Cordoba's mosque-cathedral, one of Spain's first Unesco sites. / EFE

18 November 1952: Spain is admitted as Unesco member

Seventy years ago Spain's application to join the education, science and culture organisation was approved, despite objection from the Eastern Bloc


The seventh General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) took place in Paris from 12 November to 11 December 1952. The conference was attended by representatives of the organisation's member states and one of the issues on the agenda was whether to admit Spain, Libya and Nepal.

It was not plain sailing for Spain as there were vehement protests from the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and Poland. Nevertheless, admission was approved. It is thought that the action was taken speedily after delegates moved to proceed to a vote without debate. The vote was 44 to four, with seven abstentions. Libya and Nepal were endorsed by acclamation.

Following November's approval, it was on 30 January 1953 that Spain actually joined Unesco as its 66th member.

Spanish participation in the work of the organisation increased over the years. This reached a peak in 1987 when a Spaniard was elected director-general. Barcelona-born scientist Federico Mayor Zaragoza started his professional career in Andalucía. In 1963 he became professor of Biochemistry at the School of Pharmacy of the University of Granada and in 1968 was elected rector of that university, a post he held until 1972. In 1978 Mayor Zaragoza became deputy director-general of Unesco and served as director-general from 1987 to 1999, being re-elected for a second mandate in 1993.

Additionally, Spain was a member of the Executive Board, Unesco's main governing body, from 2007 to 2015. The country served as the chair of the World Heritage Committee in 2008 and 2009 and the same year hosted its 33rd session in Seville.

The World Heritage Committee, formally the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, was established in 1972. It was ten years before Spain ratified the convention. On 4 May 1982, the country made its historical sites eligible for inclusion on the list.

At the committee's eighth session, held in Buenos Aires in 1984, five sites in Spain were added to Unesco's World Heritage list. Two of them were in Andalucía - the mosque-cathedral of Cordoba and the Alhambra and the Generalife in Granada. Burgos Cathedral, the Escorial monastery in Madrid and Park Güell, Palau Güell and Casa Milà in Barcelona completed the initial list.

Nowadays Spain has 49 sites on Unesco's World Heritage list (43 cultural, four natural, and two mixed), the same number as France. Andalucía, with seven sites, remains the leading region in Spain. The Antequera dolmens site was one of the most recent additions, declared a World Heritage Site in 2016.

Additionally, Andalucía has three cultural traditions - flamenco, the Mediterranean diet, and the Cordoba patios festival - inscribed on Unesco's Intangible Cultural Heritage list.