Seventeenth Session of IBC / Joint Session of IBC and IGBC

The Seventeenth (ordinary) session of International Bioethics Committee (IBC) and the joint session of IBC and the Intergovernmental Bioethics Committee (IGBC) were held consecutively from 25 to 29 October 2010 at UNESCO Headquarters.  These events attracted significant interest and participation from Member States, as well as external partners and other important stakeholders in bioethics.

The UNESCO Deputy Director-General, Mr Getachew Engida, attended the opening ceremony of the IBC session, while the Director-General addressed the joint session with a video message.

In accordance with the work programme of IBC for 2010-2011, three main topics were discussed during these meetings:

  • the principle of respect for human vulnerability and personal integrity, as set forth in article 8 of the UNESCO 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.

Read the Report of the Seventeenth Session of IBC [PDF, 55 KB]


Human Vulnerability and Personal Integrity

The work of IBC on the issue of human vulnerability and personal integrity is a continuation of its commitment to elaborate ethical principles contained in the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights (2005). There was a lively debate involving the members of both Committees, as well as external participants, on the preliminary draft report elaborated by the dedicated Working Group of IBC. Several constructive recommendations were taken into account by IBC with a view towards improving the scope and coverage of the report. There was a general agreement that the existing report constitutes a solid material that should be further elaborated by the Working Group, considering the comments and suggestions received during these meetings, towards its finalization for the next meeting of IBC in 2011.

Human Cloning and International Governance

Based on the Report of the IBC working group on human cloning and international governance, the meetings focused on the use of terminology and its ethical impact; different options for legal regulation of human reproductive cloning (including the possibility of a moratorium); and options for information activities concerning the issue of human cloning and its governance.
IBC members were unequivocal in expressing concern that the recent scientific developments have raised a need for a binding international legal instrument. However, feedback by Member States of IGBC was indicative that the political hurdles that have prevented the realization of such instrument in the past are still in place.

IBC will strive to finalize its follow up report on the issue for its next session in 2011, giving an opportunity for IGBC to thoroughly examine the issue at its next session in July 2011.

Traditional Medicine and its Ethical Implications

Traditional medicine, as highlighted by the preliminary draft report of IBC and re-emphasized during the discussions of the meetings, is an issue that directly concerns the lives of major part of the world’s population, and as such is an important and timely subject for an analysis from the ethical perspective. Traditional medicine as a topic is shared by more than one specialized UN agency, and most importantly the World Health Organization. However, the fact that the use of traditional medicine raises fundamental ethical questions indicates that IBC’s role in examining the issue is pertinent.

The 17th session of IBC gave the opportunity to enlarge the reflection and hear from other experts outside the Committee who provided the Committee with comments and constructive input with a view to revising and completing the draft report.  Specialists from the Natural Sciences Sector and the Culture Sector of UNESCO presented programmes, reflection and activities within their Sector which are relevant for the current work of IBC and which can enrich and be taken into account in the further development of the draft document of IBC.  In addition, a philosopher from Africa focused on the ethical aspects of traditional medicine and its practice in the region.

It became clear after the discussions that there is a need for further clarification of the field of traditional medicine. Member States offered to contribute with information about practices and regulations, to be used as input in pursuing the drafting of an ethical framework to ensure the quality of health care and life of the people.

Powerpoint presentations made during the meetings

The ideas and opinions expressed in these presentations are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of UNESCO or its Members States

Information Documents

Working Documents

IBC Secretariat:
Ms Sabina Colombo
Section of Bioethics
Division of the Ethics of Science and Technology
Tel.: + 33 1 45 68 44 64
Fax: + 33 1 45 68 55 15
E-mail:  ibc(at)

Back to top