for Science magazine:
A challenge to the world's scientitsts
March 7, 2003
Science has contributed immensely to human progress and to the development of
modern society. The application of
scientific knowledge continues to furnish powerful means for solving many of the
challenges facing humanity, from food security to diseases such as AIDS, from
pollution to the proliferation of weapons.
Recent advances in information technology, genetics and biotechnology
hold extraordinary prospects for individual well-being and humankind as a whole.
the same time, the way in which scientific endeavours are pursued around the
world is marked by clear inequalities. Developing
countries, for example, generally spend much less than 1 percent of their gross
domestic product on scientific research, whereas rich countries devote between 2
and 3 percent. The number of
scientists in proportion to population in the developing countries is 10 to 30
times smaller than in developed countries.
Ninety-five percent of
the new science in the world is created in the countries comprising only
one-fifth of the world’s population. And much of that science -- in the realm of health, for
example -- neglects those problems that afflict most of the world’s people.
distribution of scientific activity generates serious problems not only for the
scientific community in the developing countries, but for development itself. It accelerates the disparity between advanced and developing
countries, creating social and economic problems at both national and
international levels. The
idea of two worlds of science is anathema to the scientific spirit.
It will require the commitment of scientists and scientific institutions
throughout the world to change that portrait to bring the benefits of science to
But no bridge that science might build across the gaps
between rich and poor is strong enough to withstand the force of violence and
war. If science is to reach its
full potential, and draw on the great minds from every country, we must do more
to end and prevent conflict. Scientists
themselves have a key role to play here, too. The Pugwash Conference movement,
launched by the Russell-Einstein Manifesto of 1955, brought Russian and Western
scientists together for more than 40 years to develop common understandings of
the dangers of nuclear war and ways of reducing them, and in recent years has
constructed a strong dialogue between North and South on the problems of
development. “Lab to Lab” cooperation also helped to lay the
groundwork for cooperative nuclear disarmament and arms control between Russia
and the United States following the Cold War.
Peacemaking and peacebuilding should never be the exclusive preserve of
diplomats and politicians.
There are deep similarities between
the ethos of science and the project of international organization.
Both are constructs of reason -- as expressed,
for example, in international agreements addressing global problems. Both are engaged
in a struggle against forces of unreason that have, at times, used scientists
and their research for destructive purposes.
We share the experimental method; the United Nations, after all, is an
experiment in human cooperation. And
both strive to give expression to universal truths; for the United Nations,
these include the dignity and worth of the human person and the understanding
that even though the world is divided by many particularisms, we are united as a
single human community.
The scientific community’s basic
concern for human welfare makes it an indispensable partner of the United
your help, the world can achieve the “blue revolution” it so urgently needs
to deal with current and emerging water crises.
Your research can enable Africa to move towards a “green revolution”
that will boost agricultural productivity.
Your solidarity can help developing countries build up their capacity to
participate effectively in negotiations of international treaties and agreements
involving science. And your
advocacy can help bring about a breakthrough in access to scientific knowledge;
for example, through the Health InterNetwork Access to Research Initiative,
under which scientific journals are provided to thousands of developing-country
institutions, free of charge or at a steep discount.
The agenda is broad and the needs
immense, but together we are equal to these challenges.
The United Nations system and I personally very much look forward to
working with scientists throughout the world to support your work and spread its
blessings even further, even deeper, in the years to
Kofi A. Annan