The time for science in Brazil and in the world

The sixth edition of the World Science Forum started on the night of Sunday the 24th, with an opening ceremony that gathered the scientific community and international and Brazilian political leaders at the Municipal Theater of Rio de Janeiro. With the theme being "Global Sustainable Development", the event occurred in the city until the 27th of November, placing Brazil at the center of world science for four days.

World Science Forum

The World Science Forum (WSF) is an event created for the debate on the role and the responsibility of science in the 21st century. Furthermore it aims at reinforcing the importance of scientific advice with regards to politics and to the economic decision making process of the countries. The event occurs every two years since 2003, and is organized by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (HAS), Unesco and the International Council for Science(ICSU).

The WSF Brazil is organized by the Brazilian Academy of Sciences (ABC) in partnership with the Hungarian Academy, with the support of the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science (SBPC), the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI) and of the Ministry of Education (MEC), the Capes and the Research Support Foundations of the States of Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro, in addition to the above mentioned international organizations and the American Society for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) and the European Academies Science Advisory Council (Easac).

During the four days of the event, over 800 authorities of the fields of science, technology and innovation, in addition to prominent people from governments and international organizations, came from over 120 countries to participate in the WSF Brazil, where they debated over urgent issues pertinent to the planet and to global population. The official language of the event was English, and coverage was provided via the internet.

Global scientific collaboration for sustainable development

Jacob Palis  at the podium and authorities at the table at the ceremony in the Municipal Theater

During the opening ceremony, the president of ABC and co-chair of the WSF Brazil, Jacob Palis, showed his pride and enthusiasm over having the event in Brazil. To him, " the first WSF event being held outside of Hungary, outside of Europe, proves the intention of involving the entire world in the debate, which, upon being held in a country under development, could not address an issue other than that of reducing inequalities, whether it relates to inequalities among counties or among people within a same country. We have gathered people from different fields of knowledge, cultures and countries, for that reflects the world we currently live in, and for whom science is able to offer a better future", he stated.

József Pálinkás, president of the Hungarian Academy of Science and of the WSF, also believes that by holding the event at another country, it renders the Forum a truly Global nature, ensuring that their proposals be universalized: "Science has been and continues to be the main contributor towards development, but we need to be honest: science played an important role in the construction of the world that we are now trying to change. Now it needs to revert this process". To him, the WSF Brazil poses a very simple question, which however, requires a very complex answer: "What is the role of science for a global sustainable development? We need to find the barriers and the solutions for each one of them. We will be talking about science during the next days, but do not forget that, in essence, we seek to find how it can be used towards global social well being".

In the point of view of Gordon McBean, president-elect of ICSU, the International Council of Science, science itself needs to become a common asset. According to him, " the universalization of scientific knowledge will only occur when access, use and production are made by all and for all. This edition of the WSF contributes for that to happen, not only because of its theme, but also due to how the theme was actually created".

The vice-governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro, Luiz Fernando Pezão, highlighted that Rio is known worldwide for its natural beauties, but that it is gradually becoming the capital of the great events on sustainability, which is an additional source of pride for the Cariocas. To him, "the WSF gives continuity to the main conferences of the planet, on sustainability, such as the ECO 92 and the RIO+20. And if what is at stake is how science can contribute to socially inclusive economic development, it is the wish of the entire state, that all participants be extremely successful".

The minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Marco Antonio Raupp, welcomed all participants. "In Brazil, we are convinced that without science, it will be impossible to attain a global sustainable development. We would like the forum to address the Brazilian experience with regards to socioeconomic development, and our relationship with the environment, and we would also like to hear the experiences of other countries. In putting together the experiences of all the countries, we will find the solution for an equitable, productive and non-destructive world ", he explained.

The general director of Unesco, Irina Bokova, emphasized that the planet is currently living in a decisive moment and the demand for science is urgent. "The people and the institutions that are able to do something to revert the current state of development are working under a lot of pressure, because the current model of development is leading the planet and the populations to their limits. Is this the time of an equitable development or is it the time of the deepening of inequalities and of the exhaustion of human and natural resources?", she questioned. As a way of encouraging each one of the participants in the audience, she cited two great scientists: "Let’s think as the Brazilian scientist Oswaldo-Cruz: "Do not lose heart in order not to belittle". And as Albert Einstein : "No problem can be solved by the brain who conceived it, you need to reinvent it".

