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What is the COMEST?

At its twenty-ninth session in October-November 1997, the General Conference of UNESCO approved the creation of the World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST). The establishment of such a body reflects the increasing importance of ethical reflection in the light of the cultural and social effects of the rapid development of scientific knowledge and technology.

As unique forum of reflection, the task of COMEST is to formulate on a scientific basis ethical principles that can shed light on the various choices and impacts occasioned by new discoveries, and the values at stake.
Composed of prominent independent figures from different regions of the world and from various scientific disciplines, the Commission has a consultative rather than a prescriptive function. In carrying out its mandate, it makes every effort to ensure that attention is paid to signs indicating risk situations.

UNESCO acts as forum for the Commission's reflection and action, both international and interdisciplinary. In this space, actors from both the industrialized world and developing nations can join together to seek answers to common concerns.

The COMEST mandated to:
  • be an advisory body of UNESCO;
  • be an intellectual forum for the exchange of ideas and experience;
  • detect on that basis the early signs of risk situations;
  • promote dialogue between scientific communities, decision-makers and the public at large

To better achieve these aims, COMEST founded four Sub-Commissions that have focused their work during the past years on:
  • the ethics of freshwater
  • the ethics of outer space
  • the ethics of energy
  • the ethics of the information society

An innovative approach

Since January 2002, COMEST has adopted an innovative approach, based on the work accomplished by the four Sub-Commissions. The focus given seeks to advance ethical reflection and amplify the study of these topics by bringing them into the broader perspective of environmental ethics and sustainability.

In addition to this new focus, COMEST, along with other relevant international bodies, has organized a Working Group that will provide the necessary advice on how to integrate ethics and responsibility in scientific training.

The challenge of COMEST is to engage the scientists of the world in the increasingly important quest that will help forge a new social contract between science and society.

    Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST).
The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, gave an opening address at Headquarters in Paris, on 14 May, on the occasion of the extraordinary session of COMEST.  Continuer...


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Proceedings of the first session of COMEST

Proceedings of the second session of COMEST