Three meetings at UNESCO to move towards universal norms on bioethicsAnother step towards a declaration on universal norms on bioethics will be taken when UNESCO's Intergovernmental Bioethics Committee (IGBC) meets in Paris, January 24 and 25, and UNESCO's International Bioethics Committee (IBC) holds an extraordinary session, on January 28. A joint session of the IGBC and IBC will be held between these two meetings, on January 26 and 27.
During these sessions the IGBC will be consulted on the outline of the text* elaborated by a drafting group of the IBC, which met six times in 2004. The IBC will then be able to complete a preliminary draft, which will be submitted to UNESCO Member States and to intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. Two meetings of governmental experts, in late March and in June, will then be tasked with finalizing the draft declaration. UNESCO’s Executive Board will examine the draft and may recommend that it be presented to the General Conference for adoption in October 2005.
The future declaration on universal norms on bioethics aims to create a framework, which will guide Member States as they adopt national policies, legislation, guidelines and codes of ethics. While thinking on bioethics in the early 1970s was limited essentially to medically assisted reproduction, the ethics of the living now comprise a vast range of subjects, including genetic data, research into embryos and stem cells, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, and organ donation, experimentation on humans, genetically modified organisms, end of life care, etc. Universally acceptable principles covering these different areas are therefore more necessary than ever.
On January 24 and 25, the IGBC will have a first exchange of views on an action plan to implement the International Declaration on Human Genetic Data which was adopted in 2003, beside examining the text on universal norms on bioethics. The President of the IBC, Michèle Jean, will give a presentation to the IGBC on the work of the IBC since June 2003. The joint IGBC-IBC session, on January 26 and 27, will be entirely dedicated to the debate on the fourth outline of the declaration on universal norms in bioethics. The extraordinary session of the IBC, January 28, will examine the same themes as that of the IGBC: the draft declaration, the work of the IBC and an action plan to implement the International Declaration on Human Genetic Data.
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