World Science Day for Peace and Development promotes solidarity to ensure peaceful and harmonious development of humankind

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SCO Secretary General, Vladimir Norov

World Science Day for Peace and Development is celebrated every year on November 10 to raise awareness about the benefits of science around the world, and also serves as a reminder to the international community for the need to use advancements in science and technology for peaceful and harmonious development for the benefit of human civilization.

By building bridges between science and society, World Science Day for Peace and Development aims to provide information on new trends in science to citizens, while highlighting the role of scientists in broadening our understanding of the planet, which we call our common home. Today, the Earth faces a threat from humans themselves as they are intensively engaged in such activities which pollute the environment with their products. For example, the Global Sustainability Report 2019 and the Sustainable Development Goals Report 2019 call for an urgent change in the relationship between people and nature.

Among the objectives of celebration of this Day are the renewal of national and international commitments to science for peace and development and the intention to emphasize the responsible use of science for the benefit of society; raising public awareness about the importance of science and closing the gap between science and society, involving the general public in discussions on emerging scientific issues. This day also emphasizes the importance and relevance of science in our daily lives.

Choosing the World Science Day: how it happened?

As the UN agency for education, science and culture, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) strives for peace through international cooperation in these fields.

There are wonderful words in the Preamble of the UNESCO’s Constitution: “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.”

The General Conference of UNESCO, took place in Budapest on 15 October 2001, and it examined the provisional agenda at its 3rd plenary meeting and decided, on the basis of report of its General Committee, to include in its agenda item 5.12 which was the “Proclamation of a world science day for peace and development”.

The national delegations advocating the celebration of World Science Day pointed out that the primary reason for celebrating World Science Day for Peace and Development was the enormous importance of the role of science and scientists in building sustainable societies.

Member States of UNESCO, recalling UNESCO’s ethical mission to achieve harmonious and peaceful development, pointed out that science has an impact on peace and development and that it should be used to build peaceful and sustainable societies.

The first World Science Day for Peace was celebrated worldwide under the auspices of UNESCO on November 10, 2002.

In his address on the occasion of the World Science Day for Peace and Development on 10 November 2002, UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura addressed the important issues and challenges of ensuring peace and development in the world that have not lost their relevance, are on the agenda of all humankind today and could become even more acute in the current unprecedented scale and devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic COVID-19.

“The true guarantee of peace is to ensure that the benefits of science are enjoyed by all nations and all peoples equally. It is my hope that the first “World Science Day for Peace and Development” will bring the ideas of unity, shared responsibility and joint action to harness science for peace and for the benefit of humanity as a whole, in a spirit of respect for cultural diversity and freedom. World Science Day is thus an opportunity to reaffirm science’s commitment to peace and development in the world,” said the then Director-General of UNESCO.

The theme for World Science Day for Peace 2020 is “Science for and with Society”.

In 2020, UNESCO World Science Day for Peace is dedicated to the theme “Science for and with society in dealing with the global pandemic”.

UNESCO states that the COVID-19 pandemic “has created a parallel pandemic of dangerous misinformation and rumors in the form of conspiracy theories that include fictitious stories about the origin of the virus, how it is treated and who is allegedly responsible for its spread.”

“Conspiracy theories cause significant harm to people, their health and also their physical safety. They reinforce and legitimize misconceptions about the pandemic and reinforce stereotypes that can fuel violence and violent extremist ideologies,” said UNESCO Director-General Audre Azule.

Throughout the unprecedented crisis associated with the Coronavirus pandemic, UNESCO, as a UN agency with a mandate in science, has sought to strengthen international scientific cooperation, which is a key factor in the fight against the global public health crisis.

According to UNESCO’s observations, more than 100 countries have closed schools throughout the country in the context of the pandemic, affecting more than half of the world’s students. That is why UNESCO makes every effort to introduce distance education, especially for developing countries.

As part of this year’s World Science Day celebration, UNESCO is organizing a round table on“Science for and with Society in dealing with COVID-19.”

The SCO attaches special importance to cooperation with the UN and its specialized agencies. The Memorandum of Understanding between the SCO and UNESCO signed on June 10, 2018, which touches upon important directions of joint work in the spheres of education, science and culture, is being successfully implemented. It should be noted that strong partnership between the SCO and UNESCO is expanding and strengthening each year, covering new areas.

Solidarity   of the International community in understanding the need to use science in the fight against COVID-19:

The need for solidarity of the international community in the more effective use of science and technology in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic was strongly reflected in the statement of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Earth Day on April 22, 2020 at the UN headquarters in New York.

The response to the COVID-19 pandemic requires much closer cooperation between scientists and policymakers, and the fruit of scientific research, including potential vaccines, must be widely disseminated, UNDESA said in a statement.

Actions that ensure public confidence in science and refute harmful misinformation are crucial. According to UNDESA, the scientific assessments for COVID-19 are similar around the world, but the timing and response vary greatly from country to country. The functioning of the science-policy interface, where it exists, needs to be reviewed and created where it is weak or absent, in order to maintain public confidence in science and government.

Public trust in science is essential for successful science-based policies. Where public trust is high and where incorrect and harmful information is effectively challenged by scientists, action is likely to be most effective.

In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, all people must trust scientific leadership if they want to change their behavior and reduce the rate of transmission. Continuous flow of public information has proven effective in encouraging people to stay indoors to limit the spread of the disease.

The pace of scientific discovery has been accelerated by progress in “open science”, including through barrier-free research publications, paid subscriptions and early sharing of research and data. For example, early public online sharing of the virus genome by scientists in China allowed researchers in Germany to quickly create polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test kits, which were then available worldwide by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The results of “open science” should lead to universal access to solutions. UNDESA also notes that earlier assessments by the scientific community contained warnings, and that responding to these recommendations would lead to improved preparedness within and between countries, accelerating an effective response to the current pandemic.

