WORLD CONFERENCE ON SCIENCE, JUNE 26 TO JULY 1, 1999: OUTCOME
CRS Report for Congress
World Conference on Science,
June 26 to July 1, 1999: Outcome
Genevieve J. Knezo
Specialist, Science and Technology
Resources, Science, and Industry Division
The World Conference on Science, held June 26 to July 1, 1999 in Budapest, was
cosponsored by the International Council for Science, an international group that
includes the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the United Nations Educational,
Scientific, and Cultural Organization. Almost 150 national delegations endorsed a
nonbinding declaration and a framework for action. Many of the controversial goals in
preconference documents (described in CRS Report RS20205), were moderated during
the meeting. For instance, no funding pledges for science aid or minimum national
budget commitments for science were adopted. The action guidelines focused on such
issues as improving science infrastructure; using science for development; gender and
ethnic equality in science; conducting “ethical” and “relevant” science; ownership of
intellectual property rights, including indigenous biological resources; and suggesting
that developing countries apply some of the debt relief offered by the G8 industrial
nations to spending on science and education. This report addresses issues relevant to
formulating science policy and development assistance. It will not be updated.
Background. The World Conference on Science (WCS), Science for the 21st
Century—A New Commitment, was held from June 26 to July 1, 1999, in Budapest, co-
sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization
(UNESCO) and the International Council for Science (ICSU), a nongovernmental
organization composed of 95 national science councils or academies, including the U.S.
National Academy of Sciences. ICSU was formerly called the International Council of
Scientific Unions. The official goal of WCS was to “analyze where the natural sciences
stand today and where they are heading, what their social impact has been and what1
society expects from them.” It sought to establish guidelines to make science responsive
to developmental challenges and to write a “new social contract for science.” An
unofficial and probably more realistic goal was to foster better networking and exchange
1 “First Announcement World Conference on Science. Science for the Twenty-First Century: A
New Commitment” [www.unesco.org/general/eng/programmes/science/wcs/eng/confen.htm].
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
of views among scientists and between scientists and policymakers. WCS discussions
involved controversial issues, including more funding for indigenous “traditional,” as
opposed to “modern,” research and development (R&D);2 indigenous ownership of
intellectual property rights (IPR) and biological resources; equitable ethics for research
and for technology transfer; and compensation for brain drain.3 The outcome of the WCS
was influenced by the history of policies for funding S&T in developing countries,
including failure to implement many recommendations of the United Nations Conference
on Science and Technology for Development (UNCSTD); U.S. withdrawal from
UNESCO; U.S. arrears on dues payments to the United Nations; and U.S. caution about
multilateral S&T development assistance.
The WCS included plenary and panel sessions and drew over 1500 attendees,
including almost 150 official national delegations,4 and others, representing educational
and research establishments, scientists, the industrial sector, intergovernmental
organizations, nongovernmental organizations, the media, and the general public. Among
the U.S. delegates were Dr. Neal Lane, Assistant to the President for Science and
Technology and Dr. Bruce Alberts, president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.
See Table 1. Numerous supplementary meetings were held by interest groups. The
Hungarian Academy of Science hosted youth meetings. The Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development, which represents the advanced industrial democracies,
was scheduled to hold parallel sessions on international collaboration in science and on
The last international meeting on S&T, the UNCSTD, was held in 1979 in Vienna,
with mixed results. It recommended establishing a large UN fund to support S&T
projects in developing countries. This never occurred and accorded with U.S. policy not
to contribute to a UN fund, but to use the UN and its agencies “...to play a broker role
bringing together potential projects in developing countries with sources of financing and
projects in developing countries with sources of financing and technology in the
developed world, including the private sector.”6 Also left unresolved was the issue of a
code of conduct for technology transfer. Among the more successful follow-up activities
was creation of an “Intergovernmental Committee on Science and Technology for
Development,” whose projects were administered by the UN Development Program
through UN technical agencies such as the Food and Agricultural Organization and
through the World Bank, UNESCO, and the private sector. In 1992, the
“Intergovernmental Committee” was replaced by a UN Commission on Science and
Technology for Development, as part of the UN Economic and Social Council.
2Ehsan Masood, “African Faculties Agree to Link Hands,” Nature, March 11, 1999. References in this
report to Nature without page numbers are available via an index at [http://helix.nature.com/wcs/].See also
M. Hassan, “North-south Disparities in the Production and Use of Knowledge,” Nature,
[ http ://helix.natur e.co m/wc s/c00.html].
