UNESCO General Conference proclaims 16 May as International Day of Light


The 39th Session of the UNESCO General Conference has today proclaimed the date of May 16th as the International Day of Light.  The proclamation of this annual International Day will enable global appreciation of the central role that light and light-based technologies play in the lives of the citizens of the world in areas of science, technology, culture, education, and sustainable development. It will provide is an enduring legacy to UNESCO’s highly successful International Year of Light in 2015 that reached over 100 million people in over 140 countries. The proposal was adopted during the 39th session of the General Conference of UNESCO, which just came to a close today in Paris, France.

The proclamation of this annual International Day will enable global appreciation of the central role that light plays in our daily lives in areas of science, culture, education, sustainable development, and in fields as diverse as medicine, communications and energy. On the most fundamental level, through photosynthesis, light is at the origin of life itself,  and the many applications of light have had a transformative impact on society. Light-based technologies are increasingly providing solutions to global challenges in, energy, education, agriculture, and community health. Applications of light-based technologies are key enablers to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, especially in the developing world.

The broad theme of light will allow many different sectors of society to participate in activities around the world that will raise awareness of science and technology, as well as art and culture and their importance in achieving the goals of UNESCO in promoting education, equality and peace. The first International Day of Light celebration is planned for 16 May 2018. This date marks the anniversary of the first operation of a laser beam, on 16 May 1960 by Theodore Maiman.

The International Day of Light was introduced to UNESCO by sponsors Ghana, Mexico, New Zealand and the Russian Federation, and supported at the UNESCO Executive Board and the General Conference by 27 countries: Argentina, Colombia, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Finland, Iran, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lebanon, Madagascar, Malaysia, Morocco, Nicaragua, Serbia, South Africa, Sudan, Sweden, Nigeria, Paraguay, Qatar, Togo, Vietnam, Uganda and Zimbabwe. 

Partners worldwide are now making plans for an ambitious series of outreach and education activities in May 2018, with special focus on students, young people and the public at large. In addition, a flagship inauguration leaders in areas of education, industry, design and lighting will take place on 16 May 2018 at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France.

The International Day of Light is administered from UNESCO’s International Basic Science Programme by a Steering Committee that also includes representatives from: the American Institute of Physics (AIP), the American Physical Society (APS), Bosca, the European Centres for Outreach in Photonics (ECOP), the European Physical Society (EPS), the International Association of lighting Designers (IALD), the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), the IEEE Photonics Society (IPS), the International Commission on Illumination (CIE), lightsources.org - the international network of accelerator based light sources, Light: Science and Applications, The Optical Society (OSA), Philips Lighting, the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE), the Synchrotron-Light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East (SESAME) and Thorlabs.

UNESCO welcomes all partners who wish to get involved in the International Day of Light either through organizing their own activities or by supporting the flagship event on May 16 2018 at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. For event registration, enquiries about partnership opportunities, and any other questions, please contact:

  • Jean-Paul Ngome Abiaga:  jj.ngomeabiaga@unesco.org
    International Basic Sciences Programme, UNESCO, Paris, France                                                                                    
  • Jorge Rivero González: dayoflight@eps.org        
    International Day of Light Secretariat & Press Officer

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