The social and human sciences have a vital role to play in helping to understand and interpret the social, cultural and economic environment. They provide research, identify and analyse trends, propose paths of action. UNESCO has set itself a number of tasks that should help reduce the gap between what is and what should be. This also corresponds to the work of the Sector for Social and Human Sciences (SHS):
- Determine what should be (ethics and human rights)
- Anticipate what could be (philosophy)
- Study what is (empirical social science research)
In addition to the intersectoral priorities (hyperlink) of the National Commission, the goal of the Social and Human Science Sub-Commission is to address emerging social and ethical challenges
- developing and distributing knowledge among Pacific States about ethical issues associated with the production of knowledge, including debate about the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights (UDBHR) and its relevance for the people of the Pacific
- promoting awareness of the dialogue on the Treaty of Waitangi and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
- collaborating with Social Policy and Evaluation Research (SPEaR) and Building Research Capability in the Social Sciences (BRCSS) to foster the development of research skills, policy relevant research and productive interactions between state agencies and social researchers
- contributing to awareness of the relevance of the humanities through collaboration with the Royal Society of New Zealand (RSNZ) and Te Whāinga Aronui – The Council for the Humanities on the Humanities Award
Ethics: UNESCO Regional Pacific Ethics of Knowledge Production Workshop
The November 2007 UNESCO Regional Pacific Ethics of Knowledge Production Workshop aimed to build on discussions at the University of Otago Conference with particular regard to collective and individual rights, the universal and contextual aspects of ethics, understanding the Pacific research and ethics context as well as issues relating to 'sacred' and 'open' knowledge and the significance of Christian values in knowledge production and distribution in the Pacific, Pacific ethical frameworks, and a focus on who does research in the Pacific and who benefits from it. Other goals included the identifying of Pacific indigenous perspectives on research ethics, the facilitating of a forum for the sharing and distribution of information on these perspectives and best practice, the inviting of contributions from a range of delegates from government, community, and academic institutions, and the establishment of a network of individuals and organisations across the Pacific interested in the ethics of knowledge production and distribution. Delegates represented indigenous people from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Palau, Kiribati, Tokelau, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, Niue, Cook Islands, Hawai'i, Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand, and Samoa. Their presence at the Workshop was the outcome of contributions from the UNESCO Participation Programme, the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO, Toi te Taiaio: The Bioethics Council and the Building Research Capability in the Social Sciences (BRCSS) Network. Significant assistance with the Workshop was also provided by the UNESCO Office for the Pacific, Apia, Samoa.
Human Rights: Te Tiriti O Waitangi/The Treaty of Waitangi Web Resource
The Social Sciences Sub Commission is committed to exploring and documenting the connections between international human rights agendas and issues raised by the Treaty of Waitangi, including the relevance of the Treaty for people of different ethnicities in Aotearoa New Zealand. The Human Rights Commission has worked closely with the Social and Human Sciences Sub-Commission on this project.
United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
New Zealand was one of the first countries to sign the Convention in March 2007 and has now ratified the Convention. The Social Sciences Sub Commission has developed a resource on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in conjunction with the Human Rights Commission.
Research and Policy Interface
Workshop on Cultural Identities in a Globalising World
This one day workshop attracted over 70 registrations including people from NGOs, ministries and departments, local government organisations, polytechnics and universities. The workshop was organised by an intersectoral committee with representatives from the Social and Human Science and Culture Sub-Commission. The combination of presentations traversed cultural diversity and its relationship to research policy and practise.
The discussions at this workshop informed the development of a national paper that was delivered at the Association of Asian Social Science Research Councils (AASSREC) symposium on ‘Multiculturalism in a Global World’ in Bangkok in August 2009.
Social Science and Humanities
This Award was offered for the first time in 2007 and is offered in collaboration with the Royal Society of NZ and Te Whainga Aronui – the Council for the Humanities. Thirty-one entries were received in 2008 on the topic ‘Why does it matter that Aotearoa New Zealand is a Democracy?’ and the judges (Danae Staples-Moon (RSNZ), Brian Opie (Council for the Humanities and UNESCO Culture Sub-Commission) and Lynda Chanwai-Earle and Jo Randerson) were pleased with the standard of entries. The two winners, Maria English from Samuel Marsden Collegiate School and Lucy Power from Rangitoto College, were chosen by the judges for writing pieces which were very thoroughly investigated, with both sides critically analysed. Three other entrants, Matthew Mortimer from Taieri College, Clare Hollewand from Baradene College, and Joseph Habgood from Nayland College, were highly commended.
Professor Emeritus David Thorns (Acting Chair) - School of Social and Political Science, University of Canterbury/Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha
Dr W Andrew Matthews (Acting Chair for the NZ National Commission for UNESCO), Chair Natural Sciences Sub-Commission
Associate Professor Huia Tomlins-Jahnke - Te Uru Marairau School of Māori & Multicultural Studies
Dr Evan Te Ahu Poata-Smith - Senior Lecturer, Department of Social Sciences,Auckland University of Technology
Dr Kevin Clements - National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, Te Ao O Rongomaraeroa