Workshop: Scientists, Human Rights, and Prospects for the Future
Friday, May 20, 2005
Welcome and Introductory Remarks Discussion Leader: Lorna Casselton
Lorna Casselton, The Royal Society, U.K. It’s a great pleasure to welcome you to the final part of this Network meeting, which will give us the chance to discuss more fully some of the important human rights issues that we touched on yesterday. I think I should like to say thank you to Carol Corillon and the other members of the Executive Committee for putting together such a remarkable program for yesterday’s symposium. It was an impressive lineup of eminent speakers, who gave us such important insights into the topics talked about. This was reflected not only in the very lively discussion after each presentation, but also in the fact that it attracted a number of people from outside the Network.
The highlight of the day was the first Max Perutz Memorial Lecture. We’re very proud to have hosted it here at The Royal Society. One thing Sir John Meurig Thomas did not say in his introduction was that yesterday, the 19th of May, was Max Perutz’s birthday—the timing for that lecture could not have been more perfect. And, of course, the choice of speaker could not have been more appropriate.
One of the international issues that the Network has focused on is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and in Switzerland we witnessed the inauguration of the Israeli-Palestinian Science Organization (IPSO). Today, we shall be hearing more about the current status of IPSO and its future. Of course, it is very embarrassing for us here in the United Kingdom to have to revisit the issue of boycotts with respect to Israel, because the action involves our Association of University Teachers, who have voted for a boycott [of certain Israeli universities].
If you had been listening to the radio this morning, you would have discovered that this event is attracting attention. It was discussed this morning on Today, a very important program on the radio, in which important issues are talked about. I think we can be proud that our event was one of the issues discussed on the radio this morning.
As Torsten said on Wednesday, the world is changing, and we need to hear the voices of different cultures and countries. A very important part of the biennial meeting is the regional discussions—an important forum for bringing to the attention of all of us here the different human rights issues that regions face. I now hand this over to Torsten, who will start off today’s workshop on the subject of the purpose, function, and future of the Network.
Purpose, Function, and Future of the Network Discussion Leader: Torsten Wiesel
Torsten Wiesel, The National Academy of Science, U.S.A. Since this morning is set aside to discuss the future of the Network, we want to be sure that we hear all your voices and that we listen to you. It is very important, as representatives of academies, that you speak up for what kinds of issues you think the Network should deal with. We had some of that discussion on the first day in the afternoon, after the regional meetings. It is clear that there are some differences of opinion, and we want to hear from the members. Some of you haven’t said anything yet, and some have said a lot—you should feel free.
I suggest that we begin with the mission statement. To us on the Executive Committee, we feel responsible for the formulation and direction of the mission statement. Lord Dahrendorf yesterday emphasized the importance of addressing the concern of single prisoners of conscience. From the outset this has been our sense of what the Network’s purpose and function should be.
In the discussion yesterday, and on Wednesday in particular, some members expressed the view that the Network should have a broader mission than that which was narrowly defined initially. I want you to speak up now. What is your sense of the Network’s mission?
Arne Haaland, Norwegian Academy — I think a Network of this kind must have as its goal to apply uniform standards to all countries. It is easy to accept as a goal, it is difficult to achieve in practice, but that should be the goal. All cases are different. I think we will have to learn to live with a situation where we disagree in individual cases. This is not surprising, because some people who are persecuted are not paragons of virtue or wisdom. This does not remove their human rights. When governments act, some of the motives are entirely unacceptable, and some motives you can understand and accept. Each person here, weighing the pros and cons, may not agree.
It is necessary that the Network and the Executive Committee have a large, comfortable majority whenever they decide to intervene. But I’m not sure that one should require absolute unanimity.
Wiesel – You should keep in mind that this is a network of independent academies. For example, the Norwegian Academy can do anything it likes, and you should use the Network to communicate your action and inform the members of the Network of cases that you are concerned about and actions you propose. But the Network as such is more a means of communication. The reason for this sort of meeting is for all of us to meet and have personal discussions, not just by email and so on. There is often a misconception that the Network is like an Academy itself. It is not. Just keep that in mind. The effectiveness of the Network depends on what you do in your own academies to carry out the work. Communicate with your members, ask them to write letters, use the information that Carol provides through the Network as Action Alerts from the Network secretariat.
Haaland – I think the Executive Committee has a certain amount of autonomy relative to the individual members. If you have a clear majority, you are not bound to satisfy every national affiliate.
John Eckert, German Academy of Sciences, Leopoldina – First, I think it is generally agreed that this Network should take care of the individual scientists or individuals in the academic field who are in trouble. Second, I think the Network should continue to support and enhance international scientific cooperation, as it was done in the case of Israel and Palestine, especially groups that are in political conflict. There may be other examples in which the Network could be active—China and Taiwan, even Korea, and other areas. In this connection, I would like to say that the Leopoldina had a long-lasting experience in bridging east and west when Germany was divided. The Leopoldina was the only institution that had a high degree of independence in East Germany. Therefore, people from western countries could be invited or international scientists could be invited, and this was a very important bridge for science at this difficult time during the separation of the country.
This group has discussed that the Network should be involved in issues like genetic manipulation and human rights and similar [human rights-related] issues. I think these issues are so complicated and so difficult that they should be dealt with by the national academies. This is already being done, and we would not be able to cover all these issues adequately. The last point I would make is that after each meeting there should be a summary of the points of discussion, the results, and conclusions that could be taken home and distributed to the media. Having a summary of some common points would help to disseminate more information about the Network.
Juha Sihvola, Finnish Delegation of Scientific and Scholarly Societies – This is the first time for me in this Network, and I’ve been very excited about what I have experienced. To a large extent, I agree with the previous speakers, especially my Norwegian colleague. I think there are at least three possible activities for this kind of Network. One is concrete cases, assisting individual scientists and intellectuals and so on. Of course, even in that activity, making distinctions in what kind of cases should be covered may be difficult. That is a very important core area of activity.
Another activity is promoting, in principle, peaceful solutions to international conflicts, like the activities related to Israel and Palestine. I would also gladly support this aspect, which is very important and would probably get good results.
The third aspect is related to principles of human rights, which, as we have seen, is a pretty complicated issue, even if we restrict the notion of human rights in a narrow way, for example, as Lord Dahrendorf did in his very excellent talk. Human rights is a much wider issue—social rights, cultural rights, and even so-called bio-rights related to biotechnology and stem cell research and that kind of thing. It might become too complicated for the Network to extend its activities to all these area. But because this Network has very high-level participants, drawing together institutions and prominent people from all over the world and in all academic fields, it is very important to also discuss theoretical difficulties in the protection of human rights. It looks very different not only from different countries, but also depending on your view
of the extent, nature, and contents of human rights. To promote this kind of discussion in all academies and in all fields in a cross-disciplinary and border-crossing way is also very important.
Wiesel – On the last point, could you be specific?
Sihvola – Take, for example, the speech of Baroness O’Neill on difficulties in the theoretical underpinnings of human rights. We could invite prominent philosophers and international lawyers to come together to examine potential difficulties in the interpretation of human rights, political rights, freedom of expression, and secondly, social rights, thirdly, cultural rights and the so-called bio-rights—fourth-generation human rights, as they are sometimes called.
Wiesel – Any comments from my colleagues on the Executive Committee?
Pieter van Dijk, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences – I just want to say, that is what we tried to do in the colloquium. At every biennial meeting, we have both a colloquium and a workshop. In the colloquium, we address more general questions of human rights and human rights issues. Your second point, regarding contributions to a peaceful settlement of disputes, is also very broad. I cannot imagine myself going for a mission to divide two fighting parties. But I suppose you mean the contribution of scientific cooperation, because IPSO is exactly that.
Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, French Academy of Sciences – I understand what you mean about enlarging our scope, but aren’t you afraid it would be too much work? Too difficult to address all the important questions, and we would therefore be less efficient on the individual cases, in which sometimes we can get some success?
Sihvola – Actually, I talked too much about the general issues. It would be better to have the focus on individual cases, that is, the concrete results. That is something that can be achieved by a joint action. Action on the general issue could come through the individual academies.
