UNESCO: A view of the Symbolic Globe by Erik Reitzel at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France.

LAGOS/Nigeria: The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) logo illuminating against the Eiffel Tower on Friday commemorated the agency’s 75th anniversary.

But not far from the World Heritage Site monument in France, more than 20 Heads of State participated in a special ceremony to mark the occasion at the agency’s headquarters in Paris.

In a video message to the event, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, noted that “UNESCO was born as a pillar of the United Nations system, in the wake of one of the darkest chapters in human history”.

“For more than 75 years,  UNESCO has promoted dialogue and mutual understanding. World Heritage sites, Biosphere Reserves…emerged at UNESCO,” he said.

During a time of great inequalities, environmental crises, polarization and a global pandemic, the UN chief upheld that UNESCO’s role is “more critical than ever.’’

“UNESCO’s role is more critical than ever….to restore trust and solidarity…greater access to education for all, [to] promote cultural diversity, and steer technological progress for the greater good”.

Working with a diverse set of partners, Guterres said, UNESCO was forging a new social contract for education and lifelong learning.

The agency was also developing new tools to combat hate speech and misinformation while launching flagship initiatives in Iraq and Lebanon, using education and heritage to heal and rebuild.

For the secretary-general, each of these efforts “speak to UNESCO’s importance at the centre of a more networked, inclusive and effective multilateralism, that delivers tangible benefits for people across the world”.

Audrey Azoulay, the newly re-elected director-general of UNESCO, said that the UN agency was established “based on a strong conviction … that peace should be established upon the foundation of the intellectual and moral solidarity of humanity.”

She highlighted the role of UNESCO, noting it played as an “essential tool” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

UNESCO’s General Conference underway in Paris until November 24 is also marking the anniversary.

During the event, the 193 Member States are poised to take landmark decisions, including adopting global recommendations on the ethics of artificial intelligence and another on open science.

Earlier this week, during the event, UNESCO hosted a Global Education Meeting and published the Futures of Education Report.

A new exhibition that can be seen online or at the agency’s headquarters, tells the story of UNESCO’s endeavours to understand, preserve and convey the best of humanity.

According to a note on the agency’s website, the UN cultural agency was born in the aftermath of two world wars out of the conviction that political and economic arrangements between States are not enough to build lasting peace.


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