Context: UN cultural and scientific agency UNESCO announced that the United States is planning to re-join and pay more than $600mn in back dues after a decade long dispute sparked by the organisations move to include Palestine as a member. The decision was motivated by the concern that China is filling the gap left by US in UNESCO policy making. The US and Israel have stopped funding UNESCO after it voted to include Palestine as a member state in 2011 and Trump administration in 2017 decided to withdraw citing Anti-Israel bias and management issues . Before leaving the US contributed 22% of the total funding to UNESCO.

History of UNESCO

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As early as 1942, in wartime, the governments of the European countries, which were confronting Nazi Germany and its allies, met in the United Kingdom for the Conference of Allied Ministers of Education (CAME). World War II was far from over, yet those countries were looking for ways and means to rebuild their education systems once peace was restored.

Upon the proposal of CAME, a United Nations Conference for the establishment of an educational and cultural organization (ECO/CONF) was convened in London in November 1945.

Purpose of UNESCO

  • UNESCO was originally founded to focus on rebuilding schools, libraries, and museums that had been destroyed in Europe during World War 2. Since then its activities have been mainly facilitative, aimed at assisting, supporting, and complementing the national efforts of member states to eliminate illiteracy and to extend free education.
  • In 1972 UNESCO sponsored an international agreement to establish a World Heritage List of cultural sites and natural areas that would enjoy government protection. The sites are designated as having “outstanding universal value” under the Convention concerning the protection of the World Cultural and Natural heritage  Sites include hundreds of historic buildings and town sites, important archaeological sites, and works of monumental sculpture or painting.

UNESCO’s Areas of Specialization


Membership of UNESCO

  • Membership of UNESCO is governed by Articles II and XV of the Constitution and by rules 98 to 101 of the Rules of Procedure of the General Conference
  •  Membership of the United Nations carries with it the right to membership of UNESCO. 
  • States that are not members of United Nations may be admitted to UNESCO, upon recommendation of the Executive Board, by a two-thirds majority vote of the General Conference. 
  • All Member States have established a National Commission for UNESCO. The UNESCO National Commissions are national cooperating bodies set up by the Member States for the purpose of associating their governmental and non-governmental bodies with the work of the Organization.
  • UNESCO gets its funding from contributions by member states, voluntary contributions, fundraising, and other, smaller sources of funding
  • Top three contributors being China, Japan and Germany presently.
  • UNESCO is funded by two principal means.  The first is a core budget based upon assessed contributions. This core budget is allocated to the biennial programme as agreed at the General Conference.  Each member state pays a percentage of the overall agreed budget, based upon their overall burden share set for the United Nations family of organisations as a whole.  This project covers the payment of the UK share, which is a legal obligation for members. 
  • Funding specifically for the conservation of World Heritage Sites includes the World Heritage Fund, composed of obligatory contributions from member countries and voluntary contributions, as well as publications and funds-in-trust donated by countries that have particular goals in mind.

World Heritage Fund

The fund  provides about US$4 million annually to support activities requested by States Parties in need of International assistance. It includes compulsory and voluntary contributions from the States Parties, as well as from private donations.

Rapid Response Facility

The Rapid Response Facility is a small grants programme jointly operated by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, the United Nations Foundation and Fauna & Flora International. It aims to protect natural World Heritage sites in times of crisis – and to do so quickly, flexibly and in real time.


  • Global Education Monitoring Report
  • Global Ocean Science Report
  • UNESCO State of Education Report for India: Children with Disabilities
  • World Trend in freedom of expression and media development

India and UNESCO

  • India joined the organisation in 1946 and currently participates in 19 of its conventions.
  • There are 40 UNESCO World Heritage Sites In India which belongs to cultural, natural and mixed slides.

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