Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Bioethics at UNESCO

The Program on Social and Human Sciences of UNESCO includes an important focus on bioethics. UNESCO supports both:
* The International Bioethics Committee (IBC)
a body of 36 independent experts that follows progress in the life sciences and its applications in order to ensure respect for human dignity and freedom, created in 1993.

* The Intergovernmental Bioethics Committee (IGBC)
a body comprised of representatives of of 36 Member States whose representatives meet at least once every two years to examine the advice and recommendations of the IBC.
The rapid pace of development of the life sciences, and especially the biomedical sciences means that new ethical issues are arising more rapidly today than in the past. Genetic modification of plants and animals raises new possibilities to increase agricultural productivity, but also new threats to health and the environment, and the balance among these benefits and risks requires ethical analysis. The conduct of new kinds of research, especially on human subjects, itself raises new ethical issues, while unfortunately the systems needed to assure the ethical conduct of research are not adequate in many nations, especially those which are rapidly expanding their biomedical research activities. Stem cell research, research on contraceptive practices, genetic testing and cloning are perhaps the currently most controversial areas.

UNESCO has been the United Nations system's lead agency for ethics since its creation. Bioethics has been introduced as an important subfield for UNESCO. UNESCO's strong capabilities in the basic sciences provide an advantage, since many bioethics issues are first recognized by the research community in the context of new possibilities arising from science. Focusing on the ethical issues before technologies are developed for widespread use is a great advantage for public policy makers.

UNESCO provides a venue for the global community to discuss these issues, allowing people from different disciplines, nations, and cultures to collectively bring their views and backgrounds to bear on issues of global importance.

Read about:
* UNESCO’s new Global Ethics Observatory and

* The most recent Session of the International Bioethics Committee

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