UNESCO WITH(OUT) BORDERS: The Global Impact of International Understanding and Better History Textbooks

June 16 -17, 2015

Aalborg University, Denmark

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) came into existence in 1945. As a globally emerging influential player, the Organization quickly took on a leading role in decolonization and post-war peace reconstruction through initiating and promoting major international projects, aimed at the improvement of mutual understanding among nations, in general, and school education and textbooks, in particular.

Conference purpose

The conference presents an opportunity to bring together leading international scholars on the history of UNESCO in general and the programme for international understanding in particular for in-depth discussions and presentations of their research to a wider audience.

The results of the conference will be published in an edited volume.

The conference also forms a space for discussions of future research projects and collaborations.


Academics and policy-makers often regard UNESCO as a charitable organization criticizing it for its foundational idealism of post-war activities and for its lack of effectiveness since its very inception. The literature generally treats the organization merely as a structure or an agent of education, culture and science. In this conference – and in the edited volume - we focus on the movement and impact of ideas, knowledge and practices. Our goal is to offer a new research trajectory for the understanding of roles played by international organizations and the effects of globalization. Our way to pursue this trajectory is to take a close look at past developments in UNESCO’s educational policies and practices, applied in the fields of history teaching and international understanding for peace and cooperation, in order to assess their global impacts, as stretched from east to west and from north to south. The existence of UNESCO- approved guidelines of textbook revision might seem as a kind of impact in itself, but the ways in which these new norms were locally implemented differ very significantly. These differences indicate the presence of country-specific restrictions to the new worldview promoted by UNESCO, or perhaps even the confrontations among internal groups, external forces and national interests, as well as the very constrains of international cooperation.