15.12.2016 - Article

UNESCO has been fostering international cooperation in education, science, culture and communication since 1945.

“Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed”. This sentence conveys UNESCO’s guiding principle.


From the experience of the Second World War, it learned the lesson that “a peace based exclusively upon the political and economic arrangements of governments would not be a peace which could secure the unanimous, lasting and sincere support of the peoples of the world, and the peace must therefore be founded, if it is not to fail, upon the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind” (from the Constitution of UNESCO, signed on 16 November 1945).

Contributions to peacekeeping

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), which was founded in 1945, is the United Nations’ agency for education, science, culture and communication. Its aim is to maintain peace and contribute towards security by fostering international cooperation in education, science, culture and communication. The Federal Republic of Germany became a member of UNESCO on 11 July 1951, while the GDR joined in 1972. The current Director‑General is Irina Bokova of Bulgaria, who took office in November 2009.

Devastation in the historic old city district of Sana’a
Devastation in the historic old city district of Sana’a© picture alliance / dpa

UNESCO’s main decision‑making body is the General Conference of its 193 member states. It convenes in Paris every two years and sets the organisation’s general priorities as well as its programme and budget. It is also responsible for electing the Executive Board, which is made up of 58 representatives of the member states and meets twice a year. In 2013, Germany was elected to the Executive Board for a four‑year term. The Executive Board, UNESCO’s political steering body, monitors implementation of the programme adopted by the General Conference.

UNESCO is financed by regular obligatory contributions from its member states as well as extrabudgetary voluntary funding. The latter accounted for around 47% of all the funds UNESCO had at its disposal in 2013. The regular two-year budget for 2014/2015 amounted to 653 million US dollars. However, because the United States had withheld its obligatory contribution, the 37th General Conference adopted a spending plan of only 507 million US dollars.

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee

Logo of the 39th session of the World Heritage Committee in Bonn
Logo of the 39th session of the World Heritage Committee in Bonn© UNESCO

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee consists of 21 representatives of the 191 States Parties to the UNESCO Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972). On a two‑yearly rolling basis, the General Assembly of the States Parties elects one third of the Committee members for a six‑year term. However, member states usually opt voluntarily to reduce their term to four years.

The Committee members

The following States Parties are currently represented on the World Heritage Committee:

Angola, Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Croatia, Cuba, Finland, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Korea, Kuwait, Lebanon, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Tanzania, Tunisia, Turkey, Viet Nam and Zimbabwe.

Role and function

The Committee has the following main tasks:

  • Based on proposals put forward by the States Parties, the Committee selects cultural and natural heritage sites which should be protected by the Convention due to their outstanding universal value. They are then inscribed on the World Heritage List of cultural and natural sites.
  • The Committee monitors the state of conservation of the sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It makes decisions on endangered world heritage sites, on the inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger as well as on the withdrawal of UNESCO world heritage site status.
  • The Committee also processes the applications of world heritage sites requesting financial support from the UNESCO World Heritage Fund.

The Chairperson

Maria Böhmer, Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office, was elected Chairperson of the 39th Session of the World Heritage Committee in Doha in 2014. The 39th session took place in Bonn in 2015.

“The World Heritage Convention is the best‑known UNESCO programme here and throughout the world,” said Minister of State Böhmer. “As Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee, my focus will be on sustainable management and the protection of world heritage sites in danger”, she added.

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Germany’s Permanent Delegation to UNESCO in Paris

Germany’s Permanent Delegation to UNESCO in Paris maintains ongoing working contacts with the UNESCO Secretariat and is responsible for cultivating relations with UNESCO.

Germany's Permanent Delegation to UNESCO

German Commission for UNESCO

The UNESCO national commissions form a unique network within the United Nations system. Their task is to promote and implement UNESCO goals in their member states. They involve the organisations and institutions responsible for education, science, culture and communication in their countries in planning, realising and evaluating the UNESCO programme.

The German Commission for UNESCO acts as the national liaison agency in all spheres of UNESCO work. As a cultural organisation in cultural relations policy, the German Commission for UNESCO is funded by the Federal Foreign Office. It has up to 114 members, including commissioners of the Federal Government and the Länder (Standing Conference of German Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs), as well as experts and representatives of institutions elected by the General Assembly. The Commission is based in Bonn.

Additional content

Hamburg warehouse district: World Heritage Site since 2015.
Hamburg warehouse district: World Heritage Site since 2015.© dpa/picture-alliance

In 1972 the UNESCO adopted the “Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage” (World Heritage Convention). 41 World Heritage Sites are located in Germany.

Find out more


on the Implementation of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expression 2005 in an through Germany in the 2012-2015 Reporting Period.

Report PDF / 752 KB

Unesco: archive

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