This is our #History

Building Peace in the Minds of Men and Women, since 1945

History

This is just the #Beginning

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation was founded in London in 1945

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

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Our History: read about how UNESCO came to exist

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For over 75 years, UNESCO’s aim has been to foster peace through building mutual understanding between the peoples of the world. Read on for a snapshot of how the idea of UNESCO was created in the heart of bombed out London and key moments in the organisation’s history from a UK perspective.

It’s the height of the Second World War: thousands of people are sacrificing their lives; cities are being decimated by bombs; governments are in exile; the world is being ripped apart by fear. It’s from these dark ruins that endeavors to foster a hopeful and forward-looking spirit of international cooperation emerge and UNESCO begins to take shape.

1942

#Foundation

Conference of Allied Ministers

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

Summer of 1942

The outbreak of the Second World War and the subsequent destruction of books, cultural heritage and education systems, saw endeavours to foster a spirit of international cooperation.

The origins of CAME and therefore of UNESCO, emerged during the summer of 1942 in the offices of Rab Butler MP, the UK Minister of Education, and Malcolm Robertson, Chairman of the British Council. Taking advantage of the many governments-in-exile in London, they convened a meeting of the Allied Educational Ministers for collaboration on educational questions affecting the Allied countries of Europe.

The Conference of Allied Ministers of Education (CAME), convened in London in November 1942, bringing together a group of men and women who viewed education and culture as vital elements for healing the world from the horrors of war and building a more peaceful future. Governments in exile including Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Yugoslavia, Great Britain, Luxembourg, United States, the Soviet Union, Australia, Canada, China, India, New Zealand, and South Africa attended the many meetings between 1942 and 1945.  Their work culminated in the establishment of UNESCO in 1945.

1945

#Foundation

UNESCO was founded in London in November 1945

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

November of 1945

“Today, the peoples of the world are ‘islands shouting at each other over seas of misunderstanding’. They do not understand each other’s history, each other’s ways of living, each other’s way of thinking. The better they understand each other, the more they will realise how much they have in common and why and how they differ, and the less prone they will be to take up arms against each other. ‘Know thyself’, said the old proverb. ‘Know your neighbour’, we say today. And the whole world is our neighbour”

Clement Attlee, Conference for the Establishment of UNESCO, November 1945.

The United Nations Conference for the Establishment of an Education and Cultural Organisation was convened in London from 1-16 November 1945, with 44 governments represented.

UK Delegates included the Rt. Hon Ellen Wilkinson, Minister of Education; Arthur Creech Jones MP and David Hardman MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Education. Julian Huxley became the first Director-General of UNESCO

The United Nations Conference for the Establishment of an Education and Cultural Organisation was convened in London from 1-16 November 1945, with 44 governments reperesented. Members of the UK Delegates included the Rt. Hon Ellen Wilkinson, Minister of Education; Arthuer Creech Jones MP, David Hardman MP,

1946

#Foundation

The UK ratifies the UNESCO Convention

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

1946

The United Kingdom Government ratified the UNESCO Convention on 8th February 1946. It was signed by the UK Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Ernest Bevan MP.

The United Kingdom UNESCO Ratification Document. Original held by the National Archives.

1946

#Foundation

The UK National Commission for UNESCO was founded in 1946

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

1946

UNESCO’s constitution established action through two levels: governments and National Commissions. Based on the notion that political agreements were not enough to create a long and enduring peace, it was up to National Commissions to work with the people of their respective country. The Commissions were seen as essential bridges between UNESCO, national governments and civil society, helping to shape UNESCO’s programmes and advise on relevant policies.

The UK National Commission for UNESCO was founded in 1946. Its first Principal and Secretary was the famous writer and archaeologist, Jacquetta Hawkes, a position she held until 1949. Jacquetta was heavily involved in preparations for the first UNESCO conference in Mexico City in 1947.

#Discover

Read the speech from the Director-General of UNESCO, Dr. Jaime Torres Bodet, at our first public meeting in 1949.

Dr. Jaime Torres Bodet #Speech       

From left to right: Joseph Needham (1900-1995), an eminent biochemist and historian, was instrumental in securing science as part of UNESCO’s mandate. Ellen Wilkinson MP (1891-1947) A true pioneer, Ellen Wilkinson was a tireless advocate for social justice and a central figure in the establishment of UNESCO. Alfred Zimmern (1879-1957) who helped to establish UNESCO, serving as the Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947 in connection with his work helping to form UNESCO. Rab Butler MP (1902-1982) was one of the prime advocates of an international educational body, resulting in the formation of UNESCO. Sir Julian Huxley (1887-1975) played a leading part in UNESCO’s creation and was influential in securing the addition of science to the organisation’s mandate.

Jacquetta Hawkes (1910-1996) was the first Secretary of the UK National Commission for UNESCO from 1946-1949. During her time at the Commission, she met her future husband JB Priestly, pictured to the right (m. 1952-84). After leaving the UK National Commission for UNESCO, Jacquetta became the principal archaeologist in the festival of Britain and became a successful writer.

1953

#Convention

The CERN Convention

PARIS, FRANCE

1953

The UK was one of 12 UNESCO Member States to establish the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN). The Convention was signed in 1953 and came into force in 1954. Western and Soviet scientists continued to collaborate throughout the Cold War era and CERN’s constitution stipulates that all research must be scientific, not military, and all results must be made public. Now the largest physics laboratory in the world, engaging over 10,000 researchers from 100 countries, CERN has pioneered scientific discoveries and made a remarkable contribution to international communication through the language of science.

#Link

Visit #CERN's Website

Jacquetta Hawkes (1910-1996) was the first Secretary of the UK National Commission for UNESCO from 1946-1949. During her time at the Commission, she met her future husband JB Priestly, pictured to the right (m. 1952-84). After leaving the UK National Commission for UNESCO, Jacquetta became the principal archaeologist in the festival of Britain and became a successful writer.

1960

#Nubia

The Nubian Campaign

ASWAN, EGYPT

1960

The building of the Aswan Dam led to an archaeological emergency with ancient temples, monuments, and artifacts at risk from flooding and destruction. The governments of Egypt and Sudan appealed to UNESCO for help. The result was an unprecedented campaign to save irreplaceable ancient culture in the Nubia region – stretching along 200 miles of the Nile and 100 miles into Sudan.

UNESCO launched its appeal on 8 March 1960. An impressive list of high profile political, diplomatic and royal figures were members of a group of patrons, including Sir Julian Huxley, the first Director-General of UNESCO.

The international campaign lasted twenty years, saw the successful rescue and relocation of 20 monuments and contributed to the establishment of the 1972 World Heritage Convention which still forms the bedrock of international efforts to recognise and protect our cultural heritage.

The UK provided funding and resources for the campaign and Sir Mortimer Wheeler, Professor of Archaeology at London University, joined UNESCO’s committee of distinguished experts to advise the global project.

“Art is indivisible. There is no German Beethoven, only Beethoven, no Russian Dostoevski, only Dostoevski, no British Shakespeare, only Shakespeare. Great art is not for an age, but for all time. It is not for this or that side of the Iron Curtain, but for all men”

“On its banks some thousands of years ago the genius of man erected buildings, carved statues and inscribed records which are an important part of the cultural heritage not only of Egypt but of all man everywhere.’ Dr Horace King, 18 November 1960

In 1954 the decision to build the Aswan High Dam was made. This dam would lead to the creation of a huge artificial lake covering the Upper Nile Valley from Aswan in Egypt to the Dal Cataract in Sudan – a culturally extremely rich area, which has been known as Nubia since antiquity.

1960...

#KeyMoments

1960

PARIS, FRANCE

UNESCO passed Convention Against Discrimination in Education which provides the cornerstone for international standards in education

1962

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

UK Ratified Convention Against Discrimination in Education

1971

PARIS, FRANCE

🇨🇳 People’s Republic of China joins UNESCO

1972

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

UNESCO passed Convention concerning the protection of the World’s Cultural and Natural Heritage

#Discover

Convention on #WorldHeritage

1976

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

First UNESCO Biosphere Reserves established in the UK – North Devon and Beinn Eighe (Beinn Eighe extended and renamed Wester Ross in 2016)

1981

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

David Attenbourough won the Kalinga Prize for the popularisation of science

...1984

1984

#WorldHeritage

In 1984, the UK ratifies the 1972 World Heritage Convention

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

1984

UNESCO’s constitution established action through two levels: through governments and through National Commisisons. Based on the notion that political agreements were not enough to create a long and enduring peace, it was up to National Commissions to work with the people of their respective country.