3See CRS report RS20205 for a discussion of preconference issues and positions.
4David Dickson, “‘Science Summit’ Sets Ambitious Agenda,” Nature 396, November 26, 1998 and David
Dickson, “Guidelines Endorsed for ‘New Social Contract’ Between Science and Society,” Nature, July 4,
5“Five International Agencies Agree to Participate,” Nature, April 1, 1999.
6Department of State, United States Participation in the United Nations. Report by the President to the
Congress for the Year 1985, 157.
Table 1. U.S. Delegation to the World Conference on Science, June 26 - July 1, 1999, Budapest, Hungary
U.S. DELEGATION: Bruce Alberts, President, National Academy ofSciences; Paul Berg, Robert W. and Vivian Cahill Professor in CancerU.S. GOVERNMENT STAFF: Jasemine Chambers, Senior PolicyAnalyst, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the
Research and Director, Beckman Center, Stanford University School ofMedicine; M.R.C. Greenwood, Chancellor, University of California,President; Gerald Hane, Acting Assistant Director for InternationalAffairs, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the
Santa Cruz; Neal Lane, Assistant to the President for Science andTechnology, Executive Office of the President, Office of Science andPresident; Brooke Holmes, Director, Office of Science and TechnologyCooperation, Department of State; Ray Wanner, International
Technology Policy; Leon Lederman, Director Emeritus, Fermi NationalAccelerator Laboratory; Jane Lubchenco, Distinguished Professor andOrganization Affairs, Department of State; David E. Schindel, Head,National Science Foundation Europe Office.
Wayne and Gladys Valley, Professor of Marine Biology, Department ofZoology, Oregon State University; Shirley Malcom, Director of theNATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL STAFF: John Boright, Executive
AAAS Directorate for Education and Human Resources Programs,American Association for the Advancement of Science; F. SherwoodDirector, Office of International Affairs, National Research Council; JohnCampbell, Program Director, InterAcademy Programs, National Research
Rowland, Foreign Secretary, National Academy of Sciences and DonaldBren Research Professor of Chemistry and Earth System Science,Council; Ken Fulton, Executive Director, National Academy of Sciences;and Wendy D. White, Director, Division of International Organizations
Department of Chemistry, University of California, Irvine; MaxineSinger. President, Carnegie Institution of Washington; Michaeland Academy Cooperation, Office of International Affairs, NationalResearch Council.
Southwick., Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of InternationalOrganization Affairs, Department of State; and Keith Winstein, Student,
Planning and Agenda. The scientific community played a major role in WCS
planning. In 1997 UNESCO set up a 509-member International Scientific Advisory
Board, including the President of ICSU, “to give working scientists a greater say
in...reform of the way the agency supports science” and to “...help prepare the agenda for
a UN world science conference....”7 The American Association for the Advancement of
Science (AAAS) participated in WCS planning. In December 1997, to dispel “uncertainty
about the...[conference, a meeting was]...convened at the initiative of the U.S. National
Research Council and involving...a dozen American science NGOs and foreign
embassies...to hear the Assistant-Director-general for Science...and the President of
IC S U . ” 8
Before the conference, UNESCO prepared two documents that delegates would be
asked to approve—the Draft World Declaration on Science and the Use of Scientific
Knowledge and the Draft Framework for Action. They incorporated the views of a
background report prepared by ICSU,9 reflecting the notions that S&T should be supported
as beneficial to society, but that “science is facing difficulties of confidence and
investment, as well as problems of an ethical nature,” and that scientists from the
developing nations have less access to science than those from the developed nations.10
UNESCO established “hot links” to the conference documents; to national, regional
(Africa, Arab States, Asia and Pacific, Europe, North America, Latin America and
Caribbean), and interest group meetings; to satellite events for interest groups and
students; and to secondary analysis.11
7Declan Butler, “The ‘s’ in UNESCO Seeks Out a New Role,” Nature, January 23, 1997, 286.
8“Not Just Another General Conference: A Look to the Future?” Americans for the Universality of
UNESCO 14, February 1998, 10; Philip W. Hemily, “Challenges for International Scientific and
Engineering Cooperation,” Presented at the AAAS Consortium of Affiliates for International Programs
Annual Meeting held in Seattle in conjunction with the 1997 AAAS Annual Meeting on February 16, 1997.
9“ICSU Paper Seeks More International Collaboration,” Nature, March 25, 1999.
10UNESCO/ICSU, “First Announcement,” Science for the 21st Century.
