Follow-up to the World Conference on Science enters new six-year phase

2 January 2002 - At the 31st session of the General Conference of UNESCO (Paris, November 2001), 188 Member States and 6 Associate Members unreservedly approved the Organizationís Medium-Term Strategy 2002-2007. The beginning of the year 2002 saw the start of the implementation of that Strategy which heralds a major phase in the follow-up to WCS, building on efforts made by UNESCO and its partners during the two years that have elapsed since the event in Budapest. This new phase will embrace three successive biennial periods of fully-fledged partnership in the implementation of the recommendations of WCS formulated in its Declaration on Science and the Use of .Scientific Knowledge and the Science Agenda - Framework for Action.

Many facets of the Medium-Term Strategy take into consideration and respond to the expectations of the WCS. The Strategy recalls that over the last decade a set of global conferences has given rise to a world-wide consensus on key challenges to humankind. The World Conference on Science held in 1999 was one such conference, charting the way for UNESCO to support and promote scientific co-operation at all levels, drawing on its unique comparative advantage of having the natural and human sciences under one roof. Thus, action that follows up the WCS will be an integral part of the Organizationís programme that has been consolidated within an unifying theme, namely Ďcontributing to peace and human development in an era of globalization through education, the sciences, culture and communication. In its chapter relating to the sciences the Strategy states that UNESCO will address contemporary challenges in an integrated framework, responding to the new social contract between science and society for the 21st Century as defined by the results of the WCS.

The follow-up to the Budapest Conference is closely concerned with two of the three main strategic thrusts of the Organizationís programme: developing and promoting universal principles and norms in order to meet emerging challenges in education, science, culture and communication; and promoting empowerment and participation in the emerging knowledge society through equitable access, capacity building and sharing of knowledge.

Eight of the twelve strategic objectives set out by the Strategy are very much in line with the recommendations of the WCS. The objectives in question concern education, management of the environment and social change, information technologies, enhancing capacities to participate in the emerging knowledge societies and dialogue between cultures and civilizations. The response to the WCS within the sexennial Medium-Term Strategy combines a strategic orientation of the entire programme in science and allied areas, and a particular focus on selected actions in line with recommendations of the WCS.

In science, Strategic Objective 4 requires the Organization to promote principles and ethical norms to guide scientific and technological development and social transformation. The Organization has prepared itself to act within its programme on the Ethics of science and technology in co-operation with the World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology.

Strategic Objective 5 seeks to improve human security by better management of the environment and social change. In this area, the five intergovernmental scientific programmes of UNESCO will be a privileged tool to address major challenges for sustainable development. Water resources and supporting ecosystems have been accorded the highest priority within the science programme between 2002 and 2007, in recognition of their central place in the provision of a scientific basis for environmental security.

Strategic Objective 6 highlights the enhancement of scientific, technical and human capacities to participate in the emerging knowledge societies, and is the focus of the Organizationís programmes dealing with the basic and engineering sciences, science policies, science education, as well as information and communication technologies and the environment.

The almost universal call made at the WCS for the promotion of science education, in the broad sense, without discrimination and in all its forms, is to be addressed through a co-operative effort within programmes in education, science and communication. To this end, in line with the Strategic Objective 2, the Organization will be promoting science and technology education for all through implementation of an integrated Plan of Action oriented towards the renewal and diversification of basic science and technology education in both formal and informal settings, and a greater use of information and communication technologies in science teaching.

UNESCO willingly accepted the role of clearing house for the follow-up to the Conference in Budapest. The Medium-Term Strategy strongly advocated UNESCOís clearing house role in all branches of its programme. Also highlighted were other functions inherent to its mandate such as being a laboratory of ideas, a standard setter, a capacity builder and a catalyst for international co-operation. In each of these capacities, the Organization would welcome co-operation with partners in the follow-up to WCS.