United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Executive Board

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1 ex United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Executive Board Hundred and fifty-fourth Session 154 EX/9 PARIS, 6 March 1998 Original: English Item of the provisional agenda PREPARATIONS FOR THE HOLDING OF THE WORLD SCIENCE CONFERENCE SUMMARY At its 29th session the General Conference unanimously approved the proposal by the Director-General to convene a World Science Conference in In this document the Director-General reports on the preparations being made with regard to the Conference s organization.

2 154 EX/9 Introduction 1. The Director-General proposed to the General Conference at its 29th session that a World Science Conference (WSC) be held in 1999 and made provision for this in the Draft Programme and Budget for (29 C/5). The proposal on WSC had been prepared in the light of wide consultations within the scientific community and discussions that had taken place at the 149th and 150th sessions of the Executive Board. A summary of these consultations and discussions were presented in document 29 C/INF The General Conference gave its unanimous approval for the holding of WSC. The Chairpersons of the five intergovernmental scientific programmes who had been involved in consultations on WSC emphasized, in their Joint Statement, that the Conference would offer a unique opportunity to address the issue of the societal responsibility of the sciences and should result in a visionary action plan for science in the twenty-first century of relevance to the scientific communities. The goals and status of WSC 3. The Conference will address the main achievements of the natural sciences and their interface with society in the twentieth century, examine the main challenges ahead and consider the role of science in development. Special attention will be given to the ways and means by which scientific results can be better harnessed to improve the quality of life and promote socially and environmentally sustainable development in the next century. WSC will aim at improving the public understanding of science, and the recognition it should be given as part of a wider culture, particularly through education and the popularization of science. The complex relations between science and society will be addressed, particularly concerning the application of science for sustainable development, and promoting high ethical standards in research and the use of its results, taking into consideration the specific cultural contexts of different regions. The Conference should foster renewal of international co-operation in the sharing of scientific knowledge in the age of information technologies, and give new impetus to the development of science and its applications in the service of development, environmental protection, and the building of a culture of peace. 4. The Conference is expected to bring about increased effort on the part of scientific communities, governments, international organizations, industry and civil society, and to stimulate partnerships between them on a scale needed to meet the challenges facing science and society. 5. WSC will be a joint Conference of UNESCO and the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU), organized in co-operation with other partners. As such, it will not be accorded an official UNESCO meeting category but, like the 1990 Jomtien Conference on Education for All, will enjoy the participation of governmental representatives from Member and non- Member States, plus a wide range of intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), well-known personalities from various sectors of society and representatives of the scientific community at large. The role of the social sciences 6. WSC will deal with the natural sciences and their relationship with society. The social and human sciences will be closely involved in addressing the social implications of overall

3 154 EX/9 - page 2 scientific and technological progress, its particular breakthroughs, the relationship between science and development, as well as between science and democratic governance. Special emphasis will be put on the ethical issues raised by the implementation of scientific research in specific areas. The close interaction between the natural and social sciences will be emphasized throughout the themes discussed at WSC, and is reflected in the fact that the International Science Advisory Board (ISAB) and the International Scientific Organizing Committee (ISOC - see para. 11) are made up of both natural and social scientists. The World Social Science Report (1999), carrying sections on science-society linkages as well as on interdisciplinary fields such as cognitive sciences and evolutionary sciences, will join the World Science Report 1998 in being a major contribution to WSC. The venue 7. Following an offer to host WSC made by the Hungarian Government on the occasion of the 29th session of the General Conference, a joint UNESCO/ICSU mission was undertaken to Hungary in February 1998 and discussions held with the national authorities on the terms and conditions under which the Conference might be held in Budapest. In the light of these discussions, the Director-General decided that WSC would be held in the Hungarian capital from 26 June to 1 July 1999 inclusive. It will be an event of five full days. Seeking partnerships 8. The role of the National Commissions for UNESCO and of national scientific and governmental institutions will be central to the success of the WSC process. The National Commissions have been informed of WSC preparations and encouraged to organize national campaigns for WSC, and in so doing consolidate efforts in favour of science. They have also been invited to designate national focal points for their respective country s involvement in the WSC process, and to identify national meetings that might be associated with the Conference. 9. Contact is currently being made with other interested bodies, namely IGOs, international and major national NGOs, financial institutions, private foundations and regional and national scientific organizations on their possible co-operation. Earlier contacts with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Commission on Science and Technology for Development of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the World Bank, the International Association of Universities (IAU), the International Social Sciences Council (ISSC), the International Foundation for Science (IFS) and the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) have indicated their respective interest in being involved in WSC. Conference participation 10. WSC will address and involve Member States, national institutions and educational establishments, the scientific community, the industrial sector, intergovernmental and nongovernmental bodies, as well as the media and the general public they serve. Each UNESCO Member State will be invited to nominate a delegation to WSC consisting of a representative at the highest possible level, as well as national scientist(s), young researcher(s) and representative(s) of the public or other sectors of society. Non-Member States will be invited to send delegations with a similar make-up. Intergovernmental organizations having strong scientific programmes are to be invited, along with those NGOs concerned with science and scientific and technological education. Eminent personalities from the scientific community,

