Declaration of the 1999 UNESCO World Conference on Science



Text adopted by the World Conference on Science 1 July 1999. Definitive version



1. We all live on the same planet and are part of the biosphere. We have come to recognize that we are in a situation of increasing interdependence, and that our future is intrinsically linked to the preservation of the global life-support systems and to the survival of all forms of life. The nations and the scientists of the world are called upon to acknowledge the urgency of using knowledge from all fields of science in a responsible manner to address human needs and aspirations without misusing this knowledge. We seek active collaboration across all the fields of scientific endeavour, that is the natural sciences such as the physical, earth and biological sciences, the biomedical and engineering sciences, and the social and human sciences. While the Framework for Action emphasizes the promise and the dynamism of the natural sciences but also their potential adverse effects, and the need to understand their impact on and relations with society, the commitment to science, as well as the challenges and the responsibilities set out in this Declaration, pertain to all fields of the sciences. All cultures can contribute scientific knowledge of universal value. The sciences should be at the service of humanity as a whole, and should contribute to providing everyone with a deeper understanding of nature and society, a better quality of life and a sustainable and healthy environment for present and future generations.

2. Scientific knowledge has led to remarkable innovations that have been of great benefit to humankind. Life expectancy has increased strikingly, and cures have been discovered for many diseases. Agricultural output has risen significantly in many parts of the world to meet growing population needs. Technological developments and the use of new energy sources have created the opportunity to free humankind from arduous labour. They have also enabled the generation of an expanding and complex range of industrial products and processes. Technologies based on new methods of communication, information handling and computation have brought unprecedented opportunities and challenges for the scientific endeavour as well as for society at large. Steadily improving scientific knowledge on the origin, functions and evolution of the universe and of life provides humankind with conceptual and practical approaches that profoundly influence its conduct and prospects.

3. In addition to their demonstrable benefits the applications of scientific advances and the development and expansion of human activity have also led to environmental degradation and technological disasters, and have contributed to social imbalance or exclusion. As one example, scientific progress has made it possible to manufacture sophisticated weapons, including conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction. There is now an opportunity to call for a reduction in the resources allocated to the development and manufacture of new weapons and to encourage the conversion, at least partially, of military production and research facilities to civilian use. The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed the year 2000 as International Year for the Culture of Peace and the year 2001 as United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations as steps towards a lasting peace; the scientific community, together with other sectors of society, can and should play an essential role in this process.

4. Today, whilst unprecedented advances in the sciences are foreseen, there is a need for a vigorous and informed democratic debate on the production and use of scientific knowledge. The scientific community and decision-makers should seek the strengthening of public trust and support for science through such a debate. Greater interdisciplinary efforts, involving both natural and social sciences, are a prerequisite for dealing with ethical, social, cultural, environmental, gender, economic and health issues. Enhancing the role of science for a more equitable, prosperous and sustainable world requires the long-term commitment of all stakeholders, public and private, through greater investment, the appropriate review of investment priorities, and the sharing of scientific knowledge.

5. Most of the benefits of science are unevenly distributed, as a result of structural asymmetries among countries, regions and social groups, and between the sexes. As scientific knowledge has become a crucial factor in the production of wealth, so its distribution has become more inequitable. What distinguishes the poor (be it people or countries) from the rich is not only that they have fewer assets, but also that they are largely excluded from the creation and the benefits of scientific knowledge.

6. We, participants in the World Conference on Science for the Twenty-first Century: A New Commitment, assembled in Budapest, Hungary, from 26 June to 1 July 1999 under the aegis of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Council for Science (ICSU):



7. where the natural sciences stand today and where they are heading, what their social impact has been and what society expects from them,

8. that in the twenty-first century science must become a shared asset benefiting all peoples on a basis of solidarity, that science is a powerful resource for understanding natural and social phenomena, and that its role promises to be even greater in the future as the growing complexity of the relationship between society and the environment is better understood,

9. the ever-increasing need for scientific knowledge in public and private decision-making, including notably the influential role to be played by science in the formulation of policy and regulatory decisions,

