This is an open letter to UNESCO from the Fédération Internationale des Langues et Littératures Modernes (FILLM / International Federation for Modern Languages and Literatures), one of the member-organizations of UNESCO’s humanities partner, the International Council for Philosophy and Humanistic Studies (CIPSH). FILLM has 20 member-associations -- representing 40,000 scholars around the world -- and each of its members is itself an international learned association in the field of languages and literatures.
According to the FILLM constitution, the fundamental objective of the federation is to promote, develop and encourage the scholarly study of modern languages and literatures. This is to be achieved through international co-operation and through the organisation of an international congress devoted to modern languages and literatures, held at regular intervals. Supporting less commonly taught languages is of particular concern to the FILLM.
Until the 1980s the amount of UNESCO support for CIPSH represented a substantial contribution which could be passed on to assist the publications and conferences of a wide range of scholarly societies world-wide. Since that time the value of the subsidies has diminished in real terms to the point where very little help is now available for the member organizations of the Council and such funds as can be devolved are little more than a nominal gesture. CIPSH subsidies to FILLM have accordingly gone down proportionally. As a consequence, FILLM’s member-associations can expect less and less services and support from FILLM, and their membership in FILLM and membership fees to FILLM are becoming increasingly difficult to justify to their individual members. A gradual disintegration of international cooperation in the field is now a distinct possibility. The continued existence of UNESCO’s interface with the academic study of languages and literatures is threatened.
The humanities, including history, philosophy, and communication, are key to a deeper understanding of human aspirations, and provide crucial tools for human agency. They supply background knowledge of vital significance for mankind’s view of its possibilities and obligations. The familiarity with the different cultures of the world fostered within the humanities is one of the aspects of this, and is of vital importance in an increasingly globalized era.
International federations like the FILLM have a crucial role to play in maintaining and enriching the intercultural competence of scholars. It is also one of the priorities of FILLM and its member-associations to provide special support for associations and scholars from nations with scarce economic resources.
It is perhaps tempting to think of the international structure of cooperation within the humanities as an elite enterprise which it should be the task of rich nations to sponsor. In reality, the humanities are under pressure more or less everywhere. The provision of the kinds of values that the humanities have to offer is not high on governments’ agendas, since their contribution to economic growth is perceived as negligible in the short term. In fact their long-term impact, in particular as demonstrated by the well-documented improvement of educated women's health and economic productivity, or the correlations between scientific and humanistic creativity, is generally overlooked.
We, the undersigned, speak for important
international scholarly communities in the area of language and literature. We
are Presidents of member-associations of the FILLM, or officers of FILLM. With
this open letter, we wish to draw the attention of UNESCO to the present
precarious situation of the federation. We strongly urge UNESCO, not least for the sake of
own prestige among the international scholarly community, to restore the level of annual subsidies to CIPSH to that prevailing in the 1970s.
Dr. Alba Valencia Espinoza, President
de Lingüística y Filología de