Building peace in the minds of men and women

Laureates of the UNESCO Avicenna Prize for Ethics in Science

Established in 2003 by the Executive Board of UNESCO at its 166th session on the initiative of the Islamic Republic of Iran, this Prize, awarded every two years, is intended to reward the activities of individuals and groups in the field of ethics in science.  

Laureates
 

2019 - Professor Donald A. Brown (USA)

Scholar in Residence for Sustainability Ethics and Law at Widener University Commonwealth Law School.

The Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, awarded the 2019 edition of the UNESCO Avicenna Prize for Ethics in Science to Professor Donald A. Brown, Scholar in Residence for Sustainability Ethics and Law at Widener University Commonwealth Law School (USA). This year’s Avicenna Prize, its 5th edition, was dedicated to the ethics of the environment.

Professor Brown is a world-renowned expert in environmental science and more specifically in the international climate change ethics movement. His book Climate Change Ethics: Navigating the Perfect Moral Storm (2013) provides an influential analysis of why ethical principles have been neglected and how to include them in the climate change conversation.

He has sought to ensure that applied ethics is central to climate change policy development both nationally and internationally. His compelling argument that limiting carbon emissions and mitigating climate change is the ethical imperative of our time resonates widely in the current discourse on climate change.

 

2015 - Professor Zabta Khan Shinwari (Pakistan)

Chair of the Biotechnology Department of the Quaid-i-Azam University of Islamabad.

Professor Zabta Khan Shinwari is Secretary-General of the Pakistan Academy of Sciences and Chair of the Biotechnology Department of the Quaid-i-Azam University of Islamabad.

Born in 1959, native of the tribal belt of Pakistan, Zabta Khan Shinwari from his young years has been a model for those communities where education is a rare commodity: he showed love for knowledge and tenacity to pursue it.

After having graduated from the University of Peshawar, he obtained a PhD degree from the Kyoto University in 1994, followed by several post-doctoral fellowships in agricultural biotechnology from several prestigious Japanese Institutions.

Having been trained in molecular taxonomy and systematics, Professor Shinwari identified more than 300 genes of plants, several of which were discovered to be drought, cold weather, and stress-tolerant.

His work in the area of development of modern plant biotechnology was then associated with the Pakistan Museum of Natural History, the National Agricultural Research Centre, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-Pakistan, and several research organizations.

Over his three decades of academic career, Zabta Khan Shinwari has worked tirelessly to empower local communities to use their natural resources and biodiversity in a sustainable manner to achieve an environmentally sound economic development. He published three books documenting the indigenous knowledge about medicinal Plants of Pakistan (Plant wealth of Ayubia National Park, 2002; Medicinal and other useful plants of district Swat-Pakistan, 2003; and Medicinal and Aromatic Plants of Pakistan (A Pictorial Guide), 2006), which stimulated similar research and the development of a database of medicinal usages of local plants. The latter was of particular importance for the protection of the intellectual property rights of indigenous communities.

He is the author of more than 300 scientific publications, which include 7 books, 10 volumes of edited proceedings of international conferences and more than 250 articles of which the majority were published in high impact factor scientific journals. 

Following his appointment in 2004 as Vice-Chancellor of the Kohat University of Science and Technology (KUST), Professor Shinwari succeeded in making KUST a center of excellence in higher education with developed modern infrastructure and research facilities.

One of his major achievements was the extension of the quality higher education facilities to the marginalized and hitherto neglected communities of the remote areas of Pakistan and the improvement of access to higher education of talented students through scholarships and tuition waivers. Despite the existing cultural restrictions, Professor Shinwari was able to persuade local communities not to keep women from receiving higher education. Subsequently, the number of female students has increased to nearly 30%. He also succeeded in establishing a University of Science and Technology in Bannu and the KUST Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS).

Professor Shinwari also served as the Chief Executive Officer of the private research institution Qarshi Research International and as Vice-Chancellor and founder of Qarshi University- Lahore.

Throughout his scientific research and academic work, he has worked determinedly to develop educational programmes on the ethics of scientific knowledge, bioethics, applied ethnobotany, biosafety, and biosecurity, and introduced them in the university curriculum throughout Pakistan at the post-graduate and under-graduate levels.

Currently, Zabta Khan Shinwari’s main research interest is in developing and teaching modules on dual-use education. He has been a key partner in promoting biosecurity education in Pakistan and has played an important role in Pakistan in terms of biosecurity and international engagement on biosecurity issues. He has developed linkages with various national and international agencies and has explored opportunities to deliver the findings to a multi-institutional audience with a view to establishing a national Pakistani biosecurity network.

Professor Zabta Khan Shinwari was designated the laureate of the Prize by Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, upon the recommendation of an independent International Jury of scholars and ethicists, including Marie-Helene Parizeau (Canada), the Jury’s Chairperson and one of the Vice-Chairpersons of COMEST, Luka Omladič (Slovenia), Rapporteur of COMEST and the Jury, and Hebe Vessuri (Venezuela), member of COMEST. 

