Walking into our AP Comparative Politics class on October 12, 2017, we learned that the United States had announced its decision to leave UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. As a country, this is a collective step backward.
Initially, when we learned about this decision from our teacher, Letitia Zwickert, we knew very little about UNESCO, which motivated us to discover why this decision was of such importance, not only to our country, but also to the rest of the world. After researching further, we began to understand how vital UNESCO is to maintaining strong ties between different cultures.
The purpose of UNESCO is to promote diversity and support different cultures. Its mission is to educate constituents worldwide about building peace, preventing poverty, promoting dialogue, and fostering worldwide development. By being a signatory of UNESCO, a nation communicates that it stands in support of cultural diversity. This, in turn, encourages all of its citizens to embrace differences through a cultural and educational lens. Although the goals of UNESCO might not affect people on a day-to-day basis, the values and morals UNESCO promotes help us embrace and celebrate our differences. This is vital to all societies to prevent negative social tension, encourage acceptance of diversity, and educate students in global citizenship.
For the average person, UNESCO has an overwhelmingly symbolic approach. For individuals and countries that are in need of assistance, UNESCO has developed initiatives to help them, prioritizing nations by need and allocating funding and resources accordingly.
Individuals of all ages are affected by UNESCO. By fostering collaboration and global understanding, UNESCO empowers state and local authorities, as well as local and global nonprofit organizations, to take steps toward fostering global understanding by creating strong and interconnected societies. This gives all regions of the world the ability to innovate and change our world for the better and for the future. This cannot be done without a bold global coalition to lead the way and strive to work and collaborate as a single entity.
If you examine UNESCO’s work closely, you can appreciate how difficult it has been to come so far in such a short time. For example, in working with UNESCO, world leaders from low-income countries have joined forces to increase access and availability of high-quality global citizenship education. UNESCO has embraced an innovative approach to help children who have been deprived of a basic education. The intent of these and other UNESCO investments is to stimulate new proposals to effect change in the developing world. By announcing its departure from UNESCO, it will now be incredibly challenging for the United States to reclaim its voice in that conversation.
On the other hand, governmental and non-governmental organizations, including the European Union, have made their stance quite clear on supporting UNESCO. The European Union has pledged to donate 8 percent of its humanitarian aid to countries in need of resources for education, as well as millions of dollars to the Education Cannot Wait Fund. Dubai Cares has also donated $500,000. The United States faces the threat of being left behind as UNESCO and member nations continue their work around the world.
We must continue to look ahead, promote the values of organizations like UNESCO, and advocate for UNESCO’s ideals both locally and globally. The most effective way to do this is by educating people on the accomplishments of UNESCO and providing resources for taking action, such as Promoting Tolerance, the UNESCO Youth Forum, and Democracy and Global Citizenship.
By writing about UNESCO, we hope to foster this important discussion about the value of celebrating diversity and global understanding. We need everyone to participate in this conversation in order to move forward effectively.
By educating ourselves about an organization as pivotal as UNESCO, we’ve developed a greater global perspective and feel better prepared to build strong relationships, especially in this time of racial tension and instability.
~Colin Jensen, Naperville Central High School