Opening the fourth World Science Forum on 5 November together with Mr László Sólyom, President of the Republic of Hungary, Mrs Catherine Bréchignac, President of ICSU, and Mr József Pálinkás, President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the Director-General recalled the first World Science Forum held in Budapest in 1999. “Ten years after the 1999 World Conference, this Forum is an opportunity to take stock of our progress in mobilizing science for social and human development. It is also an occasion to explore new challenges that have emerged over the past decade, and their implications for the world of science”.
Referring to the theme of the 2009 Forum, Mr Matsuura stated that the crucial importance of scientific knowledge is not new and that knowledge had long been recognized “as a driver of change”. “However, the magnitude and complexity of the problems we confront today”, explained the Director-General, “– from extreme poverty and deepening inequality, to climate change, environmental degradation and increasing vulnerability to resource scarcity and natural disasters – make the effective mobilization of knowledge, notably scientific knowledge, more important now than ever”.
Turning to the global financial and economic crisis, Mr Matsuura flagged the “renewed urgency” of the efforts to meet national development priorities and the need for more strategic approaches. “It is my firm belief that knowledge and innovation are key to overcoming the present crisis and for laying the foundation for sustainable growth, future competitiveness and societal wellbeing”, said the Director-General. “The future, and the way we deal with challenges today and in the coming years, is our responsibility. It is up to us to tackle difficult issues, such as climate change, environmental degradation and poverty, using knowledge as our guiding light”, concluded the Director-General.
The various plenary and thematic sessions of the 2009 Forum were attended by some 800 eminent politicians and scholars from 92 countries, including President Mesić of Croatia and Mr Davidson Hepburn, President of UNESCO’s General Conference. In the framework of the Forum, UNESCO also organized a G77 + China Ministerial Round Table on “Structure, Organization and Funding of Scientific Research: the Role of the States” with the support of ISESCO and Sida-SAREC. One of the outcomes of the meeting, which the President of the General Conference attended together with some 30 ministers, was the launching of the Consortium on Science, Technology and Innovation for the South (COSTIS). The closing ceremony of the World Science Forum was held in the Hungarian Parliament with the participation of Mr Gordon Bajnai, Prime Minister of the Republic of Hungary; Mr Ahmed Zewail, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry; Mr Davidson L. Hepburn, President of the General Conference; and Mr József Pálinkás, President of the World Science Forum.
In the framework of the Forum, the Director-General also handed over the UNESCO Kalinga Prize for the Popularisation of Science, the Great Man-Made River International Water Prize for Arid and Semi-Arid Zones, and, together Mr Yahya Saud Al Sulaimi, Minister of Education, Chairman of the Omani National Commission for Education, Culture and Science, the Sultan Qaboos Prize for Environmental Preservation to this year’s laureates (see UNESCO Press Release N°2009-136*). Mr István Hiller, Minister of Education and Culture, awarded the Director-General the Pro Cultura Hungarica Award, the highest cultural award in Hungary.
When meeting Mr Péter Balázs, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Matsuura paid tribute to the Hungarian authorities for taking the initiative of launching the World Science Forum, the only high-level event bringing together scientists and policy-makers to discuss issues of actuality in the field of sciences.
In the afternoon of 5 November, the Director-General visited the labyrinth of the World Heritage-listed Buda castle in the company of the Mayor of the district, and the eco-apartment-house, where he was awarded the Széchenyi Gold Medal by Mr Gabor Görgey, former Minister of Education and Culture and President of the Hungarian Pen Club. Named after Count István Széchenyi, Hungarian politician, theorist and writer, the Széchenyi Gold Medal is awarded to individuals who contribute to the promotion of liberty, independence, democracy and culture through their work in the fields of science, economics, European and universal culture.
On 6 November, the Director-General visited the Balaton region, met the Mayor of Tihany and the Mayor of Balatonfüred, and planted a tree along the Rabindranath Tagore walkway by the lake of Balaton.
Throughout his visit, the Director-General was accompanied by Ambassador Bogyay, Permanent Delegate of Hungary to UNESCO.
Author(s): Office of the Spokesperson - Source: Flash Info N° 229-2009 - Publication Date: 10-11-2009