On 6 October, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, took part in an event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy.
The Director-General opened the conference, entitled "50 Years of Science for the Future," together with Yukiya Amano, Director-General of IAEA, Hamadoun Touré, Secretary General of ITU, Romain Murenzi, Executive Director of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, as well as Mr. Mario Giro, Under-Secretary of State of the Foreign Affairs of the Government of Italy.
This event also saw keynote lectures by H.E. Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal, Jordan, and Ansar Parvez, Chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission.
The conference provided an opportunity to showcase UNESCO’s work to promote scientific collaboration as a force for peace and development, especially in developing countries, where ICTP has developed a promising network of laboratories and scientific institutions.
“Science flourishes through dialogue, through the interaction of peoples and cultures,” said the Director-General. “Guided by this idea, the Centre has become a champion of science cooperation and science diplomacy, welcoming researchers from almost every country in the world, laying the foundation of a global network of scientists for peace and development.”
The Director-General called for “a deeper and better connected network of scientists from developing countries” and highlighted UNESCO’s determination to take this partnership forward.
“We need better integrated science, building on all sciences, including indigenous knowledge,” she continued. “We need better connected science, linked with policy and society.”
President Kagame stressed that "for fifty years, the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics has been at the forefront of scientific cooperation with the developing world. Thousands of young scientists from Africa, Asia, and Latin America have benefited from ICTP’s programmes". He pursued by noting that "the tools pioneered at ICTP aimed to stem the brain drain by bringing young scientists from developing countries into top-notch research networks" by enabling "a scientist from Africa to make important contributions back home, even as he or she pursues her career in the world’s leading laboratories", thereby "turning the problem of brain drain into an opportunity".
"Connecting our young people to the scientific mindset not only makes them effective workers, we believe it can also help them be better citizens" declared President Kagame. He also expressed his support to the establishment of an East African regional centre for theoretical physics in Rwanda, stressing its "practical and symbolic importance" for the nation as a whole.
In his inaugural message addressed on this occasion, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano qualified ICTP's 50 years as "a history of excellence for the world".
The Under-Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Italy, Mr. Mario Giro, referred to his country's commitment "to expanding further the scientific pole in Trieste, as here we are building a better future. We would like to make Trieste a world capital of science, because for sure there is no future without science".
HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan noted the paramount importance of science "to empower and enable people" and commended in this respect the work carried out by the UNESCO-SESAME Project in Jordan. He noted the decline of science in the Islamic world despite "the Arabic language being the language of science" and stressed the limitations of science in religion. He further emphasized the need to juxtapose natural sciences, social sciences and the humanities in order to advance good governance. He pursued by saying that "scientific cooperation is a multiplier of peace, so we need to build networks of scientific researchers across the world".
Ansar Parvez, Chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, spoke about efforts to strengthen capacity-building through the National Centre for Physics in Islamabad and informed the decision of his country to join the CERN as associate member.
Founded in 1964 by the late Nobel Laureate, Abdus Salam from Pakistan, the ICTP seeks to accomplish its mandate by providing scientists from developing countries with the continuing education and skills that they need to enjoy long and productive careers. The Centre operates under a tripartite agreement with the Government of Italy, UNESCO and the IAEA.