science and technology, including the role of local and traditional

Globalization and the rapid evolution of science and technology carry with them a multitude
of challenges and social, economic and humanitarian consequences. Science is a powerful
tool for understanding the world in which we live, and can directly enhance the quality of
our lives. Yet these scientific advances can, in some cases, endanger life on our planet.
UNESCO's current work in the natural, social, and human sciences seeks to address the
issues humanity faces, with a focus on:
Promoting principles and ethical norms to guide scientific progress, technological
development and social transformation;
Improving human security by better management of the environment and social
Enhancing scientific, technical and human capacities to participate in the emerging
knowledge societies.1
The Declaration on Science and the Use of Scientific Knowledge, which was adopted at the World
Conference on Science organized by UNESCO in Budapest in 1999, played a major role in
defining UNESCO’s objectives in terms of the Natural, Social and Human Sciences. By
approving the Declaration, the delegations brought three key principles into focus: science
for knowledge, knowledge for progress; science for peace and development; and science in
society, science for society. The Declaration not only underscores that universal access to
scientific knowledge is important, but also that science and technology are essential to
development, with scientific knowledge in the service of all, to organize and develop
mutually beneficial international cooperation.2
In sciences, UNESCO is seeking to improve relations between peoples and their
environment. It was within this context that UNESCO formed The Program on Man and the
Biosphere (MAB), an interdisciplinary programme directed at finding ways to respond to
human needs and ensure the long-term viability of local resources while preserving the
biodiversity of the different types of ecosystems.3 The transdisciplinary and intersectoral
nature of UNESCO’s mandate in the fields of education, science, culture and
communication and information allows the Programme to promote scientific research and
better understand traditional forms of resource use. The biosphere reserves, 13 of which are
in Canada, are a key component toward achieving Programme objectives.4 The International
Hydrological Program, the International Geoscience Programme (IGCP) and the International Basic
Sciences Programme (IBSP) also serve as tools to achieve the objectives in the Natural Sciences
UNESCO document 31C/4, Medium-Term Strategy 2002-2007: Contributing to peace and human
development in an era of globalization through education, the sciences, culture and communication. The document
can be found at:
2 The text of the Declaration on Science and the Use of Scientific Knowledge is available at
3 For further information on the programme, visit the UNESCO Web site at:
4 To consult the list of biosphere reserves in Canada and elsewhere, visit UNESCO’s Web site at
In this same vein, the Organization has attached great importance to oceans. The
International Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), formed by UNESCO
in 1960, has structured the Organization’s work around the following 4 themes: international
scientific research programs; coordination of a global system of oceanic observation;
educational and training programs and technical assistance; and the efficient and general
pooling of oceanic data from research, observation and monitoring.5 The Indian Ocean
Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (IOTWS), which was launched at the IOC General
Assembly on June 30, 2005, was the result of a pooling of efforts and technologies from
various States. This System was implemented swiftly, thanks to the significant innovative
research efforts made by UNESCO over the past many years.
UNESCO plays a major role as an ethical, philosophical and scientific forum on issues
ranging from human security and conflict prevention, to inter-cultural dialogue, citizenship
and globalization. UNESCO’s approach to scientific progress places human rights at the
centre of its concerns. Increasingly, efforts are directed towards helping national and local
governments develop governance policies and structures in multi-cultural societies, stressing
social inclusion and the eradication of poverty.6
Sciences, communication and information are now inexorably linked; all while we work to
design a world in which people can create freely and share knowledge while realizing their
full potential. In the current international context, the importance of new information and
communications technologies (ICT) is growing rapidly, offering the possibility for new and
exciting exchanges and forms of expressions.
To facilitate the sharing of knowledge, access to ICT is of the greatest importance. In 2003,
the General Conference of UNESCO adopted the Recommendation concerning the Promotion and
Use of Multilingualism and Universal Access to Cyberspace in particular to "alleviate language
barriers and promote human interaction on the Internet by encouraging the creation and
processing of, along with access to, educational, cultural and scientific content in digital
form, so as to ensure that all cultures can express themselves and have access to cyberspace
in all languages, including indigenous ones" (par. 1).7 UNESCO also launched in 2001 the
Intergovernmental Programme “Information for All" (IFA), a platform for international policy
discussions to stimulate reflection and action in the information field. The IFA program falls
under certain UNESCO priorities, including education for all, the free exchange of ideas and
knowledge and more means of communication among peoples.
Sciences and ICTs also play a major role in attaining the Millennium Development Goals
and in implementing action plans put forward at conferences, such as the Johannesburg and
Copenhagen conferences on social development. In fact, as set out in the Marrakech
Declaration, everyone everywhere should have the opportunity to participate in the
UNESCO Web site, Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission:
6 Excerpt available on the Canadian Commission for UNESCO Web site, Natural, Social and Human
Sciences at:
7 The full text of the Recommendation is available at:
Information Society and to take advantage of its benefits. Information and communication
technologies (ICTs) as well as media must be a fulcrum for equitable access to sustainable
development. This principle of inclusion is also found in the Geneva Declaration from the
World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), in which participants reiterated their
commitment to “the achievement of sustainable development and agreed development
goals, as contained in the Johannesburg Declaration and Plan of Implementation and the
Monterrey Consensus, and other outcomes of relevant United Nations Summits”. 8 The 2nd
Summit, which was held in Tunis in 2005, reiterated this link in recognizing in the Tunis
Engagement that “the ICT revolution can have a tremendous positive impact as an
instrument of sustainable development. In addition, an appropriate enabling environment at
national and international levels could prevent increasing social and economic divisions, and
the widening of the gap between rich and poor countries, regions, and individuals—
including between men and women” (par.13). 9
Finally, the fight against racism, discrimination and xenophobia, related to sustainable
development, is also of greatest importance. The UNESCO Social and Human Sciences
Sector, in particular, has been very active on this issue. Following the call for action to fight
against racism, discrimination and xenophobia of the World Conference against Racism, Racial
Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, Durban (South Africa) from August 31 to
September 8, 2001, UNESCO launched in 2004 an International Coalition of Cities Against
Racism. The Coalition aims at establishing a network of cities interested in sharing
experiences to improve their policies in the fight against racism, discrimination and
xenophobia. The Canadian Coalition was launched in 2005 and is growing quickly. Fifteen
municipalities, including Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton and Calgary, have joined so
The Declaration can be found at|1160
9 The Tunis Engagement is available at|2267
 What types of projects, approaches or activities seem to demonstrate an
interesting/efficient use of science and technologies for sustainable development?
Which ones should be encouraged? Developed? What role could young Canadians
play in this context?
 In your opinion, what would be the « new challenges » in the area of science and
technology for sustainable development? (Ex. ethical questions, brain drain, etc.)
 What role should scientific cooperation have in the promotion of a Culture of Peace
and international solidarity? How could that cooperation be maximised?
 What would be the best ways to reinforce international scientific cooperation on
climate change?
 How can capacities in sciences and technology act as leverage for sustainable
development at the national level? How could these capacities be reinforced in
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