Founded in 1945, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is a specialised agency of the United Nations which aims to contribute to peace and security in the world by promoting collaboration among nations through its five fields of competence: Education, Natural Sciences, Social & Human Sciences, Culture and Communication & Information.

The broad goals and concrete objectives of the international community – as set out in the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – underpin all UNESCO’s strategies and activities.

UNESCO’s has two global priorities: Africa and Gender equality.

Other key thematic areas of UNESCO’s programmes include; Youth, HIV & AIDS and Gender.

The UNESCO Headquarters is in Paris, France. Kenya hosts the UNESCO Multi-Sectoral Regional Office for Eastern Africa.


The General Conference consists of the representatives of the States Members of the Organization. It meets every two years, and is attended by Member States and Associate Members, together with observers for non-Member States, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The General Conference determines the policies and the main lines of work of the Organization. Its duty is to set the programmes and the budget of UNESCO. It also elects the Members of the Executive Board and appoints, every four years, the Director-General.

Kenya twice presided over the General Conference. In 1976 the late Taaita Toweett presided over the 19th Session of the UNESCO General Conference. That year, General Conference was held in Nairobi, Kenya; a rare decision in the history of the General Conference. In 1991 Prof. Bethwell Allan Ogot presided over its 26th Session held at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France.


The Executive Board prepares the work of the General Conference and sees that its decisions are properly implemented. Every two years the General Conference assigns specific tasks to the Board. Other functions stem from agreements concluded between UNESCO and the United Nations, the specialized agencies and other intergovernmental organizations.

Its 58 members are elected by the General Conference. The Executive Board meets at least twice a year.


UNESCO has 195 Member States and 9 Associated Member States.

Most Member States have established Permanent Delegations to UNESCO which are headed by Ambassadors/Permanent Delegates. Member States have also 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.


In UNESCO’s Medium-Term Strategy for 2008-2013, the Organization’s two global priorities are Gender Equality and Africa. 

UNESCO is committed to a series of actions to support women’s empowerment, women’s rights and gender equality in Member States. UNESCO’s gender mainstreaming approach ensures that women and men benefit equally from programme and policy support.  More on Gender Equality

Made a priority in 1999 by the then Director General, Mr. Koïchiro Matsuura, priority Africa’s goal is not only to bolster the Organization’s support to African Member States, but also to build strong relations with the rich network of African regional and sub-regional organizations.