, UNESCO allows cooperation on an informal or ad-hoc basis with NGOs for the purpose of the execution of certain specific programme elements. The involvement of NGOs in programme implementation does not therefore necessarily hinge on their statutory relations with the Organization, but rather on their expertise in one or more of UNESCO’s fields of competence.

Foundations and similar institutions that are active in UNESCO’s fields of competence, and that are self reliant and non-profit making, can also be admitted to statutory relations in accordance with another set of specific directives applicable to such organizations.

UNESCO conducts its collaboration with NGOs in two complementary ways: bilateral and collective. Bilateral cooperation is essentially thematic and can take various forms: intellectual cooperation, contribution to the elaboration of UNESCO’s programmes, contracts for the execution of “framework agreements” or for the implementation of certain elements of UNESCO’s regular programmes, the execution of projects, granting of requests under the Organization’s Participation Programme Scheme, etc.

Collective cooperation is sought through various mechanisms, linked to specific priorities, such as thematic collective consultations that are regularly held, bringing together relevant NGOs and UNESCO specialists with a view to contributing to programme implementation. Such collective cooperation mechanisms have proved to be useful in the preparation of and follow-up to major world conferences.

Another major collective consultation mechanism is the NGO International Conference, which meets every two years. It brings together all NGOs in statutory relations with UNESCO and constitutes an enlarged forum for reflection and exchange, enabling UNESCO to gather advice and suggestions from NGOs. The conference also elects an NGO-UNESCO Liaison Committee, which acts as an interface between NGOs and the Organization’s governing bodies, and represents the collective voice of the NGO community associated with UNESCO. Based at UNESCO’s Headquarters, this Committee ensures permanent coordination and collective cooperation with the Organization, both at the policymaking and programme execution levels.

Another feature of UNESCO’s interaction modalities with the NGO community is the Executive Board’s Committee on NGOs. Set up in 1966, the Committee has subsequently become one of its permanent subsidiary bodies. Composed of up to 24 Member States, it aims to institutionalize direct dialogue between the Executive Board, the Secretariat and NGOs, and examines all issues related to UNESCONGO cooperation, including the establishment or renewal of statutory relations. All NGOs maintaining statutory relations with UNESCO are given the possibility to attend the General Conference. NGOs in formal relations are entitled to make statements during the general debate in plenary sessions, whereas NGOs in operational relations can do so in various programme commissions of the Conference.

Extent of Collaboration

Since the first UNESCO Club was founded in Japan in 1947, UNESCO Clubs, Centres and Associations have become valuable partners for the Organization, formed of people of all ages from every kind of social and professional background and origin who share a commitment to UNESCO’s ideals. They work as volunteers at the grassroots level to implement these ideals.

Over 3,800 Clubs spread over 80 countries have three main functions: training, information and action. Irrespective of their nature and scope, activities carried out by the Clubs foster the dissemination of UNESCO’s principles and objectives in civil society, making it possible to promote UNESCO’s values in local communities.

Private Sector

The specific objectives pursued by UNESCO in collaboration with private sector partners include:
* Analyze strategic alliances established in the UN system and other global institutions enabling UNESCO’s policy in this area to evolve constantly;
* Organize thematic consultations in order to benefit from the wide-ranging expertise of the private sector;
* Develop a practical partnership system to define the specific roles of current and future partners;
* Develop further the regulatory and organizational framework for the establishment of partnerships (guidelines, a guide, internal manual for the sectors, field offices, National Commissions and other networks affiliated to UNESCO); and
* Attract other partners, establish new links and mechanisms for cooperation with different types of partners, and implement flagship multi-stakeholder partnerships that can be used as models.

The policy framework for UNESCO’s cooperation with the private sector derives from the Guidelines adopted by the United Nations in 2000 (see Annex III), which is underpinned by the Global Compact and its ten principles.

UNESCO works with hundreds of private sector partners: multinational companies, small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs), private foundations, economic, academic and professional associations, philanthropic bodies and individuals. This cooperation also includes coalitions and federations such as the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the International Chamber of Commerce, the World Economic Forum, and international business schools.

