State of the Community: Every Decision Counts will bring together academics, professionals and youth to investigate sustainable solutions, anchored in the knowledge provided by the social and human sciences, for our interconnected world. The conference takes place under the aegis of UNESCO’s Management of Social Transformations (MOST) programme, and builds on the outcomes of the World Humanities Conference, held in Liège, Belgium, in August 2017.
The conference is organized around three interconnected areas in which well-identified threats go hand in hand with new opportunities to support societies in responding to the challenges of the 2030 Agenda for inclusive and sustainable development. The possibility of a civic culture based on democratic citizenship is often perceived to be undermined by technologies of surveillance, control and communication that trivialize public debate; by exclusive and aggressive identities that leave little space for social pluralism; and by the decline of traditional modes of political organization. At the same time, new technologies for networking and exchange, along with more horizontal forms of politics, offer the hope of alternative and more fluid identities that can underpin new forms of social solidarity, including across the borders of states and nations.
How these tensions play out, and whether extremism, discrimination and inequality become more or less prevalent, will depend on the ability to reconcile globalization and traditional structures, legitimate individualism and social solidarity, the pace of innovation and the need for social debate about technologies and their application. Democracy critically depends on the strength and viability of institutions as nurtured by the people they serve, and thus on the civic convictions of citizens themselves.
The title given to the conference derives from the 2016 State of the Community conference, also held in collaboration between UNESCO MOST and the Dhillon Marty Foundation, which organized a student competition for “Phrase of the Year”. “Every Decision Counts” was the winner of the 2016 competition, highlighting the significance of the impact of every decision each citizen makes on the individual and the well-being of society. The jury for the Dhillon Marty Competition: 2017 Phrase of the Year will also convene during the conference and announce the competition winner.
The conference will operate in English and French, with simultaneous translation.
(names in alphabetical order)
Tuesday, Sep 12, 2017
Opening Remarks by Sonia Dhillon Marty, Dhillon Marty Foundation
|10:10-10:20||Opening Remarks by John Crowley, UNESCO|
|10:20- 10:30||Presentation of Our: Collective Future Project
by Erin Moore, University of Oregon
|10:30-11:30||Keynote Address: Making Deliberative Democracy Practical
by James Fishkin, Stanford University
|11:30-13:00||Competition: 2017 Phrase of the Year|
|14:30-16:00||Panel I: Technology: Opportunities and Challenges|
Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017
|11:00-12:30||Panel II: Identity, Why and for What Good|
|12:30-13:00||Award Ceremony: 2017 Phrase of the Year Competition|
|14:30-16:30||Panel III: Deliberative Democracy|
|16:30-16:40||Closing Remarks by John Crowley, UNESCO|
|16:40-16:50||Closing Remarks by Sonia Dhillon Marty, Dhillon Marty Foundation|
Salle IV, UNESCO, Paris
Program subject to change without prior notice.
The transformative and disruptive technologies of the 21st century – including robots, artificial intelligence, the internet of things, biotechnologies – do not just offer new ways of doing things, or even simply new things to do. As they provide rapidly changing options to address needs for security, food and shelter, and emotional contact, and reshape the spaces of democratic practice, disruptive technologies also raise questions – speculative and increasingly practical – about what it means to be human. Alongside analysis of technological transformations in areas such as energy, agriculture, transport and information, the resources of the social sciences and the humanities are required to make sense of a world in which technologies are available to enhance human potential – but not equally available everywhere and to all; in which some non-human entities may interact with us in ways that are difficult to distinguish from ordinary language; and in which important aspects of our identities are constructed through participation in algorithmically governed networks.
Identity plays a central role in contemporary social and political debate. We care about how others recognize and misrecognize us, both as individuals and as members of groups. Most people wish to be able to define the terms in which they are perceived, and may feel hurt or devalued when required to fit in to others’ preconceptions or stereotypes. On the other hand, overemphasis on ethno-religious understandings of group identity may foster political tensions. Finding a reasonable balance in this regard implies pluralizing identity: recognizing that who we are, how we are perceived, and how we categorize others, are processes with multiple dimensions that respond to diverse contexts and situations. It is important to elaborate a language in which the well-known results of research in the social and human sciences can be connected to public debate in order to provide a basis for an inclusive and civic public culture.
Can we have a democracy of thoughtful empowerment rather than a democracy of sound-bite manipulation that serves simply as an adjunct to technocratically conceived “governance”? “Deliberative democracy” summarizes a range of ideas and institutional developments that seek to engage the public in thoughtful and informed discussion oriented not just towards aggregation of interests but also, more ambitiously, towards the elucidation of the public interest. How can the normative idea of deliberative democracy, which reflects key democratic values of equal citizenship and public reason, be approximated in real-world conditions at various geographical scales? Can new technologies and new methods of organization, mobilization and discussion play a role in revitalizing really existing democracy?
Installation and event, September 12-13, 2017
“Our" is an installation and event by architect Erin Moore, in collaboration with author and philosopher Kathleen Dean Moore. “Our" is a framework made of nesting space for the larvae of solitary bees that houses the collective ecological future of the city as written in the futures of 100 individuals. Deconstructed into 100 bee nesting blocks distributed throughout the city, “Our" embodies the boundlessness of the ecological design site in architecture, the biodiversity of the living city, and the indivisibility of our ecological future.
Kathleen Dean Moore is an author, moral philosopher, and environmental advocate. Formerly Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Oregon State University, she is the author or co-editor of a dozen books, including Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril and Great Tide Rising: Toward Clarity and Moral Courage in a Time of Planetary Change.