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UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization – is a specialized UN agency, founded in 1945, and composed of 196 member states. Its headquarters are in Paris. UNESCO also has more than 50 field offices around the world. The preamble to the UNESCO constitution emphasizes the importance of the organization’s mission of peace through intellectual and cultural development and exchange, stating that “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.” For the 2012–2013 biennium, UNESCO had a budget appropriation of US$653 million, with an additional US$541 million in “extra-budgetary resources” (additional funds from sources other than member states’ assessed contributions), for a total budget of US$1.19 billion for the two-year period.

In 2005, under the leadership of the Culture sector, the organization adopted a “Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.” The convention aims “to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions,” and it emphasizes the unique nature of cultural goods and services as “vehicles of identity, values and meaning” (UNESCO 2005). The culture sector also works to promote cultural exchange through modern ‘culture industries,’ including publishing, music, or the Internet, focusing particularly on freedom of expression, cultural diversity, and economic development. For pursuing its goals UNESCO runs five program areas: education, natural sciences, social and human sciences, culture, and communication and information. In monitoring its activities in the communication sector UNESCO created a ‘Observatory on the Information Society,’ established in 1997. Today, reports, statistical data and many other resources are available on the sub-website Communication and Information of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UNESCO 2014).

In the 1970s and 1980s there was significant criticism by several countries about the majority call by UNESCO members for a ‘new world information and communication order’ (NWICO), which was articulated in Belgrade in 1980 at the 21st UNESCO General Conference. The report Many Voices, One World (see MacBride Commission 2004) highlighted many controversial issues that continue to define the north–south divide related to communication and information.


  1. MacBride Commission (2004). Many voices, one world: Towards a new, more just and more efficient world information and communication order, 25th anniversary edn. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.
  2. UNESCO (2005). Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. At https://en.unesco.org/creativity/convention.
  3. UNESCO (2014). UNESCO Institute for Statistics – Communication and Information. At: http://uis.unesco.org/en/methodology/communication-and-information.

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