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Background on EST

While scientific progress and technological discoveries are creating unique and exciting opportunities in the 21st century, they can also bring with them new and complex ethical, moral and legal dilemmas. In response to the rapid pace of change in this area, UNESCO has strengthened its international role in regards to the ethics of science and technology.


By drawing on UNESCO’s wealth of expertise, RUSHSAP is in a unique position to help governments, industry, civil society and the scientific and intellectual communities understand and respond appropriately to the many implications of new discoveries. RUSHSAP will continue to raise awareness, encourage debate, set standards and promote equitable policies in this fast-moving field.


In order to guarantee that scientific developments contribute to sustainable peace and development, all people – with due consideration and respect for diversity – must be able to participate in democratic decision-making on scientific matters. RUSHSAP promotes the transfer and sharing of scientific research and knowledge to ensure equitable benefits for all. We encourage the dissemination of information on the ethics of science and technology to professionals in the field, universities, decision-makers, the media, the general public and particularly young scientists. This includes the promotion of the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights and the exploration of potential international instruments on genetic data.

The use of science and technology has changed the way we live. The dreams of the previous generation have led forth to the hopes and aspirations of the current generation, and the livelihood of many. The same technology that gives us electricity has also led to environmental pollution and threats to our peace. What draws the narrow line between miracles and abuses is the responsibility of the practitioners of technology. Scientists who research, and technologists who apply the knowledge to the betterment of all.

At this time, we are called to examine whether the codes that govern science and technology. UNESCO’s Programme on the Ethics of Science and Technology is designed to ensure that the world remains secure for everyone by placing the ongoing revolutionary scientific and technological progress within a context of ethical reflection rooted in the cultural, legal, philosophical and religious heritage of the various communities.  This programme covers two primary areas of ethical reflection: bioethics, addressing concerns stemming from advances in life sciences; and ethics of science and technology, addressing other areas of applied ethics in relation to scientific and social developments. How can we continue to advance knowledge, standards and intellectual cooperation in order to facilitate social transformations where the values of justice, freedom and human dignity can be fully realized.  Our task is to study what is, to anticipate what could be, and to determine what should be, in order to reduce the gap between what is and what should be.

A range of public consultation meetings examine the needs and priorities in different fields of science and engineering. What are the good points that uphold responsible professional conduct in these professions? What codes of ethics work and what do not? Can we link these to international codes? In the global community are international codes needed?

UNESCO created the World Commission on Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST) in 1998, from different regions of the world and from various scientific and humanistic disciplines. COMEST is tasked with formulating, on a scientific basis, ethical principles that can shed light on the various choices and impacts occasioned by new advancements in scientific and technological fields, thus fostering a constructive ethical dialogue on the values at stake. There is a need to address the ethical principles of science and this meeting is part of the process of regional and international consultations with scientists, ethicists and policy-makers.

We invite readers to be part of this process by sending comments, joining collaborative research projects, cohosting and/or participating in events organized by the Regional Unit for Social and Human Sciences in Asia and the Pacific (RUSHSAP), UNESCO Bangkok and partners.  While we have many issues within our own society which we hope to develop action plans for, the networking in ethics in science and technology extends even more broadly.  There has been much hype about many of these issues, now is the time to work together to develop practical initiatives to ensure ethical conduct and use of science and technology.