Global science committee to fight poverty mooted in Brazil

[RIO DE JANEIRO] Brazil’s science minister has called upon the scientific community and the UN to create a global scientific committee with the goal of reducing world poverty.

Marco Antonio Raupp made the proposal during his speech at a conference organised by the Global Network of Science Academies (IAP) - entitled Grand Challenges and Integrated Innovations: Science for Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development - taking place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this week (24-26 February).

Raupp proposed taking his suggestion to the UN and UNESCO (the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) after further discussion at the conference.

Raupp said the committee would have the support of science academies from all over the world, many of which were present at the conference. These academies could help set up the committee and facilitate cooperation and collaborations between scientists, including the shared use of research infrastructure, he suggested.

Participants at the conference mainly welcomed the idea.

"Most good outcomes begin with a suggestion," says Trevor Alleyne, president of the Caribbean Academy of Sciences. "I think it could be something that could tackle poverty in a very meaningful way."

Jorge Huete-Pérez, founding president of the Nicaraguan Academy of Sciences, says he commends the idea and that the committee could work on suggestions stemming from the conference.

But "it would have to be a multidisciplinary committee, because the problem of poverty cannot be solved by only one discipline," he tells SciDev.Net.

Jacob Palis , president of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, believes there are many ways that science can contribute to poverty eradication. "Many different science activities can contribute to the wellbeing of people from poorer areas," he says.

Marcello Barcinski, co-chair of the conference, hopes a key outcome from the conference will be the creation of an initial global science committee along the lines proposed by Raupp.

"The gathering of scientists from this network of world academies, with the specific purpose to discuss poverty eradication, would be very positive," he says.

"I believe this is the first time the academies have come together to discuss their own roles regarding the challenge of eradicating poverty and driving sustainable development."

But not everyone agrees that the new committee should be a priority.

Sherien Elagroudy, assistant professor of environmental engineering at Ain Shams University, Egypt, and member of the Global Young Academy (a global network for young scientists), says that it would be better to improve the performance of existing organisations.

"We already have too many organisations tackling major problems like food security, poverty, water and energy," she tells SciDev.Net. "It’s not a matter of establishing a new organisation, but of having more solid and complete results from all the existing ones."


(Helen Mendes/[SciDev.Net-a>http://www.scidev.net/en/])


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