Born in Senegal in 1941, Doudou Diène was a prizewinner in philosophy of Senegal’s Concours Général, holds a law degree from the University of Caen, a doctorate in public law from the University of Paris and a diploma in political science from the Institut d’Études Politiques in Paris.
Having joined the UNESCO Secretariat in 1977, in 1980 he was appointed Director of the Liaison Office with the United Nations, Permanent Missions and United Nations departments in New York. Prior to this, he had served as deputy representative of Senegal to UNESCO (1972–77) and, in that capacity, as Vice-President and Secretary of the African Group and Group of 77. Between 1985 and 1987, he held the posts of Deputy Assistant Director-General for External Relations, spokesperson for the Director-General, and acting Director of the Bureau of Public Information. After a period as Project Manager of the ‘Integral Study of the Silk Roads: Roads of Dialogue’ aimed at revitalizing East-West dialogue, he was appointed Director of the Division of Intercultural Projects in 1993 (currently Division of Intercultural Dialogue). In this capacity, he directed various projects on intercultural dialogue, including the Slave Route, Routes of Faith, Routes of al-Andalus, and Iron Roads in Africa. In 1998 he was placed in charge of activities pertaining to inter-religious dialogue. In 2002, he was appointed by the Commission on Human Rights as Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, a mandate that was later extended by the Human Rights Council.
He is the author of numerous publications and has chaired and been the distinguished guest on various panels, radio and television programs, including Neuf siècles de guerres saintes (May 1996), UNESCO/ARTE; Sur la piste des caravanes: L’endroit de toutes les rencontres (February 1998); Sur la route des épices (March 2000), UNESCO/NDR/ARTE; and a programme in the Thalassa series on The Slave Route (FR3, April 1998). He is co-author of Patrimoine culturel et créations contemporaines and of Vol. 35, No. 2 of the Journal of International Affairs on the New World Information Order. He has also published many articles on the issue of intercultural and inter-religious dialogue in journals such as Archeologia, Historia, Sciences et Vie, Actualité des Religions, Diogenes, etc. Editorial director of From Chains to Bonds, (UNESCO, 1998), he wrote the preface to Tradition orale et archives de la traite négrière (UNESCO, 2001), as well as the editorial of Newsletter No. 2 of ‘The Slave Route’ (UNESCO, 2001).