UNESCO is an Obama Election-Year Priority


President Obama released his FY2013 State Department budget document which includes a line item request for UNESCO.  The document indicates that the Department of State will continue to work with Congress to seek legislation that “would provide authority to waive restrictions on paying the U.S. assessed contributions to UNESCO.”

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) promotes literacy initiatives and access to quality education and communications technologies. UNESCO conducts education programs in over 46 countries, including teacher training and programs focused on women and girls. UNESCO is leading the Education for All initiative, which helps countries focus on achieving six education goals, including enrollment in primary education, youth and adult literacy, and early childhood education. UNESCO’s goal of promoting access to quality educational opportunities for children is fundamental to U.S. ideals and the advancement of personal, economic, and political freedom. [Strategic Goal 3 – promote well-being]

UNESCO promotes free and independent media, respect for human rights, and universal values of justice,  freedom, and human dignity. UNESCO supports the preservation of cultural and natural heritage, as well as endangered languages and folklife. UNESCO also supports journalists covering elections and conflicts in many regions of the world. [Strategic Goal 3 – promote respect for human rights]

UNESCO promotes sustainable development through its programs in the natural sciences sector, which utilize satellite data for the management of natural resources including ecosystems and coastal environments; it also promotes capacity-building in the science and engineering fields, including biotechnology and fresh water research and management. UNESCO’s programs help nations develop and maintain the infrastructure necessary to support economic growth. [Strategic Goal 3 – promote sustainable economic growth]

UNESCO promotes international understanding by offering curriculum materials, sponsoring workshops, and ministry-level guidance on civic education, human rights education, and inclusive education. By fostering inclusive education, UNESCO promotes democratic values and undercuts extremism by offering a positive alternative message. [Strategic Goal 6 – advance U.S. interests through public diplomacy]

Recent accomplishments by UNESCO include: 

• Created a new UNESCO Global Partnership for Girls’ and Women’s Education, which promotes education throughout all phases of life. This initiative brings together governments, civil society, private sector donors, to strengthen women and girls’ education with a particular focus on literacy and secondary education. 

• Established the International Institute of Peace (IIP) as a UNESCO Category 2 Center at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Co-founded by UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Forest Whitaker, IIP will focus on promoting a global culture and practice of peace through training in conflict prevention and negotiation. 

Continued the Teacher Training Initiative in sub-Saharan Africa, a program designed to improve teacher training in the region. The program is focused on improving the relevance of the curriculum and targeted the disadvantaged through non-formal education programs. 

• Created new public-private partnerships with Nokia and other companies to strengthen existing Education for All and UN Literacy Decade initiatives. These partnerships increase UNESCO’s capacity to deploy and monitor literacy and education programs. 

• Strengthened its Holocaust Education program, which develops curriculum materials, connects teacher and administrators with resources, and advises member states on how to best implement Holocaust Education programs. 

• Provided training and assistance in support of independent media in Southeast Europe, Angola, the Great Lakes Region of Africa, the Middle East, East Timor, and Afghanistan, including training and guidance on covering elections and journalist safety. 

Current and future priorities include: 

• Creating new public-private partnerships to advance science education and increase access to quality education through information and communication technologies. 

• Strengthening teacher training, textbooks, and curricula to promote education consistent with democratic ideals and undercut hate and extremism, including anti-racism education and Holocaust Education. UNESCO’s influence in education and cultural establishments of developing countries, especially in the Middle East, advances U.S. counter-terrorism objectives. 

• Promoting democracy and human rights, including in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other post-conflict countries, through civic education programs and local media development programs committed to the free flow and exchange of information. 

Management Transparency, Accountability, and Reform 

In 2011, the Independent External Evaluation (IEE) ad hoc committee made recommendations for the implementation five Strategic Directions identified in the 2010 IEE report. These recommendations address narrowing the programmatic focus, strengthening the field network, improving coordination and collaboration with other organizations, defining the division of labor within UNESCO, and developing a strategic partnership strategy. UNESCO received approval from the General Conference to begin implementing the first phase of the decentralization strategy, which aims to streamline the field network and encourage greater collaboration among field offices. UNESCO has also begun to implement a new human resources management strategy for 2011-2016. The HR strategy is comprised of three core objectives: improve the delivery capacity of UNESCO, strengthen the field presence, and human resources planning. 

UNESCO provides a forum for advancing U.S. commitments to promoting education and literacy for women and girls in developing countries, science diplomacy, press freedom, and cultural heritage. In the education sector, UNESCO has been instrumental in promoting the use of measurable results in literacy and education programs and promoting effective and continuous evaluation of education programs. UNESCO’s programs in the natural sciences provide opportunities for the U.S. to work with partners on common goals in the areas of water resource management, tsunami warning and mitigation systems, ocean observation and marine research, and science education and capacity-building. Membership at UNESCO enables the United States to engage fully in the 1972 World Heritage Convention that recognizes and protects the world’s outstanding natural and cultural heritage, including 21 World Heritage Sites in the United States. UNESCO’s work in calling attention to the killing and jailing of journalists, as well as its efforts to ensure the freedom of the Internet, help focus international scrutiny on those governments which regularly practice media censorship in order to prevent information from reaching their citizens. U.S. companies such as Google, Apple, and Microsoft are partnering with UNESCO to advance core American values including press freedom and access to education. 

Download the PDF “U.S. State Department on UNESCO“.


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