I went to UNESCO's reception the other evening to mark the publication of a report into the "wider value of UNESCO to the UK". You can download it here. The evening was well-organised, relaxed and informative.
The report says that there are three core benefits of UNESCO membership:
- Financial value: UNESCO helped UK affiliated institutions and bodies to attract at least £100 million in additional income in one year.
- Wider, non-financial value: UNESCO designation is a recognised mark of world-class quality, and a mechanism to enhance quality. By leveraging the UNESCO brand and collaborating with the global network, the UK’s UNESCO projects can access new programme, partnership and funding opportunities and influence key decision makers.
- Support for UK government policy: UNESCO activity in the UK complements a broad portfolio of UK-government and devolved administration policies.
UNESCO says that the research suggests that there is significant untapped potential for UNESCO in the UK as, at the moment, UNESCO designation in the UK is used in different ways, to varying levels of success. Some UNESCO-affiliated organisations see their designation as a simple ‘badge’ that recognises quality. Others see it as a mechanism to enhance quality by working collaboratively with the dynamic, global UNESCO network to develop new programme, partnership and funding opportunities. The UK National Commission plans to draw upon this research to develop a programme of targeted support for current and prospective UNESCO projects in the UK to help them achieve the full potential of their involvement with UNESCO.
There were a number of 'designation boards' round the room which showcased what UNESCO is good at:
- Biosphere Reserves
- Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission
- Chairs & UNITWIN Network
- International Hydrological Programme
- Creative Cities
- Memory of the World
- Global Geoparks
- World Heritage
- L’Oréal for Women in Science
- Associated Schools Programme
- Expert Network
The evening was mostly for "networking", with only three brief inputs. One was a talk by Iain Stewart, the geologist, who spoke engagingly about the heritage beneath our feet. He had some great graphics, and had something to say that was germane to issues of Brexodus.
Curiously, there was no mention of the sustainable development goals as far as I could see, and, thankfully, nobody was promoting ESD – although there are some case studies of UK 'best practice' in the pipeline.