2nd edition UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit (UNESCO-MARS)
The 2nd edition of the UNESCO-MARS will take place from 28-29 November 2016 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The focus will be on Africa's life and health research on infection diseases in women, especially with the advent of the Zika virus, and how accurate and up-to-date research can be used to inform policy makers and the public to strengthen countries ability to respond to public health emergencies of this kind. There will be specific emphasis on how to translate knowledge into action - the 'know-do gap' - to improve the way scientific research is conducted to address multiple challenges. More widely, the summit will provide a platform for dialogue on improving global cooperation in life sciences, health research and particularly women's healthcare, and narrowing the disparities in health system performance between developing and developed countries.
UNESCO MARS 2016 is scientifically supported by the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom), the University of Rome Tor Vergata (Italy) and the Institute Pasteur (France). This year the summit will be done in partnership with the African Union and will be hosted under the patronage of the Federal Government of Ethiopia.
Up to 200 young researchers representing 35 countries in Africa will be sponsored and able to attend the Summit participating with their scientific abstracts. Over 15 Ministers of Science, Education and Health are expected to attend. The Summit will be inaugurated by Merck CEO, UNESCO, African Union and the Government of Ethiopia.
The UNESCO-MERCK initiative was born from the idea of improving the cooperation between public research institutes, operating in Africa in the domain of life and chemical sciences, and the global private sector, notably the pharmaceutical industry.
Scientific research in the life sciences and health is recognised as a fundamental component of effective health systems, and the need to perform such research should be considered a priority in counties where health challenges constitute a burden to economic productivity and sustainable development. Research in many of the diseases which afflict the world’s poorest people is neglected for financial, scientific, or political reasons; and there is a huge global inequality in the resources devoted to life science research, and only a small proportion of these resources benefit countries where the majority of preventable deaths occur.
The role of scientific research has become increasingly prominent in health and development strategies since its significance was explicitly addressed in the 2004 Ministerial Summit on Health Research. During the 2008 Global Ministerial Forum on Research for Health in Bamako, UNESCO and WHO produced a declaration articulating the vital role of collaborative scientific research in health. Building research capacity requires strengthening institutions and sustainable funding, but also the training of researchers, and strong national commitment to science education at all levels.
The example of the UNESCO-MERCK cooperation symbolises the emergent need of creating sustainable partnerships among heterogeneous actors, to support research in life and health sciences in Africa.