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Science and citizen
Moscow (Russian Federation)14-15 May 1999

Science of the future at the service of society and
the citizen International Symposium

Final report

Preamble

The present Symposium gathered together some 30 participants from 15 countries in addition to nearly 40 Russian participants. The Symposium was organized by the Russian National Commission for UNESCO within the framework of the International Forum of city mayors and cultural and scientific workers, ‘For a culture of peace and dialogue between civilizations in the third millennium’, in cooperation with the Ministry of Science and Technology and with the participation of the City of Moscow and the World Technological University. The exhibition ‘Education, Science and Culture on the Threshold of the XXIst Century’ was presented in the lounge of the Grand Congress Hall. Over 80 organizations and enterprises, including the Russian Academy of Sciences and a number of universities, exhibited various scientific achievements.    

The Symposium was opened by academician V. Fortov, Vice-President of the Russian Academy of Sciences and President of the Russian Commission for UNESCO, who co-chaired the discussions with Prof. A. Forti, Senior Advisor to the Director-General of UNESCO.

In his introduction, V. Fortov pointed out that, on the threshold of the new millennium, humankind realized as clearly as ever before the necessity of converting science from a mechanism multiplying dangerous technologies into an instrument in the service of peace and wellbeing of nations and in the long-run of their citizens. The culture of peace, he said, was a global movement that was gaining strength. International cooperation, solidarity and a sense of responsibility towards citizens on the part of all those in the world community who participated in science and in the use of its results could pave the way to this noble aim.

Science, he added, was also important to ensure the trajectoire of sustainable development, for science was the basis for the progress of civilization. He concluded by saying that science contributed to a concentration of efforts, for truth was universal.

F. Mayor, Director-General of UNESCO, outlined the role of science in the contemporary world and in the promotion of the concept of a culture of peace. He stressed the importance of involving civil society in the debate on a new future for science: science for development, peace and democracy at national and international levels, science with women and with youth. It was vital, Mayor said, to encourage young people, especially girls, to pursue scientific studies and careers. He called for a commitment on the part of society to funding science, which, in return, should better respond to the needs of society and citizens. Science was too important to be left to the scientists or to market forces. It was moral and intellectual solidarity which needed to guide scientific development in the new century.    Back to top

M.Kiipichnikov, Minister of Science and Technology of the Russian Federation, called for a concentration of governments’ efforts in basic research and for the creation of innovative national and international funding mechanisms in support of science. He pointed out that science must be more socially oriented, contributing to the achievement of a better quality of life; at the same time, it needed to have a humanistic orientation to prevent technological risks which might present a danger for the whole world.

He stressed that the unique UNESCO mandate in the field of science signified the recognition of the universal values of science and its dominant role in education. Russian scientists could propose a universal model for the reform of the science system in a spirit of peace.

S.P.Kapitza, Director of the Institute for Physical Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences, suggested that the power of the culture of peace concept should be seen in its broader cultural aspect, not as a condition - a static state - but rather as a process. He perceived peace as a basic change in the paradigm of societal and political behaviour.

The timing of the culture of peace concept has to be seen also within the framework of the demographic transition. The reasons for this transition lie not in the search for resources or lack of space. Now the whole world is passing through this decisive time of a transition to a new paradigm of growth and development. Unfortunately, concluded S.P.Kapitza, the magnitude of the transition to a stable global population of some 12 billion were not taken into account as well as profound transformations in the age structure, ties between generations, the meaning of life and values of the global society in the near future.

M.Aymard, Director of the Maison des sciences de l’homme in Paris, stressed the importance of social and human sciences and questioned whether these were capable of responding to the challenges facing the world. He was convinced that all problems proper to exact and natural sciences were also problems for social and human sciences. For example, medical research could not be imagined without sociology, economy, history, psychology and anthropology of health; illness was not a simple biological fact, it was above all a social and cultural construction.     Back to top

In fact, all scientific problems of strategic importance for the present and the future of our societies had a bearing on social and human sciences. In this context, they also had their proper challenges. The notion often cited today of ‘globalization’ needed to be formulated using a common language to take into account the deep cultural differences. What we call a ‘culture of peace’, he said, should pass through social and human sciences, through the elaboration of a common language without seeking at all price to make others disappear.

A. Forti touched upon the problem of cities. Demographic development, heavy economic trends and the creation of megapolises (e.g. Mexico with over 30 million inhabitants) - all these phenomena had brought with them new responsibilities for cities. From now on, they would have to think of innovative ways of managing the effects on society of developments in science and technology. Do the applications of research respect the private life of citizens? Do citizens have easy access to scientific and technological knowledge? The uncontrolled development of new information and communication technologies in cities could produce new problems leading to social exclusion or, on the contrary, facilitate relations with the municipal authorities.

The new role of cities also concerned the effects of genetic progress, said Forti. For example, Iceland had entered the phase of conducting genetic studies of all the country’s habitants. The environment was becoming of ever greater concern to cities and their inhabitants. In general, the future of cities depended on their citizens more than on the State as far as protection of their private life and their security was concerned or, in a word, the totality of human rights.

R. Petrov referred to the promotion of research capacities in the life sciences and in particular the biological sciences and biotechnologies, as well as to ethics of science and technology. He recalled that UNESCO was well ahead of many establishments in foreseeing needs and launching international actions in their favour. The commitment of the Member States and scientific communities should be accompanied by greater awareness of the problems posed by bioethics through legislative measures and information networks. Speaking on ethics, he cited the Genova  declaration and stressed that ethics should be viewed broadly in the context of sustainable development to include ethics of energy, utilization of freshwater resources, information, space, the environment, etc.    Back to top

Some 18 speakers took part in the ensuing discussion. The following subjects were debated:

  • analysis of the future role of science and its consequences on the development of society and its citizens,
  • the creative and productive forces of science,
  • the better quality of life in megapolises like Moscow, and
  • the involvement of youth and the role of young people in making science progress.

There was also a review of technological progress, of new communication and information technologies, the role of the World Technological University, better utilization of resources, energy (including renewable sources) and how to solve ecological problems through effective interaction between science, governments, parliaments, cities and citizens.

At the closing plenary session of the Moscow International Forum, V. Fortov reported on the outcomes of the Symposium making particular mention of the scientific value of the debate and the useful recommendations which would be brought to the attention of the World Conference on Science in Budapest in June 1999.

 

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