There are many ways to understand UNESCO. You should find it useful in the future to consciously study organizations in which you work and with which you deal based on the different facets with which we view UNESCO.
Among the ways we can understand UNESCO are:
- UNESCO’s Mission: UNESCO's constitution sets forth its mission, and nations join UNESCO accepting that constitution. UNESCO's governing bodies and Secretariat are bound by it. You will find that many components of UNESCO, such as the World Heritage Center, also have internationally agreed formal mission statements.
- The Organization’s programs and budget: This information is publicly available, and you will not understand the organization without understanding the resources it controls and how they are allocated and used. It is especially important to understand the different sources of funding and the restrictions that they impose on the Organization.
- UNESCO’s organizational structure and procedures: The standard methods of organization theory help in understanding the organization. UNESCO’s organization is quite complex; its procedures are similar to those of some other intergovernmental organizations but may seem quite strange at first if you do not have experience with United Nations decentralized agencies.
- The staff and the norms of the international civil service: Think about a multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-ethnic group of people, located in 60 different countries, with different professional backgrounds, working under a civil service system, and trying to get anything done!
- The Organization’s governance: UNESCO has an especially unwieldy governance structure, which creates many problems. It was designed to have a powerful Director General elected by the member states, and not all Directors General have been great leaders.
- UNESCO’s accomplishments and failures: You may learn even more about the organization by understanding where and why it has failed than by reviewing its successes.
- The historic evolution of the Organization: UNESCO was not designed, it "grew like Topsy". It helps to understand when and how the accretions to its program occurred. Otherwise you will not understand how sports doping fits in the Social and Human Sciences program, why UNESCO rather that the International Energy Agency does UNESCO's energy program, or why UNESCO has a strong emphasis on HIV/AIDS rather than leaving that health problem to the World Health Organization.
- The linkages to UNESCO's constituents -- the educational, scientific, cultural and other constituent communities both within member nations and on a global scale.
- The politics of UNESCO within member nations: In the United States, UNESCO is politically controversial, and that is true in other nations. This is important in terms of the donors and in terms of developing nations where UNESCO's functions sometimes as a development assistance agency.
- As one among many intergovernmental organizations: As the complexity of the web of international organizations has evolved, the role of UNESCO within that web has changed.
- As affected by the great trends of history: UNESCO has changed with the Cold War, Decolonization, Globalization, the fall of Communism, etc.
- In terms of the challenges that UNESCO faces in the foreseeable future, as its governing bodies and Secretariat seek to prepare the Organization to meet those challenges.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
I coordinate a graduate seminar focused on UNESCO. We seek to help students to understand the organization and its place in the complex, evolving and expanding web of intergovernmental organizations. If transportation and information technological development continues to drive improvements in global infrastructures, globalization will continue and global institutions will evolve in response to the trends. I believe people in their 20's will live in a world with a much more elaborate web of intergovernmental organizations. Here is a summary of a suggestion I made to the students: