UNESCO and AU-HRST to promote Science Communication in Africa

UNESCO and AU-HRST to promote Science Communication in Africa

UNESCO in partnership with the African Union Commission for Human Resources, Science and Technology (AU-HRST), the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA AfriCenter) and in close coordination with the Science for Democracy and the Associazione Luca Coscioni, will join efforts in putting in place a Massive Open Online Course (MOOCs) on Communicating Science in Africa. The objective is to contribute to the achievement of the UN SDGs, Agenda 2063, and in particular the AU’s Chairperson 1 Million By 2021 Initiative, aimed at empowering African youth from across the continent, as a key drivers of sustainable development in Africa.

 

Speaking at the 6th meeting of the World Congress for Freedom of Scientific Research which took place in at the AU from 25 to 26 February 2020, ProfSarah Anyang Agbor, Commissioner for the AU-HRST reiterated the AU’s commitment to providing access to science for all Africans, through technology and innovative ways.  Supporting the proposal by UNESCO to have a MOOC on Science Communication within the framework of the AU’s flagship project, the Pan African Virtual and E-University (PAVEU), Prof Anyang Agbor highlighted the accredited online courses to African students that PAVEU is offering for free, with a view to  accelerating development of human capital, science and technology and innovation in Africa.

Keep reading UNESCO’s article

Les cinq principales demandes du Congrès Mondial pour la Liberté de Recherche Scientifique

Les cinq principales demandes du Congrès Mondial pour la Liberté de Recherche Scientifique

L’Afrique aura un réseau de parlementaires pour le « droit à la science », qui sera controlé par les Nations Unies à partir de mars.

 La sixième rencontre du Congrès Mondial pour la Liberté de Recherche Scientifique s’est conclue le 26 février à Addis-Abeba, Éthiopie. Le Congrès a été promu par l’Associazione Luca Coscioni, Science for Democracy et l’Union africaine. 300 personnes de 35 pays ont participé à la rencontre de deux jours.

La sixième rencontre du Congrès Mondial pour la Liberté de Recherche Scientifique, dédiée au « droit à bénéficier des progrès de la science », s’est conclue. L’évènement a été promu par l’Associazione Luca Coscioni, Science for Democracy et l’Union africaine. Le Congrès mondial a été le premier rendez-vous international après l’adoption du Commentaire Général sur la science par le Comité des droits économiques, sociaux et culturels des Nations Unies. Une fois ce texte approuvé, en mars, les États membres du monde entier devront rendre compte de leurs politiques dans les domaines de la science et de la technologie. Il sera ainsi possible de parler de création et de libre circulation des connaissances scientifiques et de l’égalité d’accès à la recherche à Genève, comme c’est le cas actuellement pour les droits de l’homme classiques.

300 participants de 35 pays se sont réunis à Addis-Abeba pour discuter du développement durable, de la recherche sur les cellules souches, de l’édition du génome, de la santé sexuelle et des droits reproductifs, de la science ouverte et de l’intelligence artificielle. Avec les dirigeants de l’Associazione Luca Coscioni et de Science for Democracy, l’Union africaine et plusieurs députés africains, parmi les orateurs il y a eu Sir Richard John Roberts, Prix Nobel de médecine; la vice-ministre italienne des Affaires étrangères, Emanuela Del Re, qui a envoyé un message vidéo, la vice-directrice de l’UNESCO, Angela Melo, le professeur Mikel Mancisidor, professeur associé au Washington College of Law, co-auteur du Commentaire Général sur l’article 15, Malin Parmar, Professeure agrégée au département de neurobiologie du développement et de la régénération, Université de Lund, Suède, Pete Coffey, du London Project sur les yeux et le coprésident de l’Associazione Luca Coscioni, Michele De Luca.

Dans l’attente de l’adoption officielle du Commentaire Général sur la science, les participants au Congrès mondial pour la liberté de la recherche scientifique ont décidé de promouvoir un réseau de parlementaires pour le droit à la science, qui sera coordonné par Science for Democracy. Les premiers à adhérer sont des législateurs de Tanzanie, de Zambie, du Sénégal et de la Côte d’Ivoire.

À l’issue du Congrès mondial pour la liberté de la recherche scientifique, une résolution finale a été adoptée, avec cinq demandes principales :

  • Des lignes directrices pour aider les États membres à mettre en œuvre le « droit à la science » tel qu’il est décrit dans le Commentaire Général ;
  • La création d’un Special Rapporteur spécial sur le « droit à la science » pour surveiller en permanence le respect des effets de la science sur les droits de l’homme ;
  • Un renforcement des investissements dans le capital humain, la santé, l’éducation et les nouvelles techniques agricoles et du rôle des femmes en tant que ressources fondamentales pour la qualité de la vie et le développement durable de la société ;
  • La valorisation d’approches multidisciplinaires basées sur des preuves pour équilibrer le « principe de précaution » ;
  • L’invitation à ratifier le Protocole facultatif se rapportant au Pacte international relatif aux droits économiques, sociaux et culturels, adopté par l’Assemblée générale des Nations Unies le 10 décembre 2008

Les recommendations finales du Congrès sont disponibles ici.

Recommandations de la sixième rencontre du Congrès Mondial pour la Liberté de Recherche Scientifique

Recommandations de la sixième rencontre du Congrès Mondial pour la Liberté de Recherche Scientifique

1. Les Participants à la sixième rencontre du Congrès Mondial pour la Liberté de Recherche Scientifique, qui a eu lieu à Addis-Abeba, Éthiopie, les 25 et 26 février 2020 auprès du siège de l’Union africaine, intitulé « Le droit à bénéficier des progrès de la science, un point de vue africain » remercient la Commission de l’Union africaine dans la personne de la Professeure Sarah Mbi Enow Anyang Agbor, Commissaire pour la Science et la Technologie, et Science for Democracy pour avoir promu l’évènement, et l’Associazione Luca Coscioni pour l’avoir organisé.

2. La qualité des discussions et des échanges qu’elle a engendré, ainsi que l’interaction intellectuelle de personnes avec des compétences et des parcours différents ont enrichi le débat centré sur l’Afrique sur le potentiel thérapeutique des cellules souches, l’importance de la médecine génétique et de précision, la santé et les droits reproductifs et sexuels, les nouvelles techniques de sélection et l’introduction de produits plus sûrs sur le marché, ainsi qu’un accès plus ouvert à la science et aux données soutenu par la promotion des utilisations civiles de l’intelligence artificielle. Les travaux du Congrès, ainsi que ce document final, devront désormais être partagés dans différentes circonscriptions du monde entier, puisqu’ils traitent de certaines thématiques parmi les plus urgentes auxquelles l’humanité est confrontée. 3. Ce que les rencontres du Congrès Mondial ont identifié au cours des années s’est démontré central à l’agenda international sur des thèmes liés au progrès humain, le développement durable et surtout sur la protection du « droit à la science » avec toutes ses implications, comme indiqué à l’Article 15 du Pacte international relatif aux droits économiques, sociaux et culturels :

1- Les États parties au présent Pacte reconnaissent à chacun le droit

a) De participer à la vie culturelle;

b) De bénéficier du progrès scientifique et de ses applications;

c) De bénéficier de la protection des intérêts moraux et matériels découlant de toute production scientifique, littéraire ou artistique dont il est l’auteur.

