Canada and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) seeks to build peace through international cooperation in education, the sciences and culture. UNESCO's programs contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals defined in Agenda 2030, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015.
Canada is a founding member of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
The Permanent Delegation of Canada to UNESCO is headed by Ambassador Élaine Ayotte.
Élaine Ayotte is the Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Canada to UNESCO.
Contact Canada’s delegation to UNESCO in Paris.
Overview of UNESCO
Since wars begin in the minds of men and women, it is in the minds of men and women that the defences of peace must be constructed… this vision guides all of UNESCO`s activities since its creation in 1946. As a founding member, Canada was one of the first 20 countries to join UNESCO, an organization that now has 195 member states. According to its constitution, the purpose of UNESCO is “to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among the nations through education, science and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion, by the Charter of the United Nations.”
UNESCO, as a specialized agency of the United Nations, addresses global issues through the negotiation of conventions, recommendations, declarations, the production of publications and information campaigns, and through technical cooperation and capacity building in its fields of competence. It is in Canada's interest that this organization, whose mandate is more relevant than ever, promotes Canadian values in a world plagued by armed conflict, various forms of extremism and by climate change.
UNESCO is governed by a general conference of member states, which meets every two years, and by an executive board of 58 elected member states that provides overall oversight of the organization. Member states ensure the financial viability of the organization through mandatory assessed contributions as well as voluntary contributions.
UNESCO is the only UN agency that includes in its constitution a network of national commissions to support it in its mandate. The Canadian Commission for UNESCO (CCUNESCO) serves as a bridge between Canadians and UNESCO. The CCUNESCO actively promotes UNESCO's values and provides a strong civil-society perspective. The CCUNESCO also supports various projects aimed at creating more inclusive communities, encouraging innovation, and protecting Canada's heritage and biosphere.
Canada is also host country of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), an authoritative and reliable source of internationally comparable data on education, science, culture and communication. Based in Montréal, the UIS enjoys functional autonomy. Statistics Canada is a member of its governing board.
Under the leadership of Global Affairs Canada, the Permanent Delegation of Canada to UNESCO is headed by Ambassador Élaine Ayotte. The delegation works closely with several other departments, as well as with provinces and territories and the CCUNESCO.
In accordance with the 2006 Canada-Quebec Agreement on UNESCO, the Permanent Delegation of Canada to UNESCO includes a representative of the Government of Quebec on its team. Thus, Quebec can, in its fields of competence, complete the Canadian position. In concrete terms, the governments of Canada and Quebec work in concert on all votes, resolutions, negotiations and proposed normative instruments at UNESCO. The Quebec representative participates actively in daily decisions and meetings, and works alongside the rest of the delegation, as well as with officials from other provinces and the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada.
- exercises influence in areas where foreign policy priorities affect UNESCO's activities
- seeks to improve the effectiveness of UNESCO
- advises and accompanies Canadian partners with an interest in the work of UNESCO
Canada is an elected member of several intergovernmental committees, including:
- the Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (term 2017-2021)
- the Executive Council of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (term 2017-2019)
- the Intergovernmental Council of the International Programme for the Development of Communication (term 2015-2019)
Canada's permanent delegate to UNESCO
Message from the Ambassador
Welcome to the Permanent Delegation of Canada to UNESCO. I am very honoured to represent Canada at this specialized agency of the United Nations, whose ambition has been, since its inception, to foster the intellectual and moral solidarity of humanity in order to build a more just, equitable and prosperous world.
It is clear to all Canadians that this solidarity can only be based on respect for human rights and dignity. Our diplomatic mission is part of our country's strong and historic commitment to multilateralism in the international arena and aims to ensure that Canada is an active participant and that its voice is heard when foreign policy priorities touch upon UNESCO's fields of competence.
There are many opportunities for engagement, since Canadian values are largely echoed in UNESCO's mandate. Examples include our feminist international assistance policy, which prioritizes gender equality and the empowerment of girls, the promotion of democracy and respect for human rights, freedom of expression and the safety of journalists, indigenous peoples’ rights and LGBTQ2 rights.
We believe that global citizenship education can help prevent violent extremism and that UNESCO's multisectoral approach can make a significant contribution. This same multi-disciplinary approach is also needed to combat climate change and to promote education about the health of our oceans.
Rich in its diversity, Canada played a leading role in the development and adoption of one of UNESCO's flagship conventions, the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. Inclusion and the protection of natural and cultural heritage have also long been important issues for Canada.
UNESCO's footprint is well established in Canada. Consider the 19 Canadian World Heritage sites, 18 Biosphere Reserves, 4 Geoparks, and our 20 or so UNESCO Chairs active in our universities from coast to coast. UNESCO, at home, is also Montréal, City of Québec and Toronto, which have joined the Network of Creative Cities and the more than 60 schools associated with UNESCO. The Canadian Commission for UNESCO (CCUNESCO) supports this "network of networks,” which weaves important linkages between Canadians and UNESCO.
Canada has all the assets necessary to provide constructive leadership on the many global challenges we face. This conviction guides the work of the entire team of the Canadian Delegation to UNESCO, with the support and contributions of federal, provincial, First Nations, and civil society partners.
Ambassador, Permanent Delegate of Canada to UNESCO
Ms. Elaine Ayotte (BA [communications], Université du Québec à Montréal, 1987; Master's studies [communications], McGill University, 1990) was appointed Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Canada to UNESCO in May 2015. As Head of Mission, she directs the Canadian Delegation's activities at this specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for Education, Culture, Science, Communication and Information. She represents the Canadian government and seeks to advance, among other things, the feminist values and positions of Canadian foreign policy in the various bodies of this Paris-based International Organization, which has 195 member states. Ambassador Ayotte delivered Canada's policy speeches at the 38th and 39th General Conferences, and served as Vice-Chair of the Communications and Information Commission at the 39th General Conference in November 2017. She is also Canada's representative on the International Program for the Development of Communication (IPDC). She successfully led the campaign for Canada's election to the Intergovernmental Committee of the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, in June 2017.
Before becoming a diplomat, Ms. Ayotte was a journalist before making the leap into municipal politics. She worked as a journalist and host on both radio and television for nearly 20 years, including 13 years in television news, as a reporter and anchor for TQS and TVA, helming the main newscasts, as well as for Radio-Canada, where she hosted several cultural and social shows. In 2009 she was elected as a city councillor for the Montréal borough of Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie, a position she held until 2013. While on city council, Ms. Ayotte was a member of the City of Montréal’s executive committee, where she assumed responsibility for the portfolios of culture, heritage and design. Her duties as a political representative for the Montréal arts and heritage councils, library network, public art and design offices, festivals, Accès culture network and museums led to her involvement in international events related to UNESCO and the United Nations. As co-chair of the Committee on Culture of United Cities and Local Governments, she spoke during a UN General Assembly thematic debate on culture and sustainable development at UN Headquarters in New York on June 12, 2013. She is married and the mother of two young adults.
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