Cohen-Tannoudji – What you have in mind is perhaps a new or different network, which would consist of people coming from all of academia, who could address the issue of human rights theoretically and find some basic principles and some general laws. That was not the initial mission of this Network, and I’m afraid it is too ambitious, although I like the idea. It is very important to have people coming from different countries and from various academies to think together about general problems.
Wiesel – If I understood you right, you said that the concept of human rights has different meanings for different cultures. We have had speakers in previous years from different countries expressing the point of view that freedom of speech may not be the most important thing in their culture. Other things are also important. We always invite the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences to come to these meetings because their representatives would perhaps be more interested in other social issues. We emphasize scientific issues here, rather than social issues like food and shelter and health care—which are also part of human rights.
Sihvola – My personal view is that the most important human rights are freedom of movement, freedom of expression, and freedom of participation. But there is some disagreement on this. So, in order to raise consciousness about the basic importance of these most important human rights, one should also have the broader discussion about their relations to the other aspects.
Paul Mugambi, Ugandan Academy of Sciences – I am President of the Uganda National Academy of Sciences. The history of academies in Africa, as you might know, is not a very rosy one. In Uganda, under the East African Community, we had an Eastern African Academy involving Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda, and then Idi Amin came onto the scene. During his regime, the academies broke up, and people went underground. In Uganda, in particular, the Uganda Medical Association suffered heavily. Doctors were murdered in broad daylight because they spoke about these very issues that we are discussing. So, in Africa the academies are young, and, as mentioned yesterday, there is a whole mixture of scenarios of failed and failing states.
In terms of a mission statement—yes, I do support individuals. In addition, to promote and protect the independence of academies and scholarly societies worldwide attracts my attention in connection with the African academies. Most of them are very young. We have only 10 active academies. We hope that we will benefit from this Network to build the capacity of our academies to promote awareness of these rights. Some of our scientists suffer from self-censorship. They need to be made aware that they can speak out on issues. It is my hope that our membership in the Network will enable us to promote awareness of these issues in our countries.
Wiesel – We very much want to and have done our very best to try to support you in this.
Michael Clegg, National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. – There is quite an array of global and regional academy organizations that emerged over the last decade. The Network plays an immensely important role in informing people about abuses of the rights of scientists. There is also the Inter-Academy Panel, which takes on a larger role of trying to articulate statements on major issues of concern to the global science community. These may range from statements about the health of mothers and children, to the importance of science education, to issues related to the global management of water resources. In my view, the Network plays a crucial role, but that role should be a focused and well defined role that is concerned with the rights of scientists and the suppression of the rights of scientists.
With regard to our [the U.S. National Academies] engagement in Africa, we have been very fortunate to receive a major grant from the Gates Foundation, which has allowed us to launch a program that is now in its very early phases, aimed at building the capacity of academies in Sub-Saharan Africa. There are seven academies that we are trying to work with— three in a more focused way, including Uganda, South Africa, and Nigeria. The goal is capacity building: helping to provide academies with the tools to be effective institutions in their own countries and to be effective, in particular, in influencing decision makers and policy makers in
their own countries. We are really delighted to be able to work with Paul Mugambi and Gideon Okelo on this wonderful project, but it is separate from the concerns of the Network.
Alenka Selih, Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts – I am from Slovenia, a new nation and an ex-socialist country. I have been following the work of the Network for the last four years, and we have become more active in supporting individual cases recently after some changes in our academy have taken place. When I was looking at the program of this meeting, it seemed to me as if the democratic and developed countries somehow pointed the finger at those who are not so fortunate. I was therefore very satisfied to see the program of yesterday’s symposium. I think it is very important to address the problems of September 11, which really changed a lot of things in many democratic countries Measures have been taken, not against scientists or at least not in principle, but at a general level. As we know, such measures can always, even if taken only for one group of offenders or one group of crimes, be spread out to others. I think we in ex-socialist countries know that quite well.
I have also been thinking about our obligation back home in the area of the Network’s operation. Most probably, the academies and the scientific communities in ex-socialist countries should earlier or later (probably later) confront their own past during the past decades, because, in some cases, scientists and scholars have been prosecuted and also sentenced for what they have been studying and researching. I’m not sure the time has come for that yet. Perhaps more of a lapse of time is necessary.
I have been following how the German criminal lawyers have been studying their past, and I’ve noticed that the first articles on how German lawyers acted during the Nazi regime were published in the 1980s. So it takes a long time. I don’t know whether we are, or when we will be, ready for that.
On the question or problem of individuals, we have been shown the example of Palestinian-Israeli cooperation between two universities. I do not want to make any formal proposal, but I have a suggestion that maybe, in ex-Yugoslavia, an initiative to arrange such collaboration, between say Serbia and Kosovo or between Serbia and Bosnia, could be fruitful.
Wiesel – The leadership in the academies or universities is critical for this to happen. It has to be initiated in the region. There is nothing we can do from the point of view of the Executive Committee without that. If such an initiative were taken, then of course we would be happy to facilitate and encourage such cooperation. I believe very much in bottom-up approaches. If such an initiative came, not from the Network, but from the region, then we could facilitate and assist it as a Network. Does your academy have a human rights committee?
Selih – No, we don’t. We are a small academy, so our department of foreign affairs, the president of the academy, and I form an opinion together, and then the presidency, a body of 13 members which consists of representatives of all of the departments of the academy, takes a decision. Then we act.
Wiesel – That sounds like a committee in a way. Are you in charge?
Selih – There are two of us, the head of the department for foreign affairs and me.
Wiesel – In a sense, you have a structure within the academy to deal with these issues, which is all that is important.
Emmanuel Roucounas, Academy of Athens – I have three remarks. First, I strongly support the idea that our Network should encourage participation of more academies from Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Second, usually we react to the Alerts from Carol Corillon, and most of us act immediately on individual cases. Perhaps the academies that have an infrastructure for the protection of human rights should communicate what they are doing to the Network in order that other academies can become aware of the activities of the different members. Third, I enjoy the theoretical approaches and the lectures that are given here. They are very important, and one day may be published, not necessarily by the Network itself but by the lecturers themselves in different reviews.
I believe we should set up working groups before the next meeting and ask them to elaborate on a specific theoretical or practical question, in order to have a report to discuss, rather than just to react immediately after a lecture. Today we are speaking not only of human rights at large, but of human rights in very specific fields, such as patenting. I presided over a colloquium in Paris on human rights and the right to patent. If we touch on specific questions of general interest in the field of human rights and concerning learned societies, we should set up specific committees.
Wiesel – The issue of patents seems to me more of an Inter-Academy Panel discussion. Human rights don’t necessarily come to mind when you want to patent. But, in terms of the other point, we do invite academies from all over the world.
Carol Corillon, U.S.A., [Network Executive Director] – We send an invitation to every academy in the world, and often I follow up because we really do want to have much more involvement, particularly from Asia, Latin America, and Africa. In fact, I follow up sometimes three, four, and five times. Some people here were quite pressured by us to come. We really want to get more academies involved. I was hoping that an outcome of the Regional Group Discussions would be that those from the various regions in the Network would decide to encourage other academies in their regions to participate in the Network or to do it through the regional academies themselves.
I also wanted to say that I took a look at the websites of many of the academies involved with the Network. Some of them have very detailed information about their involvement with this Network, such as the Turkish Academy. They show what they are doing, the different symposia they’ve held, the actions they have taken on human rights independently, and those that they’ve taken along with the Network. Other academies have nothing at all. No mention whatsoever of the Network. The Network would become much better known if every academy had a webpage devoted to their involvement with the Network.
And then, as you know, the Network also has a private site through the National Academies in the United States. We are working to improve this site and to make it more
independent of the National Academies. This is not easy because of the way in which our system is set up, but we are looking for a way to make it totally separate so if there is information that individual academies would like to have posted, they can send it to me. We really don’t get much feedback from the individual academies, except the French and Dutch and a few other academies which do send us cases. We really need to have more back-and-forth; rather than having everything come from my office out to you.
