Previous Fora / 2009

History and Highlights

The World Science Forum series: 2003-2005-2007

In convening a World Conference on Science for the Twenty-First Century: a New Commitment, from 26 June to 1 July 1999 in Budapest, Hungary, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Council for Science (ICSU), in co-operation with other partners, provided a unique forum for this much-needed debate between the scientific community and society.

Inspired by the success of the World Conference on Science, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences established a series of follow-up conferences called World Science Forum, taking place biannually in Budapest. The main aim of this initiative is to promote the quality of dialogue on knowledge in a global society, and to earn gradually a reputation as the "Davos of Science". UNESCO, ICSU and the European Union supported the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in its ambitious efforts from the very beginning, as partners and as patrons.

During the three days of each Forum over 400 scientists, decision-makers from the world of poltics, industry, representatives of the civil society and the media express their views on the new challenges facing science in the 21st century. Participants from more than 90 countries convene every second year on and around World Science Day, the 10th of November - a day dedicated to science by UNESCO. To commemorate this day, the UNESCO Science Prizes were awarded here in Budapest at the time of each conference.

Budapest and the World Science Forum provided a platform for discussion on today's burning issues affecting science on three occasions up to now. The first World Science Forum took place between 8-10 November 2003, focusing on "Knowledge and Society", with the main objective of raising awareness world-wide toward the increasing and novel roles of knowledge and their societal impact. The Forum focused on themes of knowledge and economy, science, quality of life, environment and information. One of the highlights of the WSF2003 was the first meeting of the Israeli-Palestine Science Organisation organised by UNESCO, a round-table on "Science and Peace: From Talk to Action", to underline the role of scientific cooperation for peace in regions in conflict.

The second Forum between 10-12 November 2005 on "Knowledge, Ethics and Responsibility" aimed at tackling the ethical aspects of knowledge and the responsibility of scientists and decision-makers in the global society of the 21st Century. The main objective of this meeting was to continue the dialogue on the interdependence and cooperation of science and society, which are the key factors of a country's development. During the thematic sessions special attention was given to the utilization of knowledge by society and economy, to the situation of young generations, their education and to the questions of sustainable development and sustainable environment. The highlihts of this Forum were the two special sessions coorganised by UNESCO: the second meeting of the Israeli-Palestine Science Organisation and the International Round Table, entitled "Science in a Democratic World: the Role of Parliaments" organized together with ISECO for the first time in the framework of the World Science Forum. The main purpose of the Parliamentary Round Table was to examine the role of the Parliaments in the science, technology and innovation process as well as challenges and constraints faced in the context of increasing complexity of the decision making process. Parliamentary Science and Technology Committees from around 20 countries were represented.

The most recent Forum between 8-10 November 2007 on "Investing in Knowledge: Investing in the Future" emphasised the importance of knowledge resources in managing the future of the world's economies and societies. The future-oriented thematic sessions focusing on investments discussed the conflicts between sustainable development and growth, the methods of resolving them; the paradigm changing knowledge-based politics; the support of future generations; the challenges and opportunities of parliaments and the case of accelerating economies.

In the Heads of State Panel László Sólyom, Stjepan Mesic, Heinz Fischer and Karolos Papoulias, Presidents of Hungary, Croatia, Austria and Greece convened upon the "Green presidents" initiative of Hungary's President. They expressed their concerns about the environment and suggested new initiatives for cooperation to solve global problems.

It is an interesing and noteworthy fact that the leaders of the organisations providing more than 50 % of the world's science funding gave lectures in the session Science and Innovation as a Global Enterprise, organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) decided to launch its new scientific panel within the frame of the WSF, under the name: International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management. The panel will provide scientific assessments and expert advice on the use intensity, the security of supplies and the environmental impacts of selected products and services on a global level.

A plenary meeting was dedicated to Reports of Representatives of Global Fora. It was one of the original ideas of the World Science Forum to become the forum of global science fora, dealing with different aspects of scientific research and the advancement of technologies, such as the Meetings of Nobel Laureates in Lindau; the OECD Global Science Forum; the Japanese Science and Technology in Society Forum; the Euroscience Open Forum (ESOF); the World Bank's Knowledge Economy Forum and STI Global Forum; the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS); the London International Youth Science Forum and the AAAS Annual Meeting.

UNESCO participated as organiser in three sessions. The thematic session The Role of Science, Technology and Innovation in the Achievement of The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): from Policy to Action came to the conclusion that Science and Technology are keys to Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) achievements. Governments have to focus on investment in education, in cutting-edge technologies and in infrastructure. This was the third time that World Science Forum provided an opportunity for the meeting of the Israeli-Palestine Science Organisation (IPSO) and for displaying the results of collaborative research in the fields of nanotechnology and cancer therapy. The special session on "Investing in Science, Technology and Innovation: Challenges and Opportunities for Parliaments" was brought to Budapest for the second time. The session was attended by representatives of S&T Parliamentary Committees from every region in the world, as well as by scientists and journalists aiming at promoting a dialogue between government decision-makers, parliamentarians, scientists and stakeholders.

The speakers of the plenary and thematic sessions of the three Fora were world-wide known and respected representatives of their fields, including

Werner Arber, Nobel Laureate, University of Basel
Arden L. Bement, Director, National Science Foundation (NSF), USA
Prince El Hassan Bin Talal of Jordan, President, Club of Rome
Stavros Dimas, Commissioner for Environment, European Commission
Walter Erdelen, Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, UNESCO
Heinz Fischer, Federal President of the Republic of Austria
Jane Goodall, the Jane Goodall Institiute
Otto Habsburg, member of the European Parliament
Ichiro Kanazawa, President, Science Council of Japan
Peter Lax, Abel Laureate, Professor of Mathematics, New York University
Alexandre Lámfalussy, First President, European Monetary Institute
Alan I. Leshner, Chief Executive Officer, AAAS
Yongxiang Lu, President, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Princess Chulabhorn Mahidol, President, Chulabhorn Research Institute
Kati Marton, Chair, International Women's Health Coalition; Director, Committee to Protect Journalists
Julia Marton-Lefevre, Director-General, World Conservation Union (IUCN)
Koichiro Matsuura, Director General, UNESCO
Goverdhan Mehta, President of ICSU
Stjepan Mesic, President of the Republic of Croatia
Karolos Papoulias, President of the Hellenic Republic
Janez Potocnik, Commissioner for Science, European Commission
Roland Schenkel, Director General, Joint Research Center, EU
Savita Singh, Director, Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti, India
Vaire Vike-Freiberga, President of the Republic of Latvia
Craig Venter, President of the Center for the Advancement of Genomics, USA
Torsten Wiesel, Nobel-Laureate, Wiesel Laboratory, The Rockefeller University
William Wulf, President, Academy of Engineering, the National Academies, USA
Hans Wigzell, Rector, The Karolinska Institute
Hiroyuki Yosikawa, President, Science and Technology in Society Forum

The success of the three events of the World Science Forum organised so far proves that the original idea and intention behind this initiative is becoming more and more a reality. The scientists, polticians, decision-makers and representatives of civil society conducted fruitful dialogue on burning issues affecting the scientific world and society simultaneously, and summed up the common tasks ahead of us. The growing international interest in the World Science Forum shows that there is a growing consensus: the WSF, co-organised by the Hungarian Academy, UNESCO and ICSU, is the largest event of global science policy today, and it is gradually recognised as the "Davos of Science" worldwide.