The social and ethical dimensions of science and technology are central to UNESCO’s mandate, with a priority concern for the most vulnerable segments of society. 

In this regard, bioethics identifies and addresses the ethical dilemmas that scientific advances and their application may pose to the integrity and rights of human beings and communities, both for present and future generations. 

In this context, through the bioethics program, UNESCO continues to provide capacity-building to Member States, promoting international standards in bioethics, including UNESCO’s normative instruments. 

The Organization continues to support the development of national policies in this domain through the establishment of national bioethics committees, and through education, professional training and awareness- raising using the media. IGBC, IBC and COMEST will support the development of ethical frameworks to support science for social inclusion and sustainable development. 

With respect to environmental, legal and social dimensions of ethics, UNESCO builds on the established strengths of its programmess of bioethics, science ethics, ethics of nanotechnologies and environmental ethics while working towards a more integrated and comprehensive vision that better reflects accelerating patterns of scientific and technological convergence. 

UNESCO therefore promotes and reflects on the ethical principles that govern science and its applications, through instruments such as the 2005 Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights and the 1974 Recommendation on the Status of Scientific Researchers; supports national policies to give substance to them, through mechanisms such as the establishment of National Bioethics Committees; and seeks to embed them in routine scientific practice through education, professional training and awareness-raising.

Regional Conference on SDGs and the role of ethics in Africa:Promoting bioethics, ethics education and research


The meeting of SADC Senior Officials responsible for Education and Training, Science, Technology, and Innovation, held on February 22-24, 2016 in Kasane, Botswana noted the instrumental role played by the 2005 Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights in developing a global minimum standard in biomedical research and clinical practice. At the above-mentioned meeting, the Ministers requested UNESCO to support the development of bioethics in the SADC region and acknowledged that the Secretariat, in collaboration with UNESCO, plan to review the MOU between the two organizations which was signed in 1996 and will develop a Plan of Action outlining joint areas of cooperation, including bioethics.

There is need to establish a platform to coordinate the development of regional guidelines on bioethics. As such, the Secretariat will work with UNESCO in establishing a regional platform on bioethics and also establish a program which will provide technical and policy support to Member Statesin bioethics. This was endorsed by the then Chair of SADC and the Government of Botswana during a joint ministerial meeting on June 2016. In addition, the University of Botswana’s Office of Research and Development has put in place a proposal for a Centre of Excellence for Applied Ethics Research in Bioethics. It is against this background and call for the enhancement of bioethics education and research in Africa that the UNESCO’s Regional Office along with its regional counterpart in Eastern Africa are supporting a regional initiative in collaboration with the Botswana Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science, and Technology, the Southern Africa Development Community, and the University of Botswana.

The aim of this initiative is to review the status of bioethics, ethics education, and research to prepare a solid foundation targeting bioethics engagement in Africa. The objectives are to:

  1. Gain a thorough understanding of the state of the art of bioethics in Africa.
  2. Build a consensus among national stakeholders on the countries’ bioethics needs and stakeholders’ interventions designed to address those needs.
  3. Map the research ethics capacity in the SADC region and consolidate the capacity-building initiatives of member countries of SADC and UNESCO in bioethics
  4. Promote various ethics/bioethics policies and institutional arrangements, including the establishment of National Bioethics Committees.
  5. Establish coordination and collaboration at the regional level with participation of the Southern Africa Development Community.
  6. Identify possible North-South, and South-South collaborations in an effort to seek expertise in bioethics as well as benchmarking and grant proposal writing.

For more information about this forum including presentations, please click here.


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