UNESCO offers a variety of arrangements for partnerships between its global, regional, national and local networks, on the one hand, and private sector entities, both institutional and individual, on the other. A number of provisions govern its relations with the private sector, including:
* Consultation of the National Commission of the Member State concerned;
* Relevance of the partnership to UNESCO’s strategic and programme priorities;
* Balance between the substantive contribution made by the partner and what UNESCO offers in return; and
* Implementation of the partnership in keeping with ethical requirements, in particular transparency and accountability.

Extent of Collaboration

There is growing practical collaboration with the business sector beyond donations to UNESCO activities. Institutional partnerships have been established with international commercial groups such as Rhône-Poulenc (now Sanofi-Aventis) for cultural World Heritage preservation and education, L’Oréal for “Women in Science,” DaimlerChrysler for intercultural dialogue, Hewlett Packard for “Alleviating Brain Drain,” Suez for water management training, Microsoft for promoting the role of ICTs in education, Intel for ICTs in teacher training, and Samsung for promoting intangible cultural heritage.

The purpose of these partnerships—in a medium-term perspective—is to mobilize the business world, with its expertise and networks, its high-quality services, equipment and considerable financial resources, to assist in the achievement of UNESCO’s objectives. UNESCO is also cooperating with professional and volunteer groups from the private sector, such as Rotary International, Lions Clubs International and the Junior Chamber of Commerce (JAYCEES) to promote the involvement of citizens in UNESCO’s activities.

At the national level, UNESCO facilitates various operations carried out in synergy with governments and NGOs. Special attention is being paid to mobilizing contacts with and support from the private sector at country level. National Commissions for UNESCO are charged with mobilizing local outreach to these diverse private sector partners. Such partnerships, whether international, regional, national or local, can help ensure that commercial investments contribute to the overall goal of sustainable development.

UNESCO and L’Oréal
In May 2005, UNESCO and L’Oréal Professional Products signed an agreement on an HIV/AIDS prevention education programme. Within the framework of the cooperation agreement, UNESCO and L’Oréal launched a programme “Hairdressers of the World against AIDS2,” aimed at raising awareness of HIV/AIDS by offering prevention courses to hairdressers in training. The programme offers courses adapted to the cultures of the countries concerned. It is part of the programme already put in place by L’Oréal in Africa, which has already provided for 170,000 training days. The hairdressers serve to further the campaign by relaying their knowledge to clients in their salons.

Global Alliance
The Global Alliance for Cultural Diversity brokers partnerships between public and private actors to support local cultural industries—such as music, film and publishing—in developing countries. The Alliance works to increase the availability of diverse, affordable cultural products worldwide, to prevent piracy and to encourage respect for international copyright regulations.

The current 500 Alliance members come from a wide range of sectors including governments, intergovernmental bodies, professional associations, SMEs, multinational companies and the academic world. Alliance endeavours range from projects, which build on knowledge sharing and transfer between businesses and professionals, to far-reaching projects, which involve the design and introduction of public policy and regulatory frameworks involving wide stakeholder consultations. Ongoing initiatives include the setting up of musicians’ cooperatives in Africa, strategies for the book industry in Algeria and the music industry in Jamaica, the development of innovative television programmes for children in the Arab region, and the opening of markets for quality crafts from developing countries in Europe and North America. Within the Alliance, the Creative Cities Network links cities from around the world that seek to unlock the creative, social and economic potential of their local cultural industries.


Cooperation with parliamentarians is a major component of UNESCO’s partnership policy, enabling the Organization to mobilize a network of national and regional legislators who meet within regional or International forums, and who help to ensure that UNESCO programme objectives are reflected in national legislation.

At the international level, a cooperation agreement was concluded with the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in 1997, whereby IPU commits its members—153 national parliaments and eight associate members—to work for peace and security, cooperation among the nations and universal respect for justice, human rights and fundamental freedoms. In order to give interaction at national level an institutional framework, a network has been progressively established, starting in June 2003, for cooperation between the national groups of the IPU and National Commissions for UNESCO. At the regional level cooperation agreements have been concluded between UNESCO and regional parliamentary associations, and regional forums have been set up around specific UNESCO programmes.

Cities and Local Authorities

UNESCO’s Sector for External Relations and Cooperation seeks to develop new forms of partnership with local governments in order to strengthen the political commitment for the Organization’s priorities and initiatives. UNESCO supports the action of cities and local authorities in the political, social, economic and cultural fields. This joint action extends to natural and human sciences, culture and heritage, Communication and information, and education. UNESCO encourages cooperation with municipalities, cities, local authorities and associations of cities, all of which increasingly play an important role in sustainable development of communities. The objective is to bring cities together and also connect them with other partners through sponsoring, twinning and networking operations.

Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous Peoples Education
In order to promote multicultural, multiethnic and multilingual basic education tailored to the specific needs of indigenous peoples, UNESCO seeks to: (i) encourage efforts to teach non-indigenous communities about indigenous cultures; (ii) promote mother-tongue literacy and learning in indigenous languages; (iii) develop preventive aspects of education for marginalized and vulnerable indigenous children and youth; (iv) encourage school curricula to embrace such indigenous inputs as culture-specific scientific knowledge, traditional mathematical tools, environmental awareness and linguistic diversity; and (v) develop innovative formal and non-formal learning methods backed by the use of new information and communication technologies.

Integrating Cultural Diversity and Intercultural Dialogue in the Development of Indigenous Communities
UNESCO’s support to indigenous peoples include the development of standardsetting instruments in the area of cultural diversity (the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (2001), and the Preliminary Draft Convention on the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions— presented at the UNESCO General Conference in October 2005).

Through pilot projects, UNESCO also seeks to develop a number of methodological approaches and tools on cultural resource mapping for the empowerment of indigenous communities. Training and consultation activities are carried out in collaboration with local communities in order to stabilize and revitalize the cultural identities of displaced, fragmented, and stigmatized indigenous communities; to revive intergenerational cooperation and cohesion; and to assist in the transmission of knowledge to future generations.

The LINKS Project
The Local and Indigenous Knowledge System (LINKS) project builds dialogue amongst traditional knowledge holders, natural and social scientists, resource managers and decision makers to enhance biodiversity conservation and secure an active and equitable role for local communities in resource governance. The LINKS project strengthens knowledge transmission between elders and youth, and explores pathways to balance community-based knowledge with global knowledge in formal and non-formal education. Key modalities for LINKS action include:
* Demonstration projects in collaboration with rural and indigenous communities;
* Action research on key concerns and issues;
* Information and communication technologies to record, manage and transmit indigenous knowledge and know-how;
* Training to build local capacities in relevant multimedia techniques; and
* International workshops and seminars to promote reflection and dialogue.

ICTs for Intercultural Dialogue and Diversity: Developing Communication Capacities of Indigenous Peoples
The project aims to preserve indigenous peoples’ cultural resources through access to ICTs and through the development of indigenous content. This includes the fostering of intercultural dialogue between marginalized indigenous peoples and other groups, both in urban and rural settings, through the use of ICTs. This project also seeks to help indigenous peoples acquire greater skill in using ICTs and create new opportunities for income-generating activities. Its goals include: indigenous community leaders trained in ICT use; indigenous cultural content produced for television, radio and new media; awareness raised at the national and international level about indigenous creativity and about the importance of cultural diversity expressed through ICTs.

III. Organizational Resources

Focal Point

Civil Society

Name: Ms. Marie-Ange Théobald
Title: Chief of Section, Section for Non-governmental Organizations, Sector for External Relations and Cooperation
Address: 7 place de Fontenoy, 75352 Paris, 07 SP, France
Telephone: +33-1-45-68-04-44
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Private Sector

Name: Ms. Noha Bawazir
Title: Programme Specialist – cooperation with the Private Sector
Address: 7 place de Fontenoy, 75352 Paris, 07 SP, France
Telephone: +33-1-45-68-13-31
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

IV. Information Resources

* UNESCO Website
* UNESCO’s relations with NGOs
* UNESCO and L’Oreal: Hairdressers Against Aids
* The Global Alliance for Cultural Diversity
* LINKS Project
* ICTs for Intercultural Dialogue. See also Information on MOST Programme

The UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (UN-NGLS) is an inter-agency programme of the United Nations mandated to develop constructive relations between the UN and civil society organizations.


YouTube Channel

Visit https://www.youtube.com/unngls for many more!


Featured UN-NGLS Reports

UNDS review NGLS civil society consultation summary website cover


Regional Recommendations 217px


UN NGLS Decent Work Fair Globalization Guide featured



OHCHR Report: Safe & Enabling Environment for Civil Society

OHCHR Civil society report2