IBC newsletter: ethics as the global compass
Article published on 07-05-2021
As a UN agency, UNESCO is the primary organisation with a specialized mandate in the social and human sciences. UNESCO has recognized the need for ethics to be rooted in philosophical reflection, to be based on the framework of human rights, and to operate within sciences while maintaining an independent and critical distance.
The Organisation developed a programme on bioethics, beginning with the creation of the UNESCO International Bioethics Committee (IBC) in 1993, and the adoption of the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights in 1997. From 1998 to 2005, the programme underwent an extension of the themes covered, as well as the formalization of cooperation with Member States. Consequently, the Intergovernmental Bioethics Committee was established in 1998, the International Declaration on Human Genetic Data was adopted in 2003, and the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights was adopted in 2005.
Since 2005, UNESCO's bioethics programme has been intensifying the efforts to disseminate and promote the principles set out in the Declarations, to assist in the application of the principles and to further elaborate them. The International Bioethics Committee of UNESCO is comprised of 36 independent experts that follow progress in the life sciences and its applications in order to ensure respect for human dignity and freedom. It provides the only global forum for in-depth reflection in bioethics. The mandate of the IBC is four-fold:
- To promote reflection on the ethical and legal issues raised by research in the life sciences and their applications and to encourage the exchange of ideas and information, particularly through education;
- To encourage action to heighten awareness among the general public, specialized groups and public and private decision-makers involved in bioethics;
- To co-operate with international governmental and non-governmental organizations concerned by the issues raised in the field of bioethics as well as with national and regional bioethics committees and similar bodies;
- To contribute to the dissemination of the principles set out in the UNESCO Declarations in the field of bioethics (Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights, 1997; International Declaration on Human Genetic Data, 2003; Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights, 2005).
The IBC produces reports, advices and recommendations on specific issues that are widely disseminated and submitted to the Director-General for transmission to Member States, the Executive Board and the General Conference. The most recent was on the 26th of March 2020, the Statement on COVID-19: Ethical Considerations from a Global Perspective. This was a combined statement of the IBC and the UNESCO World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST).
In the first newsletter of the International Bioethics Committee of UNESCO, Mr. Hervé Chneiweiss, Chairperson of IBC, launches a message about the importance of ethical principles for the individuals and society. In this issue it is described the process embarked upon in the compiling of the Joint IBC/ COMEST Statement on COVID-19: Ethical Considerations from a Global Perspective. It also contains reports on how UNESCO’s bioethics principles have been incorporated into the COVID-19 response in the Netherlands, Canada, Turkey, Egypt, Brazil, Colombia, Jordan, Portugal, Sri Lanka.
Co-Editors of the IBC Newsletter are Mrs. Ames Dhai, Mrs. Beatrice Gabriela Ioan, Mr. Roland Tomb. Mrs. Beatrice Gabriela Ioan is Professor of Legal Medicine and Bioethics at “Grigore T. Popa” University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Iasi, Romania. As well, Mrs. Ioan is member of IBC. For reading the newsletter, please follow the link: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000373855