The Director-General welcomed the representatives of the Committee’s 36 Member States, and congratulated Mr Jude Mathooko, the outgoing President of the IGBC, for the work accomplished during his mandate.
Recalling the outcome of the actions led by UNESCO in the field of bioethics during the past 10 years, Mr Matsuura assessed that “UNESCO, with the valued help of the IGBC, was able to live up to the expectations of the international community. The three universal declarations of 1997, 2003 and 2005 signalled a huge rupture in the history of bioethics by allowing the acknowledgment of universally accepted norms on complex issues such as the genome, the human genetic data and bioethics principles. In addition, we were able to introduce valued analysis, teaching, research and capacity-building programs”.
“In this process”, emphasized the Director-General, “the IGBC played a fundamental role. As a complement to the International Bioethics Committee (IBC), it provided essential pluralistic viewpoints and political perspectives, allowing the States to voice their needs and expectations and to always contribute relevant opinions”.
“With the growing internationalization of scientific and medical research and the globalization of ethical issues, the need for a better understanding of the ethical challenges became extremely apparent”, continued the Director-General. He then brought up the two questions on the agenda of the IBC and IGBC work plan for 2008-2009: the question of social responsibility and health, and the question of human cloning and international governance.
Recalling that the 1997 Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights had established the principle of banning the “practices which are contrary to human dignity, such as reproductive cloning of human beings” (article 11), Mr Matsuura emphasized the extent of the evolution of scientific practices in the areas of cloning and of the use of stem cells, particularly pluripotent stem cells.
“On the issue of cloning, it is important that UNESCO and the international community continue to engage in the debate, using legal frameworks if judged necessary”, concluded the Director-General. He called upon UNESCO to “always be prepared to counter emerging ethical challenges and to find ways and means to solve these challenges through international cooperation, in a spirit of consensus”.