The meeting brought together 48 Ministers of Science and Technology, 25 Vice-Ministers and more than 350 participants and observers overall.
The Minister of Higher Education and Research of France, Ms Valérie Pécresse delivered a keynote address at the opening session, in which she underscored UNESCO’s essential role in mobilizing science and technology for sustainable development, and congratulated the Organization on its work in this respect.
In his opening address, the Director-General stated that “the benefits of science are immense first of all for development and economic growth, and more broadly in terms of educational, cultural and intellectual enrichment,” noting however that “many countries are still excluded from the process of creation, and consequently from the benefits, of scientific knowledge.” He called on the Science Round Table to identify the barriers to progress and formulate useful policy guidelines for UNESCO’s future action in its science programmes.
The Director-General then introduced the four sessions of the Round Table. The first session focused on the emerging and inherited challenges of science and technology for development. Mr Matsuura highlighted some of these challenges, such as developing good national science and technology policies; building capacities for formulating science, technology and innovation strategies; enhancing social awareness of the benefits of science; sharing knowledge between countries; and strengthening science education.
The second session of the Round Table was devoted to harnessing international cooperation for innovative policies for science and technology management. Mr Matsuura underlined that a regional approach to science and technology for development could be effective in building a critical mass of scientists, pooling resources and exchanging good practices and knowledge in a regional framework.
The third session of the Round Table concerned the highlights and guidelines for UNESCO’s action in science and technology throughout the next medium-term period. Mr Matsuura noted that UNESCO’s was very active in helping Member States build capacity for science and technology, notably through its two category I science centres, the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy, and the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education in Delft, The Netherlands. He called on the ministers for “guidance in further developing UNESCO’s capacity-building programmes, in particular in ensuring that our support is tailored to meet Member States priority needs.”
The Director-General underscored the importance for the participants to address three cross-cutting themes in the Round Table: Africa, gender and ethical issues. The Director-General noted that UNESCO worked closely with the African Union in developing an ambitious five-year Plan of Action for strengthening science and technology in Africa, and that “UNESCO remains committed to working with African countries in its implementation.”
The Director-General went on to highlight the important work of the UNESCO-L’OREAL partnership “For Women in Science” which awards prizes and fellowships to women scientists throughout the world, enabling them to pursue careers in their fields. With regard to ethical issues, he noted that science should “always aim to better humankind, be respectful of human dignity and fundamental human rights, and fully take into account our shared responsibility towards future generations.”
In conclusion, the Director-General called on ministers to “translate scientific knowledge into action at a decision-making level, which I believe is an essential step towards sustainable development for all.”
Following the three sessions of thematic debate, the Director-General chaired a final session in which the ministers unanimously adopted a Communiqué highlighting the importance of science and technology for sustainable development, and recommending concrete actions for UNESCO to undertake.
Author(s): Office of the Spokeswoman - Source: Flash Info N° 162-2007 - Publication Date: 29-10-2007