The International Council
for Philosophy and Human Sciences

World Humanities Conference 2017 - Press Kit

To redefine the foundations, role and commitment of the humanities in contemporary society at global level

What is it all about?

UNESCO, with the International Council for Philosophy and Human Sciences and Liège Together, has started the preparation of the WORLD HUMANITIES CONFERENCE.

This will be a major gathering to be prepared during the next 18 months, engaging all fields of knowledge in all countries, focused on the role and scope of the humanities in contemporary society.

Why is it organized?

There is a growing awareness, in face of the critical ongoing societal and environmental trends, that the specific knowledge of the humanities on cultures is insufficiently considered in the public agenda, with often catastrophic consequences.

The Conference will foster a re-foundation of the humanities based on a polycentric approach. Starting from the need to re-think the scope and role of human sciences in contemporary society, affirming the relevance of the humanities for everyday life, the Conference will establish a new agenda for the humanities, with educational, research and policy-making implications in the various countries and regions of the world.

The need for such an agenda is twofold. On one hand, there has been no global re-thinking on the role and scope of the humanities following the major global changes that have accelerated in the past few decades. On the other hand, in the face of major uncertainties that elude a purely immediate problem-solving approach, there is a growing need to re-introduce in the daily agenda of society a mid- and long-term perspective.

The humanities provide unique skills and resources for individuals and societies to meet the growing need for sustainable living, participatory, and peaceful coexistence. Empowered by historical knowledge, critical thinking, and nuanced analysis of human ideas, values, and imagination, the human sciences provide understanding of the new salience of cultural capital in our contemporary world. Humanistic thinking offers a broader, deeper and more creative perspective than conventional problem-solving approaches to societal challenges. It contends that human flourishing can only be realized through renewed awareness of the human condition – past, present, and future – in relation to other sentient beings, our natural environment, and scientific and technological developments. Moreover, the humanities emphasize the potential of artistic expression to provide meaning in increasingly diverse societies.

The Conference will establish a new agenda for the humanities, with educational, research and policy-making implications in the various countries and regions of the world.

In the context of education, a need exists to identify the core elements that should be present in an education for an open citizenship, framed within diversity and flexibility.

In the context of research, there is a need for better articulation of funding strategies of agencies in different regions and countries, aiming at the global improvement of humanities knowledge for the better of societies. This requires an identification of cross-disciplinary priorities at a world scale.

The nature of research organization, among disciplines but also in bridging with society, also requires rethinking. This has started within CIPSH itself and the relations between UNESCO and CIPSH, and overall will be a third major outcome, thus establishing a more efficient tool for the human sciences to pursue their competences.

Where and when will be held the conference and related events?

The Conference will take place in Liège, Belgium, from 6 to 12 August 2017. It will be preceded by numerous events in all continents, starting with a Regional Conference on Science and Civilization of the Silk Roads held in Beijing, in December 2015. Following this Conference of Beijing, regional thematic conferences will be organized in Brazil (October 2016, focusing landscape management and the humanities), Mali (November 2016, focusing on history, languages and culture) and in the Arab region.

Furthermore, specific disciplinary events will take place in several countries (among others: February 2016 in Mariana, Brazil; March 2016 in Mação, Portugal; June 2016 in Macau, China).

The World Humanities Conference will also build on the success and outcomes of the World Humanities Forum, the 4th edition of which will be held from 27 to 29 October 2016 in Sejon City, Republic of Korea.

The proposal for the World Humanities Conference was first presented to the General Conference of UNESCO by the former President of CIPSH, Adama Samassekou, in October 2009, and received initial endorsement. The General Assembly of CIPSH (Nagoya 2010) approved a first draft of the Conference and its scope and plan went through deeper preparation in the following 5 years, alongside the development of UNESCO’s own strategic approach to the humanities.

In particular, the Executive Board of UNECO adopted a decision in 2011, at the initiative of the Republic of Korea, which inter alia recognized “the role of the humanities as a provider of visions and insights in line with the focus of UNESCO’s new humanism, which underlines the importance of preventing the fragmentation of humanity and the need to build genuine foundations for development and peace” and reaffirmed “the invaluable contribution that the humanities can make towards establishing new human values in times of increasing globalization, greater connectivity and also rising uncertainty, in the face of new economic, financial and social challenges”.

A report on the highlights of the humanities in the world is now being prepared and aims at incorporating contributions from society.

What will be the topics of the conference?

The Conference will be structured around six main themes:

  • Humans and the environment;
  • Cultural identities, cultural diversity and intercultural relations;
  • Cultural heritage;
  • Boundaries and migrations;
  • History, memory and politics;
  • The humanities in a world in transition.

Who are the organizers of the conference?

The Conference is organized by UNESCO, CIPSH and LIEGE TOGETHER.

The presidency is entrusted to H.E. Adama SAMASSEKOU, former Minister of Education of Mali, former Executive Secretary of the African Academy of Languages, Past President of CIPSH, President of the MAAYA network.

An Honorary and Policy Committee will be composed of noted names of international science ('hard sciences', social sciences, humanities, Nobel Prize) and politics.

The Scientific Programme Committee is co-chaired by Professor CHAO Gejin (China), President of CIPSH, and Professor Jean WINAND, Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters of the University of Liege.

A Local Organizing Committee is co-chaired by André GILLES, Deputy-President of the Provincial College of Liege, Willy DEMEYER, Mayor of the City of Liege and Albert CORHAY, Rector of the University of Liege.

The global coordination core group is composed of Adama SAMASSEKOU, Chairman, Luiz OOSTERBEEK, Secretary-General of CIPSH, John CROWLEY, Chief of Section, Sector for Social and Human Sciences at UNESCO, Robert HALLEUX, Chairman of the CHST-ULG and Secretary-General of the Conference, Michel COPPÉ, representative of the Province of Liege, Rosi BRAIDOTTI, from CIPSH, and Satoko Fujiwara, from CIPSH.

Who is involved in the preparatory process?

It is highly relevant to stress that, to date, not only academics, but NGO's and the private sector are intervening in the process (this is also the case in the framework of the International Year of Global Understanding).

The current decision and public open preparatory process is already the result of a long debate involving all scholarly fields of the humanities, but also contacts with natural and social scientists, with artists, NGOs and many other relevant stakeholders.

Very important are the participations, beyond scholars, of artists, NGOs, policy makers. Special attention will be devoted to promoting the unique relevance of knowledge diversity, countering ethnocentric bias, fostering inclusion and preventing gender or other discrimination.

A major chapter will be the participation of youth in the World Humanities Conference, several projects being already in preparation.

The Conference will be available online as well.

What role is allocated to the Media?

The media is always crucial in the dissemination of any project. Yet, in this case, outreach is the keyword for what needs to be accomplished. Media, from journalists to editors and publishers, involving from writing reporters to photographers or marketing experts, all are invited not merely to “produce news” but also to be part of the news. The media field is a core field of the humanities, and UNESCO and CIPSH thus invite professionals from this sector to participate in the debates, to comment, to criticize and to intervene in the project as a whole.

In this sense, CIPSH and UNESCO also welcome proposals and challenges from media experts, because it is with them that it will be effectively possible to engage in the process not only an abstract notion of society, but specific citizens.

For further information

  Article Source : UNESCO MOST Programme
June 10, 2016