2- Les mesures que les États parties au présent Pacte prendront en vue d’assurer le plein exercice de ce droit devront comprendre celles qui sont nécessaires pour assurer le maintien, le développement et la diffusion de la science et de la culture.

3- Les États parties au présent Pacte s’engagent à respecter la liberté indispensable à la recherche scientifique et aux activités créatrices.

4 -Les États parties au présent Pacte reconnaissent les bienfaits qui doivent résulter de l’encouragement et du développement de la coopération et des contacts internationaux dans le domaine de la science et de la culture.

Renforçant ainsi l’état de droit international.

4. Les Participants saluent le Commentaire-Général sur la science préparé par le Comité des droits économiques, sociaux et culturels des Nations Unies, en soutenant pleinement le document lorsqu’il affirme que:

 « Cet ensemble de droits, libertés, devoirs et obligations liés à la science, pourrait être réuni sous un seul, large, concept dénommé « le droit humain à la science » de la même manière dont, par exemple, « le droit humain à la santé » englobe un large éventail de droits et libertés affectant la richesse et le bien-être humains. Cette approche et ce nom ont déjà étés adoptés par le Special Rapporteur sur les Droits Culturels, par l’UNESCO, par certaines conférences et sommets internationaux et par certaines organisations et publications scientifiques. »

5. Les Participants appellent l’ONU à élaborer des lignes directrices sur la base du Commentaire Général afin d’aider les États membres à partager leurs efforts vers la mise en œuvre des nombreux aspects du « droit à la science », estimant que sa pleine jouissance peut contribuer structurellement à la réalisation des objectifs de développement durable et devenir un pilier pour la future consolidation de l’Agenda 2063, qui vise à réaliser les objectifs de l’Afrique pour le développement inclusif et durable, l’unité, l’autodétermination, la liberté, le progrès et la prospérité.

6. La littératie et la communication scientifiques devraient être promues et améliorées pour s’assurer que tous les individus aient accès à des information fiables et mises à jour. Les Participants estiment que la liberté de la recherche, le partage des connaissances et le droit de chacun de bénéficier des avantages de la science devraient être systématiquement pris en considération lors des processus décisionnels.

7. Les tables rondes du Congrès ont souligné la nécessité de consacrer des investissements substantiels au capital humain, à la santé, à l’éducation et aux services agricoles, ainsi qu’à améliorer la situation des femmes en tant que ressources importantes pour le bien-être et le développement durable des sociétés. Les Participants croient que les systèmes d’évaluation de la science et les structures de récompenses existants sont des obstacles à une large implémentation de la Science Ouverte. À cette fin, les Participants demandent aux Nations Unies de nommer un Rapporteur spécial sur le « droit à la science » pour mieux suivre la mise en œuvre des différents aspects du droit contenus dans le Commentaire Général.

8. Le « droit à bénéficier des bénéfices de la science », en particulier, avec les discussions sur le principe de précaution, devrait guider une approche complète, holistique et basée sur des preuves aux décisions sur les derniers développements de la science et de ses applications dans l’espoir d’engager le plus d’États et de parties prenantes possibles, dans un processus réglementaire qui ne peut être que transnational.

9. Les Participants croient que l’égalité des genres dans la Science, Technologie et Innovation (STI) soit cruciale et urgente. À cette fin, les Participants appellent à suivre les progrès en termes d’égalité des genres et de participation égale dans les domaines STI. Les actions visant à soutenir les efforts de promotion de la diversité des genres dans les STI devraient être prioritaires pour tous les pays.

10. Les Participants invitent les États membres de l’Union africaine à prendre toutes les mesures procédurales nécessaires pour ratifier le Protocole facultatif se rapportant au Pacte international relatif aux droits économiques, sociaux et culturels, adopté par l’Assemblée générale des Nations Unies le 10 décembre 2008, qui est entré en vigueur le 5 Mai 2013. Le protocole établit un mécanisme de plaintes individuelles pour le Pacte qui peut aider les États à répondre à la nécessité de mettre à jour les législations concernant les questions économiques, sociales et culturelles, y compris tous les aspects liés à la science.

11. Pour ce qui concerne les relations multilatérales, les Participants estiment que la notion de « pays tiers », comme celle prévue dans le neuvième programme-cadre de l’Union européenne Horizon Europe, devrait être mise à jour en accordant une attention particulière aux questions débattues lors du sixième Congrès mondial afin de promouvoir le « droit à la science ».

Les participants demandent donc à l’Union européenne de prendre en considération les particularités et la complexité présentées par le continent africain dans l’évaluation les critères d’ouverture aux pays tiers pour la participation aux programmes de l’Union. Une attention particulière devrait être dédiée aux effets bénéfiques qu’une telle participation aurait sur le bien-être des citoyens, tout en garantissant des politiques sur les droits de propriété intellectuelle justes et transparentes.

12. Les Participants s’engagent à poursuivre les objectifs fixés dans ces recommandations du sixième Congrès mondial et restent disponibles à coopérer entre eux afin de poursuivre la mise en œuvre de ces recommandations.

13. Les Participants espèrent que la prochaine rencontre du Congrès mondial sera organisée dans une région du monde où des efforts particuliers restent nécessaires pour promouvoir et protéger le « droit à la science » pour la promotion du bien-être individuel et sociétal et invitent les promoteurs et organisateurs à se tourner une nouvelle fois vers l’Afrique comme siège possible.

The 5 Main requests of the World Congress for Freedom of Scientific Research

The 5 Main requests of the World Congress for Freedom of Scientific Research

Africa will have a transnational network of parliamentarians for the “right to science”, which will be monitored by the United Nations starting in March. 

The 6th Meeting of the World Congress for Freedom of Scientific Research ended on the 26th of February in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Congress was promoted by Associazione Luca Coscioni, Science for Democracy and the African Union. 300 people from 35 countries took part in the two-day event.

The VI World Congress on Freedom of Scientific Research, dedicated to “The right to enjoy the benefits of science” has ended. The event was promoted by Associazione Luca Coscioni, Science for Democracy and the African Union. The World Congress was the first international appointment after the adoption of the General Comment on Science by the UN Committee for Economic, Social and Cultural rights. Once this text is approved, in March, Member States from all over the world will have to report on their policies in the fields of science and technology. There will thus be a chance to discuss the creation and free circulation of scientific knowledge and equality of access to research in Geneva, as currently happens for classic human rights.

