At the kind invitation of the Government of Azerbaijan, the eighteenth (ordinary) session of the International Bioethics Committee of UNESCO (IBC) was held in Baku, from 31 May to 2 June 2011, and attracted significant interest and participation from the local community as well as from representatives of Member States and external partners.
The opening and closing ceremonies, which both gathered a large number of local observers and media representatives, were honoured by the presence of Mahmud Karimov, President of the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan. Mehriban Aliyeva, First Lady of Azerbaijan and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, and Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General, voiced their support through audio and video messages.
Three main topics were discussed: the principle of respect for human vulnerability and personal integrity as set forth in Article 8 of the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights (2005), the issue of human cloning and international governance, and the issue of traditional medicine and its ethical implications.
One of the primary thrusts of the session was the finalization of the draft report of IBC on the principle of respect for human vulnerability and personal integrity. The report provides an account of the principle and the need to protect those who are especially vulnerable, in particular women whose case is specifically highlighted. IBC’s work on this issue aims at enjoining states, but also individuals, groups, communities, institutions and public or private corporations, to secure the protection of groups and individuals with special vulnerability.
The session also offered the opportunity for an active and challenging dialogue on different perspectives of health care in relation to the issue of ethical implications of traditional medicine. The three invited practitioners representing traditional health practices from India, Latin America and Africa, and a presentation on Chinese traditional medicine, enabled to widen the IBC’s discussion with different points of view and provided an internal perspective of the practices of traditional medicine around the world.
In addition, an entire day was devoted to “Bioethics in Eastern Europe: Experiences, perspectives and new ethical challenges”, with the participation of specialists from Azerbaijan and other countries from the region. The presentations and discussions highlighted the main priorities, specific needs and challenges the represented countries are specifically facing in the field of bioethics and voiced the region’s general appreciation of UNESCO’s efforts towards countries’ capacity building and awareness raising.
During its final working session, the IBC requested its Bureau to consider the necessity and possible ways of pursuing its work on the issues of traditional medicine and human cloning. It was also requested to finalize the work programme of IBC for 2012-2013 by taking into account some of the topics which were identified as the most relevant themes such as biobanks; organ, tissue and cell transplantation (including trafficking); neuroscience; regenerative medicine and benefit sharing; and “non-discrimination”.
Election of the Bureau of IBC
Finally, the IBC proceeded with the election of its Bureau: a Chairperson, three Vice-Chairpersons and a Rapporteur, who will remain in office until the end of the 20th regular session (2013), provided that they remain members of the Committee.
Due to the absence of possibly eligible IBC members from the Arab region, IBC decided to postpone the election of one remaining member of the Bureau from this region to its 19th session in 2012.
The composition of the new Bureau is as follows:
- Mr Stefano Semplici (Italy), Chairperson
- Mr Alireza Bagheri (Islamic Republic of Iran), Vice-Chairperson
- Ms Olga Kubar (Russian Federation), Vice-Chairperson
- Mr Emilio La Rosa (Peru), Vice-Chairperson
- Ms Monique Wasunna (Kenya), Vice-Chairperson and Rapporteur
The next session of IBC will take place at UNESCO Headquarters in autumn 2012.
Mrs Sabina Colombo
Section of Bioethics
Division of the Ethics of Science and Technology
Social and Human Sciences Sector
Tel.: + 33 1 45 68 44 28 / 38 03
Fax: + 33 1 45 68 55 15