About the Canadian Commission for UNESCO


The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was created in 1945 in the wake of the Second World War, and Canada was one of its 20 founding members. UNESCO champions equity, peace and sustainable development. The values of dialogue, knowledge-sharing and international cooperation in the fields of education, culture, communication, information and science are central to its mission. In 2015, the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Agenda’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—to be achieved by 2030—inform the work of UNESCO and the other UN agencies. They are designed to support the development of fairer and more inclusive communities as well as sustainability in education, ecosystems, cities, consumption and economies.

The Extended Family of UNESCO National Commissions

To implement its ambitious mandate, UNESCO is supported by a global network of 199 national commissions in its member and associate-member countries. These act as bridges between UNESCO and its countries. The national commissions mobilize and coordinate partnerships with civil society to make substantial contributions toward achieving UNESCO’s objectives.

Canadian Commission for UNESCO

Created in 1957, the Canadian Commission for UNESCO (CCUNESCO) carries out the mandate and initiatives of UNESCO in Canada. Its members and partners come from all sectors across the country and include universities, non-governmental organizations, institutions, government departments and individuals. Together, with the support of a dynamic and independent Secretariat and the Commission’s Executive Committee, CCUNESCO’s members and partners consult, research, and collaborate in UNESCO’s mandated areas. CCUNESCO operates under the responsibility of the Canada Council for the Arts.

CCUNESCO’s International Reach

At the heart of CCUNESCO’s work are ongoing efforts to ensure that UNESCO’s priorities take root in Canada and that Canadian perspectives are brought to global forums.

Normative Instruments

This term describes UNESCO’s various international conventions, declarations, and recommendations. These instruments play a unique and important role in promoting UNESCO’s priorities, and the Canadian Commission for UNESCO supports their implementation. Key instruments in Canada include the:

At its General Conference in November 2021, UNESCO adopted 2 new Recommendations:

  • UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science: This recommendation is a tool to strengthen international cooperation on open science; to reduce the existing inequalities in science, technology and innovation (STI); and to accelerate progress towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Recommendation of the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence: This recommendation is the first-ever standard on AI ethics. The protection of human rights and dignity is the cornerstone of the Recommendation, based on the advancement of fundamental principles such as transparency and fairness, always remembering the importance of human oversight of AI systems.

The United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development

Launched in January 2021, the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) is an international initiative to promote sustainable development through ocean science. Its goals are to develop scientific knowledge, build infrastructure and foster relationships for a sustainable and healthy global ocean.

This year, CCUNESCO published Towards a new ocean science: engaging with culture to promote sustainable development a paper which explored why scientists need to embed considerations about food security, culture, and community health in their research processes. The paper highlighted how community-engaged researchers are transforming science by developing co-designed and co-delivered sustainability solutions that are culturally relevant, actionable, and effective in protecting our waters.

Advancing CCUNESCO's 2021-2026 Strategic Plan

CCUNESCO’s activities are guided by the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the UNESCO Medium-Term Strategy, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and CCUNESCO’s 2021-2026 Strategic Plan which includes three strategic objectives and four cross-cutting priorities. This report highlights activities undertaken in 2021-2022 to advance CCUNESCO’s strategic objectives as well as its four cross-cutting priorities which are:

  1. Implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to support Truth and Reconciliation

  2. Promoting gender equity and justice

  3. Mainstreaming youth leadership

  4. Fighting against racism

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Education, culture, freedom of expression and anti-racism advance an inclusive, just, and peaceful society

In 2021-2022, in order to advance this strategic objective CCUNESCO:  

  • Partnered with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation for the 2021 Truth and Reconciliation Week. This five-day online national event for students from grades 5-12 helped inform youth about the truths of the Indigenous treaties; First Nation, Métis and Inuit land claims; and the residential schools system.
  • Published an IdeaLab article Land as teacher: understanding Indigenous land-based education in which four Indigenous co-authors from across the country shared their insights on what land-based education means to them, why it's important for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples, and how it can support reconciliation efforts in Canada.
  • Amplified the reach of UNESCO’s publication The Chilling: Global trends in online violence against women journalists by publishing a blog post to raise awareness in Canada about threats to women journalists.
  • Partnered with the Jasmin Roy Desmarais Foundation Comment to publish a guide for journalists on how to approach gender and sexual diversity in the media to avoid perpetuating prejudice and hate towards 2SLGBTQI+ individuals and communities.
  • Continued collaboration with Developing Young Leaders of Tomorrow Today (DYLOTT) by supporting their first Black Diplomats Academy Summit, which took place from September 22-24th 2021.
  • Established a new partnership with the International Black Economic Forum to support their pilot initiative to measure the wellbeing of Black people in cities around the world.
  • Partnered with la Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse to support the French to English translation of the educational toolkit Fugitives! From Slavery to Human Rights which is aimed at teachers of young people aged 15-24 and addresses lesser-known aspects of the history of African and Afro-descendant people in Quebec since the transatlantic slave trade.
  • Marked March 21st – the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination by delivering a communications campaign on social media that highlighted five Canadian individuals and organizations working daily to bring down barriers and eliminate systemic discrimination and racism.
  • Welcomed 10 new members to our Coalition of Inclusive Municipalities. These municipalities work to improve their policies against racism, discrimination, exclusion and intolerance. The new members are:
    • Battleford (Saskatchewan);
    • Chelsea (Quebec);
    • District of North Vancouver (British Columbia);
    • Fredericton (New Brunswick);
    • Grand Bay-Westfield (New Brunswick);
    • North Battleford (Saskatchewan);
    • Olds (Alberta);
    • Perth (Ontario);
    • Scugog (Ontario); and
    • Whitby (Ontario).
  • Worked with the Coalition of Inclusive Municipalities to create the Small and Rural Municipalities Toolkit. Acknowledging that many resources and toolkits that support municipalities in their anti-discrimination work are designed with larger and urban communities mind, this toolkit aims to fill this gap by providing information that is useful and relevant to smaller and rural centres.
  • Established a new partnership with the Congrès Metropolis Francophonie Mondiale, a gathering of researchers, policy makers, and representatives from community and settlement organizations working in the field of immigration and settlement in Canada.
  • Welcomed a new cohort in the Youth Advisory Group, furthering CCUNESCO’s commitment to mainstreaming youth leadership.
  • Partnered with the Centre for Global Education and TakingITGlobal to support #Decarbonize, an educational program for children aged 4-19 that brings together climate education, advocacy, art and action through the lens of global citizenship.
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Science, technology, education and culture contribute to sustainable development