Michiatsu Kaino, Science Council of Japan – This is my first time at this conference, and I am very greatly impressed. Before the conference I contacted Carol to ask if I should prepare a statement but she told me that each academy has its own mission and that our main agenda is to improve cooperation with other academies on human rights. Human rights issues should be closely connected to the agenda for peace, which has become a much more important subject, especially in terms of human security. I have brought a paper that describes our council’s current activities.
This kind of meeting is very useful in dealing with individual cases, but the larger human rights issues are also important. So my proposal is that the meeting should have two parts: one for general theoretical issues and one for individual cases. Theoretical discussion is much more important because in Asia, we have no such human rights declaration as the European Convention of Human Rights, but there are so many human rights issues in Asia, so maybe we should combine individual cases with theoretical discussions. That is my proposal.
Wiesel – Most Asian countries have signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Asia does not stand out in that regard.
Yuan T. Lee, Academia Sinica in Taiwan – I’m the President of the Academia Sinica in Taiwan. I agree with what Dr. Kaino said. Our Network tries to help individuals, but it is difficult when we target somebody from China, from Russia, from various countries that are not at the meeting, then the Network is broken. Although everybody has signed the human rights declaration, as soon as some of us target an individual in another country to rescue, the Network breaks down. What I’m saying is that something more general, more theoretical is needed. Then they might come and say that they don’t agree with one-half of the discussion, but they want to participate in the other half. If what he suggested can remedy the shortcoming of the broken Networks, that might not be a bad idea. I come from Taiwan, and I try very hard to maintain the peace and stability in that area. So, I don’t want to say too much, because if I do, then my role will be diminished. What is interesting is that yesterday, when Sari Nusseibeh was talking about the one who is underneath having more freedom and more power, you have to realize that if somebody on top is 50 times heavier than you, then you can’t even breathe.
Wiesel – Could you expand a little bit about the theoretical part that you feel should be more emphasized?
Lee – When we talk about human rights or the universality of science, we could discuss in depth what does it really mean. This afternoon we are going to discuss the universality of science, and I can pursue that issue a little more. But the topic of human rights is really quite interesting, because different countries in Asia will have very different views. There are times when I can go
in and out of China, and at other times I’m not allowed. I don’t protest strongly, because I do feel that I have a bigger role to play. It is a very important period now.
Henrik Zahle, The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters – I think we all agree about the importance of individual cases, and it works very effectively, so I will not elaborate on that. Concerning the more theoretical problems of human rights, where there is some disagreement, I agree that the Network consider this as part of its work, and it actually has done so. The lectures yesterday were in line with the theoretical approach. So perhaps we need to recognize what has already been done and rethink how it can be done more effectively in the future.
The suggestion that the discussions should be prepared somehow in advance is one thing that could be taken up. Another possibility would be to organize the discussions in a more debate-like manner so that various positions are represented. If this is organized more openly, it would open up our minds and give a more reflective position to what human rights are and what the work of the Network actually is concerned about.
I also agree with what has been said that it would be difficult for us to get an agreement or even distinct majorities on these problems. So, in the near future, at least at the beginning, I would suggest that we shouldn’t look for decisions on such matters. It should be a forum for discussion and could be reframed so that we are not only dealing with two different topics, those of individual cases and the theoretical questions, but also applying different instruments. On the individual cases, we express, both as a nation and as a Network, criticism or concern in relation to governments or other authorities. On the theoretical or general problems, our instrument is general discussion and open debate in this Network, and perhaps we have it published afterwards but we do not end with conclusions from the Network.
Another topic that we might take up is human rights as a duty. When we think about human rights in scientific work, the question of duty is much more appropriate when you consider, for instance, biotechnology and human rights, the patenting law and human rights. As a scientist, you consider human rights as somehow a duty. This is a restriction on the work of the scientist, which is sometimes well founded and sometimes not, but it is basically a duty for scientists to respect some good, some value, that is always protected by somebody else’s human right.
Wiesel – You’re getting into the whole question of ethics. Of course we all want to be ethical, but that is not really what this organization is about. There are international and national committees on ethics in the area of patents, for example, as you mentioned. We don’t have any special insights into that.
On the other issue you raised, about how we should prepare, it seems to me each academy has a responsibility. If there is an issue that the Danish Academy is concerned about and wants to have a working group on, then it makes a proposal or a statement, which can be sent out to all participants, who can then discuss it. We don’t have a lot of resources—to have a meeting every other year taxes our resources beyond what we have so we are constantly trying to raise funds. Our National Academies in the United States have been doing this now for 10-12 years, trying to support this Network. We want other academies to also make some contribution
and not only the U.S. academy. If people say, I don’t want to be part of this Network because it costs me money, then that says something. Maybe academies would become more engaged if they actually had a budget for these Network meetings.
Zahle – I didn’t expect that what I am talking about should cost a lot of money. And I didn’t expect that it should be a big change in the work of the Network. Actually, as I said, it is just a reframing of what is already being done. It is a proposal on how to organize the meeting in a manner that takes up the many voices which have asked for a more theoretical approach to some of the human rights problems than we apply when we work on individual cases.
van Dijk – It would be very helpful if this discussion would also clarify your opinions about the role of the Executive Committee between the biennial meetings. Our Norwegian colleague said very clearly that, in his opinion, the Executive Committee should have its own authority and could act on behalf of the Network irrespective of whether everybody agrees. Others will support the autonomy of their academies, which should not be represented by an Executive Committee without being consulted before hand.
Zahle – I am very much against the Executive Committee expressing a position somehow pretending to represent the global Network of scientific organizations.
Harald Reuter, Council of the Swiss Scientific Academies – I think we should go back to the roots of why the Network has been created, and it was very clear that the original idea was to help colleagues around the world who spoke up against what they believe was unjust in their countries or elsewhere and for that are imprisoned or badly treated, etc. It could be defined out of the environment where we live—namely the environment of academia. I am very much in favor to think also about what the theoretical reasons are for why we are doing this and what the theoretical reason is for human rights.
However, if we consider how we have acted over the last 14 years or so, we have been very much oriented towards the European scientific environment and spoke from that point of view. Six out of seven of our meetings have been held in Europe and one meeting in the United States in Washington. Do we really know by experience what the demands and difficulties are in countries in Africa or Asia, etc? So, to actually make ourselves familiar with the problems, at the site, where the problems primarily are, my suggestion would be that we have the next meeting, in a very practical sense, in a country outside Europe.
There is one special issue that has also arisen in the context of September 11 and that is visas. We discussed this already in the meeting in Switzerland and what we can do about it. Even in a country which is not known for particularly brutal actions, at least like Switzerland, even colleagues from my department had difficulties in going to meetings in the United States. One colleague applied for a visa three weeks before the meeting took place, and he got the visa when the meeting was over. This is a very common experience.
Wiesel – You must keep in mind that we have been very fortunate in that the countries in which we’ve had meetings, the academies in those countries have been able to help financially to organize the meeting. So, there is a question of resources. In some academies in other parts of
the world there is no money available so it would depend on the generosity of the participating academies in the Network.
Erling Norrby, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Academy of Sciences, Antiquities and Letters – Part of this will be a bit repetitious, because there is consensus on a number of questions, but I’d like to make three points. First, we should continue to support the individual cases. My question to Carol is How is the Network operating? Do you get proposals with the information that you need, or could we enlarge that? Are we sure we are covering this in an efficient way? The individual academies could be activated to take more initiative. I think you are actually carrying the entire burden on your side.
Another issue is to improve contacts between academies to further peace. I think the initiative that was taken at the meeting in Switzerland for the organization of IPSO is an important one. It is also important that it is followed up right now. I understand that it is now at a stage at which there are a number of proposals for collaboration, but a lack of money.