4 154 EX/9 - page 3 educational and cultural establishments, the political and industrial sectors and the media will be welcome. Special efforts will be made to ensure as wide a geographical spread of participants as possible, and the attendance of a good number of young scientists and women scientists. All stakeholders are being encouraged to participate in WSC throughout the preparatory and consultative stages. Scenario and themes 11. The Director-General and the President of ICSU, Prof. Werner Arber, have established an International Scientific Organizing Committee (ISOC) for the World Science Conference composed of eminent personalities representing the natural and social sciences and whose make-up reflected the various regions of the world. The first meeting of ISOC was held on 24 March in Paris and the Committee gave UNESCO and ICSU valuable guidance on the format and organizational structure of WSC, and in doing so helped ensure that the Conference would be of the highest scientific standard. 12. The Director-General confirmed his wish to have ISAB continue as an advisory body on WSC. Accordingly a second round of consultations was carried out with ISAB members and the results of these consultations were presented to ISOC at its March 1998 meeting. 13. It should be recalled that ICSU, and later ISAB, had recommended that WSC consist of a combination of scientific sessions and sessions for policy-makers and for the general public. The various sessions may therefore be grouped into three task-oriented forums, each dealing with a major umbrella theme: (a) (b) (c) Forum I: Science, its achievements, shortcomings and challenges would focus on science per se, the opportunities offered by science and the challenges it is to meet. The discussions would allow a clear statement to be delivered to society and its decision-makers on what science has to offer in the years and decades to come. Forum II: The interfaces of science would promote involvement, and would be devoted to a dialogue between scientists, governments, industrialists and representatives of the general public on the interfaces between science and society. Forum III: Towards a new commitment would principally involve strengthening the resolve of governments, policy-makers and representatives of all other partners on the world stage to invest resources in science, as well as a new commitment to ethical principles in the conduct of science. Each forum would be dealt with in a limited number of sessions devoted to separate issues or topics. 14. The plans for WSC are being elaborated through close collaboration between the Natural and Social and Human Sciences Sectors. In addition, intersectoral co-operation is being pursued through an Intersectoral Task Force set up for the purpose. Preparatory activities for the World Conference on Higher Education and WSC are being co-ordinated through this and the Intersectoral Committee on Higher Education. The newly established World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology will oversee the preparation, in cooperation with the Natural Sciences Sector, of WSC s examination of ethical issues in science.

5 154 EX/9 - page It should be emphasized that WSC is not conceived as a single, isolated event, but rather as a process consisting of a preparatory phase, the Conference itself and a vigorous follow-up programme. The success of the Conference will very much depend upon concerted national and international action taken throughout the process. 16. Preparatory meetings will play a very important role in elaborating proposals for documents to be examined and approved at WSC itself. As a general rule international, regional and small-scale ad hoc meetings involving natural and social scientists and policymakers, mostly already planned within existing programmes, will be used to help prepare the main working documents. Expensive regional meetings convened wholly for preparatory purposes will be avoided. UNESCO field offices are organizing various preparatory events. 17. International and regional meetings organized by third parties in co-operation with UNESCO will be announced as associated meetings. Such events will enable scientists, decision-makers and representatives of the public to be involved in WSC matters without necessarily attending the central Conference. They will nevertheless have an important role in the Conference campaign in favour of science. A number of electronic forums are being set up for the preparatory phase, as well as a teleconference during the Conference itself. 18. The programme of associated meetings already contains around 25 events, some of which have already taken place. The list includes such conferences as the UNESCO Forum on Science and Culture (Genoa), the International Symposium Niels Bohr and the Evolution of Physics in the Twentieth Century (Paris), the 7th International Congress of Ecology (INTECOL) on New tasks for ecologists after Rio (Florence), the International Conference on World Water Resources at the beginning of the Twenty-First Century (Paris), and the Conference on Science and Technology for Development: A Social Science Perspective (New Delhi). Outcome and follow-up 19. Whatever the final structure of its component sessions, it is foreseen that the culmination of WSC will be the endorsement or approval of two important documents: first, a Declaration on Science which would underscore political commitment to the scientific endeavour and the solution of problems at the interface between science and society; and second, an innovative and pragmatic Strategy for Action which would be a long-term strategic framework for promoting co-operation and the co-ordination of the efforts of all partners and stakeholders in science, including the scientific research community, governmental bodies, IGOs and NGOs, and the industrial sector. The Strategy will also pave the way for UNESCO s own Medium- Term Strategy beyond the year 2000, and help redefine the Organization s central responsibilities for science within the United Nations system. Both the Declaration and Strategy are now being elaborated and will be refined during the preparatory phase of WSC before being considered and approved at the Conference itself. 20. A limited number of other documents, declarations and/or messages addressed to the scientific community, the public, international organizations and governments may be issued during WSC on issues such as women in science, the sharing of scientific knowledge, and science education. 21. The Director-General is to appoint a team of high-level personalities to ensure an appropriate and rigorous follow-up to the Conference, the transmission of its findings

6 154 EX/9 - page 5 (especially of its Declaration on Science), and the effective implementation of the Strategy for Action in favour of science by governments and the global scientific community. A number of task forces have been created within the Secretariat to plan the mechanism(s) for effective and timely follow-up.

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