For one week in August 2017, Liège, in Belgium, became the “world capital of humanities”, to quote Paul-Émile Mottard, President of the Provincial College of Liège. The World Humanities Conference (WHC), which ran from 6 to 12 August, ended with the adoption of a new vision for the humanities for the 21st century. Participants agreed that, the humanities’ capacity to engage substantive long term reflection was indispensable to our societies in steering the environmental, technological, and cultural dynamics that are transforming them.
The outcome document of the WHC, which went through public consultation over several weeks in advance of the Conference, calls on UNESCO, through its Secretariat and Member States, and on its partners, to “ensure the strong presence of humanities within the Management of Social Transformations (MOST) Programme, notably by promoting the establishment of a network of UNESCO Chairs in all regions of the world”; “to take into consideration the outcomes of the World Humanities Conference in particular in devising research and education policies”; and to “ensure that the outcome of the World Humanities Conference is taken into account by the 39th session of the UNESCO General Conference in November 2017”.
More than 1,000 participants, from all continents and all disciplines of the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, came together in Liège for a rich one-week programme that dealt with such diverse themes as environment, migrations, history, memory, languages, cultural identities and digital technologies. The Conference included seven keynote addresses, six thematic plenary sessions and more than 100 parallel sessions.
Onsite participation was very strong. Equally so online thanks to the live interviews on the WHC Facebook page, which attracted more than 200,000 views. More than 750,000 people worldwide looked at the live segments on their Facebook news feed. The participants also enjoyed a rich artistic, cultural and musical programme, integrated into the substantive discussions.
The World Humanities Conference, chaired by H.E. Adama Samassékou, former Minister of Education of Mali, and jointly organized with the International Council for Philosophy and Human Sciences (CIPSH) is the outcome of a worldwide process preceded by the organization of preparatory meetings in all regions (Brazil, China, Colombia, France, Jamaica, Mali, Lebanon, Portugal and Korea).