10. that access to scientific knowledge for peaceful purposes from a very early age is part of the right to education belonging to all men and women, and that science education is essential for human development, for creating endogenous scientific capacity and for having active and informed citizens,

11. that scientific research and its applications may yield significant returns towards economic growth and sustainable human development, including poverty alleviation, and that the future of humankind will become more dependent on the equitable production, distribution and use of knowledge than ever before,

12. that scientific research is a major driving force in the field of health and social care and that greater use of scientific knowledge would considerably improve human health,

13. the current process of globalization and the strategic role of scientific and technological knowledge within it,

14. the urgent need to reduce the gap between the developing and developed countries by improving scientific capacity and infrastructure in developing countries,

15. that the information and communication revolution offers new and more effective means of exchanging scientific knowledge and advancing education and research,

16. the importance for scientific research and education of full and open access to information and data belonging to the public domain,

17. the role played by the social sciences in the analysis of social transformations related to scientific and technological developments and the search for solutions to the problems generated in the process,

18. the recommendations of major conferences convened by the organizations of the United Nations system and others, and of the meetings associated with the World Conference on Science,

19. that scientific research and the use of scientific knowledge should respect human rights and the dignity of human beings, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the light of the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights,

20. that some applications of science can be detrimental to individuals and society, the environment and human health, possibly even threatening the continuing existence of the human species, and that the contribution of science is indispensable to the cause of peace and development, and to global safety and security,

21. that scientists with other major actors have a special responsibility for seeking to avert applications of science which are ethically wrong or have an adverse impact,

22. the need to practise and apply the sciences in line with appropriate ethical requirements developed on the basis of an enhanced public debate,

23. that the pursuit of science and the use of scientific knowledge should respect and maintain life in all its diversity, as well as the life-support systems of our planet,

24. that there is a historical imbalance in the participation of men and women in all science-related activities,

25. that there are barriers which have precluded the full participation of other groups, of both sexes, including disabled people, indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities, hereafter referred to as disadvantaged groups,

26. that traditional and local knowledge systems, as dynamic expressions of perceiving and understanding the world, can make, and historically have made, a valuable contribution to science and technology, and that there is a need to preserve, protect, research and promote this cultural heritage and empirical knowledge,

27. that a new relationship between science and society is necessary to cope with such pressing global problems as poverty, environmental degradation, inadequate public health, and food and water security, in particular those associated with population growth,

28. the need for a strong commitment to science on the part of governments, civil society and the productive sector, as well as an equally strong commitment of scientists to the well-being of society,


 Proclaim the following:

1. Science for knowledge; knowledge for progress   

29. The inherent function of the scientific endeavour is to carry out a comprehensive and thorough inquiry into nature and society, leading to new knowledge. This new knowledge provides educational, cultural and intellectual enrichment and leads to technological advances and economic benefits. Promoting fundamental and problem-oriented research is essential for achieving endogenous development and progress.

30. Governments, through national science policies and in acting as catalysts to facilitate interaction and communication between stakeholders, should give recognition to the key role of scientific research in the acquisition of knowledge, in the training of scientists and in the education of the public. Scientific research funded by the private sector has become a crucial factor for socio-economic development, but this cannot exclude the need for publicly-funded research. Both sectors should work in close collaboration and in a complementary manner in the financing of scientific research for long-term goals.


2. Science for peace    

31. The essence of scientific thinking is the ability to examine problems from different perspectives and seek explanations of natural and social phenomena, constantly submitted to critical analysis. Science thus relies on critical and free thinking, which is essential in a democratic world. The scientific community, sharing a long-standing tradition that transcends nations, religions and ethnicity, should promote, as stated in the Constitution of UNESCO, the "intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind", which is the basis of a culture of peace. Worldwide cooperation among scientists makes a valuable and constructive contribution to global security and to the development of peaceful interactions between different nations, societies and cultures, and could give encouragement to further steps in disarmament, including nuclear disarmament.

32. Governments and society at large should be aware of the need to use natural and social sciences and technology as tools to address the root causes and impacts of conflict. Investment in scientific research which addresses them should be increased.


3. Science for development   

33. Today, more than ever, science and its applications are indispensable for development. All levels of government and the private sector should provide enhanced support for building up an adequate and evenly distributed scientific and technological capacity through appropriate education and research programmes as an indispensable foundation for economic, social, cultural and environmentally sound development. This is particularly urgent for developing countries. Technological development requires a solid scientific basis and needs to be resolutely directed towards safe and clean production processes, greater efficiency in resource use and more environmentally friendly products. Science and technology should also be resolutely directed towards prospects for better employment, improving competitiveness and social justice. Investment in science and technology aimed both at these objectives and at a better understanding and safeguarding of the planet’s natural resource base, biodiversity and life-support systems must be increased. The objective should be a move towards sustainable development strategies through the integration of economic, social, cultural and environmental dimensions.

34. Science education, in the broad sense, without discrimination and encompassing all levels and modalities, is a fundamental prerequisite for democracy and for ensuring sustainable development. In recent years, worldwide measures have been undertaken to promote basic education for all. It is essential that the fundamental role played by women in the application of scientific development to food production and health care be fully recognized, and efforts made to strengthen their understanding of scientific advances in these areas. It is on this platform that science education, communication and popularization need to be built. Special attention still needs to be given to marginalized groups. It is more than ever necessary to develop and expand science literacy in all cultures and all sectors of society as well as reasoning ability and skills and an appreciation of ethical values, so as to improve public participation in decision-making related to the application of new knowledge. Progress in science makes the role of universities particularly important in the promotion and modernization of science teaching and its coordination at all levels of education. In all countries, and in particular the developing countries, there is a need to strengthen scientific research in higher education, including postgraduate programmes, taking into account national priorities.

35. The building of scientific capacity should be supported by regional and international cooperation, to ensure both equitable development and the spread and utilization of human creativity without discrimination of any kind against countries, groups or individuals. Cooperation between developed and developing countries should be carried out in conformity with the principles of full and open access to information, equity and mutual benefit. In all efforts of cooperation, diversity of traditions and cultures should be given due consideration. The developed world has a responsibility to enhance partnership activities in science with developing countries and countries in transition. Helping to create a critical mass of national research in the sciences through regional and international cooperation is especially important for small States and least developed countries. Scientific structures, such as universities, are essential for personnel to be trained in their own country with a view to a subsequent career in that country. Through these and other efforts conditions conducive to reducing or reversing the brain drain should be created. However, no measures adopted should restrict the free circulation of scientists.

36. Progress in science requires various types of cooperation at and between the intergovernmental, governmental and non-governmental levels, such as: multilateral projects; research networks, including South-South networking; partnerships involving scientific communities of developed and developing countries to meet the needs of all countries and facilitate their progress; fellowships and grants and promotion of joint research; programmes to facilitate the exchange of knowledge; the development of internationally recognized scientific research centres, particularly in developing countries; international agreements for the joint promotion, evaluation and funding of mega-projects and broad access to them; international panels for the scientific assessment of complex issues; and international arrangements for the promotion of postgraduate training. New initiatives are required for interdisciplinary collaboration. The international character of fundamental research should be strengthened by significantly increasing support for long-term research projects and for international collaborative projects, especially those of global interest. In this respect particular attention should be given to the need for continuity of support for research. Access to these facilities for scientists from developing countries should be actively supported and open to all on the basis of scientific merit. The use of information and communication technology, particularly through networking, should be expanded as a means of promoting the free flow of knowledge. At the same time, care must be taken to ensure that the use of these technologies does not lead to a denial or restriction of the richness of the various cultures and means of expression.

37. For all countries to respond to the objectives set out in this Declaration, in parallel with international approaches, in the first place national strategies and institutional arrangements and financing systems need to be set up or revised to enhance the role of sciences in sustainable development within the new context. In particular they should include: a long-term national policy on science to be developed together with the major public and private actors; support to science education and scientific research; the development of cooperation between R&D institutions, universities and industry as part of national innovation systems; the creation and maintenance of national institutions for risk assessment and management, vulnerability reduction, safety and health; and incentives for investment, research and innovation. Parliaments and governments should be invited to provide a legal, institutional and economic basis for enhancing scientific and technological capacity in the public and private sectors and facilitate their interaction. Science decision-making and priority-setting should be made an integral part of overall development planning and the formulation of sustainable development strategies. In this context, the recent initiative by the major G-8 creditor countries to embark on the process of reducing the debt of certain developing countries will be conducive to a joint effort by the developing and developed countries towards establishing appropriate mechanisms for the funding of science in order to strengthen national and regional scientific and technological research systems.