See also:

 

2009 - Professor Renzong Qiu (People’s Republic of China)

Emeritus Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Philosophy (People’s Republic of China) and Professor and Chairperson of the Academic Committee at the Centre for Bioethics at the Peking Union Medical College. 

The Director-General of UNESCO has awarded the 2009 UNESCO Avicenna Prize for Ethics in Science to Professor Renzong Qiu (People’s Republic of China). The laureate was honoured formally by the Deputy Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Marcio Barbosa, on behalf of the Director-General, at a ceremony that took place at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on 18 December 2009.

The laureate was awarded a certificate, a gold medal commemorating his contribution to the field of ethics, as well as a cheque of US$10,000 and delivered, as the recipient of the prize, a keynote lecture. Several selected papers on the Ethics of Science and Technology will be collected in a volume to be published by UNESCO in 2010. 

Professor Qiu is a pioneer in the field of bioethics whose research in the ethics of science and steadfast public advocacy of ethical issues related to science have established him as a major figure both in the Chinese academic community and worldwide. 

His illustrious career in the field of ethics has been further demonstrated by the publication of over 20 volumes and nearly 280 articles. In addition, he has drafted ethical guidelines which have been essential to both researchers and policy-makers alike. 

His research in life-sustaining technology, assisted reproduction technology, public health and cloning, have thus been supplemented by political initiatives in ethical policy. He has been an instrumental figure in the interpretation and implementation of universal ethical principles in the People’s Republic of China and has been actively involved in raising awareness about ethical issues and their implicit relationship to good governance, social welfare and human rights. 

Professor Qiu is currently an Emeritus Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Philosophy (People’s Republic of China) and Professor and Chairperson of the Academic Committee at the Centre for Bioethics at the Peking Union Medical College. Professor Qiu currently serves as the Vice-President of the Ethics Committee of the Ministry of Health and is also a member of the UNAIDS Reference Group on AIDS and Human Rights.

 

2005 - Professor Abdallah S. Daar (Sultanate of Oman)

Director of the Program in Applied Ethics and Biotechnology and Co-Director of the Canadian Program on Genomics and Global Health at the University of Toronto, Canada. 

UNESCO Director-General, Koïchiro Matsuura, awarded the UNESCO Avicenna Prize for Ethics in Science to Abdallah S. Daar, in the presence of Mohammad Mehdi Zahedi, the Iranian Minister of Science, Research and Technology on 14 April 2006 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. Abdallah S. Daar was chosen as the laureate of the 2005 UNESCO Avicenna Prize for Ethics in Science by the Director-General of UNESCO upon the recommendation of a jury which met on 22 March 2005 in Bangkok, Thailand.

Abdallah S. Daar, from the Sultanate of Oman, previously held the Chair of Surgery at Sultan Qaboos University in the Sultanate of Oman. He is currently Professor of Public Health Sciences and of Surgery at the University of Toronto (Canada), where he is also Director of the Program in Applied Ethics and Biotechnology and Co-Director of the Canadian Program on Genomics and Global Health at the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics, and Director of Ethics and Policy at the McLaughlin Centre for Molecular Medicine. 

His significant contribution to research in the ethics of science and technology does not only cover a wide range of topics but engages in-depth with issues at the crossing point of science and ethics, technology and society. The impressive breadth of his numerous publications in the area of biomedical ethics is evident from the scope of themes that he covers, ranging from more traditional issues such as living donor transplantation to newer concerns such as the use of stem cells, genomics, and xenotransplantation. 

The jury of the Prize comprised Pilar Armanet Armanet (Chile), Chairperson of UNESCO's World Commission on the Ethics of Science and Technology (COMEST), Johan Hattingh, Rapporteur of COMEST, and Song Sang-yong, also a member of COMEST.  

 

2004 - Professor Margaret Somerville (Australia/Canada)

Director of the Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law at the McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura presented the UNESCO Avicenna Prize for Ethics in Science on 26 April 2004 to its first laureate, Margaret A. Somerville, in the presence of Jafar Towfighi, the Iranian Minister of Science, Research and Technology.

Selected by an international jury, Margaret Somerville, holds dual Australian and Canadian nationality. She is both Samuel Gale Professor of Law and a professor of medicine at McGill University in Montreal (Canada). Founder and Director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law, she was also founding Chairperson of the Ethics Committee of the National Research Council of Canada. 

Through her books, conferences and other work, Professor Somerville has made an important contribution to the global development of bioethics, and to the ethical and legal aspects of medicine and science. She has worked with a range of international organizations, such as UNESCO, the World Health Organization and the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights. Among her many publications are "The Ethical Canary: Science, Society and the Human Spirit" and "Death Talk: The Case Against Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide". 

Mr Towfighi opened the April 26 ceremony. After a speech by Jens Erik Fenstad (Norway), Chairman of UNESCO’s World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST), the Director-General awarded the prize to Margaret Somerville. The laureate presented her work and a video about the life of Avicenna, taken from an Iranian television documentary, followed.  

 

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