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The International Day of Light is a global initiative that provides an annual focal point for the continued appreciation of light and the role it plays in science, culture and art, education, and sustainable development, and in fields as diverse as medicine, communications, and energy. The broad theme of light will allow many different sectors of society worldwide to participate in activities that demonstrates how science, technology, art and culture can help achieve the goals of UNESCO – education, equality, and peace.


The International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015 (IYL 2015) was a United Nations observance that raised global awareness of the achievements of light science and its applications, and their importance to humankind. Under the leadership of UNESCO, more than 13,000 activities took place in 147 countries to reach an audience estimated at over 100 million. See the IYL 2015 Final Report for more information.

IYL 2015 forged many new links and collaborations between decision makers, industry leaders, scientists, artists, social businesses, NGOs, and the public at large. The IYL 2015 partners were committed to working together and continue initiatives beyond 2015. For instance: the continuation of initiatives promoting the economic importance of light-based technologies such as Photonics21 (Europe), the Photonics Initiative of South Africa, and the National Photonics Initiative (United States); increasing awareness-raising of the scientific heritage of Ibn Al-Haytham through the creation of the Ibn Al-Haytham LHiSA International Society; the expansion of UNESCO’s Active Learning in Optics and Photonics (ALOP) programme; or the promotion of solar energy solutions and light poverty issues in the multi-partner Power for All initiative.

After the success of the International Year of Light, it was clear that the proclamation of an International Day of Light will provide an enduring follow-up to the International Year of Light in raising the profile of science and technology, stimulating education, and improving the quality of life worldwide.

A resolution supporting the international Day of Light was prepared and was adopted by the UNESCO Executive Board at its 200th session which took place at the UNESCO HQ in Paris, France, on 19 September 2016. The resolution was placed before the Executive Board by Ghana, Mexico, New Zealand and the Russian Federation and a favorable decision was taken with 15 additional co-sponsors from: Argentina, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Nicaragua, Serbia, Nigeria, Paraguay, Qatar, Vietnam, and Uganda. The UNESCO Executive Board welcomed and endorsed the recommendation to proclaim the International Day of Light and recommended that the UNESCO General Conference at its 39th session adopted a resolution to proclaim it.

The UNESCO Executive Board resolution was endorsed by the UNESCO General Conference at its 39th session on 7 November 2017. The International Day of Light was introduced to UNESCO by sponsors Ghana, Mexico, New Zealand and the Russian Federation, and supported at the UNESCO Executive Board and the General Conference by 27 countries: Argentina, Colombia, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Finland, Iran, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lebanon, Madagascar, Malaysia, Morocco, Nicaragua, Serbia, South Africa, Sudan, Sweden, Nigeria, Paraguay, Qatar, Togo, Vietnam, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

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