Israeli-Palestinian Science Organization

In April 2004, UNESCO supported the creation of the Israeli-Palestinian Science Organization (IPSO). IPSO is a non-political, not-for-profit organization based in Jerusalem, whose mission is to foster and sustain cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians and to promote dialogue and interaction among scholars and scientists in the two communities. IPSO seeks out and supports high quality research in science and learning, involving cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian scientists and scholars. IPSO is dedicated to:

  • promoting high-quality research and advanced training in all areas of science and learning;
  • creating a science-based bridge of good will between Israelis and Palestinians;
  • creating conditions for Israeli and Palestinian scholars and scientists to meet and to establish dialogue;
  • promoting Israeli-Palestinian cooperation in Science Education.

IPSO is the brainchild of Prof. Sari Nusseibeh, President of Al Quds University in Jerusalem, and Prof. Menahem Yaari of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Both men were panellists at a UNESCO roundtable on Science and Peace in November 2002 to mark World Science Day for Peace and Development. The roundtable was the first in a series of meetings which explored new ways of fostering Israeli-Palestinian academic and scientific co-operation. They were joined on the panel by Prof. Torsten Wiesel, who would later become the chair of IPSO’s governing body, the International Scientific Council. The Council counts many eminent scientists, including some Nobel Laureates and an Abel Laureate (the Nobel equivalent for mathematics).

Since 2004, IPSO has succeeded in funding eleven research projects, mostly in the hard sciences and medical and health fields, for a total cost of US$2 million. IPSO has approved another 20 similar projects submitted jointly by Israeli and Palestinian scientists, at an estimated cost of about US$5 million, but is struggling to raise funds ‘to support this new generation of excellent research projects’.

In July 2007, IPSO received the formal responsibility for the project for Israeli-Palestinian Cooperation in Science Education.

IPSO and UNESCO

IPSO was launched with UNESCO backing in April 2004. On 15 November 2004, IPSO’s founders presented IPSO to the international community at a ceremony organized by UNESCO at its headquarters in Paris to commemorate World Science Day for Peace and Development.

In 2005, UNESCO contributed US$100.000 in Funds-in-Trust to IPSO. UNESCO’s Director-General at the time, Koïchiro Matsuura, announced the Organization’s contribution after the Chair of IPSO’s International Scientific Council, Prof. Torsten Wiesel, announced during a meeting of Permanent Delegates to UNESCO on 23 May of the same year that “We have a list of 30 joint research projects [involving both Palestinian and Israeli scientists] … These projects are excellent but the money is lacking”. Mr Matsuura informed the assembly that “IPSO has reached the point where it now needs to turn ideas into action. This is why I invited representatives of UNESCO’s Member States which have shown an avid interest in UNESCO’s efforts in the Middle East to the present meeting. This meeting is an opportunity for donor countries to get to know IPSO’s concrete projects better and to see how they can back them”.

Every two years, IPSO contributes to debates at the UNESCO co-organized World Science Forum in Budapest, Hungary. The first edition of the Forum in November 2003 offered a unique occasion for IPSO to meet for the first time, when UNESCO organized a round-table on “Science and Peace: from Talk to Action” to underline the role scientific cooperation plays in maintaining peace in regions divided by conflict.

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