300 attendees from 35 countries gathered in Addis Ababa to discuss about sustainable development, research on stem cells, genome editing, sexual health and reproductive rights, open science and artificial intelligence. In addition to the leaders of Associazione Luca Coscioni and Science for Democracy, the African Union and several African MPs, speakers included Sir Richard John Roberts, Nobel Prize for Medicine; the Italian Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Emanuela Del Re, who sent a video message, UNESCO Vice Director, Angela Melo, Professor Mikel Mancisidor, Associated Professor, Washington college of Law, co-author of the General Comment on Article 15, Malin Parmar, Associated Professor at the Department of Developmental and Regenerative Neurobiology, Lund University, Sweden, Pete Coffey, from the London project on eye and the co-president of Associazione Luca Coscioni, Michele De Luca.

Waiting for the General Comment on Science to be officially adopted, participants in the World Congress for Freedom of Scientific Research decided to promote a network of Members of Parliaments for the right to science, which will be coordinated by Science for Democracy. The first to take part were legislators from Tanzania, Zambia, Senegal and the Ivory Coast.

At the conclusion of the World Congress for Freedom of Scientific Research a final resolution was adopted, with five main requests: 

  • Guidelines to assist member states to implement the “right to science” as it is articulated in the General Comment;
  • The creation of a Special Rapporteur on the “right to science” to constantly monitor the respect of the implication of science for human rights;
  • Strengthening of investments in human capital, health, education and new agricultural techniques and empowering the role of women as fundamental resources for quality of life and sustainable development of society; 
  • Valorization of multidisciplinary approaches based on evidences to balance the “precautionary principle”;
  • The invite to ratify the Optional Protocol on the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly on the 10th of December 2008.

You can read the final recommendations here.

 

Final Recommendations of the 6th Meeting of the World Congress for Freedom of Scientific Research

Final Recommendations of the 6th Meeting of the World Congress for Freedom of Scientific Research

1. Participants in the Sixth meeting of the World Congress for Freedom of Scientific Research, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 25-26 February 2020 at the African Union headquarters, entitled “The right to enjoy the benefits of science, an African perspective” wish to thank the Commission of the African Union in the person of Professor Sarah Mbi Enow Anyang Agbor, Commissioner for Science and Technology, and Science for Democracy for having promoted the event and the Luca Coscioni Association for organizing it.

2. The quality of the discussion and exchanges that it has generated, and the intellectual interaction of people with different expertise and backgrounds has enriched the Africa-focused debate on the therapeutic potential of stem cells, the importance of precision and genetic medicine, sexual and reproductive health and rights, new breeding techniques and the introduction of safer products on the market, as well as a more open access to science and data sustained by the promotion of civilian uses of artificial intelligence. The proceedings of the Congress, together with this outcome document, will now need to be shared in different constituencies all over the world as they address some of the most pressing issues mankind is facing.

3. What the meetings of the World Congress have identified over the years has proved to be central in the international agenda on issues relating to human progress, sustainable development and in particular on the protection and promotion of the “right to science” with all its implications, as contained in Article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights:

1. The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone:

(a) To take part in cultural life;
(b) To enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications;
(c) To benefit from the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
2. The steps to be taken by the States Parties to the present Covenant to achieve the full realization of this right shall include those necessary for the conservation, the development and the diffusion of science and culture.
3. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to respect the freedom indispensable for scientific research and creative activity.
4. The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the benefits to be derived from the encouragement and development of international contacts and co-operation in the scientific and cultural fields.

Thereby reinforcing international Rule of Law.

4. Participants salute the General Comment on Science prepared by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, fully endorsing the document where it states that:

“This set of rights, entitlements, liberties, duties or obligations related to science, might be brought together in a single broad concept named “the human right to science” in the same way that, for example, “the human right to health” encompasses a broad set of rights and freedoms affecting human wealth and well-being. This approach and this name have already been adopted by the Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights, by UNESCO, by some international conferences and summits and by some important scientific organizations and publications.

5. Participants call on the UN to develop guidelines on the basis of the General Comment to assist Member States in sharing their efforts towards the implementation of the many aspects of the “right to science”, believing that its full enjoyment can structurally contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and become a pillar for the future consolidation of the Agenda 2063, that aims to deliver on Africa’s goals for inclusive and sustainable development, unity, self-determination, freedom, progress and prosperity.

6. Science literacy and communication should be promoted and improved to ensure that all individuals have access to reliable and up-to-date information. Participants believe that freedom of research, the sharing of knowledge and the right to enjoy the benefits of science for all should be systematically taken into consideration during decision-making processes.

7. The panel discussions of the Congress have highlighted the need to direct substantial investments into human capital, health, education, and agricultural services, as well as in improving the situation of women as important resources for the welfare, wellbeing and sustainable development of societies. Participants believe that existing science evaluation systems and reward structures are obstacles to a broad implementation of Open Science, and call for change following UNESCO’s recommendations. To this end, Participants appeal to the United Nations so that a Special Rapporteur on the “right to science” is established to better monitor the implementation of the multiple aspects of the right contained in the General Comment.

8. The “right to enjoy the benefits of science”, in particular, alongside discussions on the precautionary principle, should guide a comprehensive, holistic and evidence-based approach to decisions on the latest developments of scientific research and its applications with the hope of engaging as many States and stake-holders as possible, in a regulatory process that can only be trans-national.

9. Participants believe that Gender Equality in Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) is crucial and urgent. To this end, Participants call for monitoring progress in terms of gender equality and equal participation in STI fields. Actions to support efforts in the promotion of gender diversity in STI should be prioritized in all countries.

10. Participants invite Members States of the African Union to initiate all the necessary procedural steps to ratify the Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 2008, which entered into force on 5 May 2013. The protocol establishes an individual complaints mechanism for the Covenant that can assist States to address the need to update legislations concerning economic, social and cultural issues, including all aspects pertaining to science.

11. Concerning multilateral relations, Participants believe that the notion of “Third Country” – such as the one foreseen in the upcoming Horizon Europe, the 9th Research and Innovation framework program of the European Union – should be updated with particular attention to the issues discussed during the 6th World Congress in order to foster the “Right to Science”.

Participants therefore call on the European Union to take into consideration the peculiarities and complexity presented by the African continent when evaluating the Third Country Openness Criteria for the participation to the Union programmes. Particular attention should be given to the beneficial effects that such a participation would have on the social well-being of citizens, while guaranteeing fair and transparent policies on intellectual property rights.

12. Participants commit to pursue the goals set in these recommendations of the 6th World Congress and remain available to cooperate among themselves to pursue the implementation of these recommendations.

13. Participants hope that the next meeting of the World Congress will be organized in a region of the world where particular efforts remain necessary to promote and protect the “right to science” for the promotion of individual and societal welfare and invite the promoters and organizers to look again at Africa as a possible venue.

