The UNESCO Regional Centre for the Western Hemisphere was officially inaugurated in La Havana on February 1950, although the decision to found such an institution in the Cuban capital dates back to 1948 when the Resolution concerning,
UNESCO's representation in the main cultural regions of the world formalized its establishment in consideration of "the facilities available" in Havana for the performance of the Organization's mission in this geographical area. This historical fact makes UNESCO's present Regional Bureau for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean the first of its kind to be established outside the Organization's headquarters.
The Office performs multiple functions of great relevance and impact on the continent, namely the aforementioned Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Cluster Office for the Latin Caribbean (Cuba, Dominican Republic and Haiti) and UNESCO's Representation to the Governments of Cuba and Dominican Republic.
For more than 60 years, the UNESCO Havana Office has promoted programmes and initiatives in the field of culture for the 37 Member States and Associate Member States of the region, with the aim of contributing to the preservation of tangible and intangible cultural heritage, the promotion of creativity, the development of cultural industries, the promotion of pluralism and intercultural dialogue, the safeguarding of diversity and the encouragement of cultural integration processes. Special mention should be made of the support and accompaniment provided to the Forum of Ministers of Culture and Persons Responsible for Cultural Policies in Latin America and the Caribbean since its creation in 1989, as well as the coordination and financing of its main project, the "Culture Portal of Latin America and the Caribbean" (http://www.lacult.unesco.org) since 2002. In this area, the publication of various titles is also noteworthy, including the periodicals "Oralidad" and "Cultura y Desarrollo".
In the field of education, the Office's work has focused on assisting the countries it represents in achieving the Dakar goals and the Millennium Development Goals, in all cases on the basis of achieving quality education for all. Among the main activities carried out in this regard are literacy, stimulation of the study of science and environmental education, incorporation of new information technologies into teaching processes, promotion of gender equality in education, among others.
In the communication and information sector, it contributes to strengthening the institutional capacities of centres dedicated to the training of communication professionals, and of libraries and archives as channels of access to information; it supports the preservation of documentary and audiovisual heritage and the production of new local content; and, in a general sense, it promotes the development of inclusive and participatory knowledge societies based on the principles of freedom of expression, universal access to information, the guarantee of quality education for all and respect for cultural and linguistic diversity.
In the field of the natural sciences, the Office supports national plans and policies for scientific development, in particular with regard to capacity-building for sustainable development, the promotion of research centres and environmental projects; while in the field of the social and human sciences, work has been done to promote events that contribute to the analysis of contemporary processes in order to understand the transformations taking place in society.
The UNESCO Office in Havana has the "Jaime Torres Bodet" Documentation Centre, considered to be one of the oldest outside the Organization's headquarters. The centre, which has been continuously providing its services since its foundation in February 1959 to the present day, treasures original publications and documents since the creation of UNESCO, and its collection has been declared a Heritage Collection by the National Council of Cultural Heritage of the Republic of Cuba.
The Office implements its programme in close coordination and collaboration with the National Commissions for UNESCO in the countries it represents and the relevant governmental bodies, as well as with numerous regional, national, local and non-governmental institutions on the continent.