Symposium on UNESCO’s History - Call for expressions of interest

Symposium on UNESCO’s History - Call for expressions of interest

UNESCO Mr. Jens Boel, Chief Archivist
Vom - Bis
01.01.2005 -
Boel, Jens

Symposium on UNESCO’s History - Call for expressions of interest

On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the adoption of UNESCO’s Constitution, (16th November 1945), UNESCO is organizing an international symposium in Paris, in November 2005, in cooperation with the Institute for Political Sciences in Paris, the University Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris I) and the Centre for History and Economics at Cambridge University (United Kingdom).

This symposium is part of a larger programme to support research on UNESCO’s history and encourage critical and multidisciplinary reflection on the history of the Organization and its past orientations, activities and results. This programme, the “UNESCO History Project”, was launched by the Director-General of UNESCO on 30th April 2004.

The History Project is a five-year programme; its orientations will be influenced by the expressions of interests and ideas, in particular those coming from the research community.

Project description

The objective of the symposium is to inspire and catalyze research on topics relating to the history of the Organization. Rather than providing official answers and final conclusions, the symposium aims at multiplying approaches to UNESCO’s history in a critical and pluralistic spirit. Furthermore, the symposium will try to foster a better understanding of the way in which the Organization’s action, seen from the periphery rather than from the centre, has been perceived and experienced by the different actors concerned.

UNESCO therefore invites students and researchers with backgrounds in different disciplines, including history, political sciences, the study of international relations, cultural studies, international law, anthropology and sociology, to express their interest by suggesting papers, themes or approaches for the symposium or in the wider context of the history project. Examples of themes and issues that could be raised at the symposium are: the origins of UNESCO, the role of the Organization in broader contexts, such as the Cold War and the process of decolonization, human rights, normative and standard-setting actions, cultural diversity, sustainable development, cultural and natural heritage, education for all and reflections on the mandate, values and “philosophy” of UNESCO.

All suggestions for themes and topics are welcome. Please send your response to the coordinator of the UNESCO History Project, Mr. Jens Boel, Chief Archivist, UNESCO (e-mail:

Programme of work

The symposium is expected to last for two days. It could include four main sessions, three of which would focus on the institutional, political and intellectual history of UNESCO, respectively. The topic of the fourth session would be the identification of new, major research themes. This final session would be the conclusion of the Symposium and should therefore aim at opening perspectives for research works during the period 2005-2010.

The proceedings of the symposium will be published as the first volume of a series of publications that will present the results of the History Project. With this end in view, a scientific committee will be established after the symposium to ensure the follow up on the activities, promote historical research on the Organization and, depending on the resources available, award study grants to students and young researchers. An oral history programme could also be launched. UNESCO will attempt to mobilize extrabudgetary resources from Member States and foundations in order to finance these research and publication activities.

A presentation of results and a general evaluation of the outcomes of the project could take place at the International Congress on Historical Sciences in 2010.




Mr. Jens Boel
Chief Archivist, UNESCO
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