United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization /UNESCO/
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN).
It was established on 16 November 1945 in London where a United Nations Conference for the establishment of an educational and cultural organization of the United Nations was convened with 44 governments represented. The Constitution of UNESCO was introduced and signed by 37 countries.
UNESCO’s Constitution came into force on 4 November 1946. Its declared purpose is ‘to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms in order to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law and human rights along with fundamental freedom, proclaimed in the United Natiions Charter and valid for all people in the world, regardless of race, gender, language or religion.’
Currently UNESCO has 195 member states and 9 associated members.

Bulgaria became a member of UNESCO on May 17, 1956, several months after being admitted to the United Nations.
The organizational structure consists of a General Conference, which is the supreme body of UNESCO and is held once every two years, an Executive Council of representatives from 58 countries elected by 5 geographic election groups and a Secretariat headed by the Director-General. At present, this is Irina Bokova, who was re-elected to this post in October 2013 for a second four-year mandate for the period 2013-2017.

Cooperation between Bulgaria and UNESCO

Bulgaria became a member of UNESCO on May 17, 1956.

By order of the Council of Ministers, the National Commission of the Republic of Bulgaria for UNESCO was established. It consists of representatives of the main ministries and institutions, participating in UNESCO programs. The international legal basis for the work of this commission is the Charter of National Committees adopted at the 20th General Conference of UNESCO.

Executive bodies of the National Commission for UNESCO are the Bureau and the Secretariat. The Chairman of the National Commission is Yuri Shterk, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The National Commission coordinates the participation of the Bulgarian institutions in the activities of UNESCO and cooperates closely with the Regional Offices of UNESCO BRESCE in Venice in the field of science and culture in Europe, with the International Bureau of Education (Geneva), with the UNESCO Institute for Education in Hamburg, etc. With the assistance of the European Bureau of UNESCO in Venice, a number of projects in the field of culture and biodiversity are being carried out. The Commission is actively working with civil society, national and international non-governmental organizations. The Secretariat of the National Commission for UNESCO maintains relationship with UNESCO clubs in Sofia and round the country. There is a well-developed system of UNESCO-associated schools, the leadership and coordination of which is carried out by a National Coordinator at the Ministry of Education who is a member of the National Commission Bureau.

The National Commission of the Republic of Bulgaria for UNESCO was established by order of the Council of Ministers of 25 May 1956 and functions on the basis of Council of Ministers Decree No 147 of 30 June 2004 and the Statute of the National Commission for UNESCO. The international legal basis for the work of this commission is the Charter of National Committees adopted at the 20th General Conference of UNESCO.

Pursuant to Decree No 147 of the Council of Ministers of 30 June 2004, its management is entrusted to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Chairman of the National Commission for UNESCO is Yuri Shterk, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, appointed by an order of the Minister of Foreign Affairs /from 9 June 2017 Yuri Shterk, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs/, the Deputy Chairman is the Director of the Head Directorate / currently Mrs. Maria Spassova, the Director of Human Rights Directorate/. Executive bodies of the National Committee for UNESCO are the Bureau and the Secretariat. The Bureau is a collective governing body of the NC and consists of representatives of the state institutions, scientific and educational organizations, which have a major part in the program activities of UNESCO /a representative of the parliamentary commission for education and science, a representative of the parliamentary committee on culture and media, a representative of the parliamentary committee on children, youth and sports, a representative of the administration of the President, Deputy Ministers of Culture, Education, Environment and Water and MTITC, Principal Secretary of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Deputy Rectors of Sofia University and the Technical University, National Coordinator of Associated Schools and Head of UNESCO, who acts as Secretary General of the Commission. The department is currently working with quite a reduced staff.

In support to the National Commission, the function of Secretariat of The National Commission of the Republic of Bulgaria for UNESCO is performed by UNESCO Department within the Human Rights Directorate at the Foreign Ministry, which carries out daily activities and liaison with the UNESCO Secretariat in Paris and with its Regional Bureau for Europe, with the Permanent Representation of Bulgaria to UNESCO and with the Bulgarian institutions, involved in projects and activities of the Organization.

Since February 2012, a UNESCO Regional Center of category 2 for the Protection of Intangible Cultural Heritage for SEE countries has operated in Sofia.

Bulgaria is currently a member of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee on Non-Cultural Heritage (until 2018) and the Executive Council of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (June 2017 – June 2021).

The amount of membership fees of UNESCO member countries is determined by the quota calculated on the basis of GNP at the UN. Bulgaria has paid up its membership fees for 2017, which amounted to 65.986 USD and 76.011 EUR.

