UNESCO is one of the agencies of the UN you are most likely to have heard of. You may live near a UNESCO world heritage site for example, or have seen a headline about a celebrity being made a UNESCO Ambassador. Understanding what the agency actually does is a slightly harder task, however, so today we’re stripping away some of the confusion and looking at that role of UNESCO Ambassador: what do they do, who are they and how are they helping to make the world a better place?
UNESCO was created to help foster peace and security specifically by building international links based on educational, scientific and cultural projects. It can sponsor and provide funding for projects in these areas with a particularly international scope, begin it’s own projects, and help to connect specialists around the world to foster ongoing conversations that can only take place in peace time. It also awards prizes to individuals who particularly embody its aims and values.
It also has an important role helping to maintain heritage sites around the world, preserving them from damage and ensuring they can be enjoyed by the international community for many years to come.
One of the main ways UNESCO promotes its aims is by appointing ambassadors. These aren’t diplomatic ambassadors, with the power to negotiate and make treaties! They’re well placed individuals, celebrities or at least renowned within their field, with the influence to publicise UNESCO’s mission and values, and help to speak to world governments on its behalf.
They’re often people with significant resources available to them, so they’re able to help push UNESCO’s mission forward in their area of specialism. For example, The Princess of Hanover represents UNESCO in Monaco, focuses specifically on the rights and welfare of women and children, especially in Africa and has both the cultural and material capital to take action to push that cause forward.
Zurab Tsereteli is another notable UNESCO ambassador – the father figure to the entire Russian art scene, and the head of the Russian Academy of Arts was for many years instrumental in how Russia communicated with the rest of the world, through gifts of his artwork. He’s been a UNESCO ambassador since 1996, with a remit covering cultural and artistic projects, and is able to pursue these aims using his huge influence as the elder statesman of Russian art!