More than fifty years after its creation, Unesco - like all the organizations within the UN system - finds itself in a very different world from the one in which it was founded. Although many problems are still with us, the technical, economic, social and political changes that have occurred since 1946 carry with them serious consequences for the future of mankind, and are, therefore, likely to have a major impact on the role and activities of Unesco in the decades to come.
Highly conscious of the issues at stake, the 30th General Assembly had both to elect a new Director-General and to debate the role of Unesco in the 21st century. As a contribution to the discussion, a study group made up of former Unesco officials, the Miollis Group, examined the future of the organization.
This article is the product of the group's work. Michel Batisse starts by reviewing the main current global trends before sketching three scenarios for the planet's future : two of them are based on a free market approach (one optimistic, one pessimistic), while the third - based on "sustainable, shared human development" - is presented as a desirable outcome.
He then examines the role that Unesco might play in achieving this goal, and what this would imply for the organization's continuing missions, programme priorities and guiding principles.