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Message from the Director-General of UNESCO on the occasion of World Science Day for Peace and Development (10 November 2002)

13-11-2002 - We are living in a period of unprecedented advances in science. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that the future of humanity depends on the continued vitality of science and its applications. Science has contributed immensely to the development of modern society and the application of scientific knowledge continues to furnish powerful means for solving many of the challenges facing humanity, such as the eradication of poverty and the provision of health care, food and safe drinking water.
The advances made in recent years in genetic science and biotechnology hold out extraordinary prospects for humankind as a whole and for the individual. However, these scientific advances are giving rise to important new ethical issues which have implications not only for the living but also for the generations yet to be born. The very basis of what it means to be a human being is, so to speak, in the crucible. As a result, the moral responsibilities of science have never loomed so large.

At the same time, the way in which scientific endeavours are pursued around the world is marked by clear inequalities. Developing countries, for example, generally spend well below 1% of their GDP on scientific research, whereas rich countries devote between 2% and 3%. The number of scientists per million population in the developing countries is 10 to 30 times smaller than in developed countries. The idea of two worlds of science is an anathema to the scientific spirit but we must acknowledge, with deep concern and regret, that these divisions are growing rather than narrowing.

This is the first time that we celebrate the World Science Day for Peace and Development. It is an opportunity to remind ourselves that science is a common heritage and that all nations must be involved in its practice and development. The greatest safeguard for peace lies in assuring that the benefits of science are made available to all countries and to all people on an equal basis. Wherever inequalities are growing, the seeds of conflict are being sown.
UNESCO, by virtue of its mandate and Constitution, has a moral duty to promote science for peace and development. But it is not our duty alone. On World Science Day, all of us - international organizations, governments, the scientific community and civil society - must reaffirm the commitment of science to solve the most urgent needs of the world: the need to combat poverty and chronic disease, the need to build societies at peace with themselves and one another, and the need to raise two-thirds of the world’s population to a standard of living compatible with human dignity.

I hope that the celebration of this first World Science Day for Peace and Development will carry the message of unity, shared responsibility and joint action for the use of science for peace and for the benefit of humankind as a whole, in ways that are respectful of cultural diversity and freedom.

World Science Day, therefore, is an occasion for renewing the vows of science in commitment to the cause of peace and development across the world. It is an opportunity to re-dedicate ourselves to the noble purpose of advancing scientific knowledge and its practical applications so that human beings everywhere can live full and dignified lives in freedom.

Source Message from the Director-General





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