11David Dickson, “Physics Workshop Calls for New ‘Contract’ With Society,” Nature, April 15, 1999.
There were unofficial preparatory meetings by the Leadership for Environment and Development group,
by women’s groups (“Draft Declaration ‘Pays Insufficient Attention to Women’s Issues,” Nature, May 13,
1999), and by the “Pontifical Academy of Sciences: Science for Survival and Sustainable Development,”
Outcome. The preconference Declaration and Framework for Action reflected
divisions between developed and developing nations. They embodied some divisive
principles and guidelines reflecting “third world positions” that were, for the most part,
moderated or modified before or during the conference. News reports indicate that among
the major unofficial benefits of the conference were networking among scientists from
developed and developing countries and giving scientists from the developing countries
“...direct access to key policymakers and heads of funding agencies from developed
countries, as well as some insight into the unfamiliar worked of international12
diplomacy.” However, delegates from the developing countries reportedly complained
that the lack of official preparatory meetings that usually are held before large UN
conferences prevented them from developing cohesive alliances to support their goals and
therefore their demands were diluted.13
The conference unanimously endorsed two nonbinding documents, the final versions
of the aforementioned Declaration on Science and the Uses of Scientific Knowledge, a
statement of policies,14 and the Science Agenda: Framework for Action, that suggested15
guidelines for implementation. The Declaration espoused a “new social contract
between science and society that endorses social support for science funding, while
encouraging scientists to accept responsibilities to use all the sciences, including social
science and engineering, to improve quality of life and sustainable development. It noted
that some scientific advances “...have also led to environmental degradation and
technological disasters...”16 and that the scientific community should “...engage [in
discussion] with the public over such issues as food safety, genetically modified
foodstuffs, and biomedical problems.”17 Also, the document emphasized that S&T
development and national research systems were indispensable to economic development
in the developing countries.
Before the conference some sought to have scientists adopt a Hippocratic-like oath
to conduct ethical science. The Declaration modified this to propose that “ethics and
social responsibility” be part of scientific training.18 The documents endorsed efforts to
raise the contributions of women to science, to create an international network of women
scientists, and “special efforts” to include the disabled, indigenous people, and ethnic
Nature. For documents, see:[http://www.unesco.org/science/wcs/]; [http://www.wcs.budapest.hu]; [http://
helix.nature.com/wcs/]; and [http://www4.nas.edu/oia/oiahome.nsf].
12Eshan Masood, “Satisfaction for Most, Disappointment for Some,” Nature News +, July 2, 1999
[ http ://helix.natur e.co m/wc s/1 news/0 2 -1 b . html] .
13Masood, "Satisfaction," idem.
15At [http://helix.nature.com/wcs/02-1h.lhtml]. See also: [http://www.unesco.org/opi/science].
16Dickson, "Guidelines," July 4, 1999, citing “African Countries Pledge to Use Debt Relief for Science,”
June 29, 1999.
17Peter Pockley, Rapporteur-general Describes ‘Essence’ of Statements,” Nature News+, July 4, 1999,
18Dickson, July 4, 1999, op. cit.
minorities in science.19 The Declaration rejected “...calls from some nations... to suggest
as a target that all countries aim to eventually spend one percent of their gross national
product on research and development,” as endorsed by the 1979 UNCSTD.20 However,
it did endorse national, regional and international public and private funding to enable
developing countries to build needed research and educational infrastructure. Also, the
delegates endorsed the idea of a recent debt relief initiative by the G8 creditor countries
as an appropriate mechanism for developing countries to increase funding for science and
education. The Framework proposed that donor countries and UN agencies should pool
resources and strengthen national research systems. It also said high-quality science
education should be brought to “remote locations” via Internet-based systems.