In 2008, by a Decree of the Council of Ministers, a Trust Fund of Bulgaria to UNESCO for participation in international development cooperation was established. The funds under this Trust Fund are intended to finance projects at our discretion and in accordance with the declared priorities of UNESCO.

In 2014, three projects for funding by the Bulgarian Trust Fund to UNESCO were approved: 1/ Pilot Project “Promoting Access to Information and Media for the girls and young women of Burkina Faso” worth 80.000 USD; 2/ The amount of 20.000 USD was transferred for the purposes of the Supplementary Fund to the 2003 Convention on the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage; 3/ Project “Internet: A tool for youth mobilization against all forms of extremism and radicalization” worth 100.000 USD. In 2014, the Trust Fund also funded three UNESCO initiatives hosted by Bulgaria: 1/ Training Workshop in Sofia on Risk Management of Natural Disasters and the Development of Sustainable Tourism for Sites of World Cultural Heritage worth 80.000 USD ; 2/ Meeting of the UNESCO Operational Group to the 1970 Convention on measures to prohibit and prevent the illicit import, export and transfer of property rights on cultural objects at the amount of 10.000 USD; 3/ Third International Forum of NGOs, having official partnerships with UNESCO on the topic “The role of youth in the preservation of tangible and intangible cultural heritage” amounting to 52.000 USD. In October 2014, UNESCO’s “Women in African History” project, funded by the Bulgarian Trust Fund, won the International Telecommunication Union award /ITU–UN Women GEM–TECH Award/.

According to the main areas of activity, the priorities are as follows:

Education: improving the quality and efficiency of the education /a reform in the high and higher education, implementation of new information technologies in the high school/; ensuring inclusive, equal and quality education, social cohesion and civil education, building a “culture of peace”, tolerance and non-violence; technical and vocational education; inter-university cooperation, building and participating in the already established networks of UNESCO university departments.

3 UNESCO Departments have been opened in Bulgaria – of Human Rights and Peace Culture, of Engineering and of Cultural Heritage. The assossiated schools to UNESCO are over 40.

Natural Sciences and Ecology: biodiversity and conservation of the nature resources; new and renewable energy sources; preservation of water resources and their adjacent ecosystems; seismological research – a priority for the Balkan region; phytochemistry, bioethics and bioengineering, human genome.

Humanitarian and Social Siences: application of ethics in science and technology; management of social transformations; development of human rights, the fight against all forms of discrimination, racism and xenophobia and the resulting intolerance; problems of the most vulnerable social groups.

Culture: preservation, development and promoting the material and intangible cultural heritage; intercultural dialogue and cultural diversity; material base modernization of the Bulgarian culture; digitization of cultural heritage and creation of a cultural data base; cultural tourism;

Bulgaria has totally 10 cultural and natural sites of an exceptional value to mankind included in the the World Heritage List. Those are: The Madara Rider, Boyana Church, Kazanlak Tomb, Old Nessebar, Rila Monastery, Ivanovo Rock Churches, Thracian Tomb in Sveshtari, Pirin National Park, Srebarna Biosphere Reserve and, together with other European countries, elements from the site of The Old Beech Forests in Europe / 7th July 2017 /.

On 26th November 2014, UNESCO included the Tradition of carpets in the town of Chiprovtsi in the the Representative list of the intangible cultural heritage of mankind. That is the third enlisted Bulgarian element after The Bistritsa grannies – archaic polyphony, dancing and ritual practices from the region of Shoplouka /2005/ and The Fire-dancing /2009/. In 2016, the Folklore Festival in Koprivshtitsa was included in the category of Good Practices.

At the 29th session of the Intergovernmental Coordination Council of the Man and Biosphere Program, held in Paris from 12th to 15th June 2017, four Bulgarian biosphere reserves: Central Balkan, Chervenata stena, Srebarna and Uzunbujak were included in the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves with international recognition.

Information and communication: Promoting the free flow of ideas and universal access to information and knowledge as well as to information and communication technologies with an emphasis on freedom of expression; Registration of Bulgarian monuments in the World’s Memory program /digitalization of written cultural objects/; Implementation of the modern technologies for the purpose of education, science and culture.

In 2011, UNESCO incorporated in the World Registry ‘Memory of the World’, the Enin’s apostle – one of the most valuable and significant Bulgarian script from the 11th century. In May 2016, two Bulgarian nominations were presented for registration in the World Registry ‘Memory of the World’ – the Boril synodik and the Four Gospels of London /in collaboration with the British Library/. They will be considered in September 2017.

Directorate of Human rights
UNESCO Division
July 2017