Biographies des orateurs du Congrès Mondial

Biographies des orateurs du Congrès Mondial

Margareth Gfrerer

Margareth Gferer a obtenu un doctorat en Économie et un MA en Education de l’Économie à l’Université de Graz (Autriche) et un MA en Commerce International à l’Université Économique de Vienne. Après des années dans l’industrie elle est rentrée à l’Université comme conférencière – d’abord à FH-JOANNUM (Autriche); par la suite dans différents postes en Indonésie. Elle a été impliquée dans de nombreux projets dans le domaine de la gestion des infrastructures avant son rôle actuel en Éthiopie, où son thème est l’accès ouvert à la science et ses implications.

Malin Parmar

Malin Parmar est professeure de neuroscience cellulaire à l’Université de Lund en Suède et une investigatrice Roberston à la New York Stem Cell Foundation. Sa recherche se concentre notamment sur les aspects translationnels. Elle guide l’effort STEM-PD européen, conçu pour amener les neurones de dopamine dérivés des cellules souches aux essais cliniques, et collabore avec des networks européens et internationaux autant qu’avec des partenaires industriels pour développer des nouvelles thérapies basées sur les cellules pour réparer le cerveau, notamment en ce qui concerne le Parkinson.

 Richard J. Roberts 

Le Dr. Richard J. Roberts est le Chief Scientific Officer aux New England Biolabs à Beverly, Massachusetts. Il a obtenu un doctorat en Chimie Organique en 1968 à l’Université de Sheffield et a travaillé comme stagiaire postdoctoral à Harvard avant de se déplacer au Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. En 1977 son laboratoire découvre les “split genes and mRNA splicing” pour lesquels il recevra le prix Nobel de Médecine en 1993. La même année son laboratoire, en collaboration avec Xiaodong Cheng, découvre le “base flipping”. Il se concentre désormais sur l’analyse bioinformatique des séquences de génomes et les études de méthylation de ADN des bactéries.

Vittoria Brambilla 

Vittoria Brambilla a obtenu son doctorat en Biologie des Plantes à l’Université de Milan en 2007 et a travaillé comme chercheuse à l’Université Heinrich Heine de Düsseldorf et à l’Institut Max Planck pour la Recherche sur l’amélioration des plantes à Cologne avant de retourner à Milan en 2011. Elle est désormais Professeure Adjointe à l’Université de Milan, où elle dirige un groupe de recherche qui travaille sur la biologie du développement du riz. Elle applique la connaissance de la recherche de base à l’amélioration du riz et elle combat pour utiliser des instruments d’édition du génome tel que CRISPR.

 Fares Mili

Doctorat en médecine: 1985; Diplôme de spécialité en pneumologie: 1985; Master de Tobacologie: 2010; Diplôme universitaire d’addictologie: 2013; Spécialiste en maîtrise du traitement du tabac (CTTS mayo Clinic Roschester Minnesota) février 2017; Certificat national de pratique du traitement du tabac (NCTTP) par l’Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC) et l’Association for the Treatment of Tobacco Use and Dependence (ATTUD). Décembre 2018; Président de la Société Tunisienne de Tobacologie et des Comportements Addictifs «STTACA») mai 2017; Membre du comité exécutif de la Société tunisienne des maladies respiratoires et d’allergologie (STMRA) 2012-2017; Membre de la Société de Pneumologie Francophone (SPLF) depuis 2013; Membre de l’European Respiratory Society (ERS) depuis 2015; Membre du Comité national tunisien de lutte antitabac; Consultant OMS.

Roberto Caso

Co-directeur du Trento LawTech Group, Professeur associé de droit privé comparé à l’Université de Trento, faculté de droit, où il enseigne droit de la propriété intellectuelle comparé, droit de la privacy comparé, droit et art du copyright, CopyrightX Trento. Il est auteur et éditeur de publications dans le domaine de la propriété intellectuelle, privacy, et protection des données personnelles. Il est président de l’Association Italienne pour la Promotion de la Science Ouverte [AISA]. Membre associé du Centre for Intellectual Property Policy (CIPP), McGill University (Montréal).

Emmanuel Okogbenin

Emmanuel Okogbenin est un sélectionneur moléculaire avec une formation professionnelle supplémentaire en agronomie et physiologie végétale. Il a plus de 28 ans d’expérience en tant que scientifique du manioc dans des organisations nationales et internationales en Afrique et en Amérique latine. Il est actuellement directeur du développement et de la commercialisation des programmes à la Fondation africaine des technologies agricoles au Kenya. Ses fonctions actuelles consistent notamment à faciliter l’accès et le transfert de technologies grâce à un partenariat public-privé pour une agriculture commerciale et durable.

Michele Usuelli

Conseiller régional de Lombardie, + Europa con Emma Bonino; Néonatologiste; Partenariat pour la santé maternelle, néonatale et infantile: point focal pour la Société italienne de néonatologie.

Michele est maintenant un homme politique après une vie consacrée aux soins néonatals. Il gère des projets maternité-néonatals en Afghanistan, au Cambodge, au Soudan, au Malawi, en Sierra Leone et en République centrafricaine depuis 8 ans. Tout en étant engagé dans la gestion clinique des nouveau-nés et la formation du personnel sur le tas dans le continuum des soins, il a découvert que des services de contraception gratuits et conviviaux sont accueillis par une grande partie des femmes partout et cela contribue à réduire la mortalité maternelle et néonatale; il le traduit maintenant en décisions politiques.

Michele De Luca

Michele De Luca, MD, est directeur du Centre de médecine régénérative « Stefano Ferrari » et du Centre interdépartemental pour les cellules souches et la médecine régénérative à l’Université de Modena et Reggio Emilia et directeur scientifique et fondateur du spin-off universitaire Holostem.

Il a consacré la plupart de ses activités scientifiques à la médecine translationnelle. Il est reconnu comme un scientifique de premier plan en biologie des cellules souches épithéliales squameuses humaines visant à développer la thérapie cellulaire et la thérapie génique à médiation par les cellules souches épithéliales.

Margaret Karembu

La Dr Margaret Karembu est directrice de l’AfricaCenter de l’ISAAA, basée au Kenya. Elle supervise les centres d’information sur la biotechnologie basés en Afrique qui travaillent avec des programmes nationaux pour améliorer la communication scientifique et l’environnement propice aux biosciences modernes. Éducatrice expérimentée en communication scientifique, Margaret a encadré des champions de la communication scientifique à travers l’Afrique et offre la possibilité de mettre en valeur ces compétences à travers le mois Drumbeat – Africa Bioscience Trends et la plateforme Africa Biennial Biosciences Communication (ABBC). Elle est titulaire d’un doctorat en éducation aux sciences de l’environnement de l’Université Kenyatta, Kenya.

