Protecting human rights at UNESCO framework “UNESCO and human rights”

Οι αρχές κι αξίες στην Εκπαίδευση Μουσείο Ολυμπιακού Αθλητισμού 2017
May 7, 2018
FredMUN 2016
May 7, 2018
Show all

Protecting human rights at UNESCO framework “UNESCO and human rights”

Your Excellencies, ambassadors of 195 member states of UNESCO, Members of the Organizing Committee Colleagues, friends ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you for your warm invitation to speak at the opening ceremony of SimUNESCO. I am honored and at the same time happy to be here with you, a wonderful group of university students from Greece and other parts of the world to discuss issues dealt in the framework of UNESCO.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, is one of the 16 Specialized Agencies of the UN system.

Since its creation in 1945, UNESCO is synonymous with promoting peace and security through international cooperation in education, science culture and information and communication.

UNESCOs’ main activities are impressive. In a world divided in nation-states, is trying to break national boundaries or at least loosen them by creating a constant flow of ideas that will affect the whole world. Its mission forces UNESCO to be in a state of constant alert in order to keep up with the needs of a changing world.

Create schools in Africa, deal with equality in Asia, protecting information and freedom of expression in L.America, protecting monuments in areas of armed conflict, spreading intercultural education and at the same time working in Paris, through different committees whether a monument should be part of the world Heritage of the mankind.

UNESCO spreads its mission through the UNITWIN chairs, through the network of schools of UNESCO, through Centers, clubs, good-will ambassadors and many more.

This simUNESCO you participate is also another way to get to know, adopt, and spread UNESCO’s ideas and mission.

I congratulate you for this effort. In my presentation i will focus on the work of UNESCO on human rights, starting with an information which is not known to all. In 1947 UNESCO created a Committee on the theoretical bases of human rights which included leading intellectuals, philosophers and political scientists. A questionnaire was sent out to all including Mohandas Gandhi and Aldous Huxley, soliciting their opinion on the idea of a UDHR.

Based on their responses, a report was prepared showing that, despite cultural differences, member-states of the UN shared two great principles and common ideals: “the right to live a life free from the haunting fear of poverty and insecurity”. The results of these actions facilitated the adoption of the UDHR in 1948 in Paris, and next day UNESCO proclaimed by a special resolution the importance of this Declaration for all activities of the Organization and undertook to make it know as widely as possible.

Four rights of the UDHR fall within the competence of UNESCO.

  • Right to education (art 26).
  • Right to take part in cultural life (art 27).
  • Right to freedom of opinion and expression including the right to seek, receive and impart information (art 19).
  • Right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications (art 27).

UNESCO has a constitutional mandate to contribute to the promotion of all human rights. At the same time it has special responsibility with regard to certain rights, in particular the right to education, the right to participate in cultural life, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, including the right to seek, receive and impart information, the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its application.

The Organization also has an important role in the promotion and protection of cultural diversity, which is an ethical imperative, inseparable from respect for human dignity and implies commitment to human rights and fundamental freedom. UNESCO protects and promotes cultural heritage in its tangible and intangible expressions. Freedom of expression media pluralism, multilingualism and equal access for all cultures to cultural life, including equal access to knowledge, including its digital form, are all guarantors of cultural diversity, and consequently for respect of human rights. The promotion of the rights of women is a priority for the Organization.

UNESCO has adopted a number of Conventions and Recommendations to accomplish all the above.

In particular,

  1. Rights Relating to Education

The Convention against Discrimination in Education was adopted In 1960. State Parties undertake to eliminate and prevent discrimination at all levels of education. They also undertake to formulate, develop and apply a national educational policy aimed at the promoting of equality of opportunity and treatment in education.

All children should have access to free and compulsory primary education, general accessibility of secondary and higher education, equality of standards of education in all public education institutions of the same level, encouragement and intersification of education of persons who have not completed their primary education and nondiscrimination in training for the teaching profession.

The states also agree to certain standards concerning the following: the aims of education, which include the full development of the human personality; the strengthening of respect for human rights; the promotion of international understanding, tolerance and friendship among national, racial or religious groups; the liberty of parents to choose private or religious institutions in order to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their convictions, but without compelling anyone to receive religious instruction inconsistent with his or her convictions; and the rights of minorities to carry out their own educational activities.

