Archives and Sources on UNESCO, Race, and the United States

Friday, January 5, 2018: 9:30 AM
Marriott Ballroom, Salon 3 (Marriott Wardman Park)
Jens Boel, United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization Archives
This paper explores archival sources revealing the context of UNESCO’s fight against racism and other forms of discrimination from the creation of the Organization to the return of South Africa to UNESCO in 1994, after the end of the apartheid regime. In particular, some of the paradoxes UNESCO has been facing are discussed, such as the tension between the intergovernmental status of the Organization and its cooperation with human rights based non-governmental organizations. UNESCO’s lofty ideals often contrasted with policies conducted by its member states, for example by colonial powers towards populations in territories under their control. Race segregation (Jim Crow) in the Southern states of the USA is another obvious example as are human rights violations in numerous countries around the world and issues relating to indigenous populations. UNESCO has constantly been confronted with profound dilemmas in trying to transform its ideals into practice. This paper will identify and discuss some of UNESCO’s key paradoxes and dilemmas as they are reflected in the Organization’s own archival material, specifically with regard to issues of race and racism and relations with the USA.

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