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UNESCO Director-General Opens the 6th World Science Forum in Rio de Janeiro

The Director-General emphasized the need for new thinking about science, calling for collaboration and sharing in the creation and distribution of knowledge and innovation.

The 6th World Science Forum (WSF) opened on 24 November 2013, at the Municipal Theatre of Rio de Janeiro. Hosted by the Brazilian Academy of Sciences in partnership with UNESCO, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the International Council for Science (ICSU), the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the World Science Forum is held outside Europe for the first time, with Rio de Janeiro hosting the event this year, after it has taken place biannually in Budapest since 2001.

The Forum, which takes place on and around the World Science Days of every second year, was opened by His Excellency Mr. Michel Temer, Vice- President of the Federative Republic of Brazil, Director-General Irina Bokova, Mr Jacob Palis, President of the Brazilian Academy of Science, Mr. József Pálinkás, President of the Hungarian Academy of Science, and Mr. Gordon McBean, President-Elect of the International Council for Science (ICSU). His Excellency Mr János Áder, President of Hungary, also delivered a video message to participants during the opening.

The World Science Forum, the main theme of which this year is "Science for Global Sustainable Development ", follows up on the World Conference on Science (Budapest, 1999) and is the sixth in a biennial series of global dialogues towards a better understanding and appreciation of the new roles and challenges of scientific knowledge within today’s global society.

WSF is the only forum of regular discussions between scientists, society and policy-makers about the role of science, and the ethical, environmental, economic, social and cultural consequences of scientific discoveries. Over 500 scientists and decision-makers from the world of politics, as well as representatives of educational and research institutions, non-governmental organizations, youth organizations, the media and the private sector, from more than a hundred countries, attend this unique forum for a much-needed debate between the scientific community and society.

In line with the agenda presented at the 2012 Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, scientists, politicians, decision-makers and representatives of civil society will discuss the role and tasks of responsible and ground-breaking science from 24 to 27 November, focusing on issues considered of utmost importance to reach the purpose suggested by the Forum’s main theme -- such as inequalities as barriers for global sustainability, science policy and governance, scientific integrity, science for natural resources, science and engineering education and the fundamental roles of science.

Setting the context in her opening address, Irina Bokova observed:

“This Science Forum occurs at a moment when countries are accelerating towards the Millennium Development Goals and Education for All by 2015, when the international community is shaping a new sustainable development agenda to follow. The new agenda must make the most of development multipliers, cross-cutting accelerators of sustainability, and this is where science comes into the picture, along with science diplomacy”.

“Climate change, loss of biodiversity or water pollution cannot be kept outside national borders”, continued Ms Bokova. “Humanity shares a single destiny – we must act with single determination to craft the future we want for all”

The Director-General emphasized the need for new thinking about science, calling for collaboration and sharing in the creation and distribution of knowledge and innovation.

“We need more integrated science – trans-disciplinary, drawing on the full range of scientific, traditional and indigenous knowledge, including the social and human sciences… We need more connected science – science that is linked to policy-making, that responds to the needs and aspirations of societies”, underlined Ms. Bokova.

She remarked that these ideas guided the creation of the Scientific Advisory Board, just launched a Scientific Advisory Board, that was shaped and will be hosted by UNESCO.

To commemorate World Science Day, the UNESCO Science Prizes are awarded during the World Science Forum.

After the opening ceremony of the Forum, the Director-General, together with H. E. Ms Madiha Ahmed Al Shaibani, Minister of Education of Oman, awarded the UNESCO Sultan Qaboos Prize for Environmental Preservation for 2013 to be shared equally this year by the State Forests National Forest Holding, Poland and the Endangered Wildlife Trust, South Africa.

The Sultan Qaboos Prize for Environmental Preservation rewards outstanding contributions by individuals or groups of individuals, institutions or organizations in the preservation of the environment, and is funded through a donation from His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al-Said of Oman.

The Director-General also awarded the 2013 UNESCO Kalinga Prize for the Popularization of Science to Professor Xiangyi Li, from the People’s Republic of China. The Kalinga Prize is UNESCO’s oldest science prize, created in 1951. Today, the Prize is sponsored by the Government of India,

As the venue of the World Science Forum is now expected to alternate between Hungary and a partner country starting from this year, the 2015 World Science Forum will be brought back to Budapest. The announcement was made during the opening ceremony in Rio that the 2017 edition will be hosted by the Kingdom of Jordan.