brief n°08

What could be the contribution of the UNESCO Social and Human Sciences Sector?

brief n°06

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n°08

What could be the contribution of the UNESCO Social and Human Sciences Sector

FEBRUARY 2013

The structure and functions of UNESCO are under discussion in the context of both budget reductions and an internal review by UNESCO and external review by the UK Government. This discussion includes the nature of the actual and potential contribution of the UNESCO Social and Human Sciences (SHS) Sector. This Policy Brief is a contribution to these discussions.

The current situation as to SHS activities and the mission and functions of UNESCO are reported. The views of various stakeholders are reported, based on published statements and invited contributions.

The challenges and dilemmas in the contribution of the UNESCO Social and Human Sciences Sector are reviewed. A tension is identified between, on the one hand, short-term policy impact (visibility) and, on the other hand, the building of capacity in the social sciences in order to deliver improved quality of evidence to support policy making in the longer-term (credibility).

In conclusion, five recommendations are made:

The development of the social and human sciences should be one of the key policy goals of UNESCO in general and SHS in particular.

The vision of the social sciences in UNESCO should be renewed.

There should be a re-balancing away from short-term policy impact (visibility) towards capacity building in the social sciences in order to deliver improved quality of evidence to support policy making in the longer-term (credibility).

The five functions of UNESCO should be used to re-articulate its goals and activities in the social sciences: laboratory of ideas; clearing house; standard-setter; capacity-builder; and catalyst for international cooperation.

SHS should more directly and effectively cooperate with other bodies that develop social sciences including relevant UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Networks, and international social science professional associations.

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