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World Humanities Conference

Liège, Belgium, 6-12 August 2017

The World Humanities Conference took place in Liège, Belgium, from 6 to 12 August 2017. It was preceded by a series of conferences and other academic events, engaging all continents. The conference involved scholars from all fields of the humanities, but also of the natural, social and formal sciences.

It was 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.

On this occasion, UNESCO, the International Council for Philosophy and Human Sciences (CIPSH) and LiègeTogether formally invited all scholars and research networks in the world to engage with the preparation of the Conference, in particularly by proposing papers and sessions, organizing meetings of research networks during the Conference, involving young researchers and students in the preparation process, promoting preparatory events or involving the relevant non-academic sectors in the Conference debates.

The aims and challenges are very demanding and difficult. But the current global context, academic and beyond, demands no less.

The Conference has strengthened the organization of the humanities, notably in its interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary dimensions, including all sciences. It contributed to epistemological debate and convergence of scholarly and wider cultural approaches, with a view to bridging the gap that often exists with the rest of society and the design of research, education and territorial policies. A major strength of human societies is their diversity and Humanities are particularly well placed to foster such diversity and complementarity.

The world – all countries and nations, all people and academies – is experiencing and facing the challenges of global cultural, social and environmental changes, which call upon all to find innovative responses, rooted in the diversity of perspectives driven by the multitude of diverse past and ongoing understandings of science, culture, education and sustainability.

Human history is the history of transitions, of changes, and of the capacity to build from diversity and convergence. Beyond the pressures of immediate needs, it is foresight, equipped with mid- and long-term vision, that allows human societies to make sense of the world they are living in.

A fundamental role of the humanities is precisely to strengthen such foresight from academic perspectives, while embracing a permanent interaction will all other sectors of knowledge and policies in society.

UNESCO conducted a debate on the need to resume this understanding, within its programmes and beyond, and to promote it within global, shared and convergent policies. The Executive Board of UNESCO 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”.

Since 2009, as proposed by CIPSH, the need to organize a World Humanities Conference has been agreed with UNESCO. The General Assembly of CIPSH in 2014 approved the proposal of LiègeTogether to organize the World Conference, considering in particular that “there has been no global re-thinking on the role and scope of humanities following the major global changes that were accelerated in the past few decades” and that “there is a growing need to re-introduce in the daily agenda of society a mid and long term perspective, that is required in face on the future uncertainty and which finds no answer within the limits of a purely immediate problem-solving approach”.

On the 67th anniversary of the creation on 18 January 1949 of the International Council for Philosophy and Human Sciences, UNESCO organized a working meeting in Paris to prepare the World Humanities Conference, with the participation of CIPSH, Liège Together and the ambassadors and permanent delegations of several UNESCO Member States.

John Crowley, j.crowley(at)unesco.org

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