A History of UNESCO; UNESCO reference works; 1995

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  • A H I S T O R YO F

    U N E S C OF e rn a n d o Va l d e r ra m a

    U N E S C O R e f e r e n c e B o o k s

    U N E S C O P u b l i s h i n g

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  • Published in 1995 by the United Nations Educational,Scientific and Cultural Organization,7, place de Fontenoy, 75352 Paris 07 SP (France)Printed by Presses Universitaires de France, Vendme

    ISBN 92-3 -103134-1

    UNESCO 1995Printed in France

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  • To the founders of UNESCO, those inspired builders who, in creating thisOrganization, set out to construct the defences of peace in the minds. of men.

    And to its Directors-General, successive heirs to this undertakingaccomplished with dedication and enthusiasm., from Julian Huxley, its firstchampion, to Federico Mayor committed to the consolidation of its ideals.

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  • Preface

    Why a history of UNESCO?

    History, it has been said, really begins where the memory of living generationsends with our grandparents. Before that, there can only be chronicles, stories,eye-witness reports and accounts of personal experience, which maybe suspectedof partiality.

    And yet the truth is that any history begins when human beings have todraw on their knowledge of the past in order better to understand the present andlook ahead to the future, when they come to realize that they must look into thefacts, events and trends that have prefigured their own era. It is only when theirbackground and their links with the past are brought to light that the presentceases to be incomprehensible, gratuitous and meaningless.

    History an ongoing dialogue between the past and the present, a constantinterchange of ideas binding todays world with yesterdays and tomorrows isalways, ultimately, contemporary history, as Benedetto Croce and Fernand Braudelhave said. Every generation needs to check its own truths by reference to its pastso as to be able to experience them as living reality. Verifying these truths alsoamounts to understanding them and hence implies a capacity for tolerance andsolidarity. Peoples will to give shape to history, as Karl Mannheim said, isbound up with their ability to comprehend it.

    The history of UNESCO, too, is marked by a need to understand and a senseof moving towards the future.

    Its history is not just that of an institution, but of a whole era, which theOrganization has reflected in its programmes, declarations and resolutions andon which it has made its mark by its international action and presence. This iswhy, in the course of its history, there have been shifts in emphasis and in priori-ties in response to the changing needs of the outside world. It is why the historyof its Member States in other words world history is woven into the institu-tional life of UNESCO. And it is also why crises have from time to time upset its

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  • viii A history of UNESCO

    established beliefs, without, however, challenging its fundamental constitutionalprinciples, not because they are regarded as unshakeable dogma, but becausethey serve the human condition, which is immutable.

    At the same time, its history proves most eloquently how individual andcollective dreams, what we imagine but believe to be impossible, what we callUtopia, can become a reality when human beings, groups, institutions and Statesmake common cause, conclude agreements and build majorities and solidaritieson a planet-wide scale. All that was inconceivable before the creation of UNESCO.

    Because UNESCO has a history and because it is a chapter in the history ofhumanity, it needed to place on record the milestones that have marked its ownexistence. The idea was not to look back nostalgically to the landscapes of memory,in the view that the best years are always behind us, but on the contrary, to set therecord straight, eschewing the usual plaudits and also the pessimism which re-gards any change as the inevitable onset of decadence.

    There was no question, either, of associating the Organizations memorywith a single absolute truth, turning its origins into the stuff of legend, appropri-ating the past so as to rewrite and justify it. The intention was far more modestand at the same time more important to grasp the meaning of the commonundertaking built upon the ideal which has guided its steps from 1946 until thepresent day, to understand the past so as to take more effective action in theworld today in anticipation of the future of humankind which is where its actionlies.

    If UNESCO did not exist, it would have to have been invented, it has beenquipped. But all joking aside, Fernando Valderramas book takes us back to thetime when UNESCO did not exist and explains why, when and how it came to beinvented. An invention forged with patience, tireless dedication and imagina-tion, not under any deterministic pressure of cause and effect, but not by chanceor by accident, either. As we read this history of UNESCO we are struck by theinternal logic of events, a logic that has presided over the creation and develop-ment of the Organization, its growing role in the contemporary world and thecrises that have accompanied every change, in rhythm with the heartbeat - and attimes the convulsions - of world history itself.

    Let it be said again that this work is a general history and not an essay andas such is based strictly on documentary archive and library sources. Of course,documentary sources can make somewhat dry reading, depending on the wayyou approach them. On the face of it, without any record of the experience andthe enthusiasm that made them what they are, the only merits of resolutions,speeches and budgetary items are their archaeological interest and a claim toobjectivity which the narrow-minded scholar will brandish as the ultimate argu-ment.

    But a history of UNESCO is not meant to be the labour of an antiquarian ora bald, punctilious record of facts and figures. It must be the mirror-image of a

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  • Preface ix

    living organism exercising an influence over, and being influenced by, the con-cerns of the times in which it lives, the diverse and successive trends which con-stitute the continuum of Heraclitus principle that all things are in constant fluxin this river of time and history, in whose ever-changing waters we are all im-mersed.

    No document - still less the documentary sources of an organization likeUNESCO - is devoid of meaning, or innocent. One needs to know how to readthem in order to sense their inner meaning, how to select and classify them andsee beyond the inevitable abridgements and rearrangements dictated by present-day reality, and beyond the power of abstraction that all writing has.

    What emerges from the documents selected for this work and used in it isthe force and power of memory as it conditions the future and, above all, thehope and vision of all the men and women, from the most senior decision-mak-ers to the most humble of their subordinates, international civil servants, repre-sentatives of Member States or delegates to meetings and conferences who,whether in the public eye or anonymously, have helped to make a reality of whatto start with were no more than the ideas or dreams of private individuals.

    The purpose of this history is to retrace the whole development of an or-ganization with a universal mission, in which the past informs the present, actingas a vital force injecting into it the emotion and drive that spurred its inception,its expansion, the experience of its mature years and the reflection on its role ina changing world that it has necessarily had to undertake.

    This history must not be our history. It is not an in-house document,published in isolation from the rest of the world, but to tell the world about thediverse and far-reaching implications of UNESCOs work. It will give research-ers wanting to know more about the life of the Organization a working tool, aguide and a starting-point for their research. A vademecum, as the classicalauthors used to call it.

    A few years ago, William Sombart wrote: When we are left without thepractical bearings that have always guided us through the vicissitudes of life, itis as though we were drowning in an ocean of facts until such time as we find anew foothold or learn to swim.

    Quite apart from the essential documents upon which it is based, this his-tory of UNESCO not only gives us a foothold in a world that has lost its bear-ings, but also teaches us how to swim in the ocean of facts that is in danger ofoverwhelming us and even more importantly transmits to our children theheritage of a past that will enable them to build a shared future where there willbe more justice, freedom and solidarity.

    FEDERICO MAYORDirector-General of UNESCO

    Paris, July 1995

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  • Contents