The pandemic thus stimulated the development of all forms of what is commonly referred to as “open science” – single platforms where observation and experimentation data are collected, open access to publications, open expertise, and even open (remote) access to scientific infrastructure. “Openness” in all its aspects has been actively promoted by international organizations, including UNESCO.

Scientific and technical cooperation within the SCO

Cooperation in science and technology is one of the key areas of SCO activities. It should be noted that the SCO member-states, recognizing the importance of the need to improve cooperation in science and technology, signed the Intergovernmental Agreement on Scientific and Technical Cooperation on September 13, 2013.

This document, in accordance with the national legislation of the parties, provides for cooperation in areas such as environmental protection and rational use of natural resources, life sciences, agricultural sciences, Nano systems and materials, information and telecommunication technologies, energy and energy conservation, earth sciences, including seismology and geology, etc.

In the “SCO Development Strategy 2025” it was specifically noted that the member states, in development of the Agreement between the governments of the SCO member states on scientific and technical cooperation in 2013, will give priority to programs and projects of innovative cooperation, improvement of the contractual legal framework, including the development and implementation of a plan of scientific and technical partnership within the SCO.

In November 2019, the fifth Meeting of Heads of Ministries and Departments of Science and Technology was held in Moscow to further develop scientific, technical and innovation cooperation between the SCO countries. The participants agreed to develop a new “Roadmap” for cooperation of research institutions of the SCO member states for 2021-2023 in order to intensify scientific and technical partnership in the SCO region.

In order to boost cooperation, the parties hold various contests and events to popularize science and technology among the youth and the younger generation.

In recent years, the SCO held a Youth Innovation and Entrepreneurship Contest for the SCO member states in 2018 and a seminar on technopark management in 2019 in China. In 2019 in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, the international Week of innovative ideas “InnoWeek” was held.

On October 27, 2020, the 1st online “SCO startup Forum” was held at the initiative of the Indian side. The event was attended by more than 1500 representatives from around the world, including the countries of the “SCO family”.

Taking into account the importance of joint development and promotion of scientific and technical cooperation, the Chinese side proposed to establish a Technology Transfer Center of the SCO member states in Qingdao. The sides agreed to jointly study the issue of establishing this Center.

The SCO attaches great importance to the development of youth, first of all, through accessible, high-quality, innovative education that allows to realize the full potential of the individual.

During the first organizational meeting of the SCO University Coordination Council held on June 30, 2020, the member states discussed cooperation in the educational sphere, taking into account the great potential of the SCO University as a reliable platform for the development of all forms of education in the SCO region.

It is known that the main mission of the SCO University is to provide coordinated training of highly qualified personnel in professions of priority interest to the economic and social development of SCO member states and to expand integration processes in education, science and industry.

During the fifth meeting of heads of ministries and departments of science and technology of SCO member-states, the initiative of holding youth events (forums, contests, etc.) on a regular basis was supported and the proposal of the Indian side to hold in 2020 the Forum of SCO Young Scientists and Innovators in India was supported.

In accordance with this decision, it is currently planned to hold the first SCO Conclave of Young Scientists in Hyderabad on November 24-28, 2020 within the framework of SCO Young Scientists Forum.

This Conclave is designed to bring together the innovative young minds of SCO member states on a common platform in a virtual format to discuss issues and means of implementing transformational change to address social problems through scientific and technological impact.

It will also facilitate the fusion of ideas to address specific problems of the SCO member states. Thus, the conclave counts on the scientific identity of the SCO through the formation of a network of young talents of these member states.

In today’s environment, scientific and technological cooperation will help strengthen the capacity to withstand global challenges and threats, including the emergence of infectious pandemics. Thus, in the Statement of the Heads of SCO Member States on joint counteraction to the threats of epidemics in the SCO region adopted at the SCO Summit in Qingdao in June 2018, the SCO leaders noted with deep concern that the threat of infectious disease epidemics remains relevant in the SCO region due to growing regional and global integration processes, increased cross-border movement of people, trade liberalization.

The document also noted that it is necessary to use mobile units, strengthen the capabilities of national laboratories, develop scientific centers, conduct joint scientific research and develop new means of diagnostics and prevention of infectious diseases to develop the anti-epidemic potential of member states.

At the meeting of the Council of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the SCO member states in Moscow on September 10, 2020, the ministers stated that under the conditions of a complex sanitary-epidemiological situation, the SCO, based on the principles of mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, mutual consultation, respect for diversity of cultures and striving for joint development, convincingly reaffirmed its significant potential as an effective platform for responding to emerging challenges, building work to overcome the negative consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The need to encourage the international community to follow a common course in jointly confronting the spread of coronavirus, opposing politicization and labelling was also emphasized.

The pandemic fostered a new form of international scientific and technical cooperation by making it online and by encouraging joint efforts to combat coronavirus. This practice of large-scale joint search for solutions in the conditions of developing open science can be preserved and expanded in the future.

At the SCO Heads of State Summit on November 10, 2020, it is planned to adopt a Comprehensive Plan of Joint Measures of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Member States to counter threats of epidemics in the region, which provides for joint scientific research, including development of vaccines and diagnostic test systems for the most urgent infectious diseases in the region.

In addition, it is planned to develop a regional network of reference laboratories of SCO member states in the field of sanitary and epidemiological well-being, as well as, at the Meeting of Heads of Services of SCO member states responsible for ensuring sanitary and epidemiological well-being it was agreed to create a coordination mechanism to counter threats to sanitary and epidemiological well-being.