The Paris-based organisation is one of the 15 legally independent specialized agencies operating under the United Nations system. UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) was established in London in November 1945 by 37 countries that were convinced that education and knowledge as well as knowledge about each other may prevent the outbreak of another war. The guiding principle of UNESCO is enshrined in the preamble to its constitution: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed”. 

By promoting international cooperation in the fields of education, science, culture and communication, UNESCO aims to contribute to eliminating poverty, building peace and security and promoting sustainable development and intercultural dialogue. Because the lessons learned from the experiences of the Second World War clearly show “that a peace based exclusively upon the political and economic arrangements of governments would not be a peace which could secure the unanimous, lasting and sincere support of the peoples of the world, and that the peace must therefore be founded, if it is not to fail, upon the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind”. 

Today UNESCO has 195 Members and 9 Associate Members. Since 2009, Irina Bokova from Bulgaria has headed the Organization as Director-General.

In its programmes UNESCO focuses in particular on two global priorities:

  • Africa and
  • gender equality

 as well as on a number of overarching objectives including:

  • attaining quality education for all and promoting 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, and 
  • building inclusive knowledge societies. 

Austria has been a member of UNESCO since 13 August 1948. The Austrian membership contribution to UNESCO of USD 1.1 million and EUR 1.3 million annually (as of 2014) equals 0.798% of the Organization’s regular budget.

 At the UNESCO General Conference held on 2 November 2011 an overwhelming majority of Member States elected Austria to serve a four year term on the UNESCO Executive Board, the Organization’s supreme governing body composed of 58 members. Moreover, Austria is an elected member of the Human Rights Committee, The Committee on Non-governmental Partners as well as the Intergovernmental Council for the Information for All Programme (IFAP). Since June 2013, Austria has been an elected member of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.