This Convention became more effective in 1962 with the adoption of the Protocol Instituting a Conciliation and Good offices Commission to be Responsible for Seeking for the Settlement of any Disputes which may arise between states parties to the Convention against discrimination in Education.

A number of regional conventions were adopted on Recognition of Studies, Diplomas and Degrees in Higher Education in L. American and the Caribbean (1974), in Arab and European States around the Mediterranean (1976), in Arab States (1978), in European region (1979), in African states (1981), in Asia and Pacific (1983), in European Region (1997).

The Convention on Technical and Vocational Education (in 1989) aims to contribute to the achievements of society’s goals of greater democratization and social cultural and economic development through technical and vocational education which should be directed to abolishing barriers between levels and areas of education between education  and employment, between school and society.

Special reference is made to equality of access of men and women to such education, forms of education to disable people, participation of representatives of various segments of society in policy formulation on local and national levels, equal standards of quality in different educational streams in order to exclude possible discrimination between them.

A number of Recommendations completes the protection and promotion of the right to education, with one concerning the Status of Teachers (1966) and another one of the Development of Adult Education and life-long education (1976).



  1. Rights relating to Science

UNESCOS’s role becomes, in large part, a matter of developing scientific education, of promoting the formulation and application of policies, and of improving planning and financing in the fields of science and technology. At the same time as it carries out large-scale programs relating to science policy and application of science and technology to development, UNESCO is concerned with the human rights problems of the men and women who devote their life to science.

The Recommendation on the Status of Scientific Researchers of 1974 provides that Member States should seek to encourage the conditions in which scientific researchers have the responsibility and the right:

  1. to work in a spirit of intellectual freedom to pursue, expound and defend the scientific truth as they see it;
  2. to contribute to the definition of the aims and objectives of the programmes in which they are engaged;
  3. to express themselves freely on the human, social or ecological value of certain projects;
  4. to contribute positively and constructively to the fabric of science, culture and education in their own country.

Another matter which may give rise to human rights problems concerns freedom to publish. So,

  1. scientific researchers be at liberty and encouraged to publish the results of their work
  2. to minimize the restrictions placed upon scientific researchers’ right to publish their findings.

Other provisions concern copyright, communication with colleagues throughout the world, rights of workers and a number of other aspects of the rights of this particular category of person, whose protection is important for the realization of all rights relating to science.

  1. Rights Relating to Culture

Cultural rights concern the most fundamental aspects of the relationship between people and their society, aspects which determine the very identity of the people and the potential within that society. Cultural rights are, moreover, all independent and closely connected to other economic and social rights, as well as to certain civil and political rights.

The Declaration of Principles of International Cultural Cooperation, 1966, in article 1 proclaims that:

  1. Each culture has a dignity and value which must be respected and preserved.
  2. Every people has the right and the duty to develop its culture.
  3. In their rich variety and diversity and in the reciprocal influences they exert on one another, all cultures from part of the common heritage belonging to all mankind.

Participation in cultural life and use the benefits of scientific progress is possible only if there is an effective protection of copyright. For this reason, in 1952 UNESCO adopted the Universal Copyright Convention, with Protocols 1+2+3, which was revised in 1971 with 2 Protocols.

Cultural Rights means preservation of cultural heritage, cultural property, preserving certain monuments, sites, buildings, manuscripts and collections of books and archives from destruction or damage in time of armed conflict, as well as from theft, pillage or vandalism. Here are some of the most well known Conventions of UNESCO adopted to preserve cultural right of the world.

  • Convention for the Protection of Producers of Photographs against Unauthorized Duplication of their Photographs of 1971
  • Multilateral Convention for the Avoidance of Double Taxation of Copyright Royalties with model bilateral agreement and additional Protocol of 1979
  • Convention for the protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Arrived Conflict with regulation for the Execution of the Convention, at 1954, with two Protocols, 1999
  • Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970)
  • Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972)
  • Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage (2001)
  • Convention for the safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003)
  • Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expression (2005)

Based on these Conventions UNESCO has created the list of the World Heritage of the mankind, among which is the old town of Corfu.