The UK National Commission for UNESCO was founded in 1946, and it’s first Principal and Secretary was the famous writer and archaeologist, Jacquetta Hawkes. a position she held until 1949. She was heavily involved in preparations for the first UNESCO conference in Mexico City in 1947.

#Discover

Read the complete text of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.
You can download or print the complete text in the language of your choice by following the link below.

Discover the #WorldHeritage Convention

In 1972, UNESCO inscribed 12 sites to the World Heritage List, including the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, the first to be announced. Over the following years, many more have joined the list, spanning all continents. Pictured below, left to right, top to bottom: Taj Mahal, Agra, India – added in 1983; Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia – added in 1992; The Acropolis, Athens, Greece – added in 1987; Memphis and its Necropolis – the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur, Egypt – added in 1979; Galápagos Islands, Ecuador – added in 1978; Historic Centre of Rome, the Properties of the Holy See in that City Enjoying Extraterritorial Rights and San Paolo Fuori le Mura, Rome, Italy – added in 1990;

1985

#Withdrawl

In 1985, the UK withdraws from UNESCO

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

1985

The UK government wanted UNESCO to undertake a series of reforms. The UK’s Ambassador to UNESCO, John Gordon, worked hard to negotiate a way forward that was achievable and would satisfy the UK government’s concerns but on 5 December 1985, following the United States’ withdrawal, the UK resigned its membership. Throughout the 1990s there was an on-going campaign encouraging the UK to re-join.

“Walking down the corridor, followed by BBC television cameras, to hand in our notice of withdrawal to M’Bow [UNESCO Secretary General], was the saddest day of my diplomatic career,”

John Gordon, UK Ambassador to UNESCO 1984-5

In 1972, UNESCO inscribed 12 sites to the World Heritage List, including the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, the first to be announced. Over the following years, many more have joined the list, spanning all continents. Pictured below, left to right, top to bottom: Taj Mahal, Agra, India – added in 1983; Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia – added in 1992; The Acropolis, Athens, Greece – added in 1987; Memphis and its Necropolis – the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur, Egypt – added in 1979; Galápagos Islands, Ecuador – added in 1978; Historic Centre of Rome, the Properties of the Holy See in that City Enjoying Extraterritorial Rights and San Paolo Fuori le Mura, Rome, Italy – added in 1990;

1986

#WorldHeritage

First UK sites inscribed onto UNESCO World Heritage list

PARIS, FRANCE

1986

Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast
Durham Castle and Cathedral
Ironbridge Gorge
Studley Royal Park including the Ruins of Fountains Abbey
Stonehenge, Avebury, and Associated Sites
Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd

There are now 32 UNESCO World Heritage sites in the UK.

Discover the first 6 UK World Heritage Sites, inscribed in 1986. From Left to right, top to bottom: Ironbridge Gorge, Studley Royal Park including the Ruins of Fountains Abbey, Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd, Durham Castle and Cathedral, Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast, Stonehenge, Avebury, and Associated Sites

1991...

#KeyMoments

1991

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

UNESCO established Félix Houphouët-Boigny UNESCO Peace Prize Nelson Mandela and Frederik W De Klerk are the first laureates

#Discover

Discover the #Prize

1992

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

UNESCO launched Chairs and Unitwin Programme, UNESCO Launched Memory of the World programme

...1992

The Memory of the World Programme is a global plan to safeguard the world’s documentary heritage against collective amnesia, the ravages of war, decay and deterioration.

1997

#Join

UK re-joined UNESCO

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

1997

The UK re-joined UNESCO under the new Labour government. Overall responsibility for the UK’s relationship with UNESCO was placed within the newly formed Department for International Development (now due to be merged with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office).

#Discover

Download the #Article below

1999

#Chairs

First UNESCO Chair established in the UK.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

1999

Led by Professor Alan Smith, the UNESCO Chair for Pluralism, Human Rights and Democracy at Ulster University was set up following the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in April 1998. Professor Alan Smith was awarded an OBE for services to Education in the New Years Honours List 2020. There are now 20 UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Networks in the UK.

The Memory of the World Programme is a global plan to safeguard the world’s documentary heritage against collective amnesia, the ravages of war, decay and deterioration.

2004...

#KeyMoments

2004

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

First UK Creative City designated (Edinburgh, literature). There are now 11 UNESCO Creative Cities in the UK. First Global Geoparks established in the UK – North Pennines and North West Highlands. There are now 6 UNESCO Global Geoparks in the UK.