Here is something that every academy can consider. Can you do something? We are taking some initiatives in Sweden and hope that maybe we can do something. I enjoyed the idea that this initiative could serve as a seed for new initiatives of the same kind, such as in the former Yugoslavia and other parts of the world. That is very attractive but the vehicle that we should use is contact between scientists because science, by definition, is without any borders, as is knowledge, and that is why we have this joint Network. So, we need to make sure that IPSO is successful in its efforts, and this is a critical time right now.
Regarding selected general statements, I understand that, over the years, two statements have been made—one after 9/11 and another on academic boycotts. So we need to consider very carefully when time is mature to make a statement of that kind. What I would like to leave on the table is the theme that we are coming back to and that is the fact that some countries, because of national security measures, are restricting the means of access to information and the freedom of its citizens. We should only deal with that situation when it concerns our fellow scientists— there are restrictions on freedom of movement of scientists, on doing research, on publishing, and storing information. It would be proper for the Network to reflect on making a statement on this. Also, it would be good to have a less then one page summary of what has happened at the meeting that individual members could bring back home. We could see if we can activate it in the press and get it out there. It was interesting, coincidentally, that this morning on the BBC News, the new committee for human rights in Morocco was discussed in depth, on which we have information here. But that is a little beyond our responsibility as a network of academies. I have found this meeting very constructive and rewarding so thanks to those who have organized it.
Moises Wasserman, Colombian Academy of Exact, Physical, and Natural Sciences – Most regional groups addressed the general but very specific problem of the threats to the free circulation of scientists. I think it is very clear to all of us, after this conference, that the personal cases are extremely important and appropriate to the activity of the Network. On the subject of the boycott, we were right to condemn it, as it was not against one particular person but against a group. I am not happy to tell you this, but for a citizen of Colombia to come to a meeting in
England, you have to submit a request at least one month before. You must submit your two-way ticket, three months of activity in your bank account, and at least two credit cards.
A veteran scientist like me can wait, but you can imagine that our graduate students cannot wait. If you want to go to the United States, the same papers are required, as well as additional certification of work and income. For graduate students, in the United States you went through the same thing, but one year and a half in advance. For a graduate student, it is impossible to wait, so the participation of our students in scientific meetings is extremely small, almost nonexistent. I am not sure, from a practical point of view, if this is very different from a boycott. The principle is different, but, from a practical point of view, it is a kind of boycott. I would propose that on the problem of the free circulation of scientists, I think it is a problem worth addressing, even if we are redundant with other institutions.
Recently Carol helped us with such a problem. A member of our academy, a professor at the national university, was invited to a meeting in Canada and was not granted a visa. Carol intervened with Eva Kushner and Professor John Polanyi, and he finally got the visa. But he is a professor of the university and a member of the academy of sciences. For a student, it is many times more difficult to get.
Clegg – Our academy is a private organization, and it does not receive direct support from the U.S. government. It is important to reiterate that to also show the limitations in our influence and abilities. Ever since the recent restrictions that followed the 9/11 events began, we have been engaged in a number of efforts to try to assist scientists to obtain visas to travel to the United States. Those efforts have been reasonably successful in the majority of cases but not in all cases. One of the things that we do is manage a website that provides the most up-to-date information on the visa process, and we stay in almost daily touch with the State Department to be sure that we have the most accurate information on how to get visas. That information is then posted on the website on a regular basis. We also provide assistance to individual scientists who write to us with requests for assistance with regard to visas. We are actually spending money from our budget to support a staff salary to assist with visa issues. There are also other organizations within the United States that are equally concerned about visa problems. This includes the American Association of Universities, which is a body of the presidents of major universities in the country. They too have issued statements to which we have been a party— about the visa problems and their impact, both on scientists and on students. And there has been a progressive, but somewhat uneven, relaxation of the visa issues. This is a continuing battle, and it will probably remain so for a long time into the future.
I would also like to say that, to be effective as scientists, we have to have strong institutions to work from. We are not effective individually, and one of the important things about the creation of a Network like this is that it provides an institutional framework because it is a collection of national science academies working together to pursue a particular objective, which is that of supporting the human rights of scientists when they are threatened and, more broadly, scientific communication and discourse. But, over the last decade or so, there has been this accelerating trend towards globalization, and things like the Network and the Inter-Academy Panel are kind of the scientific world’s manifestation of this globalization impulse. The difficulty is that it is hard to find resources to support these kinds of global bodies. There is not a
natural patron for these global organizations of science, although they are very important. It turns out with respect to the Human Rights Committee of the U.S. academies, as Torsten has alluded to, we have financial issues.
We spend a little more than a half million dollars a year on the human rights committee, which does a great deal of work in validating individual cases and making sure that they are bona fide before they are presented to our academies, which is a difficult and expensive process. Carol will discuss a little later our efforts to bring petitions to UNESCO as well, and much of this work has been supported in the past by the philanthropic communities in the United States. One of the fortunate things that we have in the United States is a philanthropic tradition, where major foundations are willing to support activities of this kind. But they will not do so in perpetuity, and Torsten has worked very hard to bring in money. Some of that has helped support the Network’s activities, but a number of our philanthropic patrons have decided that they need to do other things so money is an issue for us. It is an issue for the Network.
An interesting thing happened in the past year. The Inter-Academy Panel is also a global organization of science academies, but takes on a broader mandate concerned with a wide variety of science issues that concern the global science community, including the capacity building of academies, education, and some of the other things I mentioned earlier. It has received permanent funding from the Italian government, which is a wonderful thing. The Italian government has seen it as a niche activity in global engagement, an opportunity to support the Third World Academy of Sciences, the Inter-Academy Panel, and the International Center for Theoretical Physics, all located in Trieste, as an Italian-based gesture to the importance of international science. We owe a great deal to Italy for taking on this important role.
The result is that the Inter-Academy Panel now has a secure base of financial support because of the generosity of Italy. It is also possible for the Network to consider speaking to the Inter-Academy Panel about a small amount of money. I’m not sure what the answer would be, but I think it is worth raising that question, to support things like future meetings of the Network, because the activities of the Network are so clearly consistent with the purposes of the Inter-Academy Panel that the two organizations should march forward in parallel.
Wiesel – Thank you, Mike. You’ve raised a number of issues.
Marino Protti, the National Academy of Sciences of Costa Rica – Two years ago, we joined the Network. My feeling is that the Network has been working very well and has been very efficient in the way it deals with cases and sends information through email. Email has become the way of communication. A lot of the issues that have been brought up here, theoretical and philosophical issues about our human rights, can be easily discussed through email throughout the Network. It doesn’t have to be a change of mission of the Network. It can be just discussed. I don’t think we need to take any action about the philosophical meaning of human rights. We can continue to work on cases, with the option that whoever doesn’t want to sign an Action Alert is free not to do so. The way it works is, you receive information because there is an Action Alert; if we want to send an appeal letter, we send it, and if we don’t want to support that Alert, we just don’t send a letter. To me, the communication of the Network itself seems to be working pretty well and gives us the freedom to act individually. If an independent academy feels
strongly about sending a letter of support, it can do so. If there is internal opposition in the academy, internal members of the academy can do it. To me, the way it is working is fine, and we can incorporate other things as a forum to discuss through email. That doesn’t mean we have to change; we don’t have to change the mission to do that. It is just part of the concept.
Wiesel – I think it is important to emphasize this point, that communication is so easily available today. We have both email and the web site. The web site isn’t visited enough, and your own academies should have something about the Network on their web sites. If you have that and, in addition, use the Network web site itself, these are the most natural means of communication.
The trouble is, you go to a meeting and get excited, and then you go home and forget about it. The only way to be effective is to constantly keep it in your mind and be actively involved. That is why we wanted each academy to have its own committee. You are here presumably because you have been asked by your academy to represent it at this meeting on human rights. That gives you a heavy responsibility.
There was a request to have a summary of the discussion and what happened at this meeting, to encourage your colleagues in your academies to provide their support and maybe form a committee if you don’t already have one. It is important.
We are all very busy, but you have to try to do something in this area of human rights. If you don’t have a personal commitment and passion for trying to help colleagues in trouble and deal with the issue of human rights and civil rights and freedom of speech, then you shouldn’t be here. To me it is a very personal engagement in these kinds of issues. You have to try to convey that to your colleagues as well. You have to be a little bit of a visionary and believe that these are important issues that we are trying to deal with here. It is not just a routine meeting that you go to and then go home and forget about. That is not the way it should be.
Dayanand Bajracharya, Royal Nepal Academy of Science and Technology – I’m afraid that I may be repeating most of the things our colleagues have already said. I would especially like to emphasize what our colleagues from Switzerland and Colombia have said. The main purpose of this Network is to help scientists who are in trouble for having spoken the truth about what they feel. Of course, this is one of the objectives of this Network but, as our colleague from Switzerland said, we in developing countries have a different kind of problem. We don’t have many scientists who are in trouble because of what they have said. The major problem in our part of the world is the denial of permission to travel and freedom of movement. This has become very serious now. Our young people especially get very little chance to go abroad to practice science because it is becoming very, very difficult to get visas.
I can cite you a personal example—my daughter was accepted for study in the United States, but she was denied a visa, so she couldn’t go there. I spoke to our foreign minister,
asking, Do you think my daughter is going to do something wrong in the United States? How can you believe that my daughter is somebody who should be denied a visa? In the same way, we had an argument with one of the institutions in the United Kingdom. A young man had a full scholarship to come here, but he was denied a visa. Do you know why? Because, he was young and unmarried. Somebody has to prove that he will return home after his course is over. This is one of the major problems in our part of the world, and I don’t know if the Network can help.
Wiesel – We realize that this is a problem. We can’t address all the problems in the developing world. We can’t solve them all. Are there human rights issues in your country? If you say there are no human rights problems in your country, that you don’t have any cases to send in, then this committee may not be relevant. Your academy should talk to the U.S. academy to help your daughter with a student visa—you shouldn’t talk to me, because I have no power. If you said you want to come here because of human rights, you are certainly not going to get the visa.
Bajracharya – I got a letter from you this time, addressed “To Whom It May Concern.” That letter proved more effective in getting a visa than the recommendation of my foreign minister. Another time when I visited the United Kingdom, I had to be personally presented there, and, as our friend from Colombia has mentioned, I had to prove in so many ways that I’ll return. I’m approaching 60. I don’t have any intention of settling in the United Kingdom. I’ll be happy to go back, but I have to prove that I will come back. Your letter, one simple letter, was somehow more effective. They didn’t pose any questions.
Corillon - Dr. Lee and I both serve on the Standing Committee on Freedom in the Conduct of Science of the International Council for Science (ICSU). It deals specifically with these visa issues, so any scientists who are having problems getting to a scientific meeting—not just an ICSU-sponsored meeting, but any scientific meeting—should contact ICSU. In the United States we intervene immediately with a letter to the visa authorities, usually from Michael Clegg. They are quite effective, and other countries in which you have visa problems are supposed to do the same thing. You’ve got to apply well in advance and provide specific information. The ICSU web site explains all of this. I think there is also information in the agenda book. We will talk more about this issue during the discussion on freedom in the conduct of science and on free circulation this afternoon.
Jiri Niederle, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic – I don’t want to repeat the things that were already said, but perhaps I will just stress some aspects. I think it is quite right to concentrate on the violation of human rights of individuals. In each case, each academy either supports it or not. We should keep in mind that combining all of our voices is in some sense more effective. In that respect, I think it will be very important for our next target to involve more academies. Perhaps each of our academies has some partners that could be enlisted. Also, even if we are involved in the support of a case, sometimes we are not completely informed about the result. It would be nice if some kind of summary can be printed, maybe for a period of one year, of successful cases, to see how effective we are in which cases.
The second thing is that times are changing. What was good in the past perhaps should be changed or modified. Science is playing a more and more important role in solving various complex problems. Science can flourish only if there is that freedom to doubt, freedom to
discover, freedom to inquire, and mobility. From this point of view, it is very important also to concentrate on those issues, and perhaps not only to give good arguments for fighting and public relations and so on, but also to take a joint action for some cases. I have in mind what was mentioned here many times, the mobility of scientists. If it will be done through joint action and also by UNESCO and other organizations, perhaps we may get exceptions for scientists. There is some hope that we shall succeed, and then maybe we can extend these exceptions to more and more general cases. What I would suggest is to concentrate now on the mobility of scientists and perhaps also on their human rights and their responsibility or duties. There are not very sharp boundaries, and some things can be shifted from one to the other. I think this is a clear distinction, and support will be justified right now.
Corillon – I would just say, as far as follow-up on the cases is concerned, that the cases are all updated regularly on the Network’s web site. When a case is successfully resolved, it is listed on the public NAS site. We know who is looking at the website, and there aren’t very many of you who are looking at it. We spend a lot of time and effort in keeping it up to date. I would beg you all to look at it once a week or once every two weeks, because there are case updates and the results of the appeals are there.
Niederle – I think maybe on this occasion of this meeting, it would be nice to mention the names and countries in which we succeeded.
Corillon – There are three or four reports on successful cases that are coming up after the break, and a list of resolved cases since the last meeting is in the agenda book.
Arjuna Aluwihare, National Academy of Sciences of Sri Lanka – These issues are dangerously close to coming within our purview. The right of scientists to travel is part of the right to interact and exchange views. It is not the only way, but one of the major ways to extend learning. If that right is being affected, it could be argued that it is a bit like the boycott situation. This boycott happens to be an Israel-Palestine one, but there could be a similar boycott between some other jurisdictions. The question is whether the travel issue is becoming a rights issue. One way to find that out may be to know whether the number of applications handled by organizations like ICSU is increasing. If it is increasing, then there is some evidence to indicate a new situation that didn’t exist five years ago.
Wiesel – It is clearly a new situation and, again, ICSU is dealing with it. But is it a rights issue?
Corillon – When individuals have problems getting visas, they should go to the U.S. National Academies web site and report their problem. We really try to help them. We also try to gather statistics so we can go to our government and say, this number of students and these individuals from these countries have had problems. We’ve had stories like yours, Dr. Wasserman, and your daughter, Dr. Bajracharya—a lot of different stories. But we don’t have the exact information to report specifically that 25 scientists were denied visas to such and such a meeting which is necessary to make a case. The other problem we are facing now is that many scientists are saying that it is not worth the hassle to apply for the visa, so why even try. We don’t know how to assess that part, but it is another problem.
Reuter – The biggest problem is really that it is not an equal opportunity situation.
Wiesel – You have to think about how to be effective. It is good to raise issues and so on, but what is our mandate? What is the power we have? That is why it seems to me that your own academies back home would be in a better position to help. And then ICSU can also help and perhaps the Inter-Academy Panel. Most of your academies are members of the Inter-Academy Panel so you should go to your president or foreign secretary and ask what they are doing to help you travel. Have you done that?
Aluwihare – People don’t have computers. They don’t have broadband. Trying to access web sites to find out what somebody is doing is—if I can put it very strongly—almost like pie in the sky for many young graduate students and others who want to go to meetings. It is a totally different world. That is why I think the onus should be on the scientific organizations and the universities in the economic north to get the visa. They should talk to their home office or their state department or whatever, and the persons in the developing countries or even the guy who had a problem in Switzerland, he should tell the U.S. organization to get the visa. This is a totally different scenario in which people are trying to work and struggle.
Wiesel – You can say there are no cases anymore, so this organization can be dissolved and we could start a travel agency. But, the fact of the matter is, we still have a lot of cases, and there are still a lot of scientists and scholars who are in trouble. This shouldn’t be forgotten, even if you have a problem getting visas. But we are not set up to help you with visas. It is just not possible for us to do that.
On another issue, I haven’t heard anybody offer the services of their academy to host the next meeting. Maybe we should go to Nepal. I’m serious, because we don’t have a site for our next meeting.
Reuter – So, I make a motion: let’s go to Sri Lanka.
Wiesel – You can’t just go to Sri Lanka. You have to be invited by the Sri Lanka Academy to go there. Dr. Aluwihare only represents the Sri Lanka Academy of Science, and, even if he is president-elect, you still have to be invited. They may not have the resources.
Reuter – Could the Executive Board put in a request to the Sri Lanka Academy? Would the group be interested in having a meeting in Sri Lanka, if this is possible and the resources are available?
Comment – One thing we are not mentioning is the tsunami. After the tsunami, at a time when they are just recovering from its aftereffects, this proposal could be a little embarrassing.
Aluwihare – No, on the contrary, this is the time at which such a suggestion would be very welcome. Not the other way around.
Wiesel – We should be absolutely clear, before we leave here, where we are and where we are going. There may be some differences of opinion.
There is also the other issue that is important. You have heard from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, which has supported this Network over the years, that their support is not a given. If no financial support is forthcoming from any of the member academies, then the whole Network will not exist. Money is critical. When you go home, tell your academies that we have supported the travel of many of you, but we can’t do that in the future. You will have to think for yourselves: Is this organization important enough that we should do our utmost to keep it alive, or is it dispensable? That is really the issue.
Most of our cases are in the developing world, so you felt the meeting should be held in Europe because that is where these things are discussed. But there are problems in all parts of the developing world. I think we are in a situation in which there is a divide, and I don’t think we should emphasize the divide. When you go home to your academies, ask whether they are willing to have a budget in order to support this activity? If your academy says no, then maybe it should be a membership request to make it possible for us to function in the future. There have been 12 years of a free ride, and now the situation is very critical for the Committee on Human Rights in the United States, which I chaired for many years. We raised money for it, and in addition half our budget was supported by the U.S. National Academies and half from private sources. Private sources are drying up, so even that committee’s existence is threatened.
There is also the issue of the statement by Dagfinn Follesdal from Norway who was not able to attend this meeting. How many of you have read it? Do you agree or disagree with it? How many of you agree with it? Raise your hands. If you have not read it, please read it now. We need to be able to tell Dagfinn that it was discussed.
Norrby – This is a complicated issue, and I think that we cannot reach a decision now, we need to take it home and consider whether action should be taken or not and then communicate the decision to the Executive Committee. It isn’t possible to make a decision right now on Dagfinn’s statement.
[The text of the statement follows.]
STANFORD, CALIFORNIA 94305
C.I. LEWIS PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY DEPARTMENT OF PHILOSOPHY
firstname.lastname@example.org PHONE: (650)723-2547 FAX:
May 13, 2005
To the participants in the Network meeting in London
A dilemma faced by the Network
Unfortunately, I am prevented from participating in the Network's meeting in London because of an earlier commitment. There is, however, a serious dilemma that the Network is facing that will be discussed at the meeting, and Torsten Wiesel has asked me whether I would be willing to write a short statement on this for distribution at the meeting as a point of departure for the discussion.
In the past few years there have been a number of serious violations of human rights against which the Network has not protested, since some members of the Network have regarded these cases as political and argued that therefore the Network should not take a stand on them. Other members regard these cases as very serious violations of human rights, more serious than many of the cases we have protested against. Some of these cases concern individuals, such as the case of Mordechai Vanunu, whose rights have been violated anew after he has served his long prison sentence. Others have to do with invasions and attacks that involve massive violations of human rights and international law and that affect the work and lives of thousands of individuals, including many scientists. All cases where we are protesting are political in the sense that they express disapproval of the actions of governments or other political institutions.
These cases raise the following dilemma for the network:
On the one side, the Network is speaking for all the member organizations, which in turn empower us to speak on behalf of their members. We then get a very difficult situation when some member organizations or individual members of these organizations disagree with our pronouncements.
On the other side, some violations of human rights and of international law are so grave that if we fail to protest against them we are undercutting our moral standing, and our utterances against individual cases of a minor kind will be regarded as hypocrisy and have no effect.
The Network is at risk whatever we do. Some members may threaten to withdraw if we protest against cases like the Vanunu case. Others will withdraw if we do not do it. My view is that standing up against all violations of human rights, whoever is the perpetrator, is the only option we can live with. We might offer those who are not willing to sign a protest in some particular case an opportunity to state this; the protest may make it clear that such and such members of the network are not joining the protest. This is not an easy way out for them, their not joining the protest will give the impression that they are condoning what is happening. They may therefore take the easier way out, which is to leave the Network. However, I believe that there will be few members who will choose this option.
Wiesel – From the comments that most of you made this morning, this statement would not be a central concern to the Network. Most of you put individual cases as the priority.
Comment – What is the status of the Mordechai Vanunu case?
Corillon – There is a recent case summary on the Vanunu case from Amnesty International on the table.
Comment – We have supported many other cases of dissidents who have written things in the newspapers against the government. We protest about that. What is the difference in the Vanunu case? The man has been in solitary confinement for 12 years and in prison for longer. It seems to me it is a clear case. We’re open to the suspicion that we would be protesting if we weren’t condoning the American support for the supposed secrecy of Israeli nuclear weapons.
Wiesel – He broke the law and was imprisoned for that. Amnesty International has not formally adopted his case until quite recently. We are now looking at the case to see what the situation is. The good thing about Dagfinn’s statement is that he brought this case to our attention, which otherwise might not have happened. We investigate each case before it is adopted and accepted. Vanunu’s case is in that process now.
But, there are broader implications in Dagfinn’s statement. My own feeling is that this Network was not set up to become a political organization. I agree with what Lord Dahrendorf said yesterday—many organizations were originally set up specifically to help individuals, and they have become political. Human Rights Watch is now telling governments that they should do this and that. I don’t think this organization can survive if it becomes political. If we can survive at all under the current financial situation I think we should make it very clear that our concerns are very much to help our colleagues in various parts of the world. One member of the Network’s Executive Committee resigned because she believed we should take broader, political positions, such as making statements against the Iraq war.
Derek Denton, Australian Academy of Sciences – This gentleman [Vanunu] has served a prison sentence subsequent to the judicial process. Do we have any information as to whether any due process has been set in motion against him now, because apparently he is having restrictions on his movement? I’m not clear exactly what the situation is at the moment. Are there any facts that you know?
Corillon – What I’ve got so far is extensive background information on the case and the recent statement from Amnesty International. When Mr. Vanunu was in prison, Amnesty International had not adopted him as a prisoner of conscience, although they expressed concern about the fairness of his treatment. Over the years, we have undertaken a few cases that Amnesty has not formally adopted. In fact, we have referred some cases to Amnesty for adoption, and they have eventually adopted them. So it is a two-way street. In this case, they hadn’t adopted him, and we didn’t either. Now he has served his full term and is out of prison, but he is being harassed. He wants to go to Norway but is not being allowed out of the country. We are still thinking about all the pros and cons, but I think it should be fairly simple, since all the academies act
independently, to just post it on the web site. I’ll send out the sheet from Amnesty International, and the academies can do whatever they want. They can make their own decisions.
Wiesel – It is not our decision to make. It is your decision. In that sense, it is simple.
Corillon – There is another case in the agenda book that we haven’t taken action on—one of a man in Russia who has been accused of espionage. It is a very confused case. There are a number of recent alleged “Russian spy cases.” Some we have undertaken; others we haven’t undertaken yet because we haven’t fully investigated them and are still trying to get all of the relevant information. But, the information that we do have so far is in the agenda book, and, if the academies feel comfortable with it, they can take action on their own, because every academy acts independently.
Wiesel – If this case has been sufficiently discussed for now, how many of you feel that the Network should adopt a broader policy along the lines that have been suggested by Dagfinn and as some of you stated on Wednesday afternoon? Is there general support? Do you want this Network to become more political?
Corillon – On the topic of taking on cases, we recommend what actions should be taken on the cases that we have adopted. We at the U.S. National Academies probably have at least three times the number of cases that I send out to the Network. They are undertaken by the members of our academies. I pick those that I think would be most effective if there is an international appeal to send to the Network. There are other cases that we can send out that we don’t take a position on. Whether or not the person is a prisoner of conscience, they are unjustly imprisoned.
Wiesel – Your academy will make the decision if you agree with the recommendation. That’s all.
Corillon – I think Torsten’s point now, with the other issue, is whether this Network is supposed to make statements about general human rights abuses. Many people consider the war in Iraq a general human rights abuse and ask whether, if this Network is not making statements of a general nature, we can remain credible when we talk about individual cases? I think that is the point that Dagfinn is trying to make. After the discussion at the Switzerland meeting, Ayse Erzan resigned from the Executive Committee because it was decided not to take action on broad human rights abuses such as the war in Iraq. That doesn’t mean that everyone there supports the war, it is a question of whether it is the appropriate role and most effective role for this Network.
Wiesel – I just wanted to know how many of you agree. I’m not saying Dagfinn is wrong or right. His point of view doesn’t agree with mine, but that is a separate issue. We want you to have the ability to express your views on this issue, and some of you did so on Wednesday, without knowing about Dagfinn’s statement.
Aluwihare – I think people are all heated up about Iraq and the World Trade Center because it happens to be Iraq and oil and Europe and America and so on. But if you look at similar events and situations, you will find them in Sri Lanka, in India, and in Sudan, Rwanda, Chechnya, the break-up of Yugoslavia, and other places that don’t so immediately have an impact, if you like,
on the conscience of the economic north. I can produce a long list of places in which you will find a variety of things going on, but that don’t so immediately impact the economic conscience.
I think this Network should concentrate on individual cases and make statements very cautiously. Statements should be restricted to situations in which the rights of individual scientists may be being infringed. For the general political scenarios, I don’t think we are equipped, even if we had lots of money. Getting accurate information in order to be able to make sensible comments on many of the situations is not as easy as it sounds.
There are other organizations that are designed to address these problems.
Comment – I fully support that. I think that the letters that we send from our academies have much more impact if we are free from making general statements.
Comment – I would also agree that for big and complex problems, like the war in Iraq, it is not a good idea for this committee or Network to expose them. I talked earlier about expanding the activity beyond individual cases. When I did that, I was thinking about laws enforced in the country that are patently putting on the books, so to speak, the permission to impose on human rights. In such cases, which I call matters of principle, we could speak very clearly before somebody is in trouble. In that sense, we should be able to talk about political statements about laws and relationships in one country.
Wiesel – If we are competent to do so. For example, the U.S. Committee on Human Rights was concerned about the custom in Africa of female genital mutilation, and we asked the Institute of Medicine to study it. They did and, as a body that is competent to do so, came up with a recommendation. With regard to legal issues, there are international organizations of lawyers who address legal issues. Sometimes we can serve to alert these organizations to the problem, as we did with the Institute of Medicine. But we must stick to issues where we have credibility.
Reuter – From my own experience I do know that in some cases, when we protest, for example, in the case of Flora Brovina in Kosovo, we wrote to the Department of Justice in Serbia and they responded with a letter to me and pointed out that because of a protest incident, she was put into prison. In other words, if we point out strongly on individual cases that a certain action is wrong, that has a strong impact at the political level. Saad Eddin Ibrahim is another such case in Egypt. His case became very prominent not only because of the help from us, but worldwide attention.
Wiesel – Yes, we were very effective in that case.
Ahamed Saleh, Academy of Scientific Research and Technology of Egypt – Judging from the comments that I’ve heard today, appeals against big actions such as wars and government actions would really hinder the activities of saving individuals. But, nevertheless, we must go back to look at the political aspects of individual cases. On what basis should we deal with a case if it is political and has political implications and others do not? I would suggest that we discuss
criteria that we should agree upon in dealing with individual cases, which is the main thrust of the Network.
Corillon – You all have a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in your agenda books. This is what we base our work on. It is primarily Article 19, freedom of speech. People who are in prison for exercising their rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights qualify as prisoners of conscience. Those are the kind of cases we can take on automatically. Other types of cases are a little more “iffy” —the spy cases, unfair trials, and the like. The Thomas Butler case in the United States, for example, was not a case of a prisoner of conscience. He was not imprisoned for expressing his opinions. But we took it on in the United States because we thought we should look more closely at our own backyard. We have taken on a number of other such cases in the United States for that reason.
Saleh – We have created a gray area, and now we are debating about that gray area. If we are sticking to our basic mandate, then we won’t have this problem. If you want to expand and explore more in this gray area, then we have to make rules that we agree on, so that whenever we have a case, we don’t have to waste as much time debating whether we should take it or not. We should have some transparent, clear rules on those things on which we can all agree. Let’s go and work on it.
Wiesel – But it is your academy’s decision. Peter Agre, as chair of the U.S. Committee on Human Rights, and his committee members and Carol will make decisions on whether a case is adopted or not. In other words, we will send a recommendation to you, and you then have to present it to your academy, and your academy then has to make a decision if it wants to take an action of support.
Saleh – I understand that. But for the committee to recommend adopting a case, we all have to know what the rules for adopting these cases are.
Corillon – It is the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These other cases would fall outside of that. The other cases that fall outside, like the Vanunu case, I can post at the request of the academies or individual members who want the cases up there. We have the case sent by Dr. Khatib in the agenda book, that of Akram Kharroubi, a Palestinian. For these cases, we haven’t been able to establish that they are prisoners of conscience, but a member of the Network has requested that the Network be alerted. We can do that and then each academy can make its own decision, but we are clear that we do not consider this person to be a Prisoner of Conscience but his or her treatment has been unjust.
Saleh – Let me ask about the Vanunu case. The statement that you distributed this morning says that he is two days standing trial for 21 accounts of violating restrictions of movement. Would you consider this case to be one that the Network should adopt and, if so, on what basis?
Wiesel – It is not for us here to decide. We only investigate cases as well as possible and then send out the recommendation that we make on the case for you to consider. Most of us don’t have the facts necessary to make that decision right now.
Corillon – If you look at the cases that are described in the agenda book, (I probably put in too many, but there are a lot of new people attending this meeting), you will see examples of how we analyze them. What we try to explain in the summaries is why we think a particular case is one that we can undertake, or what our reservations are, and then each academy can make its own decision or do further research on their own. I have a good staff, and we really try hard to be balanced and objective and fair. The easy cases are the ones that fall under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and those we really focus on. As for the others, we can’t have rules for the gray areas because the cases are all different. I just try to explain how it is different and why it is different and then let the academies make their own decisions.
Arnold Wolfendale, Academia Europaea – I’m sure what you say is true and there are many items that we should not discuss, but I think the only sensible thing is to proceed as you suggested, by producing a document that summarizes what we’ve been about and makes some general statements that we can then take back to our parent bodies, if only to justify our existence.
[There was a general discussion of a draft summary statement. The final statement can be found on page v in the front matter of this proceedings.]
Peace and Security through Science
Discussion Leaders: M. Shamsher Ali and Robert Hinde
M. Shamsher Ali, Bangladesh Academy of Sciences – Peace has been a long-cherished view of mankind, but since September 11, 2001, it has assumed a new dimension. I will only raise the issues, as will my colleague, and it is for you to answer the questions that we raise.
There has been a lot of talk, following the actions of September 11, about peace and security, especially security. It is known to all cultures that religion and cultures have never had any sanction for violence or terrorism, so it has nothing to do with religion. The terrorists have no religion of their own. This terrorism itself is a religion. It has to be treated harshly, but the question is Do you face terrorism with terrorism? In other words, do you globalize terrorism? In this process, things of a constructive nature may be affected negatively, as we have been discussing—exchanges between people, the building up of knowledge—that is one thing. The other thing is—although it is not within our purview—the root causes of violence and terrorism have to be understood.
Some individuals living in abject poverty have been known to get violent at times. It is just like treating a child in the family who breaks a glass—you have to understand the root causes of the violence.