  1. Rights relating to Communication

Art 1,2a of UNESCO Constitution states that member states will collaborate in the work of advancing the mutual knowledge and understanding of peoples through all means of mass communication and to that end recommend such international agreement as may be necessary to promote the free flow of ideas by word and image.

The Organization quickly set about preparing such agreements known as the Agreement for Facilitating the International Circulation of Visual and Auditory Materials of an Educational, Scientific and Cultural Character extended through a protocol relating to new materials resulting from technological advances.

One of the most striking technological advances in communication since the creation of UNESCO has been the development of satellite broadcasting and its application to the diffusion of knowledge and information. The matter had been taken up by the United Nations in the early 1960’s and the principle was proclaimed that communication by means of satellites should be available as soon as practicable on a global and undiscriminatory basis. The United Nations invited UNESCO to direct its attention to the problems which arise in this regard in its fields of competence. In 1972, the Declaration of Guiding Principles on the Use of Satellite Broadcasting for the Free Flow of Information, the Spread of Education and Greater Cultural Exchange was adopted.

Among the salient features of The Declaration are nondiscrimination as to the availability to all countries of the benefits of satellite broadcasting, factual accuracy of information broadcast, the rights of States to determine the content of educational programmes broadcast, the promotion through such broadcasting of international understanding and respect for others, and cooperation to achieve the objectives of the Declaration. The Declaration concludes by stating that its principles “shall be applied with due regard for human rights and fundamental freedoms”. It stated also, “that information is an essential part of a nation’s resources and access to it is one of the basic human rights”.

Starting its program on communication policy, UNESCO begun a series of regional conferences all over the world, and after examining the problems of the development modern communication system adopted a Declaration and a number of recommendations, including human rights principles, like the right of access to all cultural property and the right to free and democratic participation in various forms of expression; the duty to use means of communication for peaceful purposes; the joint responsibility of the State and of its citizens to set up programmes for the broad and positive use of means of communication within the framework of development policy; the need to base national communication policy on national realities, freedom of expression and respect for individual and social rights.

It followed the Declaration of Fundamental Principles governing the Use of Mass Media in Strengthening Peace and International Understanding in comparing War Propaganda, Racism and Apartheid, as well as a number of Conventions Protecting the Performers, Producers of Programs and Broadcasting Organization in order to protect their rights. Also the Convention relating to the Distribution of Programs carrying signals transmitted by Satellite.

How these conventions and Recommendations protecting all these rights are implemented?

The classical method is by Reports. Every state party submits a report to the Organization, informing on the action taken upon recommendation and Conventions (in due time) to give effect on the content of the above.

Comments made by the General Conference on these reports, are transmitted not only to member states, but also to the UN, to National Commissions and to any other authorities specified by the General Conference.

In two Conventions, on Discrimination in Education and the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Eve of Armed Conflict, UNESCO has foreseen a Conciliation and Good offices Commission responsible of seeking the settlement of any disputes which may arise among state parties.

Apart from these Commissions, UNESCO created in collaboration with ILO the Joint Committee on experts on the Application of the Recommendation concerning the States of Teachers (1966).

Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

All these Conventions and Recommendations of UNESCO, all this effort to promote and protect human rights has been implemented by almost all member states and are now part of our everyday life.

I tried to show you in brief the important role of UNESCO in one field: Human rights, you can imagine its work on other fields. And consequently you can imagine the unique work of the other 15 Specialized Agencies of the UN system.

International protection of Human Rights as well international law has been for years now part of our everyday life, we enjoy it without realizing its importance, role and dynamic.

Knowing UNESCO and its work, you open your horizons to many opportunities for future careers. You have to take this opportunity to study more about the work of UNESCO, extent your knowledge, do research, learn its goals, and go ahead. In this globalized world, you all have a lot to offer to yourselves, to your country, to the world.

Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher said that we have to decorate our cities with monuments and our souls with knowledge and SimUNESCO offers you knowledge.

So, have a successful Model simUNESCO, and conquer the world!!



Ionian University

Corfu, 18/08/2017







Leave a Reply