Updated: Monday, 10th August 2020 @ 12:42pm

What is UNESCO? Everything to know as Manchester is named a 'City of Literature'

What is UNESCO? Everything to know as Manchester is named a 'City of Literature'

| By Madeleine Stepanova

Manchester has been successful in its bid to join UNESCO’s worldwide network of Creative Cities as a City of Literature.

The home of the UK’s first public lending library, Manchester has blessed the world with great writers including Elizabeth Gaskell and Anthony Burgess.

It will now join cities like Baghdad, Dublin, Barcelona, Prague, Melbourne and Reykjavik in the esteemed global network.

In honour of the literary title, here’s what people need to know about UNESCO.

What does UNESCO mean?




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UNESCO actually stands for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. As you can imagine, it’s generally referred to by its acronym.

What’s its history and background?

UNESCO and its mandate for international cooperation can be traced back to a League of Nations resolution on September 21, 1921.

The organisation implements five programme areas, including education, natural sciences, social and human sciences, culture, and communication and information.

So what does UNESCO do?

UNESCO has a broad spectrum of responsibilities.  

Its main purpose is to contribute to peace and security by prompting international collaboration of educational, scientific and cultural reforms in order to increase universal respect for justice.

What does it mean to be a City of Literature?

The Cities of Literature network comprises of 28 cities representing six continents and 23 countries.

The network brings together over 1,000 libraries, 70 literary festivals and over 900 bookshops. 

Explaining the importance, UNESCO said: “Reading for pleasure is the single most important thing that will make a child successful in life.”

In 2004, Edinburgh became the first city to be named a City of Literature.

Taking a look outside of Europe, Melbourne is one of the 28 cities to also be awarded with the literacy title. It is proudly home to the largest literary publishing sector on the continent of Oceania.

The City of Literature accolade recognises excellence and places an obligation on cities to nurture and support their art form and collaborate internationally by sharing best practice.

They work together to develop local, national and international links.

What are people saying about Manchester’s nod?

Manchester City Council’s Executive Member for Schools, Culture and Leisure, Councillor Luthfur Rahman, said: “We are extremely proud to become a UNESCO City of Literature, as we recognise the power of words to promote greater understanding, well-being and learning across our proudly diverse city.

“Building on the strong foundations of Manchester’s rich literary history, the council and our partners from the city’s universities and literary community will work together to create a programme of events which gives all of Manchester’s residents the chance to participate in and benefit from this thriving City of Literature.”

Image courtesy of Tim Green via Flickr, with thanks