UNESCO was officially founded in 1945 with the support of 37 countries. Similar to the International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation (ICIC), UNESCO was founded as a start to heal the damages of war. During World War II, the United Kingdom hosted the Conference of Allied Ministers of Education (CAME), which many European countries attended. As CAME expanded its activities, international interest in its undertakings began to spread, and the original CAME participant countries chose to increase membership to include observer countries. Delegates from these countries focused on reconstructing education post World War II. CAME produced a draft of the primary functions of UNESCO, emphasizing the importance of member countries acting as leaders in tackling the educational and cultural aspects of reconstruction issues. UNESCO’s mandate reflects the committee’s background in exploring a variety of political and social issues through a cultural and educational lens. As such, the primary function of UNESCO is to foster communication worldwide, among all cultures and peoples. Through this basic communication, UNESCO supports the goals of eliminating poverty, achieving a positive and universal international vision regarding human rights, and promoting mutual respect among states.
Topic A: Prevention of Violent Extremism Caused by Religious Intolerance
Curbing violent extremism has long been a part of the global counter-terrorism strategy, as religious violence is something the world has experienced for centuries. While violent extremism can be caused by intolerance, hatred, and fear, it can be solved by improving education, safeguarding cultural heritage, and promoting intercultural dialogue. However, achieving those goals requires collaboration between diverse groups: government, civil society, community leaders, and more. To this end, UNESCO is co-chairing the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) Working Group on Prevention of Violent Extremism, which discusses various actions that the international community can take to fight violent extremism. This topic will focus not only on the reasons behind violent extremism and its causes, but it will also aim to promote peaceful and inclusive societies by establishing harmony between diverse cultures and religions.
Topic B: Preservation and Safeguarding of Indigenous Intangible Cultural Heritage
The preservation of indigenous intangible cultural heritage has been a primary focus of UNESCO since the introduction of the concept of intangible cultural heritage in 2003. Intangible heritage includes traditions such as dances, music, and rituals that are a unique part of the culture of many indigenous communities. One example is the Koogere oral tradition of the Basongora, Banyabindi, and Batooro peoples in Uganda. The Koogere oral tradition is an oral storytelling tradition that teaches and facilitates intergenerational information transfer of native histories and environmental knowledge. However, due to the introduction of new technologies in these communities, the practice of this tradition is rapidly declining. Delegates will need to consider how the world identifies and documents intangible cultural heritage, effective and ethical methods of preservation, and proactive educational intervention. Indigenous communities and cultures exist worldwide, but with increased globalization, governments must balance the creation of cohesive societies while embracing diversity in cultures, customs, and traditions.