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Natural Sciences


UNESCO’s work in the field of Natural Sciences is aimed at fostering international scientific cooperation with a view to helping implement the Organization’s mandate. Italy contributes to UNESCO’s “science diplomacy” by hosting several UNESCO centres on its territory, by taking part in the Global Geoparcs and Biosphere Reserves Networks and by financing several UNESCO programmes in the fields of science and technology, freshwater resources and climate change. 

In this field,  SDG n°6 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is particularly relevant (making freshwater resources available on a global scale). The World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP), which is located in Perugia, coordinates all UN-Water activities toward SDG6. 


I) UNESCO Centers in Italy

• Venice hosts the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe (BRESCE). This Bureau, which is the only UNESCO Center in Europe, promotes cultural and scientific cooperation in Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean. Ever since 1988, its premises are located in Palazzo Zorzi, which is kindly lended to BRESCE by the City of Venice (Journal officiel of the Italian Republic, N.120/L, Article 1.2 and Convention between UNESCO, Italian Government and City of Venice, 28th November 1996).    

• Trieste hosts the International Center for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), which is funded at 80% by the Italian Ministry of Education and Research (20 500,000€). It is mandated to advance scientific expertise in the developing world in the fields of theoretical physics and mathematics. Trieste also hosts the World Academy of Science(TWAS), which fosters the advancement of science in developing countries since 1985.

• Perugia hosts the Secretariat of the World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP), the UN coordination mechanism of the 31 UN-Water members and partners dealing with the world’s fresh water resources. Its purpose it to provide tools to develop policies that enhance fresh water resources management, identify water shortages and suggest solutions. Its key effort is the World Water Development Report (WWDR), a yearly comprehensive review that gives an overall picture of the state of the world's freshwater resources.


II) UNESCO Global Geoparcs

Italy participates with ten Geoparcs to UNESCO’s Global Geoparks List, which was created in 2015 and actually counts 127 Geoparcs in 35 countries.

Thanks to the full support of Italy’s local authorities and Ministry of the Environment, our contribution to this Programme is relevant, not only for the high number of Italian geographical areas that are represented, but most of all for their high value – both national and international.


Italy’s Geoparcs represent a strong testimony – although not comprehensive – of our country’s extraordinary geological heritage and of innovative management strategies that are capable of fostering sustainable development. The conservation strategies and wide range of awareness-raising activities that are experimented in these Geoparcs with the full involvement of their local communities have, in fact, brought to a new, inclusive and sustainable management of these areas.

Italian Maurizio Burlando from the Beigua Geopark is one of the 12 international experts who compose the Global Geoparks Council.

There are 10 Italian UNESCO Global Geoparcs:


III) Biosphere Reserves

Biosphere Reserves are geographic areas that comprise land or sea  ecosystems (or a combination of both) whose value is recognized by UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere Programme (MaB). Human presence in the framework of ecosystemic services is also a key factor.

A World Network of Biosphere Reserves was established in order to promote North-South /international cooperation, capacity-building activities, as well as continuous monitoring through the sharing of knowledge and good practices. It actually counts 686 Biosphere Reserves in 122 countries.

There are 17 Italian Biosphere Reserves:


IV) Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission

The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) is the only UN body dealing with marine research; it was founded in 1960 and actually counts 148 Member States. The IOC is responsible for promoting international cooperation and coordination of oceanographic research programmes in order to foster the sustainable management, development and safeguarding of the marine environment. Its main decision body is the Executive Council, which is composed of 40 Member States representing each regional group, which are renewed every two years.  

In June 2017, Italy was reelected to the Executive Council after 10 years during the 29th General Assembly of the IOC. Our country is represented by the President of the Italian IOC and Research Director at the Italian National Research Council (CNR), Rosalia Santoleri.

Italy is also a member of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Tsunami Early Warning and Mitigation System in the North-eastern Atlantic, the Mediterranean and connected seas (ICG/NEAMTWS), which was established in 2005 under IOC’s umbrella. The Tsunami Warning Centre of the Italian National Institute for Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) is IOC’s Tsunami Service Provider for the Mediterranean.


V) Programma Idrologico Internazionale

The International Hydrological Programme (IHP) is a UNESCO intergovernmental programme devoted to promoting scientific knowledge, technical training and water resources management. IHP is increasingly involved in the definition of developing strategies and policies to prevent water-related conflicts on a local and international scale.

The Italian National Research Council (CNR) established an Italian IHP-UNESCO Committee  which is composed of experts from prestigious technical and scientific institutions dealing with freshwater resources. It is located in Perugia, at the Research Institute for Hydrological Protection (IRPI).



Human Sciences


I) The International Bioethics Commission

Among UNESCO’s activities in the Human Sciences Sector, Italy has a special focus on the topic of bioethics. Thanks to her international reputation, the Vice-President of Italy’s Bioethics National Commission, Laura Palazzani from the Lumsa University, is one of the members of UNESCO’s International Bioethics Commission. The latter was established in 1993, and is made up of 36 independent experts from all over the world, who are responsible for monitoring advancements in human sciences and their application, in order to guarantee that human dignity and freedom are respected.  


II) Anti-Doping

Another key activity of UNESCO in the Sector of Human Sciences is the fight against doping in sport. Italy is a strong supporter of this effort by means of UNESCO’s Convention against Doping in Sport of 2005.