World Humanities Conference 2017
The 2017 staging of the World Humanities Conference was held in Liege, Belgium on August 6-11. This Conference brought together academics, leaders and members of the youth cohort such as myself. Participants came from right across the world with varying languages, values, cultures and perspectives all to achieve the common goal of revitalizing the humanities.
The key note addresses were particularly interesting because they allowed for us as participants to not merely listen to presentations but ask ourselves question such as what should happen if we abolish the humanities? How can we in the present capture the past in the most accessible ways? How will we cope with adaption and sustainability issues as we tackle climate change? What is the role of the humanities in a world full of violence? How do we think beyond the crisis? How do we correct challenges with the prejudices of African history and culture; which in particular has affected the Caribbean? What is an Identity? What solutions can we produce through higher education and research?
Throughout the entire conference what stood out to me was the fact that we constantly battled with defining the current status of the humanities and what that means for us as humans. Whether it was in a discussion of politics, religion, gender equality, economics, science or another we realized that the importance of defining the role of the humanities in each has great importance. This is because all disciplines study some form of human behavior.
There are many threats placed on our world today because of new distractions and ever growing means of degradation. “How can we restore our planet and is it too late?” was one of the most profound questions I believe asked throughout our many interactions. The answer to that question I believe is multi disciplinary and will take a collaborative effort such as that of this conference to provide such an answer. The importance of the words “it is in the minds of men and women that the defenses of peace must be constructed” taken from the UNESCO constitution have never meant more to me than it has since attending this conference. In working towards achieving the 2030 agenda for sustainable development we must start a movement in the attitudes and values of our people and the most effective place to start that, is by changing they way we all view the world and what kind of world we want to live in.
How do we even begin to take up challenge of justice and dissemination of knowledge? It is said he who has the knowledge has the power and in today’s societies countries constantly battle over that very power through political gains. So I beg to ask the question are we human enough to help each other? Surely the saying that problems man made can be solved by man must trigger within us a sense of personal responsibility to do what we can to contribute to the protection of the planet we call home.
In our discussion we must include deliberately finding solutions to issues of poverty, unemployment, violence, access to education and gender inequality. Are we giving our men and women of this world the same opportunities to see their dreams come true? Do we allow for them to interact with each other without prejudices of where they come from, how they look and even how they speak? Humans try to understand things that cannot be understood and put it into history and this over the years has caused us to reject a human because of those very things aforementioned.
So I ask one final question what is the world we want to live in going to look like years from today if we do not learn to cohabitate peacefully? Our past cannot continue to imprison us! Yes, we know we have not been the best to our planet but what can we do before it is too late?
1. After each staging of the conference allow for recommendations to be made on public policies of which updates will be given at follow up conferences to show not only the provision of solutions but also implementation through law binding policies.
2. At the conferences make use of more social media platforms right throughout the conference. This is a major conference and a team dedicated to making even those not attending feel a part could enhance the feel of inclusiveness to the average citizen.
3. Promote specific disciplinary and inter disciplinary research topics decided on at the conference and have it presented at follow up conferences so as to develop new data about the issues we are proposing we tackle.
4. Suggest to governments new ways of teaching the humanities in general education through public programs on local television and radio stations.
5. Promote more works such as the Paris agreement on climate change, the Sendai framework for disaster reduction, new urban agenda and the 2063 agenda for Africa.
6. Include the youth more in the conference by having a day dedicated to interaction with them which will provide for new insights and continuation of the work created at the conference. When I think of revitalizing the humanities the importance of the voice of our youth instant comes to mind; I think about innovation, creativity and most importantly sustainability.
Our education system now has become about getting grades and accolades however I believe we have forgotten our primary profession which is to be humans. Higher education has to be about more especially for us in the Caribbean. It has to be about research into how we connect and serve the interest of our people.
So before beginning to think of implementing policies and drafting agreements for how we will restore and maintain the discipline of the humanities I concluded that our youth must first be presented with the opportunities similar to this conference to allow for the appreciation of what the humanities really is, that is, everything about the way we exist. The inclusion of our youth would be giving insight on not only the planet that we have in transition now but how to sustain it for generations to come.