38. Intellectual property rights need to be appropriately protected on a global basis, and access to data and information is essential for undertaking scientific work and for translating the results of scientific research into tangible benefits for society. Measures should be taken to enhance those relationships between the protection of intellectual property rights and the dissemination of scientific knowledge that are mutually supportive. There is a need to consider the scope, extent and application of intellectual property rights in relation to the equitable production, distribution and use of knowledge. There is also a need to further develop appropriate national legal frameworks to accommodate the specific requirements of developing countries and traditional knowledge and its sources and products, to ensure their recognition and adequate protection on the basis of the informed consent of the customary or traditional owners of this knowledge.


4. Science in society and science for society   

39. The practice of scientific research and the use of knowledge from that research should always aim at the welfare of humankind, including the reduction of poverty, be respectful of the dignity and rights of human beings, and of the global environment, and take fully into account our responsibility towards present and future generations. There should be a new commitment to these important principles by all parties concerned.

40. A free flow of information on all possible uses and consequences of new discoveries and newly developed technologies should be secured, so that ethical issues can be debated in an appropriate way. Each country should establish suitable measures to address the ethics of the practice of science and of the use of scientific knowledge and its applications. These should include due process procedures for dealing with dissent and dissenters in a fair and responsive manner. The World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology of UNESCO could provide a means of interaction in this respect.

41. All scientists should commit themselves to high ethical standards, and a code of ethics based on relevant norms enshrined in international human rights instruments should be established for scientific professions. The social responsibility of scientists requires that they maintain high standards of scientific integrity and quality control, share their knowledge, communicate with the public and educate the younger generation. Political authorities should respect such action by scientists. Science curricula should include science ethics, as well as training in the history and philosophy of science and its cultural impact.

42. Equal access to science is not only a social and ethical requirement for human development, but also essential for realizing the full potential of scientific communities worldwide and for orienting scientific progress towards meeting the needs of humankind. The difficulties encountered by women, constituting over half of the world’s population, in entering, pursuing and advancing in a career in the sciences and in participating in decision-making in science and technology should be addressed urgently. There is an equally urgent need to address the difficulties faced by disadvantaged groups which preclude their full and effective participation.

43. Governments and scientists of the world should address the complex problems of poor health and increasing inequalities in health between different countries and between different communities within the same country with the objective of achieving an enhanced, equitable standard of health and improved provision of quality health care for all. This should be undertaken through education, by using scientific and technological advances, by developing robust long-term partnerships between all stakeholders and by harnessing programmes to the task.




44. We, participants in the World Conference on Science for the Twenty-first Century: A New Commitment, commit ourselves to making every effort to promote dialogue between the scientific community and society, to remove all discrimination with respect to education for and the benefits of science, to act ethically and cooperatively within our own spheres of responsibility, to strengthen scientific culture and its peaceful application throughout the world, and to promote the use of scientific knowledge for the well-being of populations and for sustainable peace and development, taking into account the social and ethical principles illustrated above.

45. We consider that the Conference document Science Agenda - Framework for Action gives practical expression to a new commitment to science, and can serve as a strategic guide for partnership within the United Nations system and between all stakeholders in the scientific endeavour in the years to come.

46. We therefore adopt this Declaration on Science and the Use of Scientific Knowledge and agree upon the Science Agenda - Framework for Action as a means of achieving the goals set forth in the Declaration, and call upon UNESCO and ICSU to submit both documents to the General Conference of UNESCO and to the General Assembly of ICSU. The United Nations General Assembly will also be seized of these documents. The purpose is to enable both UNESCO and ICSU to identify and implement follow-up action in their respective programmes, and to mobilize the support of all partners, particularly those in the United Nations system, in order to reinforce international coordination and cooperation in science.

‹ Back