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Starting in 2002, 10 November of every year has been designated as World Science Day by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The event — whose full name is World Science Day for Peace and Development — aims to strengthen global public support for science and its application to peace and development.

UNESCO will act as a catalyst and sponsor for events taking place around the world on that day, rather than centrally organising it. Member states, inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations, universities, research institutions, professional associations and schools will all be encouraged to take an active part.

The Paris-based organisation’s general conference agreed last month to endorse and support the event. But it declined to commit substantial funding, rejecting a US$300,000-per-year proposal that would have put UNESCO as the main organiser of the event, in favour of a lower profile option costing US$50,000 a year.

“Those responsible for this initiative will probably try to identify a single theme each year, around which participating member states will focus their their own World Science Day activities,” says Howard Moore of UNESCO’s science directorate.

The activities should be focused to “make sure the science comes through, although we are also keen to emphasis the link to development,” he says.

The annual World Science Day will fall within the International Week of Science and Peace, which has taken place every year since the mid-1980s during the week of 11 November — a day of remembrance for those killed in war.

Alan Cottey, co-ordinator of the UK Week of Science and Peace, welcomes the creation of World Science Day, describing it as a way to “bring the question of the application of science and technology in peace and development in to the public domain and give it some attention”. And unlike the current Week of Science and Peace, he says, the event will have a budget — even if limited — and the active support and direction of UNESCO, both likely to give it greater influence.

The proposal to establish a World Science Day has emerged as part of the follow-up to the World Conference on Science, which took place in Hungary in 1999, organised jointly by UNESCO and the International Council on Science (ICSU). The ‘Science Agenda’ approved at the Conference contains a chapter on Science for Peace and Development, including themes such as science for basic human needs; science, environment and sustainable development; science and technology; science education; science for peace and conflict resolution; and science policy.

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