Humanism, a new idea
By Irina Bokova
From The Unesco Courier
Humanism is an age-old promise, as well as an idea that is always new, endlessly reinventing itself. The humanist project has been part of our history since Antiquity, yet it shines like new in every epoch. In the early years of the third millennium the word can no longer have the same meaning as it had during the Renaissance in Europe, when it was forged on the image of the ideal man, master of himself and the universe. It also goes beyond the meanings that the Enlightenment philosophers gave it, and which have remained, despite their universalist aspirations, restricted to a Eurocentric vision of the world.
Respect for cultural diversity is a core element of 21 st century humanism. It is a vital constituent during these times of globalization. No single culture has a universal monopoly. Each and every one can contribute to the consolidation of our shared values.
The current threats to the planet’s precarious ecological balance, the ethical problems raised by digital and biomedical technologies, the economic and political crises –these are all global challenges that demand concerted responses. The humanism that is emerging today has to provide a framework for our common thoughts and reflections on global issues.
And, beyond the theory, humanist values have, above all, to be translated into practice, in every facet of human activity. The adoption of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000 constitutes a humanist agenda par excellence. A central preoccupation is the promotion of women’s rights and gender equality. Humanism today also has a feminine side.
Humanist values form the very foundations of the philosophy of UNESCO. Written into its constitution, they have been guiding the actions of our Organization for 65 years, in the promotion of a peace that is “founded upon the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind.” Building a responsible world of solidarity is a long-term endeavour that has to draw on all the creative forces of humanity. Culture, education, philosophy, science, information technology, law, and international cooperation provide us with the means. Building the ramparts of human dignity in everyday life is not a Utopian quest.
Humanism is a promise we must all keep.