Professor Achille Mbembe delivers opening lecture at UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs 30th anniversary conference


On 3-4 November, an international conference was held at UNESCO Headquarters to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme.

Dedicated to the theme of "Transforming knowledge for just and sustainable futures", the event had the combined purpose of recognizing the accomplishments of the Programme over the past three decades, invigorating greater interdisciplinary cooperation, and catalyzing new research collaborations among members and UNESCO sector programmes.

The highlight of the conference's opening session on Thursday 3 November was a Public Lecture delivered by historian and political theorist Professor Achille Mbembe of the University of Witwatersrand, entitled "The paths of tomorrow: contribution to thinking commensurate with the planet".

Professor Mbembe argued that a new planetary consciousness is needed to transform the knowledge commons for sustainable futures. Without planetary consciousness humanity will be unable to respond meaningfully to what he described as the ‘techno-ecological situation’ of the present. In his view, humanity needs to be able to draw fully upon multiple knowledge systems, termed the ‘archives of the world’. Drawing on South Africa’s post-apartheid experience, Mbembe asserted that it is necessary to decolonize, to recognize what is damaged, and to understand what needs to be repaired, restored and reconstructed. A broader vision is needed, he declared, to rethink knowledge on the basis of an extended concept of care and amends, to counter the exhaustion of resources and compensate for the destruction of bodies, souls and minds. In his view, UNESCO is the right venue for humanity to address the major questions of our times.

Following the lecture, Professor Mbembe was joined by Mr Federico Mayor, former Director-General of UNESCO (remotely), Ms Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education, and Professor Arathi Sriprakash of the University of Bristol, for a discussion on the topics raised and to address comments from the floor.

Professor Mbembe's lecture is available to stream at this link.

The watch the full recording of the conference plenary sessions, please click here.





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