The World Humanities Forum (WHF) was launched jointly by UNESCO and the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea in 2011 to provide a space for humanities-oriented dialogue and discussion about what it means to be human, and the meaning of life in a time of global transformation. The WHF’s aim is also to strengthen research capacities and the role of the humanities in addressing global challenges.
Specific objectives of WHF are:
- providing an appropriate place for dialogue between scholars, artists, intellectuals, policy-makers and the general public to reflect on global issues from a humanities perspective;
- enhancing global discussions and actions to promote humanistic values and to put into practice a renewed humanism in order to achieve a sustainable future for all;
- spreading state-of-the-art humanities knowledge and the outcomes of the WHF to relevant audiences across the world, thereby promoting similar initiatives at the national and regional levels;
- strengthening the connections between the humanities and other disciplines such as the natural sciences, the arts and the social sciences in order to foster more multidisciplinary and integrated discussions on major contemporary challenges;
- and enhancing the capacity of humanities institutional organizations to contribute to academic reflection and public debate at national, regional and international levels.
The two WHFs in 2011 and 2012 successfully mobilized human scientists and artists in a dialogue on global issues; raised public awareness of the role of the humanities in addressing current challenges; and facilitated multidisciplinary and integrated discussions.
The first Forum, held from 24 to 26 November 2011, in Busan (Republic of Korea), discussed universalism in a multicultural world. It explored how universalism works in a new world context when traditional values and systems are fading and new kinds of connections and conflicts are emerging. Participants of the first WHF concluded that each society needs to achieve an appropriate balance between the necessary respect for diversity on the one hand and shared values on the other, without which diverse societies cannot live in peace and prosperity, and that the world as a whole needs to establish a renewed humanistic basis for universal values.
The second Forum, from 1 to 3 November 2012, also in Busan, examined the role of the humanities in healing individuals and societies and in promoting a culture of peace. Noting that rapid development of science and technology, economies, social systems and culture entails profound changes in belief systems, ideologies and identities, the second WHF emphasized that the humanities and the human scientists should take on the role of reducing tensions and resolving conflicts - a core purpose of the humanities from the beginning.
Participants of the first and the second WHF adopted the Busan Declaration and the Busan Recommendations respectively, as outcomes of their discussions. Summarizing their view on the issues from a humanities perspective and reaffirming the importance of the humanities in understanding and addressing the challenges, the participants requested that concrete mechanisms be established to support international cooperation in and reflection on the humanities and to maximize their contribution to addressing challenges through public and widely disseminated debates and policy-relevant activities.
On the basis of the success of the previous WHFs, the third WHF, which is scheduled to be held in 2014, will explore how to envision the role of the humanities in the 21st century; establish concrete networks between human scientists, experts, policy-makers and artists; and strengthen humanities capacities institutionally and intellectually.
- Humanism: a new idea, the UNESCO Courier, October-December 2011