UNESCO and AU-HRST to promote Science Communication in Africa

UNESCO in partnership with the African Union Commission for Human Resources, Science and Technology (AU-HRST), the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA AfriCenter) and in close coordination with the Science for Democracy and the Associazione Luca Coscioni, will join efforts in putting in place a Massive Open Online Course (MOOCs) on Communicating Science in Africa. The objective is to contribute to the achievement of the UN SDGs, Agenda 2063, and in particular the AU’s Chairperson 1 Million By 2021 Initiative, aimed at empowering African youth from across the continent, as a key drivers of sustainable development in Africa.

Speaking at the 6th meeting of the World Congress for Freedom of Scientific Research which took place in at the AU from 25 to 26 February 2020, Prof. Sarah Anyang Agbor, Commissioner for the AU-HRST reiterated the AU’s commitment to providing access to science for all Africans, through technology and innovative ways. Supporting the proposal by UNESCO to have a MOOC on Science Communication within the framework of the AU’s flagship project, the Pan African Virtual and E-University (PAVEU), Prof Anyang Agbor highlighted the accredited online courses to African students that PAVEU is offering for free, with a view to accelerating development of human capital, science and technology and innovation in Africa.

Organized by Science for Democracy and the Associazione Luca Coscioni in collaboration with the African Union Department of Human Resources, Science and Technology (HRST), the discussions focused on the “Right to Science”, and advocated for promotion of scientific culture, open access to science and the need to educate the general public on the ways in which science works through the verification, duplication, and falsification of research which can be achieved though Science Communication.

Echoing the video message that called for engagement among all the stakeholders to be accountable to the globally agreed standards on openness and access to science by Ms. Angela Melo, the UNESCO’s SHS Director for Programmes and Policies, Ms. Lydia Gachungi representing the Director of UNESCO Addis office informed the participants that science as a human right is streamlined across all UNESCO areas of competence. She further pledged UNESCO’s commitment to support the AU- HRST in putting in place the proposed MOOC on Science communication. “You can count on UNESCO to accompany you in implementing the recommendations that are in line with UNESCO’s mandate emanating from this congress”, stressed Lydia Gachungi.

The congress highlighted the need to direct substantial investments into human capital, health, education, and agricultural services, as well as in improving the situation of women as important resources for the welfare, wellbeing and sustainable development of societies. It further acknowledged that the existing science evaluation systems and reward structures are obstacles to a broad implementation of Open Science. In Support of UNESCO’s recommendation on the right to science, participants called on the UN to develop guidelines to assist Member States towards the implementation of the many aspects of the right to science, as a pillar for the achievement of the Agenda 2063 to deliver on Africa’s goals for inclusive and sustainable development, unity, self-determination, freedom, progress and prosperity.

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