Tequila V. Bester

Tequila a plus de 15 ans d’expérience professionnelle dans la société civile, traitant des questions relatives aux droits civils, aux droits des personnes handicapées et des personnes âgées, à la défense du travail et de l’emploi, de l’immigration et de la défense de la santé mentale. Elle est titulaire d’un master en psychologie du counseling de l’Université du Pacifique de l’Alaska et d’un doctorat en droit du New England Law|Boston, se spécialisant dans le droit public international. Elle est coordinatrice de programme au FIHRRST, mettant en œuvre les deuxième et troisième piliers de l’organisation: les villes des droits de l’homme, les personnes vulnérables et d’autres problèmes sociaux.

Pete Coffey

Le professeur Pete Coffey, DPhil, est responsable thématique du développement, du vieillissement et des maladies à l’Institut d’ophtalmologie de l’University College London et co-directeur exécutif de la translation au Center for Stem Cell Biology and Engineering de l’UC Santa Barbara. Ses résultats incluent le lancement du London Project to Cure Blindness qui vise à développer une thérapie par cellules souches pour la majorité de tous les types de dégénérescence maculaire liée à l’âge, des travaux séminaux (tels que ceux décrits par Debrossy & Dunnett, Nature Neuroscience 2001) sur la transplantation rétinienne.

Solomon Mekonnen

Le Dr Solomon Mekonnen est membre du personnel académique de la bibliothèque avec le grade de professeur adjoint et de coordinateur en libre accès à l’Université d’Addis-Abeba (AAU). Outre son rôle à l’AUA, Solomon coordonne le programme national d’accès ouvert d’un réseau international appelé Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL) représentant le Consortium of Ethiopian Academic and Research Libraries. Il est également organisateur local en Éthiopie pour un réseau international appelé Open Knowledge Foundation. Dans le cadre de son rôle d’organisateur local, il coordonne la communauté Open Knowledge en Éthiopie en se concentrant sur les données ouvertes et la science ouverte. Solomon a participé à de nombreux projets liés aux données ouvertes et au libre accès au niveau national et institutionnel, notamment un projet sur l’ouverture et la visualisation des données des élections éthiopiennes de 2015, Ethiopian Journals Online, National Digital Repository et la politique nationale de libre accès. Il a également organisé et dirigé divers ateliers et formations sur le libre accès et les données ouvertes. Solomon a terminé son doctorat en systèmes d’information à l’Université d’Afrique du Sud.

Ghada El-Kamah

Ghada El-Kamah MBBCh, MSc, PhD, Professeure et cheffe du département de génétique clinique au centre national de recherche (NRC), se concentre sur les maladies héréditaires et génomiques. Elle a reçu sa formation clinique au NRC, sa formation moléculaire au NRC et au Gaslini en Italie, en création de tissus à Neuss en Allemagne et éthique de la recherche au NRC. Coordinatrice des équipes des troubles sanguins héréditaires et cliniques de génodermatoses. Membre du conseil d’administration de la société africaine de génétique humaine et du comité égyptien pour la pour la formation en génétique pathologique. Coordinatrice éthique entre le département de génétique clinique et le IRB-NRC.

Michele d’Alessandro

Michele D’Alessandro travaille au Bureau des relations internationales des médecins avec Africa CUAMM. Après s’être spécialisé dans les études sur la paix et les conflits, il a travaillé comme observateur des droits de l’homme en Colombie, stagiaire à l’ambassade d’Italie en Éthiopie, stagiaire au Parlement européen en Belgique et consultant pour l’OIT au Liban. Il a obtenu sa maîtrise en études européennes et internationales de l’Université de Trente et a mené 3 ans de recherche universitaire dans la Corne de l’Afrique.

Solomon Rataemane

Le Prof Solomon Rataemane est un psychiatre à la Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University à Pretoria (2003-2019), Afrique du Sud. Il a participé aux South Africa Science Forums en parlant de la réduction des dégâts du tabac. Il a un intérêt particulier pour la médecine des addictions et est le président actuel du Comité Ministériel Consultatif sur la santé mentale. Il a été président de l’Association Africaine des Psychiatres et il est affilié à de nombreuses associations locales et internationales dans le domaine de la santé mentale.

6th Meeting Of The World Congress For Freedom Of Scientific Research: Biographies of speakers

6th Meeting Of The World Congress For Freedom Of Scientific Research: Biographies of speakers

Bioghraphies of the speakers of 6th Meeting Of The World Congress For Freedom Of Scientific Research

Margareth Gfrerer

Margareth Gfrerer holds a PhD in Economics and a MA in Economics Education from  University Graz (Austria) and a MA in International Commerce from Vienna University of Economics. After years in industry she returned to University as senior lecturer and researcher – first to FH-JOANNUM (Austria); followed by different university assignments in Indonesia. She has been involved in numerous international projects in the field of infrastructure management prior her current assignment in Ethiopia, where her focus is on Open Science and its impacts.

Malin Parmar

Malin Parmar is a professor in cellular neuroscience at Lund University in Sweden and a New York Stem Cell Foundation – Robertson investigator. Her research has a strong translational focus. She leads the European effort STEM-PD, designed to bring stem cell-derived dopamine neurons to clinical trials, and she collaborates within European and International networks as well as Industry partners to develop new, cell based therapies for brain repair with focus on Parkinson’s Disease.

Richard J. Roberts 

Dr. Richard J. Roberts is the Chief Scientific Officer at New England Biolabs, Beverly, Massachusetts. He received a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry in 1968 from Sheffield University and worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard before moving to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. In 1977 his laboratory discovered split genes and mRNA splicing for which he received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1993. In that same year his laboratory, in collaboration with Xiaodong Cheng, discovered base flipping. He now focuses on bioinformatic analysis of genome sequences and studies of bacterial DNA methylation.

Vittoria Brambilla 

Vittoria Brambilla obtained her PhD in Plant Biology at the University of Milan in 2007 and worked as a researcher at the Heinrich Heine University in Duesseldorf and at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne before moving back to Milan in 2011. She is currently Assistant Professor at the University of Milan, where she runs a research group dealing with rice developmental biology. She applies knowledge from basic research to  rice breeding and she fights for using genome editing tools like CRISPR.

Fares Mili

Doctorate in Medicine:  1985; Specialty Degree in Pneumology :  1985; Master Degree of Tobacology : 2010; University degree of Addictology :  2013; Master Degree Tobacco Treatment Specialist ( CTTS mayo Clinic Roschester Minnesota) February  2017; National Certificate in Tobacco Treatment Practice ( NCTTP) by the Association for Addiction Professionals ( NAADAC) and the Association for the Treatment of Tobacco Use and Dependence ( ATTUD). Decembre 2018; Chairman of The Tunisian Society of Tobacology and Addictive Behavior  “STTACA” ) May 2017; Executive board member of the Tunisian Society of Respiratory Diseases and Allergology (STMRA) 2012- 2017; Member of the French Speaking Pneumology Society (SPLF) since 2013; Member of the European Respiratory Society (ERS) since 2015; Member of the Tunisian National Committee for Tobacco Control; WHO consultant.

