The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was founded on November 16, 1945. As early as 1942, while the war was still raging, many European governments were meeting to discuss ways to reconstruct their educational systems once peace was restored. This project gained momentum and many new governments, including the United States, joined the conferences. A United Nations conference was convened in November of 1945 to create an educational and cultural organization. Forty-four countries attended the conference. It was decided that the new organization must establish the "intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind" to help prevent another World War.1
When the conference was over, thirty-seven countries had founded UNESCO. The constitution of UNESCO was signed on November 16, 1945 and was ratified on November 4, 1946 by twenty countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, France, Greece, India, Lebanon, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom and United States. 1
As of October of 2003, UNESCO has 190 member countries who work together to share ideas and set standards for science, education, culture, and communication. UNESCO sets standards for creating universal agreements on emerging ethical issues. UNESCO is also working to create and continue peace through sharing information and values as well as helping to create respect for every culture and civilization. "This role is critical, particularly in the face of terrorism, which constitutes an attack against humanity. The world urgently requires global visions of sustainable development based upon observance of human rights, mutual respect and the alleviation of poverty, all of which lie at the heart of UNESCO's mission and activities." 1
Representative Karl Mundt was a critical supporter of UNESCO and was the primary figure in urging the United States to join UNESCO. It is possible that, without his urging and support, the United States may not have joined. Mundt gave several speeches on UNESCO and the importance of joining UNESCO. These are excerpts from Mundt's speech:
"The World's Challenge to Education".
"After all, we educators have a special responsibility in this postwar era not only because we have this vast and valuable human raw material with which to work and not only because the world is more and more turning away from wars and the weapons of wars as a means of procuring proper human behavior in international affairs. Basically, we have a special responsibility to meet the great new challenge which is now ours in helping the world learn how to control the terrible new force unloosed in its midst because, I the final analysis, the atomic bomb was conceived by scientists whom our profession had educated.2
"It is not the noble pronouncements of princes and potentates which preserve the peace – it is the attitude which men have in their hearts and express in private conversations which actually count. It is to be hoped that eventually a code of international good behavior can be conceived through the operation of UNESCO so that boys and girls throughout the world may be taught the basic concepts of tolerance, justice, order, and peace-preserving international behavior. Greater by far than the dissimilarities of race, color, creed economic, governmental, and political concepts as well as geographical differences are the similarities which exist among human beings everywhere. UNESCO will strive to harness these similarities together into a great invincible phalanx which will hold at bay the future dogs of war."2
"In establishing the University of Virginia, the great Thomas Jefferson selected as a motto for the institution, 'Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free' UNESCO is designed to help people throughout the world to learn the truth. In the final analysis the truth – better than any other single factor – can help free this world from war forever." 2
- "About UNESCO" UNESCO.ORG 16 Nov. 2004
- Mundt, Karl E. "The Worlds Challenge to Education." 20 March, 1947. Transcript of Speech. Karl E. Mundt Archives
- Heidepriem, Scott. A Fair Chance for a Free People. Madison, SD: Leader Printing Company, 1988.