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Nurturing the democratic debate.  
18-11-2003 4:00 pm The third Session of UNESCO's World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST) will take place from December 1_4 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, organized by UNESCO and the Brazilian Ministry of Science and Technology. It is the first time that a formal session of COMEST has taken place outside Europe.

Scientific and technological advances are increasingly and evermore rapidly remodeling our societies. Confronted with the social and cultural effects of these changes, COMEST, created by UNESCO in 1997, has been given the job of setting out ethical principles to guide decision-makers who work in sensitive areas, providing them with criteria that are not purely based on economics. COMEST comprises 18 members from the fields of science and technology, philosophy, culture, religion and politics. They are all are appointed personally by the Director-General of UNESCO for a four-year term.

The meeting is due to be opened (December 1, 6 p.m.) by the President of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, with the Minister of Science and Technology of Brazil, Roberto Amaral, UNESCO Deputy Director-General, Marcio Barbosa, and COMEST President, Jens Erik Fenstad of Norway. The former Chair of UNESCO's General Conference and the Chair of the Organization for Development of Science and Culture (ORDECC, Colegio do Brasil), Eduardo Portella, will make a keynote address on the theme: Ethics, International Cooperation and Development - the Role of Science and Technology in the XXI Century.

The first session (December 2, 9 a.m.) will be dedicated to education of ethics, which is seen as an increasingly pressing need at a time of rapid scientific change and when the influence of some “traditional” sources of ethics is waning. Chaired by José Sarukhan Kermez, a Mexican biologist and a member of COMEST, the participants will include Professor of Philosophy and the Past President of the Norwegian Academy of Science, Dagfinn Føllesdal, the Mexican geneticist José Maria Cantú, who is the former President of the Latin-American Network of Human Genome Studies, and the President of the Brazilian Society of Bioethics, Volnei Garrafa.

The following session, at 11 a.m., will examine the ethics of fresh water, a subject that affects everyone's life. None of us can live without water and this shared need is valued and respected by every culture and religion. Chaired by the Director of the Brazilian National Agency of Water, Benedito Braga, this session will also be attended by Lord Selborne, the former President of the Royal Geographical Society and a rapporteur to the COMEST sub-committee on fresh water.

Three sessions will be held on the afternoon of December 2. The first, at 2 p.m., examines the ethics of outer space and will be chaired by UNESCO Deputy Director-General, Marcio Barbosa. The French Professor of Medicine Alain Pompidou, Ambassador Carlos Campelo, the Director of the Brazilian Space Agency (AEB), and Conrado Varotto, Chair of Argentina's National Council of Space Activities (CONAE) will take part in the debate. Another session, at 3 p.m., chaired by the President of COMEST, Jens Erik Fenstad, will be given over to discussion on a code of conduct for scientists. The third session, at 4.30 p.m., will focus on the theme of Ethics of Nanotechnology and will be addressed by specialists from the Netherlands, Brazil and Argentina.

The morning of December 3 features two round table discussions, at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. respectively. They are entitled: Ethical implication of the research with human beings in developing countries and Development of Science and Technology and Sustainability. A Youth Forum on the Ethics of Science and Technology will follow in the afternoon.

On December 4, a meeting of Latin American science ministers, chaired by the Brazilian Minister of Science and Technology, will be held and is expected to conclude with the adoption of a declaration on the ethics of scientific knowledge and technology. Ministers from Portuguese-speaking African countries may also join this session.

For more information about COMEST:

Source Media advisory No 2003 - 96


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