About Us

UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) is a specialised agency of the United Nations.

Its aim is to lay the foundations for lasting peace and sustainable development through dialogue and sharing knowledge.

It works through the broad programme areas of education; the natural, social and human sciences; culture; and communication and information.

We are UNESCO New Zealand (otherwise known as the New Zealand National Commission of UNESCO). We were established by the New Zealand Government to manage New Zealand’s relationship with UNESCO.

National Commissions are the face of UNESCO within its Members States. UNESCO is unique among the specialised agencies of the United Nations system in having a network of National Commissions – presently there are 199 across the world.

UNESCO New Zealand is appointed by the Minister of Education and funded from Vote Education. Our Secretariat is attached to the Ministry of Education’s International Division in Wellington.

Our role is to fulfil New Zealand’s obligations as a UNESCO Member State by supporting UNESCO’s vision, goals and programmes within the context of New Zealand and the Pacific, and by helping to set the direction of the global UNESCO programme and policies in line with New Zealand priorities and values.

Find out more about who we are, what we do, who we work with, and our work in New Zealand.

Read more about UNESCO’s Member States, how the organisation is governed and structured, and its key priorities at www.unesco.org.

New Zealand’s history with UNESCO

New Zealand was the second country to ratify the UNESCO Constitution when the organisation was founded in 1946.

Dr Clarence Beeby – New Zealand’s Director of Education at the time – played a significant role in establishing UNESCO New Zealand and was appointed the first Director of UNESCO’s Education Sector in 1948.

UNESCO began as an organisation for cooperation in education and culture. Science was added in 1946. The Communications programme was added in 1947 and Social Science two years later.

New Zealand has actively participated in UNESCO’s work and served on its Executive Board five times.

Read more about the History of New Zealand’s involvement in UNESCO. [PDF 40KB]

UNESCO – forged by two world wars

In 1945, UNESCO was created to respond to the firm belief of nations, forged by two world wars in less than a generation, that political and economic agreements are not enough to build a lasting peace. Peace must be established on the basis of humanity’s moral and intellectual solidarity.

As the ‘intellectual’ agency of the United Nations, at a time when the world is looking for new ways to build peace and sustainable development, people must rely on the power of intelligence to innovate, expand their horizons and sustain the hope of a new humanism.

UNESCO exists to bring this creative intelligence to life; for it is in the minds of men and women that the defences of peace and the conditions for sustainable development must be built.

Read more about UNESCO, its purpose and goals, at its website www.unesco.org.