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UNESCO and the Cold War

Press Release No. 38/2010
25 February 2010
International conference at the Universit├Ąt Heidelberg

The UNESCO History Project is organising an international conference at Heidelberg University on 4 and 5 March 2010. The purpose of the conference is to explore different historical perspectives concerning the extent of the Cold War's impact on the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and vice versa. The conference will be attended by approx. 100 historians and will be hosted by the Heidelberg Center for American Studies, headed by its founding director, Prof. Dr. Detlef Junker.

“From its very inception, UNESCO was one of the forums where East-West contest in the ideological sphere became most visible. For many years the Organisation remained a hostage in the Cold War confrontation, when both opposing blocs attempted to use it as an instrument in their war of ideas,“ says Professor Junker. „On the other hand, the UNESCO played an important and not always appreciated role in alleviating contradictions between Cold War blocs, as the Organisation attempted to engineer a rapprochement in the fields of culture, science and education.”

The Heidelberg conference will focus on four aspects of UNESCO’s role in the Cold War, among them the positions of the member states in this period of political and ideological confrontation and UNESCO’s commitment to foster peace and mutual understanding. Each session will begin with commentators discussing the pre-circulated papers in relation to the general topic, after which the authors will respond, and then discussion will open up to the floor. Conference languages are English and French. Simultaneous interpretation in English and French will be provided.

The members of the International Scientific Committee for the UNESCO History Project will attend the conference on 4 and 5 March, among them President Prof. Dr. Jean-François Sirinelli (Sciences Po, Paris / France) and Prof. Dr. Akira Iriye (Harvard University / USA). On March 6, the Committee will convene for a work session. The Heidelberg conference is the third of its kind dealing with UNESCO’s role in international politics and history after 1945. Previous meetings were held in Cambridge (UK) and Dakar (Senegal).

Among the internationally renowned experts speaking at the conference is Heidelberg historian Prof. Dr. Madeleine Herren. “UNESCO and the Cold War” is targeted not only at academics and students of the humanities and social sciences but also at the general public. Anyone wishing to attend is asked to register on the Heidelberg Center for American Studies (HCA) internet site ( For further information, go to

Note for newsdesks
The conference will take place in the atrium of the Heidelberg Center for American Studies, Curt und Heidemarie Engelhorn Palais, Hauptstrasse 120, Heidelberg on 4 and 5 March 2010. You are cordially invited to attend the conference and report on the proceedings. If you intend to do so, please notify Matthias Kutsch beforehand: phone +49 6221 543710, e-mail


Matthias Kutsch
Heidelberg Center for American Studies
phone: +49 6221 543710

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