Sunday, May 03, 2009

Class: The Social and Human Science Program of UNESCO

This is the smallest of UNESCO's five programs both in terms of approved budget and in terms of extrabudgetary resources contributed by member states. Yet it is also quite diverse in content.


The Management of Social Transformations program is the leading program dealing with social sciences as usually defined in the United States. Rather than organize the effort around traditional disciplines such as Economics, Sociology and Anthropology, or around Area Studies such as Latin American Studies, it takes an approach based on comprehensive studies of the processes of transition going on in so many societies. However, UNESCO is also involved in the production of a World Social Science Report and publishes a Social Science Journal.

There is a strong focus on the Ethics of Science and Technology based on the activities of World Commission on the Ethics of Science and Technology (COMEST) and its Bioethics committees. UNESCO has provided the forum for the development of declarations on bioethics, and provides an online Bioethics Observatory. It is also involved in capacity building efforts oriented towards developing nations.

UNESCO has produced a number of regional histories, drawing on experts from the areas discussed. The multi-volume studies, such as those of African history and the history of the Silk Road, provide encyclopedic reviews.

In the field of human rights, UNESCO's Social and Human Sciences Program works
  • to encourage and disseminate human rights research;
  • to promote education in human rights;
  • to lead action in the fight against all forms of discrimination at national, regional and international level;
  • to encourage cooperation among all actors and networks;
  • to promote democracy and
  • to further reflection on new forms of violence, notably by drawing up regional plans for human security.
UNESCO also promotes a human rights approach to the efforts to reduce poverty. It has sponsored the World Conference on Human Rights.

UNESCO has received considerable publicity for an aspect of its program in Sports Ethics -- The Anti Doping Convention -- in conjunction with the Olympic Games.

John Crowley: Towards a Culture of Peace and Knowledge
(This video was shown to the class.)