Roberto Caso

Co-director of Trento LawTech Group, is Associate Professor of Comparative Private Law at University of Trento, Faculty of Law, where he teaches Comparative Intellectual Property Law, Comparative Privacy Law, Copyright law and Art, CopyrightX Trento. He is author and editor of publications in the field of Intellectual Property, Privacy and Personal Data Protection. He is President of the Italian Association for the Promotion of Open Science [AISA]. Associate member of the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy (CIPP), McGill University (Montréal)

Emmanuel Okogbenin

Emmanuel Okogbenin is a Molecular Breeder with additional professional background in Agronomy and plant physiology. He has over 28 years working experience as cassava scientist in both national and international organizations in both Africa and Latin America.  He is currently the Director for Program Development and Commercialization at the African Agricultural Technology Foundation, Kenya. His current duties include facilitating access and transfer of technologies through public private partnership for commercial and sustainable agriculture. 

Michele Usuelli

Regional Councillor of Lombardia, +Europa con Emma Bonino; MD neonatologist; Partnership for Maternal Neonatal and Child Health: focal point for Italian Society of Neonatology.

Michele is now a politician after a life dedicated to neonatal care. He has been managing maternal-neonatal projects in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Sudan, Malawi, Sierra Leone and CAR for 8 years. While engaged to the clinical management of the newborns and staff training on the job within the continuum of care, he has found out that friendly free of charge contraceptive services are welcomed to a vast part of women wherever and this helps reducing maternal and neonatal mortality; he translates it now in political decisions.

Michele De Luca

Michele De Luca, MD, is Director of the Centre for Regenerative Medicine “Stefano Ferrari” and of the Interdepartmental Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia and Scientific Director and founder of the university spin-off Holostem.

He has dedicated most of his scientific activities to translational medicine. He is recognised as leading scientist in human squamous epithelial stem cell biology aimed at the development of epithelial stem cell-mediated cell therapy and gene therapy.

Margaret Karembu

Dr. Margaret Karembu is Director of ISAAA’s AfricaCenter based in Kenya. She oversees the Africa-based Biotechnology Information Centers that work with national programs to enhance science communication and enabling environment for modern biosciences. A seasoned science communication educator, Margaret has mentored science communication champions across Africa and provides opportunity to showcase these skills through the month Drumbeat – Africa Bioscience Trends and the Africa Biennial Biosciences Communication (ABBC) platform. She holds a PhD in Environmental Science Education from Kenyatta University, Kenya.

Tequila V. Bester

Tequila has more than 15 years of professional experience working in civil society, addressing issues dealing with civil rights, disability and elderly rights, labor and employment advocacy, immigration, and mental health advocacy. She holds a Master of Science degree in Counseling Psychology from Alaska Pacific University and Juris Doctor from New England Law|Boston, with concentration in Public International Law. She is Programme Coordinator at FIHRRST, implementing the organization’s second and third pillar: Human Rights Cities, Vulnerable Persons and Other Social Issues.

Pete Coffey

Professor Pete Coffey, DPhil, is Theme Lead of Development, Ageing and Disease at University College London’s Institute of Ophthalmology and the Co-Executive Director of Translation at UC Santa Barbara’s Center for Stem Cell Biology and Engineering. His achievements include the launch of the London Project to Cure Blindness that aims to develop a stem cell therapy for the majority of all types of age-related macular degeneration, seminal work (as described by Debrossy & Dunnett, Nature Neuroscience 2001) on retinal transplantation.

Solomon Mekonnen

Dr. Solomon Mekonnen is an Academic Staff in the Library with the rank of Assistant Professor and Open Access Coordinator at the Addis Ababa University (AAU). Apart from his role at AAU, Solomon coordinates nationally Open Access Programme of an international network called Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL) representing Consortium of Ethiopian Academic and Research Libraries. He is also a local organizer in Ethiopia for an international network called Open Knowledge Foundation. As part of his role as local organizer, he coordinates the Open Knowledge community in Ethiopia focusing on open data and open science. Solomon has participated in many projects related to open data and open access at the national and institutional level including a project on opening and visualizing Ethiopian election 2015 data, Ethiopian Journals Online, National Digital Repository and national open access policy. He also organized and run various workshops and trainings on open access and open data.  Solomon completed his PhD in Information system from the University of South Africa.

Ghada El-Kamah

Ghada El-Kamah MBBCh, MSc, PhD, Professor and Head of the Clinical Genetics department, National Research Centre (NRC) focuses on inherited disorders and genomics. She received her Clinical training at NRC, molecular training at NRC Gaslini, Italy, tissueengineering (Neuss, Germany) and research ethics at NRC. Coordinator of the Hereditary Blood Disorders and Genodermatoses Clinics & Research Teams. Board member in the African Society of Human Genetics and Egyptian committee for pathology training-genetics. Ethical coordinator between the Clinical Genetics department and IRB-NRC.

Michele d’Alessandro

Michele D’Alessandro works at the International Relations Office of Doctors with Africa CUAMM. After specializing in peace and conflict studies, he has worked as a human rights observer in Colombia, an intern at the Italian Embassy to Ethiopia, a trainee at the European Parliament in Belgium, and a consultant for the ILO in Lebanon. He earned his MA in European and International Studies from the University of Trento, and conducted 3 years of academic research in the Horn of Africa.

Solomon Rataemane

Prof Solomon Rataemane is a psychiatrist at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University in Pretoria (2003-2019), South Africa. He has participated in South Africa Science forums addressing the subject of tobacco harm reduction. He has particular interest in addictions medicine and he is the current chairperson of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Mental Health. He is the past president of the African Association of Psychiatrists and he is affiliated to numerous local and international associations in the field of mental health.

A Psychedelic Coming Out

A Psychedelic Coming Out

By Marco Perduca

#ThankYouPlantMedicine

On the 50th anniversary of Woodstock last year there was a lot of talk about psychedelics, even about a psychedelic Renaissance. Everywhere, however, in the country of the Renaissance, the movement is still struggling to establish itself. A group of Dutch activists launched the ThankYouPlantMedicine proposal to dedicate February 20th to the sharing (coming out) of therapeutic experiences with psychedelics to counter the stigma that still affects those substances.

To clarify the ideas, especially if we are dealing with stuff that perhaps enhances them, alters or annihilates, we recover the original meaning of the word: those substances that “free the thought from the superstructures of social conventions” are psychedelic. The term psychedelic is not directly inherited, like many words in our daily vocabulary, from the ancient Greeks – who, however, as for hallucinogenic beverages, did not miss anything. It is a neologism that merges soul, ψυχή and manifest, δήλος.

The quoted words just above are by the English psychiatrist Humphry Osmond in a letter sent in 1956 to his compatriot Aldous Huxley, writer and philosopher, to indicate the so-called “enlargement of consciousness” induced by hallucinogens and entheogens, mainly LSD.