There was controversy at the conference about balancing protection for IPR while
accommodating the views of some developing countries that IPR represents “monopolistic
exploitation” of information.21 Some countries declared their ownership and a share in the
profits of research that uses biological resources and genetic materials within their national
boundaries—in conflict with the interests of some international companies22 dealing with
agribusiness and pharmaceuticals. Others sought IPR rewards for indigenous knowledge
that predated but was used in the scientific revolution. The Declaration compromised on
this point by saying that traditional knowledge systems “...should be brought closer to
modern scientific knowledge...in areas such as the conservation of biological diversity, the
management of natural resources, the understanding of natural hazards, and the mitigation
of their impact.”23 It avoided discussing the patenting of genetic materials, but endorsed
the protection of IPR while recognizing the importance of access to data for scientific
progress and the need for mutually supportive measures to protect IPR and dissemination
of scientific knowledge. The Framework said that the World Intellectual Property
Organization “should constantly address the question of knowledge monopolies,” and that
“the World Trade Organization, during new negotiations of the Trade Related Intellectual
Property [TRIPS] Agreement, should incorporate into this Agreement tools aimed at
financing the advancement of science in the South with the full involvement of the
scientific community ”24 It also “called on governments to develop legal frameworks “...to
accommodate the specific requirements of developing countries and traditional
knowledge, sources, and products, to ensure their recognition and adequate protection on
the basis of the informed consent of the customary or traditional owners of this
knowledge.”25 The Framework endorsed research networks, regional S&T parks,
technology “incubators” and assistance to small businesses. Before the conference
developing countries were interested in “...compensating developing countries for their
19Robert Koenig. Science Blueprint is High on Ideal, Light on Details. Science, v. 285, July 9, 1999, pp.
20Dickson, "Guidelines," July 4, 1999, op. cit.
21“Science By Everyone,”The LOKA Institute, [loka.org/pubs.nature012899.htm] and “Moulding Intellectual
Property Laws to Developing Country Needs,” Nature, [helix.nature.com/wcs/c11.html].
22See also Declan Butler, “WHO Bioethics Code Set to Stir Debate,” Nature, March 18, 1999.
23Dickson, July 4, 1999, op. cit.
24See the Framework document at [http://helix.nature.com/wcs/02-1h.html].
25Dickson, July 4, 1999, op. cit.
‘loss of trained scientists and technicians to the more developed countries;’”26 but the
Framework more moderately said that UNESCO “may catalyse more symmetric and
closer interaction of science and technology personnel across the world, and the
establishment of world-class education and research infrastructure in the developing
Before the conference, the president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences
proposed to create an InterAcademy Center, modeled on the U.S. National Research
Council, to assemble international expert panels to advise the UN and the World Bank on
S&T-related issues. This expands upon the collaboration in the InterAcademy Panel on
International Issues, an informal information exchange network of 80 national science
academies, that will meet in May 2000.28 The British Science Museum/British
Association for the Advancement of Science proposed to establish an International Center
for the Communication of Science for journalists, broadcasters and exhibition organizers
from developing countries.29 The conference did not endorse these specific proposals, but
it endorsed programs to train journalists and others to increase public awareness and
supported strengthening international scientific advisory processes in cooperation with UN
agencies and international scientific organizations.
The Framework document said ICSU and UNESCO should follow-up by developing
initiatives for cooperation with the UN organizations and bilateral donors, but that national
governments and regional organizations also were responsible for action. If there were
U.S. follow-up, it would probably be likely to occur via bilateral aid and through
international organizations to which this nation belongs. The United States withdrew from
UNESCO in 1984,30 but participates in selected UNESCO programs deemed in the U.S.
national interest. There is debate over whether the United States should rejoin
UNESCO.31 In addition, the United States currently owes the UN more than $1 billion for
its assessed contributions to the UN regular budget and peacekeeping accounts. Congress
has linked funding for these arrears to reforms it expects the UN to carry out. Legislation,
S. 886, was passed in the Senate to authorize funding to pay UN dues.32 However,
Congress has limited the total U.S. funds available for contributions to all international
organizations, making a U.S. return to UNESCO unlikely in the immediate future since
a U.S. contribution to the UNESCO regular budget would have to come from the same
limited State Department appropriations account for international organizations.
26K.S. Jayaraman and Ehsan Masood, “India leads Call for Greater Protection of Indigenous Knowledge,”
Nature, February 4, 1999.
27See the Framework document at [http://helix.nature.com/wcs/02-1h.html].
28“Worldly Scientists,” Science, April 30, 1999, 727 and “U.S. Academy Proposes Global Science
Advisory Body,” Nature, May 13, 1999.
29David Dickson, “International Science Communication Centre Proposed,” Nature, April 8, 1999.
30The Secretary of State’s 1983 notice of intention to withdraw cited UNESCO’s politicization, hostility
towards the basic institutions of a free society, and unrestrained budgetary expansion. See UN System
Funding: Congressional Issues, CRS Issue Brief IB86116, by Vita Bite.
31“Former Secretaries of State Urge Congress to Pay UN Dues,” Washington Fax, March 23, 1999.
32See: U.N. Arrears Legislation in the 106th Congress, CRS report RS20262, by Vita Bite.