Level of description
Extent and medium
Name of creator
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was founded by thirty-seven countries as a result of the United Nations Conference for the establishment of an educational and cultural organization (ECO/CONF). Its Constitution, signed on 16 November 1945, came into force on 4 November 1946 after ratification by twenty countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, France, Greece, India, Lebanon, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom and United States. The first session of the General Conference of UNESCO was held in Paris from 19 November to 10 December 1946 with the participation of representatives from 30 governments entitled to vote.
Member States :
The ashes of the Second World War are reflected in the composition of the founding Member States of UNESCO. Japan and the Federal Republic of Germany became members in 1951, Spain in 1953. Other major historical factors, as the Cold War, the decolonization process and the dissolution of the USSR, also left their trace on UNESCO. The USSR joined UNESCO in 1954 and was replaced by the Russian Federation in 1992. Nineteen African States became Members in 1960. Twelve Republics from the former Soviet Union joined UNESCO in the period 1991 to 1993. As a consequence of its entry into the United Nations, the People's Republic of China has been the only legitimate representative of China at UNESCO since 1971. The German Democratic Republic was a Member from 1972 to 1990, when it joined the Federal Republic of Germany. In 1984, the United States withheld its contributions and withdrew from the organization in protest, followed by the United Kingdom in 1985 and Singapore in 1986. Following a change of government in 1997, the UK rejoined. The United States rejoined in 2003, followed by Singapore on 8 October 2007.
Since 1999 considerable reforms were implemented by UNESCO to restructure and decentralize the Organization’s staff and activities. These included the reduction of the number of divisions, allowing a corresponding halving of the number of directors and negotiated staff departures. In addition, the Internal Oversight Service (IOS) was established in 2001 to improve organizational performance by including the lessons learned from programme evaluations into the overall reform process.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Direct transfer to the archives
Content and structure area
Scope and content
Secretariat records, as separate from Secretariat Documents issued with official document codes, include programme files, project files, division files, registry files, administrative files, and working files. The Archival Group is comprised of the following collections and fonds:
-Legal instruments (LA) Collection: agreements, conventions, recommendations, final acts, plans of operation, protocols, contracts, statutes, credentials, full powers of the Delegates of the General Conference, etc., that have been transferred to the Archives.
-Central Registry Collection: official correspondence files (also called 'registry files' and 'subject files on programme maters') contianing documents collected from Secretariat units and organized according to a subject-based classification scheme by the former Registry Section.
-Secretariat fonds: records created and maintained by the organizational units of the Secretariat in the course of their activities, such as, for example, the Executive Office of the Director General (CAB), Bureau of Studies and Programming (BEP, PSP), Secretariat of the General Conference and the Executive Board (SCX), etc. The fonds includes records of committees and commissions that reported to the Director-General.
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
System of arrangement
The filing plan used for programme sector of the Secretariat (1946-1996) files, which are the main records of this fond, is mainly based on the Universal Decimal Classification (UDC) system. The UDC structures information and files according to subject words in a codification system developed as a cataloguing tool for libraries.
Since 1996, most programme sector files are organised according to decentralized filing plans, which reflect the provenance of the records. These are therefore arranged with the Secretariat Fonds. The inventories of archives originating in the central and administrative services have respected the traditional, archival provenance principle since the establishment of the Secretariat in 1946 and also form part of the Secretariat fonds.
Conditions of access and use area
Conditions governing access
The Rules governing access to the archives by external researchers are established in the UNESCO Administrative Manual, Appendix 9.5a.
As a general rule, Secretariat correspondence and administrative files are open for consultation after twenty years, counted from the most recent item in the file.
Access to a document or file not yet within the open consultation period may be granted by the Chief Archivist on an exceptional basis with the agreement of the appropriate official(s) or unit(s) of the Secretariat.
Conditions governing reproduction
Language of material
Script of material
Language and script notes
Physical characteristics and technical requirements
AG 8/1: Secretariat records: list of sub-groups and series (220)
AG 8/2.1: Abridged filing plan for the official dossiers in use by the Secretariat of UNESCO (GES/WS/2), (NB: The official dossiers are also called “registry files”, “official correspondence files” or “programme files”)
AG 8/2.3 REG: Index of inactive correspondence files, 2nd series, 1957-1966
AG 8/2.4 REG: Box list for inactive correspondence files, 1st and 2nd series (box REG 1-1632),1946-1966
Registry files: card index, Inventories of records transferred to the Archives by series (constituted by administrative units), 1946-1966
Inventories of records transferred to the Archives by series (constituted by administrative units)
AG 8/3 LA: Legal instruments (agreements, conventions, solemn documents and other instruments: list, registers, card index), partly computerized as of 1990
AG 8/3 TA: List of Technical Assistance projects, 1950-1972
AG 8/3 SF: List of Special Fund projects, 1959-1972
AG 8/3 PP: Participation Programme (PP): list of documents and records, 1955-
AG 8/4 SCHM: International Commission for a History of the Scientific and Cultural Development of Mankind (SCHM): inventory of archives, 1944-1969
AG 8/4 Int.Com.: Internal committees, boards, councils and working groups of the Unesco Secretariat
AG 8/5: Biographical files (name files) established by the Archives on selected persons related to UNESCO and its activities
Allied materials area
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related units of description
Subject access points
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Description control area
Rules and/or conventions used
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Dates of creation revision deletion
Created by Julia Pohle, June 2009. Revised slightly AWT 20 March 2012.