More than 180 nations belong to UNESCO. UNESCO's headquarters are in Paris, France, and operates educational, scientific, and cultural programs and exchanges from 60 field offices worldwide. Projects sponsored by UNESCO include international science programs; literacy, technical, and teacher-training programs; regional and cultural history projects; and international cooperation agreements to secure the world’s cultural and natural heritage and to preserve human rights.
UNESCO has at times been highly controversial. During the 1970s and 1980s, Western countries, especially the United States and the United Kingdom, believed it was being used as a forum for Communist and Third World countries to attack the West. UNESCO developed a plan called the "New International Information Order", to stop alleged lies and misinformation being spread about developing countries. The West rejected it as an attempt by Third World and Communist dictatorships to destroy freedom of the press; the United States withdrew from the organization in protest in 1984, and the United Kingdom withdrew in 1985. (The UK rejoined in 1997, and the US rejoined in 2003.) UNESCO has also been criticized by some for its large and ponderous bureaucracy.
One of UNESCO's missions is to maintain a list of world heritage sites. These sites are important natural or historical sites whose preservation and safe keeping are deemed important for the world community.
UNESCO is represented by UNESCO Goodwill Ambassadors.