The ability to stand up and be counted in the most difficult of times, when justice is on trial, is a quality of distinction that a scientific community needs to display to the downtrodden.
Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o
The International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies (the Network) held its fifth biennial meeting on May 10 and 11, 2001, at the Palais de l’Institut de France in Paris. In addition to an evening reception for Network members and guests, the main events of the meeting were a semipublic symposium, Human Rights and the Scientific Community, and a 1 1/2-day workshop on a variety of topics related to science, engineering, and health in the human rights context.
The symposium, held in one of the most elegant rooms of the palace, was attended by some 150 people. The Network was particularly honored by the presence of a number of members of the French Academy of Sciences and by two high-level French government officials—the Honorable Patrick Henault, Ambassador for Human Rights, and the Honorable Bernard Kouchner, Minister of Health. Dr. Kouchner, who gave the keynote address, spoke about the right to preventive intervention. Summaries of the talks given by speakers from Kenya, Kosovo, Iran, and Egypt, in addition to Dr. Kouchner’s talk, follow this introduction. [The texts or transcripts of their talks can be found in Appendix A.]
Issues raised both during the symposium talks and sent in advance by Network participants to the secretariat were used to help frame the workshop discussion. At the workshop, in addition to reviewing the cases undertaken by the Network, their current status, and plans for future actions, a variety of topics of particular interest or concern to the various academies represented were identified and may be considered for future projects if sufficient resources are available; a list of these excellent suggestions can be found in Appendix B. They ranged from developing guidelines for academics engaged in human rights advocacy to promoting the use of economic assistance as leverage in human rights cases; from evaluating the Network’s “tools” to considering how the Network might generate the political will necessary to promote free scientific communication.
The Network’s biennial meetings are held privately and participation is restricted, in most instances, to one representative from each academy or