brief n°15

The ‘S’ in UNESCO: key challenges for UNESCO’s science programmes and priorities

brief n°15

Discover Policy Brief

The ‘S’ in UNESCO: key challenges for UNESCO’s science programmes and priorities


UNESCO is the only UN agency with a specific mandate for science. It has also been named the lead agency in the UN’s Scientific Advisory Board, which has been tasked with advising the UN on how to strengthen the interface between science and policy.

UNESCO’s scientific mandate and global reach is impressive, but with a severely constrained budget, to what extent does UNESCO have the capacity to deliver its full scientific programme and have maximum impact across each of its six Main Lines of Action (MLAs)?

UNESCO is recommended to further prioritise its current scientific programmes to focus on the areas where it can have the greatest impact and add the greatest value.

The following recommendations and related challenge questions are intended to aid UNESCO’s thinking in its next phase of prioritisation of its science programme:

Recommendation 1. Further prioritise scientific programmes focusing on those that work very specifically towards its fundamental objectives of peace, security and sustainability

Recommendation 2. Focus on support rather than delivery

Recommendation 3. Proactively seek opportunities for partnership working

Recommendation 4. Recognise the value of integration

Recommendation 5. Ask whether ‘legacy programmes’ correspond to 21st century priorities

Recommendation 6. Widen access to the benefits of research in developing countries

Recommendation 7. Promote technology transfer and build capacity across science and, in particular, engineering

Recommendation 8. Ensure quality of research and impact of results

Recommendation 9. Raise UNESCO’s profile in the sciences


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