Organizations abound the world over and they promote various objectives from agreements on free trade and commerce, cultural exchange, peace and security, and other worthwhile endeavors. One organization that can be deemed as primus inter-pares amongst all organizations globally is the United Nations (UN), whose membership includes close to 200 nations across the world and the overall objective thereof is the promotion and facilitation of international law, security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace. Like any other major bureaucracy, the UN fulfills its mandate through the various agencies and sub-organizations under its auspices. Depending upon the specific thrusts or objectives, bodies under the UN will spearhead the implementation and fulfillment of these missions and goals.
In the milieu where the 'mission is to contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information (UNESCO 2011),' the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization or UNESCO is at the forefront in seeing to fruition this mission. Although the mission of UNESCO may be overwhelming, there have been positive results to UNESCO's initiatives since its inception and the agency continually stands first in the realization of its objectives.
History of UNESCO
The United Nations came into being as a replacement of its predecessor, the League of Nations, and this occurred in October 1945 immediately following World War II. The key reasons for the establishment of the United Nations were to avert the occurrence of wars amongst nations and to have a platform where international dialogues can be accomplished. But long before the United Nations came into being especially when 'the Second World War was far from over, [there were] countries looking for ways and means to reconstruct their systems of education once peace was restored (UNESCO 2011).' Dialogues and conferences were held and the proponents were 'the governments of the European countries, which were confronting Nazi Germany and its allies, [who] met in the United Kingdom for the Conference of Allied Ministers of Education (CAME) (UNESCO 2011).' When World War II ended, CAME became the resounding voice in the newly created United Nations. Upon the proposal of CAME, a United Nations Conference for the establishment of an educational and cultural organization (ECO/CONF) was convened in London from 1 to 16 November 1945 (UNESCO 2011).' The result of the conference saw the creation of UNESCO, an organization within the United Nations 'that would embody a genuine culture of peace (UNESCO 2011).'
Aside from the contributions provided by CAME in the establishment of UNESCO, there were other bodies or organizations that UNESCO can also traced its origins. These other main predecessors of UNESCO were (UNESCO 2011):
The International Committee of Intellectual Co-operation (CICI), Geneva 1922-1946, and its executing agency, the International Institute of Intellectual Co-operation (IICI), Paris, 1925-1946;
The International Bureau of Education (IBE), Geneva, 1925-1968; since 1969 IBE has been part of the UNESCO Secretariat under its own statutes.
Without a doubt, UNESCO came into being not only during the occurrences during the early 1940s up to its inception but rather there were major events happening decades before. These contributed a great deal in the realization of the philosophy, objectives, and strategies of UNESCO from the moment it was founded in 16 November 1945 up until how it fulfills its vision and mission despite the challenges of the present times.
Philosophy and Objectives
The charter creating UNESCO in 1945 was the result of the lessons learned from the events that led to World War II and even those that occurred during this dark period of humanity. Thus, the creation of the UN and the succeeding foundation of UNESCO took the lessons to heart by way of having a venue of avoiding war through peaceful means by way of imparting knowledge and understanding. The philosophy behind UNESCO has been clearly stated in Article I of its charter (UNCESCO 2011):
The purpose of the Organization is to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among the nations through education, science and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion, by the Charter of the United Nations.
To realize the philosophy and purpose of the organization, specific objectives have been spelled out in the UNESCO charter (UNESCO 2010):
Attaining quality education for all and lifelong learning;
Mobilizing science knowledge and policy for sustainable development;
Addressing emerging social and ethical challenges;
Fostering cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and a culture of peace;
Building inclusive knowledge societies through information and communication
Examining in depth the philosophy, purpose, function and objectives of UNESCO, it is apparent that the organization has a broad mandate and encompasses several areas from the scientific, cultural to information and communication. Amongst the various agencies and sub-organizations in the United Nations, UNESCO can be considered to have a wider reach and broader mandate. The organization does touch several sectors of societies and nations and to ensure achievement of its objectives, there is no doubt that the strategies formulated by UNESCO are those that ensure success and compliance with the raison d'etre of its existence. Thus UNESCO's unique competencies in education, the sciences, culture and communication and information contribute towards the realization of those goals (UNESCO 2010).
Strategies to Achieve Vision and Mission
Fulfilling any organizational vision and mission does not happen in a vacuum; instead, there has to be plans and programs in place. These plans and programs are developed through several strategic planning and development endeavors and the final result will be the strategies needed to achieve operational, tactical and operational goals. All organizations undergo this activity on a regular basis and the strategies can cover short, medium and long periods. For UNESCO, it 'adopts every six years a medium-term strategy, which sets out the strategic objectives and expected outcomes for the Organization's work (UNESCO 2010).' The latest strategy documentation of UNESCO covers the period 2008 to 2013. With a fivefold objective as listed in the previous section, each of these objectives has a corresponding strategy to realize achievement thereto. Aside from aligning its strategies to the five objectives, UNESCO also formulates its strategies based on the five established functions it has (UNESCO 2008):
laboratory of ideas standard-setter;
capacity-builder in Member States in UNESCO's fields of competence; and catalyst for international cooperation.
Based on the five functions the organization has, UNESCO not only is a vehicle in the promotion of peace, security and understanding on a global basis but is also a knowledge center that promotes knowledge and understanding to improve global conditions by meeting its vision, mission and objectives.
In terms of the current strategies that UNESCO has, the focus of the organization for the period 2008 to 2013 'shall accord priority to Africa and to gender equality in all its fields of competence throughout the duration of the Medium-Term Strategy (UNESCO 2008).' The effort may seem to have left out the rest of the world considering the global mandate of UNESCO. But the reason for a major strategic thrust in the African continent is because of the number of least developed nations in this particular region suffering from the ravages of draught, famine, corruption, civil wars and other man-caused problems and natural disasters. This is not to say though that UNESCO will completely forego other regions; the organization will be focusing majority of its resources in a region of the world that needs its services the most. The other regions will still have plans and programs appropriate to their levels of needs and requirements. The main strategies for Africa to achieve organizational objectives can be summed up into three main categories (UNESCO 2010):
Implementation of the Second Decade of Education for Africa (2006-2015)
Coordinated action on African languages, the African diaspora and African arts and culture;
A consolidated Plan of Action on Science and Technology implemented by the African Man and the Biosphere network (AfriMAB); and A joint African position and specific decisions on climate change and the creation of an Observatory for Science based in Africa.
As earlier mentioned, although UNESCO's current medium strategy has more focus on the African region, the global landscape has also specific strategies and these cover (UNESCO 2010):
Gender Equality -- continuing to be at the forefront of efforts to support women's and girls' rights, empowerment, and gender equality through all its domains: education, the natural sciences, culture, communication and information
Climate Change -- finding solutions to mitigate its negative impacts and adapt to changing conditions requires an approach that unites sound, unbiased science with a range of environmental, economic, informational, social, attitudinal and behavioural factors
Young People -- promoting the civic engagement of young people as means of empowerment and preventing violence