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DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF UNESCO

First meeting of the Committee for the Overall Review of Major Programmes II (Natural Sciences) and III (Human and Social Sciences)

At its 33rd session, the General Conference adopted a resolution (33 C/Resolution 2) inviting the Director-General to undertake an Overall Review of Major Programmes II (Natural Sciences) and III (Social and Human Sciences) in light of the Organization’s mandate, country and regional priorities, as well as today’s global needs.

This Review will form an integral part of the preparation of the Draft Medium-Term Strategy for 2008-2013 (34 C/4) and the Draft Programme and Budget for 2008-2009 (34 C/5) and contribute to programme planning. On Monday 13 March, Mr Matsuura opened the first meeting of the Review Committee in the presence of Ambassador Musa, President of the General Conference. The Director-General thanked all the high-level experts who have agreed to form part of the Review Committee “to undertake a task which is of great importance for the future action of the Organization”.

First, Mr Matsuura recalled that sixty years ago, when plans were being laid for the foundation of the Organization, “(…) Education was the main theme; the S for “scientific” was added only in November 1945 by the preparatory commission that met in London to create UNESCO as we know it today. The change was made mainly in response to the advocacy of many scientists’ groups, particularly in the United Kingdom. With the appointment of Julian Huxley as UNESCO’s first Director-General, the place of science and technology was strengthened, given that he was not only a distinguished scientist but also a great popularizer of science”.

To effectively address the complex challenges facing the sciences, Mr Matsuura said that the evidenced-based contributions of a wide range of scientific disciplines are needed and proposed that four main areas of understanding be enhanced: the impact of human activity for the sustainability of our natural environment; the key role that science and technology play in development, in the struggle against poverty and in ensuring human security for the most vulnerable populations; the various social transformations in the context of accelerating globalization, which is also having an important impact in the so-called “politics of knowledge”; and the impact of scientific and technological progress itself on societies, including the way in which major developments are giving rise to more and more important ethical questions, for example (but not only) in the field of bioethics.

Mr Matsuura also asked the Committee to take into consideration the clear trends relating to the growing gap between a relatively small number of industrialized countries, which account for more then 80 per cent of scientific research in all fields, and the rest of the world. He also mentioned as a related issue the phenomenon of brain drain, which continues to be a major problem despite some recent progress in a few countries. “Many of these challenges have been addressed by UNESCO and other UN bodies at the intergovernmental and international levels. But today, as many major reports on science and technology demonstrate, we are in need of a new future-oriented and long-term vision as well as a clearer division of labour”, he added.

To conclude, Mr Matsuura recalled that the Review that begins today should contribute to that long-term vision, focusing on three inter-related needs: “First, the need for UNESCO to take a forward-looking perspective on prioritization and promote a progressive agenda giving proper emphasis to emerging trends and new priorities. Second, the need to reinforce the essential role of the sciences in the fight against poverty, with contributions and benefits to institutional and human capacity-building, education and sustainable development. Third, the need to contribute to the production of new forms of knowledge and the implementation of innovative forms of action for resolving problems, given the new complexities of the strategic direction of science at the global level. This is a major task and the Secretariat is already mobilized to give the Review Committee all the support it may require to ensure that the best possible responses are given to those three needs”.

More on the Review process website: http://review.unesco.org

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokesperson
  • Source:Flash Info n°038-2006
  • 14-03-2006
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