János Áder, president of Hungary, extended his needs of being re-invented, to the leaders and political and economic decision makers, through a video message shown at the ceremony. "In order for people to change their attitudes, scientists need to present a model of global sustainable development, which will progress within political and economic discussions, as the best model in all possible ways. I am hereby talking to all you gentlemen, as the head of the country who has granted the world with 13 Nobel Prizes. One of them, Dennis Gabor, an electrical engineer and physicist, inventor of holography and Physics Nobel Prize winner in 1971, said: "Man had to face nature, now he must face his own nature". We speak of a change in the development model that has taken root as the only alternative for the progress of the nations ", he pronounced.

The vice president of Brazil, Michel Temer, demonstrated great enthusiasm over the WSF and over the theme of the event itself. To him, the simple fact of having transferred the event from Hungary to Rio already in itself reflects and internationalization of the discussions addressed by the forum. "And we should thank Hungary for taking the first steps and for allowing Brazil to collaborate in this journey towards the change to a new paradigm. I confess I had a civic joy as a result of participating in this ceremony and of listening to all of you. The Brazilian constitution of 1988, a popular conquest, ensured political rights, but also civil and social rights which are now slowly being conquered. Somehow, the country had been preparing for this WSF, and the Brazilian government sincerely hopes that all participants are able to take home with them, the results of these discussions", he said, concluding the official speeches.

At the opening ceremony, it was also announced that the WSF will alternate edition between Hungary and other countries, and that the 2017 event will be held in Jordan

Diffusion of science and care for the environment award

Also during the opening ceremony, the general director of Unesco presented the Kalinga Prize for the Diffusion of Science to the founder of the Science and Technology Museum of China, Xiang Yi LI, who was the general director of the institution, for his exceptional skills in presenting scientific ideas to lay people.

The International Prize Sultan Qaboos for Environment, awarded by the government of Oman, was presented by Bokova and by the Minister of Education of Oman, Madiha Al Shibany, to the State Forests National Forest Holding Organization, from Poland, who cares, preserves and manages the Polish public forests, and to the Wildlife at Risk Organization from South Africa, for animal protection. The winners will receive US$ 35 thousand for their work, which was donated by the sultan of Oman, Qaboos Bin Said.

Representatives from the Forests National Forest Holding, Irina Bokova,

Madiha Al Shibany and the representative from Wildlife at Risk

The Brazilian Contribution

Between the years of 2012 and 2013, ABC, SBPC and MCTI promoted seven preparatory meetings in several Brazilian capitals as a way of mobilizing Brazilian scientists for the WSF; and taking advantage of the opportunity, they discussed science with society in general. The summary of these events was published through the statement "Global Sustainable Development: Brazilian contribution", indicating the need for the international scientific community to form multidisciplinary networks to face the global challenges, among which are environmental changes, natural disasters security of food resources, water, energy and cyber resources, conservation of biodiversity and ecosystems, the development of cures for new diseases and the prevention of the reoccurrence of old diseases, in addition to the reduction of social inequality and the elimination of poverty and hunger. Another important document released on the day prior to the event was the Declaration of Latin America and the Caribbean for the sixth edition of the World Science Forum.

The WSF Brazil presents the scientific perspective on global sustainable development, including the eradication of poverty. In this sense, the event falls among other major international events that the country has been hosting in recent decades, with the RIO +20 being the largest and most recent of them. However, the perspective of heads of states, is not the only one. For the development agendas of each country or for the supranational agendas - such as the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations - these documents emphasize that science is crucial for the understanding and for solving global challenges; the documents also call upon the international scientific community to break down the boundaries of knowledge.


(Davi Padilha Bonela for BAS News; translated by Annette Dam; photos BAS, Cristina Lacerda and Manuela Ferreira)


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