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The role of Italy at UNESCO

It is only fair to say that Italy’s activity at UNESCO is in line with its widely recognized “culture and beauty superpower” role. Its prestige inside the Organization has been constantly on the rise ever since its accession during the General Conference of 1947 in Mexico City (the ratification document was presented on January 27, 1948), as proven by the election of an Italian Director-General (Vittorino Veronese) in 1958.

Italy’s leading role at UNESCO is due to its rich cultural, artistic and natural heritage of course, but not exclusively. Our top-notch “human capital” is also much appreciated all over the world. Italian experts, artisans, engineers, scholars and scientists are called to intervene at the international level in order to train experts from other countries and provide technical support for drafting UNESCO dossiers, carrying out interventions in the field and implementing cultural heritage and cultural industries related programmes. One may namely cite Italy’s art conservators, who intervene in niche sectors like underwater archeology; the Carabinieri of the Department for the Protection of Cultural Heritage (TPC), who are champions in the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural heritage. But also, our leading researches in the fields of hydrology, oceanography and seismology, or in theoretical physics within the scientific pole of Trieste.

History, tradition, creativity and innovation are the foundations of our national identity, which has allowed us to reach remarkable cultural diplomacy goals. Several initiatives led by the Italian Governement have, for example, earned our country a clear leadership in the framework of UNESCO’s “Unite4Heritage” campaign for the safeguarding of cultural heritage against massive attacks and destructions (the so-called “Culture Blue Helmets”*). Thanks to our engagement, in 2016 Italy was chosen to chair the “Unite4Heritage” Group of Friends, which fosters dialogue among UNESCO Member States in order to find common positions in the field of safeguarding cultural heritage in crisis and conflict areas. Italy has also been chosen for the first time by UNESCO Member States to chair the Culture Commission of the General Conference for the term 2019-2023.

Italy is one of the 58 members of UNESCO’s governing body, the Executive Board, which are elected by the General Conference every four years. Italy has been re-elected for the sixth term in 2019.

Italy’s yearly contribution to UNESCO’s regular budget (some 11 million dollars, 4,1% of the Organization’s total budget) is based upon a scale of assessment which is calculated at the United Nations upon national population and GDP. For the biennium 2022-2023, we are the eight contributor to the Organization’s regular budget but the first for voluntary funds, with 30.5 million dollars per year.  Italy has become the Organization’s second global contributor (regular and voluntary), after China.

Our country holds the record of the highest number of sites inscribed on the World Heritage List (59), plus 17 inscriptions on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

(*) This definition refers to the Italian Task Force which was put at UNESCO’s disposal by means of a bilateral MoU signed by the Italian Governement and UNESCO in February 2016, and not to the UN Blue Helmets whose deployment is ruled by ad-hoc UNSC Resolutions.