The Public Square

Barbara Ford on UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization)


Hello, my name is Barbara Ford. I am a resident of Champaign and serve as Director of the Mortenson Center for International Library Programs at UIUC.

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) was established to create conditions for dialogue among civilizations, cultures, and peoples based upon respect for commonly shared values.  Nothing is more important in todays world.  In 2011 I was appointed as a member of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO. Since then I have realized how important UNESCO is to much of the world and how little many of us in this country know about the activities of this important international group.

UNESCO promotes the advance of education and freedom of expression around the world, including a free and open internet and media sector. It also promotes the sharing of scientific knowledge and cultural understanding through  preservation of world heritage sites and encouragement of intercultural dialogue. 

While the United States played a leading role in the creation and development of UNESCO, it stopped funding UNESCO in late 2011 after the agency admitted Palestine into its membership. This created  a 22% cut in UNESCOs budget that may either cancel or jeopardize countless programs that improve peoples lives.   We need to encourage Congress to take action so the U.S. can again pay its UNESCO dues and become a fully functioning member of the organization.

Learning more about UNESCO and its work is very important.  To help with this on a local level, a new UNESCO Center for Global Citizenship will make its community debut at a public ceremony and reception in the Robeson Rooms at the Champaign Public Library on Monday, April 15, 5:00pm  7:00pm. Mr. Guy Djoken, Executive Director of the UNESCO Center for Peace in Washington, D.C., will formally welcome UCGC into the UNESCO network of over 3,800 affiliates in more than 80 countries. The mayors of both Champaign and Urbana will be on hand to mark the occasion. The public is invited to the event.

The Center for Global Citizenship becomes only the second UNESCO affiliate in the United States.  We hope the Center can draw upon the wealth of knowledge in our university and community to build a deeper understanding of global issues affecting the worlds population and to show how UNESCO contributes to the eradication of poverty, sustainable development, intercultural dialogue, and the building of peace.

Our desire to start the UNESCO Center for Global Citizenship springs from the belief that a world -- starting with our own community -- that is open to different perspectives is a better, safer and more peaceful place in which to live. UCGC programs and events will include guided visits to UNESCO World Heritage Sites like Cahokia Mounds in southwestern Illinois, museum tours, reading/discussion groups, guest speakers, school events, traveling exhibitions, and partnership ties with UNESCO associations across the world.

UCGC has its administrative home with the University of Illinois Center for Global Studies. Partnership and project proposals are welcome. Please join us on Monday evening at 7:00 at the Champaign Public Library. Thank you.