Ethics in Brazil

Women scientists at Life Museum of Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) - Rio de Janeiro

In Brazil, it is necessary to strengthen cooperation in the field of ethics and the promotion of principles, practices and rules on ethics that are relevant to the country's development.

Ethics in Science:

This new century will be certainly marked by great scientific and technological advancements, and by powerful industrial and economical global alliance. Innumerous advancements promise to generate great progress in many areas. Nevertheless, these conquers and discoveries raise ethical questions and worries.

Stem cell research, genetic testing, cloning: progress in the life sciences is giving human beings new power to improve our health and control the development processes of all living species. Concerns about the social, cultural, legal and ethical implications of such progress have led to one of the most significant debates of the past century. A new word has been coined to encompass these concerns: bioethics.

Since the 1970s, UNESCO's involvement in the field of bioethics has reflected the international dimensions of this debate. Founded on the belief that there can be no peace without the intellectual and moral solidarity of humankind, UNESCO tries to involve all countries in this international and transcultural discussion.

Bioethics study the theoretical principles of moral, sanitary and environmental character in society, such as quality of like, social and biological impacts of diseases, and sustainable use and development of nature.

Dialogue among various scientific areas and UNESCO Chairs deserve special attention. UNESCO Chairs are considered strategic partners in the field of ethics in Science, as well as specialized communities

UNESCO in Brazil acts in this area in close partnership with UNESCO Chair in Bioethics, which concentrates its researches in three main lines: one line is on theoretical and conceptual foundation of Bioethics based on epistemological support (philosophical, sanitary, juridical, social, etc) and the other two are on thematic connotation, Bioethics of Emerging Situations and Bioethics of Persistent Situations. These two are focused in different themes, questions, situations, or conflicts that are part of the new global bioethics agenda proposed recently by the United Nations. Therefore, it is understood as bioethics that gathers not only biomedical and biotechnological themes but also social, sanitary and environmental matters. 

UNESCO Chair in Bioethics intends to critically study the different epistemological trends and focuses given to Bioethics, especially in relation to the new trends that are directly related to the Brazilian context.

In 2008, the theme on trunk cells was broadly discusses in Brazilian society. For this reason, the UNESCO Brasilia Office director publically declared UNESCO’s point of view in this matter through an article entitled “Pluralismo moral no debate sobre células-tronco” [Moral pluralism in the discussion on trunk cells] in partnership with Volney Garrafa, the UNESCO Chair in Bioethis in Brazil. The article was published in various Brazilian newspapers.

Ethics in Sports:

Brazil ratified the International Convention Against Doping in Sports on December 18, 2007. It integrated the select group of 138 countries united in the supranational effort to promote fair play and the right to have transparent and honest competitions.

Ethics in Education:

The UNESCO sector programme in Brazil in this field makes efforts with a focus on establishing cooperation in regard to ethical aspects as applied to education and professional qualification in fields of knowledge associated to the issue.

Also in 2008, UNESCO in Brasil, together with The House of Representatives and the All for Education Movement promoted a great national discussion on educational ethics and responsibility. It was a seminar that proposed the pertinence of a national Law on educational responsibility intended to ensure that leaders, directors, and managers commit themselves in reaching goals established by educational policies.

In the same seminar UNESCO presented the report "Corrupt Schools, Corrupt Universities: What can be done?" to promote the awareness among Brazilian leaders of the challenge of a new ethics in education in order to establish an indispensable environment of responsibility in conducting educational policies, not only in relation to financial resources use, but also in relation to guaranteeing quality in Education. During the seminar, two documents were launched and distributed by UNESCO.


Through Philosophy, Brazilian population can learn the fundamental concepts of principles and values of world peace, which are:

  • democracy
  • human rights
  • justice
  • equality

The projects in this field are recent and relatively scarce in the portfolio of the Social and Human Sciences (SHS) Unit in Brazil. However, they play an innovative and transforming role in society, since they foster thinking over core questions related to social development based on principles that value and protect individual human beings and their dignity.

There is a need to strengthen and to promote Philosophy in Brazil. As part of its raising awareness function, the UNESCO SHS Unit, uses public events to mobilize people.

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