Director-General opens Symposium of the UNESCO General and Regional Histories
On 5 October 2009, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura opened a two-day symposium on the UNESCO General and Regional Histories at the Organization’s Headquarters in Paris. The symposium, organized on the eve of the 35th session of UNESCO’s General Conference, celebrated the impending completion of the project to develop a History of the Scientific and Cultural Development of Humanity launched in 1952*.
The Director-General recalled that the Histories project "had been conceived in the aftermath of the Second World War as a means of promoting dialogue and rapprochement among cultures through a pluralistic and interdisciplinary vision of history." With the publication of the sixth volume of the Different Aspects of the Islamic Culture in 2010, UNESCO will have elaborated 51 volumes in 57 years, involving some 1800 historians and experts from around the world. Aiming to rise above the then prevailing perception of history as a study of nations, the project adopted a supra national approach to demonstrate that scientific and cultural achievements result from intense human interactions across time and space. Each of the 6 Histories** goes beyond nationalistic versions of history and focuses instead on the regional dimension.
In warmly thanking all who had contributed to the mammoth undertaking, Mr Matsuura observed that much remained to be done, for example in translating each volume into as many languages as possible in order to make them available to the maximum number of readers around the world, and assuring the full pedagogical exploitation of the rich material contained in them. An excellent example of this was to be found in the project entitled, The Pedagogical Exploitation of the General History of Africa, launched in February 2009 with the generous financial support of Libya, and which seeks both to revitalize history education in Africa and contribute to the process of regional integration advocated by the African Union.
Mr Matsuura completed his address by presenting the Presidents of the International Scientific Committees established to oversee the works with the UNESCO Five Continents Medal and a certificate in recognition of their outstanding contribution to this "great intellectual and scientific undertaking".
* The second edition, renamed History of Humanity, was launched in 1980 and completed in 2008. Originally written in English, it has been translated into French, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.
** The History of Humanity; The General History of Africa (8 volumes); The History of the Civilizations of Central Asia (6 volumes); The Different Aspects of the Islamic Culture(6 volumes); The General History of Latin America (9 volumes); The General History of the Caribbean (6 volumes).