Our Strategy

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The UK National Commission for UNESCO is the official body coordinating UNESCO activities in the United Kingdom (including UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies) and a constitutional part of the UK’s membership of UNESCO.

Funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, we work to bring the benefits of UNESCO to the UK and also ensure that it is fully contributing and aligned with UNESCO’s programmes and values. This page provides an overview of our strategy to meet these aims and objectives.


The world faces unprecedented challenges across multiple dimensions; from climate change, to hundreds of millions of children being out of school, from promoting sustainable development to the spread of disinformation, from persistent gender inequalities to the growth of mega-cities, and from the impact of artificial intelligence on societies and economies to the destruction of our shared heritage and culture.

The world also faces opportunities, including those to promote rights and human dignity, to better use science and technology for the good of all, and to preserve and protect our shared cultural heritage.

The UK is not exempt from these challenges and has an important role to play in shaping international action in response to them, not least through its membership of UNESCO. Its role in UNESCO also allows the UK to engage in debates about the opportunities present today, and through collective action to promote a better future.

UNESCO’s mandate to use culture, education, science and communication as tools to drive forward sustainable development and foster peace has never been more relevant. UNESCO is a global organisation but grounded in local designations ranging from World Heritage sites and Biosphere Reserves, to Global Geoparks and Creative Cities. It is this grassroots nature linked to global standards setting which gives UNESCO its unique character and potential.

UKNC works in partnership locally, nationally and globally:

  • locally, we work with the growing number of UNESCO designated sites and projects in the UK, helping not only to maximise their benefits from membership of UNESCO, but to leverage their work, innovations and local and international networks to help support UNESCO’s aims and objectives
  • nationally, we work with the UK and devolved governments and with our network of experts to help develop policy solutions and provide advice
  • globally, we work with UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris, like-minded member states, the global network of UNESCO National Commissions, and our own international networks to help shape and implement UNESCO’s programmes and activities.



The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is an agency of the UN with specialised expertise in:

  • Education
  • Natural and Physical Sciences
  • Social and Human Sciences
  • Culture
  • Communication and Information

UNESCO acts as a laboratory of ideas, setting international normative standards, building capacity, and acting as a catalyst for international dialogue and co-operation between its Member States.

UNESCO’s mission has been transformed across the last 75 years. Central to its mission today is to use its specialised expertise to address global challenges, and through this work towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as the challenges articulated in the United Nations Common Agenda, as set out in UNESCO’s Medium Term Strategy 2022-29 .

The United Kingdom National Commission for UNESCO (UKNC)

The UKNC is the official body coordinating UNESCO activities in the United Kingdom (including the devolved nations and the 14 UK Overseas Territories and 3 Crown Dependencies) and is a constitutional part of the UK’s membership of UNESCO.

National Commissions play an essential role in the planning and implementation of UNESCO’s programmes. At the country level, they are expected to act as agents for change to accelerate UNESCO’s response to national, regional and global challenges. They secure UNESCO’s presence and visibility within member states and work with other National Commissions to increase capacity and effectiveness.

Our mission as the UK’s National Commission for UNESCO is to continue to be an active, authoritative and influential leader in engaging the UK with UNESCO, and in promoting the UK’s values and interests in UNESCO. This includes supporting UNESCO’s role in achieving the United Nations 2030 Agenda and 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

We are the link between UNESCO, government and civil society. We work to:

  • support the UK’s contribution to UNESCO
  • bring the benefits of UNESCO to the UK
  • demonstrate the value of UNESCO to the UK

We advise government departments on UNESCO programmes and standard setting instruments, and are at the heart of the UNESCO designated sites in the UK (including Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies). 

The UKNC plays an important role in promoting UK interests in UNESCO by working closely with the FCDO, the UK Ambassador to UNESCO and the UK Permanent Delegation at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. We are also an active participant in UNESCO’s unique global network of national cooperating bodies known as National Commissions, working together to support UNESCO Designations and to promote UNESCO values internationally.

Our Strategy

  • Ensure that UNESCO is effective in delivering its contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals
  • Enhance the benefits and increase the visibility of UNESCO across the UK
  • To ensure that the UK is relevant and visible in UNESCO

Our Partners

The UKNC works proactively with partners across the UK and internationally to generate opportunities in support of its mission. Our key partners are:

UK and devolved governments

  • Leverage our expertise and influence to develop strong partnerships across Whitehall departments to promote UNESCO’s values and to strengthen the UK’s position as a force for good internationally. Our primary relationship will be with the FCDO, who provide our core funding
  • Build on our evidence of the value of UNESCO designations, including their economic value, to strengthen our relationships and activities with UK and devolved governments and regional authorities in order to enrich communities across the UK
  • Provide informed advice on policy and other matters relating to UNESCO’s mission. When necessary, we will act as a critical friend reflecting our position as an agency aligned with but independent of UK and devolved governments
  • Communicate effectively to ensure that UK, devolved and regional governments and legislative bodies have a better understanding of UNESCO, the role of the UK in UNESCO and the potential offered by UNESCO membership
  • Represent the UK, or facilitate expert representation, when required at UNESCO meetings, including bodies aligned to UNESCO


  • Support and promote the UK’s values and interests at UNESCO, including the rules-based international system, rights-based agendas, and the value of multilateralism
  • Act as a critical friend to UNESCO, providing advice on policy and programmes, and working with like-minded National Commissions where appropriate
  • Leverage our standing and reputation as a National Commission to influence and build international alliances with like-minded Member States and their National Commissions to achieve progress towards the UN SDGs and defend UNESCO values
  • Seek to be visible and influential, while recognising the shifting dynamics amongst Member States, by: maintaining good relations with other Member States and the UNESCO Secretariat; ensuring representation and a high profile in key UNESCO meetings; and working to promote efficiency, transparency and accountability within UNESCO.

UNESCO designations and sites in the UK

  • Provide advice and quality assurance on applications for and renewal of UNESCO accreditation
  • Promote collaboration between designations, in order to share best practice and provide a forum for advice and representation
  • Work with designations to develop their ability to act as levers for local economic and social benefit and to help meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

Civil society

  • Support designations to play key roles in our relationship with civil society
  • Work with like-minded civil society partners to promote the values and ideals of UNESCO

Funding partners

  • Build relationships with a small number of key partners to enhance our ability to expand our influence and deliver the benefits of UNESCO membership across the UK
  • Work within clear guidelines to ensure that the integrity of UKNC and the focus on its mission is maintained