2017 UNESCO-MERCK Africa Research Summit
The third edition of the UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit (UNESCO-MARS) will be held on the 28th and 29th of November in the Republic of Mauritius under the Patronage of the President of Mauritius Ameenah Gurib-Fakim. The summit will attract 200 African Researchers representing the whole continent and will host two ministerial panel discussion with participation of over 30 African Ministers of Science, Education, Gender and Health, on better harmonization of life science research between the different ministries in the public sector.
The main partners of this Summit are the African Union, the World Health Organisation, the University of Cambridge UK and the Government of Mauritius, showing the importance of taking action at global level in order to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Scientific theme of this edition of the Summit will be Cancer and Vaccine Development. Moreover, recalling UNESCO's paramount priorities, the event will be a platform to empower Gender and Youth in Research and building human capacities on the future generation of African scientists through the organization of workshops, Ministerial Panels and poster sessions.
- Introduction to UNESCO-MARS
The 3rd edition of the UNESCO-MERCK Africa Research Summit (UNESCO-MARS) consolidates the cooperation between UNESCO and Merck Foundation. The two organizations join hands again to respond to Africa’s STISA 2024, reinforcing the axiom that only through building local capacities can Africa rise again to becoming an equal partner in advancing STEM research and education.
- Women and Youth in STEM
UNESCO priorities are Africa and Gender and this coincides with the framework of the “Merck STEM Program for Women and Youth”. This year’s edition of the summit will place greater emphasis on empowering Women and Youth in STEM research and will build on the previous edition of the summit; Geneva (2015) and Addis Ababa (2016) where 50% of the researchers participating were under the age of 35 and 60% women. The summit has become a platform for young African researchers and scientists to share their work, as well as an opportunity to address Africa’s most significant scientific obstacles. Policy makers, Ambassadors, Academics and NGO representatives comprise the heterogeneous audience; this interaction between different actors catalyzes the aim to support Africa in becoming a hub for scientific excellence and technological innovation and to bridge the gap between investigators and policy makers.
- The Sustainable Development Goals
In terms of the Sustainable Development goals, UNESCO-MARS is an event, which tackles several of the 17 Goals. For example; Goal 3- Good Health and Well Being, Goal 5- Gender Equality, Goal 8- Decent Work and Economic Growth, Goal 9- Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure and Goal 10- Reduce Inequalities. Moreover, the partnership between UNESCO and Merck itself, alongside the collection of contributors, speakers and guests to the summit encourages Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals.
- UNESCO-MARS: a strategy for capacity building
Over the past three years, the Summit has generated positive externalities. For example, there have been many publications as a result, including a book with the African Union, publication within academic journals and a collection/review of up to 100 researcher’s proceedings. Furthermore, the event has given rise to workshops, namely in Mentoring (to empower girls, women and youth in research) and in Communication and Networking. These, among other initiatives contribute largely to capacity building. After three years from the first edition, UNESCO-MARS has sponsored and contributed to skills’ development of around 600 researchers from Africa, in order to support the future generation of scientists and investigators of the African continent. To improve North-South and South-South cooperation and to build-up the curricula of young researchers, some of the MARS’ fellowships/awards winners have been sponsored to take part to internship programmes, in a number of UNESCO centres of excellence and Merck R&D hubs.