The United Nations General Assembly designates a number of "International Days" to mark important aspects of human life and history. United Nations Specialized Agencies, including UNESCO, can also proclaim World Days. In this case, the proclamation of international days depends on their governing bodies and internal regulations only.
UNESCO thus celebrates UN International Days related to its fields of competence, in addition to the other World Days, proclaimed by the Organization's governing bodies or other institutions.
UNESCO has a long history of cooperation with Africa and it has always placed this cooperation as a core priority. For the medium term period 2014-2021, Member States have confirmed the two Global Priorities of UNESCO: Priority Africa and Gender Equality.
Based on consultations with and decisions of Member States, UNESCO’s action for Africa will focus on two major areas during the medium term period 2014-2021:
- Building peace by building inclusive, peaceful and resilient societies;
- Building institutional capacities for sustainable development and poverty eradication.
UNESCO is expected to implement a stronger and better targeted strategy to build peace, eradicate poverty, and achieve inclusive sustainable development by improving the quality, equity and relevance of education, by harnessing science, technology and innovation to boost development and build related capacities, by mobilizing the heritage and creative industries for culture and development, by promoting freedom of expression, and by using ICTs for development, gender equality and peace and citizenship education.
Sources and resources for a culture of peace
The UNESCO action in favor of a culture of peace in Africa is placed in the context of the implementation of the “Inter-sectoral and Interdisciplinary Program of Action for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence” as well as in the Mid-Term Strategy (2014 -2021) of UNESCO, which has identified "building peace by building inclusive, peaceful and resilient societies" as one of two main areas of action for Africa. As such, the Operational Strategy for priority Africa integrates the development of Flagship programs for the next four years, with the first one entitled "Promoting a culture of peace and non-violence".
UNESCO’s 37th General Conference adopted an Operational Strategy for Priority Africa and an action plan for the implementation of the six flagship programs. This Operational Strategy is based on the Vision of the African Union, which cares about building “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena”. In order to fulfill this vision and to release the full potential for the development of the continent, the African countries will inter to innovatively address four major challenges while taking advantage of the opportunities they represent:
- demographic growth,
- social transformation,
- democratic governance,
- sustainable development and economic growth.
The operational strategy for Priority Africa guides all UNESCO actions in favor of Priority Africa, in particular action under six “flagship programs” that will raise the profile of Priority Africa as recommended by the Member States. These six flagship programs were defined upon wide inter-sectoral work and are embedded in the program and budget of UNESCO.
Youth and Gender are crosscutting areas.
Priority Africa: Education
Africa is a priority for UNESCO and education is key to the region’s development. UNESCO's programs toward the African continent have been build up in such a way that they are to focus on the challenges that Africa is facing.
The Regional Office in Dakar, Senegal, and 15 other field offices representing UNESCO in the sub-Saharan countries are working to ensure that the African governments and development partners maintain education among their priorities.
Priority Africa: Natural Sciences
The Major Programs (MP II) actions in Africa have three strategic thrusts: creating an enabling environment to allow science and technology to flourish; building human resource capacity in science, engineering and technology; and facilitating the application of scientific knowledge to address the problems of poverty and environmental degradation.
To these ends, all actions in the region will include technical assistance for policy formulation or review, and human resource capacity-building.
At the regional level, the identification of priorities has been guided by several documents, including the African Union Consolidated Plan of Action (CPA) for Science and Technology and the AU Environmental Action Plan.
Priority Africa: Social and Human Sciences
In the field of social and human sciences, UNESCO focuses particular in supporting African Member States in developing policies to social transformations, including in human rights, poverty eradication, the fight against racism and discrimination, gender equality, youth empowerment, migration and regional integration
Within the Management of Social Transformations (MOST) program, emphasis is put on the building of MOST National Committees and the involvement of UNESCO Chairs and national and regional research networks.
Priority Africa: Culture
As a source of wealth that does not have a price tag, culture can help promote social cohesion and youth engagement. It is also a wellspring for social resilience and, a source of identity and cohesion for societies at a time of major change. No development can be sustainable without it.
UNESCO therefore works with member states across the continent to unleash the huge potential of their rich and varied cultures. It does this by supporting the implementation of the UNESCO Culture Conventions and Recommendations as a unique global platform for international cooperation and dialogue that build on shared values and mutual commitments respecting cultural diversity. Emphasis is placed on strengthening policies as well as the institutional and professional capacities necessary to ensure the effective protection, safeguarding and promotion of heritage in all its forms, respect for cultural identities and the development of viable cultural and creative industries as drivers for growth and peace.
The International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024) is an opportunity to strengthen efforts to combat prejudice, racism and discrimination handed down from history and to foster reconciliation and new ways of living together. Throughout the Decade, UNESCO will continue to promote new insights into the history of Africa, and encourage the renovation of teaching African history in the African Union Member States through its project entitled “the Pedagogical Use of the General History of Africa". It is highlighting the consequences of the slave trade and slavery on contemporary societies as well as the appreciation of the cultural expressions generated by the Diaspora communities through the Slave Route project: Resistance, Liberty, and Heritage.
Priority Africa: Communication and Information
UNESCO’s action in the area of communication and information in Africa is based on the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society, priorities of the African Union and NEPAD, including the African Regional Action Plan on the Knowledge Economy (ARAKPE) aimed at building a region fully benefiting from ICT services and applications by 2015, and the “Roadmap for Media Development in Africa”, adopted in Burkina Faso in September 2008.
In this context, action seeks to:
- Promote freedom of expression and information by supporting the establishment of media laws and regulatory frameworks;
- provide advice for the formulation of policies and strategies for fostering access to information as well as media and infrastructures development; and
- strengthen capacity building, especially at the institutional level.