This year marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations and this week a high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly is being convened to reaffirm Member States collective commitment to multilateralism under the title, ‘The Future We Want, the UN We Need’.
Earlier in 2020, the UN launched a global consultation where “people from all walks of life were asked about their hopes and fears for the future, their priorities for international cooperation and for the United Nations in particular”. Over 1 million people responded worldwide with key findings captured in a report. As may be expected amidst the current pandemic, the immediate priority of respondents was improved access to basic services: water, sanitation, healthcare and education. Looking over a 25-year horizon, our “inability to stem the climate crisis” and “destruction of the natural environment” were respondents’ overwhelming concerns. At the core to these immediate and longer-term concerns is water.
UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Formed in London as World War Two ended, it seeks to “build peace through international cooperation in Education, the Sciences and Culture”. Since signing of the Organization’s constitution on 16 November 1945, the UK had played an active role in UNESCO’s programmes and initiatives. UNESCO is perhaps most synonymous with World Heritage Sites (e.g. Ironbridge Gorge, Giant’s Causeway) and its Creative Cities’ (e.g. Dundee, Bristol); and UK engagement with the Organisation creates £151 million of financial benefit to local communities each year. However, you may be unaware that UNESCO is the only UN agency with a specific mandate for science – the “S”? UNESCO promotes science for evidence-based policy and education.