Consumption of these substances can enhance creativity and self-awareness, but it can also accompany therapeutic experiences of various kinds, for many psycho-physical conditions. In both cases, however, the freedom to ingest the products of nature or of chemical synthesis clashes with very restrictive, if not fully prohibitionist, laws or policies that have been pursued in a coordinated manner at global level since the 1960s. The years of the Summer of Love.

The hippies of the sixties and seventies, sometimes called flower children, were an eclectic group: some were openly against the US government, some were anti-capitalist, some anti-communist, but all were against the Vietnam War. Some were interested in politics, others were more interested in art (music, painting and poetry) or in spiritual and meditative practices. In short, there was everything.

Among the groups that have become more interested in psychedelics today, and perhaps thanks to which we can start talking about the Renaissance, there are dozens of researchers and psychotherapists who work on consciousness and knowledge with scientific practices, often heterodox, that mix chemistry, millenary indigenous knowledge and traditions, psychology, ethno-botany, and shamanism all the way up to parapsychology. In short, there is everything. Everything, but all in the name of freedom and mutual listening.

As we all remember, especially those who were not yet born at the time of the Summer of Love, Woodstock is symbolically remembered by the opening and closing pieces: “Freedom” by Richie Havens and the distorted USA anthem by Jimi Hendrix. Legend has it that “Freedom” was not in the playlist of the then basically unknown folk-blues singer and guitarist. Indeed, it seems that the song did not exist at all, but that it was created on the spot when he started playing on that August 15th 1969. In all concerts the first artist playing doesn’t matter, the goal being to warm up the audience and wait for latecomers. Since the big names expected could not reach the festival stage due to a traffic jam caused by the flood of people who, by any means, tried to reach the concert lawn, Havens had to entertain the audience for three hours. After playing everything he knew, “Freedom” emerged from an old spiritual inspired, it seems, by the crowd itself. The raw energy of that first acoustic version of Freedom remains in the annals of music.

Since then Woodstock, its music, and the widespread use of any type of legal and non-legal substance, have been linked to freedom. A freedom that did not cause victims.

Thanks to an idea of ​​the psychiatrist and psychotherapist Ben Sessa, the Breaking Convention has been held since 2011. It is a biennial Woodstock of psychedelic therapies that looks like a festival with a thousand facets including scientific symposia on the most recent and promising research as well as innovative insights on human and social sciences, law, politics, art, history and the philosophy around psychedelics. Among the historical supporters of the Convention are the Beckley Foundation and Maps (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies); the latter is in phase three of clinical trials for the treatment of post-traumatic stress with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy.

Sessa also collaborates with the team of Robin Carhart-Harris and David Nutt who in April at Imperial College London launched the first institutional centre in the world for research on psychedelics, after having carried out studies and experiments with LSD and psilocybin for years, facing legal problems and a lack of funds.

Although focused on research, the organizers of the Breaking Convention have always kept the doors open to other types of experiences too, involving people who experiment on themselves, self-taught researchers, enthusiasts or representatives of indigenous cultures and traditions. The London festival has a corollary of events that, thanks to the psychedelics, arouse and accompany mental journeys, trigger individual and collective creativity, spirituality and positivity.

“Microdosing” and self-medication are some of the keywords when it comes to psychedelics, even if Dr. Nutt and his collaborators on July 15, 2019 complained that “there is no standard on the quantity taken nor defined protocols” due to the scarce evidence on the therapeutic use of small doses of LSD, mescaline or psilocybin. However, rather than archiving certain practices as an amateurish, anecdotal and observational amusement, researchers wished for systematic studies while launching a search for volunteers for clinical trials on depression.

Ceremonies, gongs, visions, plants, chemistry, anthropology, ethno-botany, archaeology, music and activism make up the multidisciplinary nature of psychedelics in the pursuit of that psycho-cultural and increasingly political unity (Onennes) trying to build a trans-national antiprohibitionist fight.

The fight against the loss of self-determination – at the individual and indigenous people’s level – the criminalisation of cultural choices and “therapeutic” options, as well as the attack on nature and biodiversity, are the key themes of this movement which proposes a “proactive psychedelic Renaissance”.

Coming out on psychedelics helps strengthen a movement that, although not (yet) organized, is increasingly coordinated.

The General Comment on Science of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights dedicates a whole paragraph to controlled substances:

“Controlled substances and science

Scientific research is prevented on some substances as they fall under international conventions on drug control and are classified as harmful to health and without scientific or medical value. However, there is evidence that there are medical uses for many of these substances or that they are not as harmful as they were thought to be when they were subjected to this regime. This is the case of opium derivatives (for pain treatment and maintenance programs in opioid addiction), cannabis (for epilepsy resistant to other therapies) and MDMA (used in psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder) to the extent that there is available scientific evidence.”

This is not a psychedelic coming out, but a sharing of necessary actions, partly in progress, so that a psychedelic Renaissance starts being possible also in Europe. All the political activities necessary for a qualitative leap must be strengthened and 2020 could also be the crucial year in this field.

If you are interested in joining a group of academics and scientists with a focus on freeing scientific research and controlled drugs, contact us. 

Open Science to fight coronavirus

Open Science to fight coronavirus

 

By Federico Binda and Andrea Boggio

 

The new coronavirus, which has now infected over 75.000 people, almost all of them Chinese citizens, has found insidious and silent allies: the limits to the freedom of circulation of scientific information, which have contributed to the delay in doctors’ and scientists’ reaction in violation of the “right to science” established by UN Conventions.

The spreading of the virus is showing all of the limits of the international system in responding to health emergencies. A system which was established when another virus from the same family, known as SARS, spread 18 years ago.

The SARS, with over 8.000 individuals infected in 28 countries, for a total of 774 deaths (less than half those due to the coronavirus from January to today) brought about the adoption of the International Health Regulations (IHR), an international law instrument that forces the 196 World Health Organisation’s (WHO) members to work together, following a detailed protocol, to protect global public health.

The IHR are fundamentally based on two parts: one dealing with prevention, the other with health emergencies management. The latter, as was made clear by the WHO Committee for the last coronavirus, is essentially based on containment: every country needs to implement actions aimed at locating, isolating and treating every case, trace contacts between potentially infected people and promoting every quarantine and containment measure proportionate to the gravity of the emergency. It is precisely what we are witnessing today.

These measures are necessary, without a doubt – and generate considerable attention from public opinion. But are they enough?

Borrowing an image from the informatics world, we could say that the global response system is made up of two parts: a frontend, the interface that all users see, and a backend, the engine that makes everything work. In this metaphor our strategies to respond to the spreading of a potential pandemic are focused on the interface, neglecting the engine.

When the WHO declared a new global health emergency, the international response mechanism is activated. Under WHO coordination, all necessary measures are deployed to stop the spreading of the disease: ports and airports are closed, the circulation of goods and people is reduced, until we reach extreme decisions such as the one taken by the Chinese government to quarantine an entire region. In the meantime, data and information are shared (or at least should be shared) between all actors, so that they can be immediately available to everyone.

