Building peace in the minds of men and women

International Bioethics Committee (IBC)

The International Bioethics Committee (IBC) is a body of 36 independent experts that follows progress in the life sciences and its applications in order to ensure respect for human dignity and freedom. It was created in 1993.

The IBC provides the only global forum for reflection in bioethics.

Statements on ethical issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Bioethics Committee (IBC) together with the World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST), has spared no effort to provide the international community with reflections and recommendations on the ethical issues raised by the health crisis, through several statements, as follows:

 

UNESCO’s Ethics Commissions call for the temporary waiving of patents related to vaccines as an exceptional measure (September 2021)
This statement calls for equal access for all to vaccines and therapeutics developed to confront COVID-19.
> Read the full statement

UNESCO’s Ethics Commissions call to address ethical issues of COVID-19 certificates to leave no one behind (June 2021)
This statement calls for policy-makers to address ethical issues involved in COVID-19 certificates and vaccine passports.
> Read the full statement
> Read the news

UNESCO calls for COVID-19 vaccines to be considered a global public good (February 2021)
In this joint statement, the IBC and COMEST call for a change of course in current COVID-19 vaccination strategies, urging for global vaccines equity and solidarity.
> Read the full statement
> Read the press release

Statement on COVID-19 : Ethical Considerations from a Global Perspective (April 2020)
In this joint statement, the IBC and COMEST guide policy-makers and inform the public about essential ethical considerations that need to be addressed during the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
> Read the full statement
> Read the press release

 

 

IBC Sessions

The Director-General of UNESCO convenes the IBC at least once a year. Through its sessions and working groups, the Committee produces advice and recommendations on specific issues that are adopted by consensus and are widely disseminated and submitted to the Director-General for transmission to the Member States, the Executive Board and the General Conference.

 

Who can participate in or attend IBC sessions?

  • Member States, Associate Members of UNESCO may take part as official observers in the meetings of the IBC, while non-Member States that have set up a permanent observer mission may do so at the invitation of the Director-General.
  • The United Nations and the other organizations of the United Nations system that have an agreement with UNESCO for reciprocal representation may take also part as observers in the meetings of the IBC.
  • International governmental or non-governmental organizations with similar objectives to those of the IBC may be invited to take part as observers in the meetings of the IBC.
  • Specialists or other relevant persons or groups may be consulted on matters within the competence of the IBC.
  • Any individual or representative of an institution who wishes to attend a public session of the IBC should contact the Secretariat of the IBC to receive an invitation.

 

How does the IBC work?

Since 1998, the IBC has had Statutes defining its mandate, composition, etc.

The Director-General of UNESCO convenes the IBC at least once a year. Through its sessions and working groups, the Committee produces advice and recommendations on specific issues that are adopted by consensus and are widely disseminated and submitted to the Director-General for transmission to the Member States, the Executive Board and the General Conference.

 

Committee tasks

  1. To promote reflection on the ethical and legal issues raised by research in the life sciences and their applications.
  2. To encourage the exchange of ideas and information.
  3. To encourage action to heighten awareness among the general public, specialized groups and public and private decision-makers involved in bioethics.
  4. To co-operate with the international governmental and non-governmental organizations concerned by the issues raised in the field of bioethics as well as with the national and regional bioethics committees and similar bodies.
  5. To contribute to the dissemination of the principles set out in the UNESCO Declarations in the field of bioethics, and to the further examination of issues raised by their applications and by the evolution of the technologies in question.

 

How are the IBC members chosen?

The Director-General appoints the IBC's 36 members to serve in their personal capacities for four-year terms. The selection is made taking into account cultural diversity, balanced geographical representation and nominations from States of qualified specialists in the life sciences and in the social and human sciences, including law, human rights, philosophy, education and communication.

 

Work Programme for 2022-2023

Based on the discussion during the 28th (Ordinary) Session of the International Bioethics Committee (Online from Paris, December 2021) and taking into consideration the online discussion of the Committee from September to December 2021, the Bureau of the IBC finalized in January 2022 the work programme of the Committee for 2022-2023 as follows:

  • The Committee will elaborate on the principle of solidarity and cooperation, as set forth in Article 13 of the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights, in light of the increasing prominence of open science and open innovation.
  • The IBC also resolved to comprehensively address the lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Committee will remain open to addressing other emerging bioethical challenges during the 2022-2023 biennium.

 

Newsletter

 

Bureau

During its 28th (Ordinary) Session, the IBC proceeded with the election of its Bureau: a Chairperson, four Vice-Chairpersons and a Rapporteur, who will remain in office until the end of the 30th (Ordinary) Session in 2023, provided that they remain members of the Committee.

The following members were elected to the Bureau:

Chairperson

  • Ms Ames Dhai (South Africa)

Rapporteur

  • Ms Signe Mezinska (Latvia)

Vice-Chairpersons

  • Mrs Nijmeh Al-Atiyyat (Jordan)
  • Mr Dirceu Bartolomeo Greco (Brazil)
  • Mrs Anne Forus (Norway)
  • Mr Eng Hin Lee (Singapore)

Contact

ibc@unesco.org