In 2021-2022, in order to advance this strategic objective CCUNESCO:

  • Published a report summarizing key messages, central discussion points, and key recommendations arising from the World Virtual Indigenous Circle on Open Science and the Decolonization of Knowledge, a webinar co-hosted by CCUNESCO at the end of 2020. This webinar gathered of 20 Indigenous speakers and 300 participants from around the world.
  • Welcomed new appointments to the Canadian UNESCO Chairs Network: Barbara Perry (UNESCO Chair in Hate Studies at Ontario Tech University) and Jonathon Calof and Dominic Blakely (UNESCO Chair in Anticipatory Systems Innovation and Venture Creation at the University of New Brunswick).
  • Established a partnership with Kids Code Jeunesse (now known as Digital Moment) to launch the Algorithm Literacy & Data Project – an initiative to educate youth about the presence of algorithms and how they influence our digital experiences. The goal of this initiative is to empower kids to exercise critical thinking in how they engage online, and to become proactive, creative users and makers rather than passive consumers.
  • Launched a paper and toolkit by Liette Vasseur and Jocelyn Baker on IDEA (inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility) practices in research groups, and discussed its findings during a webinar titled “EDI in Action: Best Practices and Future Directions” co-organized with Science & Policy Exchange.
  • Welcomed the addition of Canada’s 19 Biosphere Regions and 5 Global Geoparks to the map of the TransCanada Trail, thereby promoting sustainable tourism to these sites.
  • Published A guide to Supporting Sustainability Practices in Tourist Accommodation Facilities. This toolkit is primarily aimed at accommodation facilities in or near UNESCO designed sites (i.e., World Heritage, Geoparks, and Biosphere Regions) which attract visitors concerned about sustainable development and interested in authentic environmental and cultural experiences.
  • Welcomed the addition of the City of London to the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, Canada’s first Creative City of Music. These designated cities are committed to sharing best practices, developing partnerships that promote creativity and the cultural industries, strengthening participation in cultural life and integrating culture in urban development plans.
  • Partnered on Innovation and resilience in the arts, culture, and heritage in collaboration with the Creative City Network of Canada and Les Arts et la Ville - a multi-year research project highlighting innovative practices among artists and cultural organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Governments and civil society safeguard natural, cultural and documentary heritage for future generations

In 2021-2022, in order to advance this strategic objective CCUNESCO:

  • Welcomed the declaration by UNESCO of Átl’ka7tsem/Howe Sound as a Biosphere Region, the 19th Canadian region to receive this honor. A national network, Canada’s UNESCO Biosphere Regions span over 235,000 square kilometers within the traditional territories of over 50 Indigenous nations, and work to protect biodiversity and promote sustainable development.
  • Partnered with BESIDE, an independent magazine at the crossroads of nature and culture, to include a feature on Canada’s UNESCO Biosphere Regions titled New Harmonies in their 14th issue.
  • Worked with Agnieszka Pawlowska-Mainville, an Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) expert and professor of Indigenous Studies at the University of Northern British Columbia on an online ICH conference. The first of its kind in Canada, the gathering brought together practitioners, government employees, community members, academics, students, and those interested in cultural heritage. The conference aimed to exchange knowledge and create connections for innovative projects, initiatives, and ICH-based work.
  • Welcomed five new inscriptions to the Canada Memory of the World Register, which safeguards documentary heritage of national significance:
    • Alvin D. McCurdy fonds (historical documentation about Black communities of Southern Ontario)
    • Viola Irene Desmond Court Records (the records of the first known legal challenge by a Black woman in Canada against racial segregation)
    • Violet Archer fonds (records of this great Canadian composer’s compositions, research, teaching and life experiences)
    • Acfas Archives (documenting over 100 years of French-language scientific education and research)
    • Basil H. Johnston Archives (published and unpublished works of this Ojibwe author and language teacher and other materials documenting his life and research).