But the crucial part of the response system is behind all this: it is the engine described above, and it includes the work of scientists, doctors and researchers, the mechanisms of data sharing and analysis capability, the development of new vaccines and new medicines, the specific training of medical professionals to face potential emergencies.

This backend also includes access to and the sharing of relevant scientific literature, so that it is available to researchers but also to authorities and decision-makers, to the media and, ultimately, to all citizens. A culturally informed and scientifically equipped population could better assess the risk without panicking. Prepared citizens-patients will necessarily be more cooperative with health authorities and will be, for example, more incline to follow quarantine measures and other public order dispositions, will seek medical counsel more promptly in case of symptoms and, if necessary, willingly accept classical clinical treatments and possible vaccines.

It is easy to notice that these structural measures, also because of the way in which the new coronavirus is spreading, have not been deployed in sufficient measures. The People’s Republic has certainly given new proof of the strength of its extraordinary administrative machine by building new hospitals with over 2.300 beds from scratch in the city of Wuhan to treat patients, but this shouldn’t make us forget that – at the beginning – there weren’t enough beds in a large urban area with over 11 million inhabitants. On a different front, articles and scientific publications concerning coronaviruses have remained protected by paywalls, available to the public, including technical public, made up of doctors and health professionals who were trying to get information on the disease, only with a payment. Only weeks into the epidemic, and only after a group of activists created a “pirate” archive open to all with over 5.000 articles, did large commercial editors, pushed by international pressure, decide to break – only on this topic – the walls impeding the spreading of studies made by scientists all over the world.

All of this while panic, racism and xenophobia were spreading, with the WHO reacting by starting a campaign to fight rumours and hearsays about the disease (to the point of having to deny the rumour according to which garlic consumption would reduce the risk of getting coronavirus).

Which instruments, then, do we have at our disposal to implement the necessary measures to ensure the backend, the engine described above, works in a proper way and prepares us to face the next pandemic?

International law offers us a precious instrument, coming from the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, starting from the “right to health”, included in article 14, and the “right to science”, included in article 15, which established both the right for scientists to have the freedoms needed for research, such as the one to share discoveries, and the right of every human being to enjoy the results of scientific progress and its applications.

The respect and application of these rights on the part of States would guarantee (and bind) adequate investments in research and development, ample support to Open Science policies starting from open access to scientific publications, adequate training of health professionals, the building and maintenance of hospitals and medical centres in addition to, naturally, a wide sharing of scientific culture in the various segments of the population.

A series of measure non immediately appreciated by the public at large. But in their absence the global response system to health emergencies (and not only) cannot function properly: the current emergency, hoping that it will be confined in the best way possible, is an alarm bell.

We will be discussing these themes in a few days in Addis Ababa at the Sixth Session of the World Congress on Freedom of Scientific Research titled, fittingly, “The right to enjoy the benefits of science”.

 

Why Africa for a Congress on Science

Why Africa for a Congress on Science

by Marco Perduca

A most recent search for articles on Africa in the international press will include: the decision, yet to be confirmed, of the Sudanese transitional administration to send Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court that in 2009 indicted him of crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes; the latest killing of Boko Haram or secessionist activities in Cameroon; chaos in Libya, unrest in Algeria; a contested election in Malawi, impunity in Kenya, and scandals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or Angola. North-south relations revolve around the need to defend European borders, enforce arms embargoes, boost military cooperation against terrorism – or hide questionable arms deals.

This is the type of reporting that characterizes Africa in the Western media. But Africa is more than a peril for us or a lost cause for its inhabitants, way more than we are led to believe.

According to the World Health Organization, the five major causes of death in Africa (even if in constant decline) are lower respiratory tract infections, HIV/AIDS, diarrhoea, ischaemic heart disease, parasites and vector-borne diseases. On top of health-related issues, the two most common reasons for deaths in the continent are car accidents and interpersonal violence, not armed conflicts. But if we were to judge by the way in which Africa is covered by western media, Africa would still be considered a part of the globe which is on fire due to national and international wars. Africans die for diseases that, in many cases, could be treated with better care and improved welfare systems staffed by prepared professionals.

In an article published in Nature last summer, a group of African researchers made a public call to Build science in Africa arguing that to “cope with climate change and population growth, the continent urgently needs more home-grown researchers”.

We had just come back from Addis Ababa with Marco Cappato to prepare the convening of the 6th World Congress on Freedom of Scientific Research and, perfectly in line with what was proposed by African researchers, we decided to involve them in a seminar at the Law Faculty of the Addis Ababa University in November to address all the problems faced by science in Africa in a moment in which science is becoming so central to the global public debate that the United Nations have decided to dedicate a General Comment to her.

The notion that science is a human right is recent, but mentions of science can be found in dozens of international and regional documents from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in article 27 to article 15 of the International Covenant of Economic Social and Cultural Rights; as recently as 2017 UNESCO has adopted a definition of science. When a country ratifies an international instrument on human rights it agrees to do its utmost to fulfil the obligations deriving from that commitment. If there is no excuse for countries not to respect those obligations, the economic situation of each State may present different scenarios in terms of resources to allow the full enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights. Multilateral cooperation, conditioned to the respect of human rights, should progressively upgrade the fields in which it articulates its support. There are hundreds of individual and successful cooperations between universities that have been ongoing for years, but the lack of a free scientific space, the hurdles posed to the movement of scientists, researchers, students, and the problems in having diplomas and other academic titles recognized across the world hinders scientific research.

And it is exactly around this that a more structured, comprehensive and trans-national dialogue between rich and developing countries should start: on the need to allow – for all – the full enjoyment of the benefits of scientific progress and its implications, from those historically known to the latest developments. If science is a human right, and as we have seen it is, we need to urge international institutions to invest in freedom of research, in the sharing of knowledge and in the enjoyment of the benefits of applied science.

While there still remains a lot to be done to strengthen the traditional activities promoted in the field of international cooperation for development, additional attention should be dedicated to adopt rules and regulations at the international level to allow a freer sharing of researches and researchers and patients from north to south and vice versa, to invest in providing essential but also more sophisticated medicines to developing countries and in promoting research in all sorts of fields in the so-called “global south”.

The 6th session of the World Congress on Freedom of Scientific Research, facilitated and hosted by the Commission of the African Union, will address issues from stem cell research to precision medicine, reproductive health, new breeding techniques and the introduction of new products in the market as well as free and open access to science, knowledge open data and artificial intelligence to highlight the many issues related to the “right to science” that need to be protected and promoted as if they were a human right. We hope that the two-day gathering will adopt a set of recommendations to contribute to a global movement to promote reforms that are based on facts, freeing decisions from still existing and powerful ideologies – starting perhaps from the one that depicts Africa as “the third world”.


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