UNESCO Overview


UNESCO is the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. It currently comprises 193 Member States and seven Associate Member States.

UNESCO works to create the conditions for dialogue among civilisations, cultures and peoples, based upon respect for commonly shared values. It is through this dialogue that the world can achieve global visions of sustainable development encompassing observance of human rights, mutual respect and the alleviation of poverty, all of which are at the heart of UNESCO’s mission and activities.

UNESCO’s mission is to:

“contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information”

The Organisation focuses, in particular, on two global priorities:

  • Africa
  • Gender Equality

And on a number of overarching objectives:

  • Attaining quality education for all
  • Mobilising science knowledge and policy for sustainable development
  • Addressing emerging social and ethical challenges

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UNITWIN is the abbreviation for the University Twinning and Networking Programme.

Through UNITWIN, UNESCO matches colleges, universities and research institutions in industrialised countries with counterparts in developing countries to share information and knowledge in areas of need in the development context. Scholars who participate are often linked through websites and portals, in addition to loaned faculty positions, training and conferences.

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UNITWIN and the UNESCO Chairs

The UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme advances research, training and programme development in higher education by building university networks and encouraging inter‑university co‑operation. Established in 1992, today over 600 UNESCO Chairs and 60 UNITWIN Networks are established within the Programme involving over 750 institutions in 131 countries.

UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Network projects undertake training, research, information sharing and outreach activities in UNESCO major programme areas: education; natural sciences; social and human sciences; culture; and communication and information.

The majority of UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Network projects are interdisciplinary and intersectoral. Under its new strategic orientations for the Programme, UNESCO is creating a new generation of relevant, strategic and dynamic UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Networks closely aligned with the Organisation’s programme objectives and priorities.

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Our UNESCO Chair

University of Ulster

Professor Alan Smith
Professor Alan Smith

The UNESCO Chair in Education for Pluralism, Human Rights and Democracy, held by Professor Alan Smith, is located in the School of Education.

Established formally in 1999 the Chair has a programme of work in Education for Pluralism, Human Rights and Democracy.

Building on from the work of the Chair, the UNESCO Centre was founded in 2001 and has, for the past ten years, engaged in research, development and teaching in the areas of: Children and Youth; Education, Health and Well‑Being; and Conflict and International Development.

For more detailed information on the work of the Chair can be found in ‘The Chair’ section of our website.

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Bridge Building

As members of the UNESCO international education network, UNESCO Chair holders are encouraged to act as “bridge builders” by establishing and sustaining dynamic links between the academic world, civil society, local communities and policy‑makers.

Our strong links with service delivery organisations such as Public Achievement in Northern Ireland and Foroige in Ireland, allied to our international relationships with UNESCO and UNICEF, are testament to our belief in forging strong synergies between research and practice in partnerships which directly impact on and imrove the lives of young people across Ireland and around the world.

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