The International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies (the Network) held its seventh biennial meeting on May 18-20, 2005, at the Royal Society in London. The meeting began on Wednesday afternoon with an informal lunch and warm welcome by Torsten Wiesel, on behalf of the Network’s Executive Committee. He noted that, for more than 300 years, the Royal Society has hosted some of the most important events in the scientific world and some of the world’s most prominent scientists and said that it was indeed an honor for the Network to meet at the Royal Society to address issues of science and human rights and to contribute, as best it can, to making a better world.
In opening the plenary session, Dr. Wiesel provided an overview of the three-day event and the operations of the Network, particularly noting that each participant had been given a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the document on which the Network bases its work. Wiesel noted that an increasing number of academies represented at the meeting have taken action based on the declaration over the years to promote and protect the rights that are enshrined in it.
Wiesel expressed the wish that the meeting serve to inform and inspire those in attendance to return to their academies and do some consciousness-raising among their members and truly support the work of the Network. “We are in our 12th year so it is now past time to decide whether or not you and your academies truly want to support the Network.” He noted that, during the workshop on Friday, one of the primary tasks would be to look at the work and mission of the Network and the structure and composition of the Executive Committee. “I hope that all of you, but particularly those of you who are genuinely active in the Network, will give this serious thought between now and Friday as you listen to the various talks and have discussions with other participants.”
Wiesel went on to say, “We would all like to right the wrongs of the world, but to accomplish anything we have to have a focus and achievable goals. This Network must work to find a balance between the abuses that we abhor and those that we can reasonably and appropriately address. We are scientists and scholars with rights and responsibilities and access and influence. How can we best exploit these qualities to uphold and defend human rights? We need to think seriously about this question during the next few days.”
Carol Corillon, the Network’s Executive Director, then announced that, since what began as an experiment at the last Network meeting appeared to be a success,
breakout sessions for participants from various regions had been arranged again so that participants could become better acquainted, discuss issues of science and human rights of particular concern to their academies and within their specific regions, and identify what steps might be taken to strengthen representation within the Network by their own academies and scholarly societies and those academies in their regions that are not involved with the Network.
[The Plenary session was then interrupted so that participants could join their specific geographic breakout groups for several hours of discussion before rejoining the plenary at the end of the day.]
This proceedings has been prepared from audio tapes made during the Network meeting. We have tried to transcribe what was said as accurately as possible and to properly identify the various speakers during the discussion sessions. However, we experienced some audio problems, various participants failed to identify themselves every time they spoke, and others neglected to speak directly into the microphone so certain questions and comments were not audible. We apologize for any consequent inaccuracies in the text or if we inadvertently misidentified or misquoted any of the participants. Every effort was made to maintain the accuracy of the original presentation.