2005

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

First UK Inscriptions on the International Memory of the World Register. The 18 June 1940 radio appeal, made from London by exiled French President Charles de Gaulle following the fall of France (submitted jointly with France) and 1916 documentary film of the Battle of the Somme.

2008

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

The International Centre for Water, Law Policy and Science at Dundee University became the UK’s first UNESCO Category II Centre

2009

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

Bradford designated world’s first UNESCO Creative City of film

...2009

2015

#LearningCities

UNESCO Established Global Network of Learning Cities

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

2015

UNESCO’s constitution established action through two levels: through governments and through National Commisisons. Based on the notion that political agreements were not enough to create a long and enduring peace, it was up to National Commissions to work with the people of their respective country.

The UK National Commission for UNESCO was founded in 1946, and it’s first Principal and Secretary was the famous writer and archaeologist, Jacquetta Hawkes. a position she held until 1949. She was heavily involved in preparations for the first UNESCO conference in Mexico City in 1947.

#Discover

Read about #LearningCities

#HagueConvention

In 2015, the UK ratifies Hague Convention

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

2015

The United Kingdom has formally ratified the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and acceded to its two Protocols of 1954 and 1999.

Our instruments of ratification and accession were formally deposited with UNESCO this morning. Subject to confirmation by UNESCO, the Convention and Protocols will come into force for the United Kingdom on 12th December 2017.

The Convention and Protocols are intended to protect cultural property from damage, destruction, looting and unlawful removal during armed conflict. The Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Act 2017 makes the necessary provision in our domestic law to ensure that we can meet our obligations under the Convention and Protocols.

#Discover

Read about the #HagueConvention

There are many World Heritage Sites in Danger around the world, some of them are located within active conflict zones. From left to right, top to bottom: Palmyra, Syria; Jerusalem, Old Walled City of Shibam, Yemen, Tassili n’Ajjer, Algeria; Bamyan, Afghanistan; Sana’a, Yemen; Leptis Magna, Libya; Historic Centre of Shakhrisyabz, Uzbekistan.

2018...

#KeyMoments

2018

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

UK government announced continued funding package for UNESCO Institute of Statistics and Global Education Monitoring Report to help monitor progress towards SDG 4.

2019

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

UK launched Global Media Defence Fund with Canada and UNESCO. The fund is the first of its kind and will support, train and provide legal support for journalists in the most dangerous parts of the world.

...2019

2020

#Anniversary

In 2020, UNESCO will celebrate its 75th Anniversary

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

2020

Today, UNESCO has a huge impact across the UK. There are over 165 UNESCO sites and projects, including 32 World Heritage Sites and the UK continues to contribute to UNESCO’s global programmes and activities.

The UK National Commission continues to support the UK Government at the Executive Board and General Conference, and bring together experts and academics in science, culture and education.

The world looks very different from when UNESCO was founded in 1945, with new challenges including climate change – but the basis of UNESCO’s mission stays the same since Clement Attlee coined the phrase “since wars begin in the minds…” Our mission is to foster peace through international collaboration in education, science, culture and communication and information.

This is a snapshot of some key moments in UNESCO’s history from a UK perspective. For more information and analysis on UNESCO’s role over 75 years:

#Links

Read more about UNESCO’s plans for its 75th anniversary on UNESCO’s main site. Click on the following links to discover more.

UNESCO history page
UNESCO Courier archives        
Sixty Years of Science at UNESCO        

This is just the #Beginning

Every day, the United Kingdom contributes to building UNESCO’s strength through our network of programmes, people and sites

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

#UNESCOToday #DigitalFuture

Discover our #Programmes        

#Today

UNESCO in the UK Today: Discover what is currently on

Home       >      About Us       >      #Today

UNESCO’s vision is that peace and human rights must be built upon the intellectual and moral solidarity of humanity.

This is enshrined in its constitution, and summarised as ‘since wars begin in the minds of men and women, it is in the minds of men and women that the defences of peace must be constructed.’

UNESCO’s duty is to reaffirm the missions of education, science, culture and communication and information by acting as a laboratory of ideas, setting international normative standards, building capacity, and acting as a catalyst for international dialogue and cooperation between its Member States. It does this through its specialised expertise in:

#ExploreUNESCOToday

🔎 Browse our #InFocus Programmes

This is just the #Beginning

Discover our 🔮 #Future

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

#Website #DigitalFuture

Discover our #Future