Yesterday was policy day, as far as keynote speakers were concerned. Lidia Brito is the UNESCO director of science policy and capacity building. Among the usual points about the need to change, building capacity and recognizing stakeholders, here is what I believe is her take home message: Science is changing, and that’s a good thing. We need to keep going in this direction, but change it even more.
Collaborations across countries and continents, the rise of science in China and India, and yes, MOOCs. In other words, we need to actively help create equality in science education and science funding across the globe. And that might mean the center of balance will eventually shift. It might mean we still have to be vigilant to ensure that new technologies do not create different inequalities within and between countries.
Her second message is that she wants scientists to be more involved in the dialog that is going on on all levels of society on how the planet is changing and how we can at least try to guide that change in an informed manner. That, by the way, applies to science journalists, as well, who play a role in helping inform the public “stakeholders.”
The second speaker was Ahmet Uzumcu, director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which recently won a Nobel Prize and, more importantly, removed and destroyed Syria’s stockpiles.
I’m not sure that any other international organization of this type can state that all but eight countries in the world are partners in their mission, that 83% of the world’s chemical weapons have been destroyed, and that they are certain of achieving their goal and will then become a monitoring agency. That includes stockpiles in the US and Russia. This achievement is really on par with eradicating polio.
Two of the countries that have not signed the chemical ban treaty are Israel and Egypt. Both countries apparently signed but did not ratify it; Egypt, says Uzumcu, is calling for a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free Middle East. So then I have to ask myself, what is our problem? Here is a call to my fellow Israelis, and any Egyptians who might be reading: Just look at the map of countries that have signed at cbc.ca. Ask yourselves what we have to gain and what we could possibly have to lose by letting in the OPCW and getting rid of any chemical weapons we might have. After all, we’ll still have guns, tanks and planes. Do we really want to hold on to weapons that can kill thousands indiscriminately?