The IBC celebrates its 10th Birthday and the 50th anniversary of the discovery of DNAParis – UNESCO’s International Bioethics Committee (IBC) is ten years old. A pioneer when founded in 1993, it is still, today, the only international consultative body in its field. The Committee will meet from May 12 to 14 at UNESCO Headquarters for its 10th session, which will focus on the provisional preliminary draft international declaration on human genetic data.
Also on the agenda, a Round Table on DNA, 50 years after its discovery by Francis Crick and James Watson.
After the opening ceremony on May 12, attended by UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura, the Committee’s Chairperson, Michèle Jean (Canada) will present the work undertaken by the IBC since its ninth session. A round-table will follow on the theme of DNA: 50 years after the discovery of the double helix structure. This debate on the discovery that provided the foundations of biotechnology, will bring together Charles Auffray, a director of research at France’s National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), Jane Rogers, head of sequencing at Britain’s Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, and Huanming Yang, Director of the Genomic Institute in Beijing (China).
The IBC will then consider (May 12, 3-4 p.m.) the provisional preliminary draft of the international declaration on human genetic data. Already at its last session in Montreal, the Committee examined a text, which had been prepared by the IBC Drafting Group. Since then, the document has been revised to take into account contributions from international consultations, including a day of public hearings held in Monaco last February, which heard the views of several civil society associations and institutions. This text on human genetic data will be further examined at a meeting of government experts in June, in order to be submitted to UNESCO’s General Conference next October.
On the morning of May 13, the members of the IBC and Mr Matsuura will be received at the Elysée Palace by French President Jacques Chirac, who has long declared his support for an international instrument on bioethics. On this occasion, the IBC members, who have been considering the feasibility and the nature of such an instrument for some time, will be able to debate the issue with the French president. The IBC working group that has been focussing on this theme will present its report on May 13 from 3pm, during a session chaired by François Gros, Honorary Permanent Secretary of the French Academy of Sciences.
The 10th session will also include a debate entitled Ten years of work of the IBC: overview and prospects, which will be held on May 13 (5-6 pm) and will bring together the three people who have headed the Committee so far: Noëlle Lenoir, formerly of the French Constitutional Council and today France’s Minister Delegate for European affairs; Japan’s Ryuichi Ida, Professor of International Law at Kyoto University, and Michèle Jean, Canada’s former Deputy Minister for Health.
The first session on May 14 (10 am), The genomes in the mosaic of the living: universality and specificity, will be chaired by Regina Kollek, Professor and Head of a research group dedicated to the study of the medical, social and ethical implications of modern biotechnology in medicine at Hamburg University (Germany). Participants will include Partha Majumder, of the Indian Statistical Institute in Calcutta, and François Pothier, of the Department of Animal Sciences at Laval University in Quebec (Canada). This will be followed (at 11.30 am), by a progress report on the evaluation, launched by UNESCO in October 2002, of the impact of the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights. The closing ceremony will be held between 12. 30 and 1 pm.
Journalist wishing to attend the session should request accreditation from the UNESCO Press Service. Tel: +33 (0) 1 45 68 17 48
A media workshop on human genetic data and the draft declaration will be held in June. Journalists wishing to participate should contact the Press Service.