Life Sciences

The global and ever increasing problems of water and food security, the toll of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, newly emerging and re-emerging diseases on fragile economies, hamper national development and threaten global peace initiatives in the developing and least developed countries especially those with an agrarian based economy.

These issues preoccupy scientists and governments today. Throughout the next decade major trends through an intermix of the life sciences and information technology will involve increasing use of biotechnological processes in understanding life, eradicating hereditary diseases, developing novel bio-industries, and furthering the uses of biomedical products in conserving the quality of life and the environment through the promotion of clean technologies. UNESCO’s programmes in the life sciences aim at promoting international scientific co-operation in these fields, and bridging the scientific and technological differences existing between developed and developing countries. They provide the least developed countries with the tools for enhancing the quality of scientific research in keeping with rapid scientific advances. Furthermore national and regional issues of importance are addressed. These objectives are achieved in co-operation with competent non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations, and through networking of specialized centres of excellence that organize training activities, workshops and research projects on a collaborative basis. The major focus is the development of endogenous national and regional research capacities in the biological sciences and biotechnologies, for especially the developing countries.

The ongoing explosion in knowledge in the life sciences continues to offer vast opportunities for meeting the challenges of hunger, food security, disease, environmental degradation and climate change. UNESCO is particularly concerned that advances in knowledge and its applications in life sciences should be of benefit to all. Developing countries should have a critical mass of well-trained scientists who can advise governments about priorities for national research and about use of the technologies that arise from life sciences research.

Under the umbrella of the International Basic Sciences Programme, UNESCO’s activities in the life sciences focus on human capacity building with a view to promoting international scientific co-operation and to bridging the scientific and technological differences existing between developed and developing countries. The major aim is the development of endogenous national and regional research capacities in the biological sciences and biotechnology in keeping with rapid scientific advances. These objectives are achieved in co-operation with scientific non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations, and with networks of scientists and specialized centres of excellence, for organizing of training activities, workshops and research projects on a collaborative basis.

Cell and molecular biology, neurosciences, microbiology and biotechnology are the current foci for UNESCO’s capacity building activities in life sciences for the biennium 2008-2009. Training activities in partnership with the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB-Cape Town), the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO) and other partners are currently being implemented. In addition, UNESCO contributes technical advice and convenes and participates in international and regional meetings and fora that address issues of policy related to the life sciences and their applications. Current events and activities are highlighted in the News section.

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