Building peace in the minds of men and women

UNESCO and Human Rights

Human rights are at the heart of UNESCO’s mandate. The standards enshrined in the international human rights framework guide all its programmes and activities and contribute to its mission of advancing education, culture, sciences and communication across the globe.

Why human rights

UNESCO was the first UN agency to place the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) at the core of its action.

"Article I: The purpose of the Organization is to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among the nations through education, science and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion, by the Charter of the United Nations."

UNESCO Constitution (1945)


How UNESCO promotes human rights

UNESCO integrates human rights throughout its programmes and works in close cooperation with its Member States, UN entities, human rights institutions, and UNESCO partners and networks. This commitment underpins the 2003 UNESCO Strategy on Human Rights and the Integrated Strategy to Combat Racism, Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, which affirm the relevance of the human rights-based approach (HRBA) to UNESCO’s work.

See also


UNESCO’s Global Priorities

All UNESCO’s global priorities reflect the mainstreaming of human rights principles.

Priority Gender Equality

UNESCO strives to ensure equal rights, responsibilities, and opportunities of women and men, and girls and boys.

Priority Africa

UNESCO supports African countries in six flagship programmes that promote the fulfilment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of people of African descent and greater knowledge of their contribution to humankind.

Youth Strategy

Two of the six guiding principles of the Operational Strategy on Youth (2014-2021) have direct implications for human rights.

UNESCO’s Medium-Term Strategy 2014-2021

All its nine principles are mainstreamed by human rights

UNESCO Policy on Engaging with Indigenous Peoples

This policy contains key human rights provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and applies a human rights-based approach to the promotion of education related to human rights, peace, tolerance, intercultural understanding, and citizenship.


Human Rights Day

Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December – the day on which the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

More information on Human Rights Day


UNESCO and Agenda 2030: ‘Leaving no one behind’

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the New Urban Agenda, seek to realize the human rights of all without discrimination of any kind. Strongly committed to and in line with these global agendas, UNESCO aims to enhance the life choices and opportunities of those left furthest behind.

See also: UNESCO for Sustainable Cities