The role of Member States

08.07.2020 - Article

Member States’ Permanent Delegations

Member States’ Permanent Delegations represent and incorporate the positions of their countries’ governments in UNESCO’s work and jointly agree the organization’s programme and budget. Furthermore, they inform their governments of ongoing developments and priorities within UNESCO.

Coordination in Germany

The Federal Foreign Office has lead responsibility for UNESCO affairs within the German Government. The Federal Foreign Office coordinates Germany’s contribution to UNESCO’s work with the relevant departments.

National UNESCO Commissions

UNESCO is the only UN specialized agency that provides for the establishment of National Commissions in the Member States. All UNESCO Member States have established such a National Commission for UNESCO. Each National Commission supports the membership of the respective Member State in UNESCO in the fields of education, science and culture, by involving all national institutions, umbrella associations and wider civil society - right down to individual schools, museums, research institutes, etc. UNESCO as an organisation of states and governments thus achieves both a broader impact and greater awareness of the situation “on the ground” due to the National UNESCO Commissions which act as an interface between the state, civil society and UNESCO.

The 199 National Commissions for UNESCO form a global network. They exchange their experiences several times a year at global level, for example in the margins of the Executive Board meetings - there are also regular meetings at the continental level in almost all world regions.


German Commission for UNESCO

Annual General Meeting of the German Commission for UNESCO
Annual General Meeting of the German Commission for UNESCO© German Commission for UNESCO / Thomas Müller

In Germany, the German Commission for UNESCO advises the federal government, the parliament, the federal states and all other competent bodies on all issues related to the German membership in UNESCO. In particular, the German Commission for UNESCO ensures the contribution of the expertise of German scientific institutes, umbrella associations, civil society organisations and outstanding individual experts to intergovernmental cooperation at UNESCO level. The Commission thus supports shaping Germany's membership in UNESCO while at the same time contributing to the implementation of UNESCO conventions and programmes in Germany. The aim is to ensure that UNESCO international law and UNESCO programmes have the best possible impact in Germany. Thematically, the Commission’s work focuses on the promotion of high-quality and equitable education as well as on the protection, preservation and sustainable development of cultural and natural heritage. Its head office is  located in Bonn.

The German Commission for UNESCO was founded on 12 May 1950, even before the Federal Republic of Germany joined UNESCO (11 July 1951). It is the legal successor to the National Commission of the GDR.

As an intermediary organisation for foreign cultural and educational policy of Germany, the German Commission for UNESCO is funded by the Federal Foreign Office. Its legal form is that of a chartered non-profit association. Among the Commission’s key assets are its 114 members, 100 of whom are elected, and a broad network of experts and institutions who work together, for example, in specialist committees, expert working groups and individual events. Especially significant  partners of the Commission are (roughly) 300 UNESCO associated schools, 16 UNESCO biosphere reserves, 8 UNESCO global geoparks, 15 UNESCO chairs, 51 UNESCO world heritage sites, bearers of intangible cultural heritage, several dozen cities in UNESCO networks and German national committees for various intergovernmental programmes.


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