Our Science Programme

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Everyone should have the opportunity and right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress. And scientists must have the freedom to conduct research and collaborate regardless of political boundaries and borders.

As the only United Nations agency with a specific mandate for science, UNESCO works to advance and promote science in the interests of peace, sustainable development and human security and well-being.

Since its inception in London in November 1945, UNESCO has acted as a catalyst for the establishment of many scientific unions and bodies in natural and human sciences. It has stimulated the creation of initiatives with far-reaching implications for sustainable development including the Man and the Biosphere Programme, the Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, UNESCO Global Geoparks and natural sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The UK is home to many science-related UNESCO sites and programmes, and our world-leading experts continue to shape and have impact through UNESCO’s global programmes.

Legal Framework

UNESCO establishes international frameworks for science through Conventions, Commissions and other Programmes. These help develop national science policies, set-up international frameworks for collaboration between scientific researchers, and protect some of our most important and cherished places from the dangers of climate change and biodiversity loss.

Policy Advice

Since 1946, the UK National Commission for UNESCO’s role is to ensure the UK’s leading specialists, intellectuals and academics are contributing and shaping UNESCO’s science manadate. We also advise the UK and Devolved Government on policy relating to UNESCO’s scientific activities. This advice ensures the UK Government is adhering to the text of these legal instruments by fulfilling its obligations and promoting their aims and intentions within the UK.

Expert Advice

Every accredited expert within our network is tasked with a specific committee or programme within UNESCO’s framework. Our Expert Network is made up of pro-bono specialists who help to advise the UK and Devolved Governments on policy relating to UNESCO’s programme. Professor David Drewry is our Non-Executive Director in charge of the science portfolio.

The relevant UK government department approves Accredited Experts. They have an official role, representing the UK in UNESCO Committees, Commissions and Programmes. They also work with us and the UK Permanent Delegation to UNESCO based with the Department for International Development in London and Paris, to advise the UK and/or devolved governments on UNESCO related matters.

   Explore our Expert Network        

The UNESCO Chair/UNITWIN programme seeks to foster international cooperation and knowledge sharing between higher education institutions. UNESCO Chairs are based within an Institute for Higher Education, and their work identifies with a current UNESCO priority.

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Sites & Initiatives

The UK has a vibrant network of UNESCO scientific sites and designations that are working with like-minded people around the world to foster and create peace.

These designations are intrinsically community-driven initiatives. The preservation of our natural world requires input from the local communities that live and work near the sites – those who can have the most impact and benefit the most from its sustainability.

Plants, animals and the human race face unprecedented challenges – rapid climate change, the quickening pace in the loss of biodiveristy, widespread pollution, landscape despoliation, ocean acidification, rising sea levels and massive reduction in Arctic sea ice.

UNESCO’s unique network of biosphere reserves, natural world heritage sites and global geoparks, in addition to its global programmes focused on the Oceans, Hydrosphere, and the Earth Sciences offer fundamental and collaborative scientific research to understand and tackle these major threats.

The UK’s environment, scientific and natural heritage is represented by natural World Heritage Sites, Biopshere Reserves and Global Geoparks. Collectively they span vast swathes of territory across the UK and its Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies. They act as climate change laboratories, ecological and geological centres of research as well as destinations for visitors to enjoy the pristine landscapes. The UK’s Memory of the World register also pays homage to the prolific historical contribution in the field of science.

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Since it was established, the UK National Commission for UNESCO has worked in partnership with likeminded organisations and colleagues in the field of science, working together to tackle global and local challenges.

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UNESCO Prizes in natural and social science are prestigious awards addressing global issues and themes, which are conferred on individuals or organisations by the Director-General for UNESCO upon recommendation by an independent and international jury. They each carry a high symbolic value, and are awarded with a substantial monetary award.

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At their root, UN International Days contribute to the achievement of the purposes of the UN Charter and promote awareness of and action on important political, social, cultural, humanitarian or human rights issues. International days are at the heart of the United Nations Charter.

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Discover our Communication & Information Programme

   Explore our Communication & Information Programme