In the book given to you by Torsten Wiesel the other day, there is a statement by Amartya Sen, who comes from my land, Why is half the country hungry? That is the problem that has to be addressed because, over the years, science has become a power, an instrument of change. So what do we do with these powers of change? There is, according to Ghandi, enough in the world for everybody’s need, but not for everybody’s greed. Are we sharing the technical know-how? Science has the power to convert things so why is it necessary, at this juncture of the 21st century, that the people should suffer? And because of the mundane problems of food, hunger, and disease, why should their peace and security be endangered? The politicians have the responsibility—and so have we, the scientific community—of seeing that science is actually put to the good uses of mankind. How actively have we been doing this?
Yesterday, many people were enamored with Tagore. Tagore addressed this question also. I will say it in Bengali and then translate:
If man disappears from this planet, it will be for the reason that he newly discovered the truth, but he didn’t know the proper applications of this truth. He wanted to bless himself in the role of a god, but he did not obtain the divinity.
So if you have gods without divinity, those gods are not going to be constructive— whether it is a state power or despotism, science has to be put to good use.
These academies of science were built all over the world, from about the 17th century, for the promotion of science, for recognizing its challenges. The Chinese and the Russians have a different model, yet they recognize talent and address basic problems. The question is Are our
academies acting as the scientific think-tank of the country? For example, if there is arsenic pollution, is the academy helping the country to solve the pollution? There is an energy crisis. It doesn’t have to be very high technology. The question is Are academies addressing the problems of the gravest interest to their own countries and to the region? That would give them credibility with the common people, who would not take them to be a bunch of ivory tower people, far removed from the miseries of life.
These are some of the questions involved in addressing what should be the role of our academies. We started with a very focused thing, namely reestablishing the rights of scientists to say what ought to be said, irrespective of the situation. Similarly, scientists have another right— using their talents for the well-being of mankind. Are these rights being exercised? Those are the general questions that I pose to you, and the answers are yours to give.
Robert Hinde – I’ve been a corresponding member of the Committee of Human Rights of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences for some years. I have immense respect for what it is doing. I’ve tried to help what it is doing. The policy of focusing, that Torsten has been emphasizing, is absolutely right. Nevertheless, I want to suggest one very little thing that aims straight at the heart of this question of human rights. (Carol, don’t get worried, it would involve very little work and virtually no expense.) This is the first Network meeting I’ve been to, and I’m terribly impressed by its potential for influence in the world.
What I would like to see is a short statement, of the type we were discussing just before lunch, about the root causes of infringements of human rights. I know you shake your head at the word “ethics,” but in the sense of urging academies all over the world to encourage their governments to promote education, especially in ethics.
In the early 1970s, UNESCO passed a resolution that was signed by nearly all the countries that were then members of the United Nations, asking them to promote peace education, peace and security. How many countries do you think did anything about it? One -Finland. Finland gets an honorable mention in this respect, Canada a little, but practically nobody else, so far as I’m aware. Finland had an organized scheme for peace education that started in preschool and went right through to the tertiary level.
Now, it depends how widely you want to take this. I’m focusing on ethics because I think it is least likely—although he didn’t like it this morning—to get Torsten’s hackles up. I mean the question of human rights in this case, but it could be extended more widely.
Now, this sort of education will strike at lots of the problems in the world—poverty, overpopulation, environmental degradation, and even understanding democracy, because one of the difficulties about establishing democracy is that people don’t understand what it is. If we could encourage governments to educate young people about democracy, then, in the long run, for very little effort, we would do a very great deal of good work. I could go into details of how this would also be a potent way of stopping more wars, because all wars depend on only two things: a supply of arms and a supply of young people willing to carry them. It can get at both of those.
All I’m suggesting is that we get together a brief statement of the sort we were talking about this morning, have it discussed by the Executive Committee, and then disseminated through one of these meetings. Now you can start objecting. I know you’re a wonderful facilitator, but I also read this morning that you are also quite good at being dismissive.
Wiesel – I’m also very practical, so how do you envisage this being done?
Hinde – Exactly in the way in which it was done this morning, with the statement we were discussing. It should then be up to the Executive Committee to decide whether it should merely go to all the members of the Network, to the heads of all academies, to all heads of government, but reminding them of the UNESCO resolution in 1972.
Ali – There were some later developments of this. In late 1999, the World Science Congress in Budapest addressed the problems of science and society in large measure. Again, the question is how to involve the scientific societies.
Wiesel – Is that something for consideration now?
Ali – Yes. The Inter-Academy Panel has sent some statements on science and society, and UNESCO has taken it as a notion, but it is up to the governments. I think it is time that this question of science and society should be more focused. I agree with Hinde that you should probably address this question once in a while, so that the good aspects of science are more focused.
Hinde – It could focus specifically on human rights with very little periphery. Then you wouldn’t be diluting your mission. It isn’t aimed at individuals, but apart from that, you wouldn’t be diluting the way you’re operating.
Wiesel – For the issues raised by these two gentlemen, you have to give the answers to the questions. I see lots of hands here to answer the questions.
Comment – These are laudable ideas, but I think they are beyond the rather restricted and focused areas that we work in. Nevertheless, it wouldn’t hurt if you put a document to the Executive Committee to discuss. If they liked it, they could send copies to us to pass on to our academies. It would be like a second layer of activity or approach.
Hinde – That is all I’m suggesting.
Wiesel – But you didn’t suggest that you would write it. If you make a proposal, we would like to see your proposal.
Hinde – I was only asked to do this a few days ago, so I’ll need some time.
Wiesel – Would you prepare a document for the executive committee to look at? If the Executive Committee likes it and supports it, we could then send it to all the members. Do my
colleagues on the Executive Committee nod in approval? It would be sent first to the Executive Committee.
Comment – I would like to support this proposal that a recommendation should be sent to the various academies to put more emphasis on ethical aspects. There are quite a number of academies, for example, that do not have bioethics groups. I think this is really needed today, and the academies need help on this subject as they try to support and deliver education and information. I think it could be helpful and could support the Human Rights Network.
Wiesel – I used the word “preaching,” and Mr. Hinde said what is wrong with that. That hasn’t been our style, to tell people what they should do. Our style has been more like leading by example. I will look forward to seeing the statement. It could be very useful.
Hinde – I’m modeling it on the matter we have discussed this morning. I don’t count that as preaching.
Wiesel – It is just a sensitivity. I have objections against human rights organizations telling governments what they should do. It may be a good thing to do, but it has a different flavor.
Aluwihare – I would like to go back to what Dr. Ali was saying. [audio problem]…this is my first science … starvation and poverty and that whole dimension. I think that is a very important … and scientific methods and social sciences can … Scientific methods, I presume, applies that we follow a hypothesis or evidence of something and we try to see … insofar as it is possible. And, that applies to the social sciences…. poverty and the relationship between poverty and causes of terrorism – so science can help … hopefully reduce terrorism and promote peace. There are some examples in … report which illustrates the … They are not within the purview of the Network as such … except that sometimes…. One example is someone not buying Nike shoes because all the shoes are manufactured by children in sweat shops. I know in his country that carpets are manufactured by children and he very correctly pointed out that, sad though it was, children are actually better off in the carpet places then if the carpet places closed and these people were thrown out in the streets. So, the evidence countered the reaction of people not to buy carpets … [audio problem]
Ali – Can I react to that? You mentioned the scientific method and the garment industry and things like that. What I was trying to say is something different. The science academies have to think as the scientific think-tank of the governments. They don’t have laboratories like the Chinese and the Russians. Those academies are built on a different model from the western model. With respect to the Bangladesh Academy of Sciences, we have been recruiting talents, making them fellows, giving scholarships to poor but meritorious students, organizing seminars on topics of current interest—starting from particle physics right up to agriculture. But the government did not consider this enough. Then we thought Why don’t we address ourselves to the problems from which the country is suffering, namely arsenic pollution? This is a very mundane problem. Then the fellows of the academy worked on this and brought out a device, and the country felt it was a very good thing.
Look at agriculture. Our population is 130 million; thirty years ago it was half this amount. The population has doubled, but we are still self-sufficient, because the agricultural scientists have put some very good inputs into agriculture. If the science academies of the world act as scientific think-tanks of the government and do something for the common people, then they garner high credibility. Then, if the same science academy says look, you are torturing this man, then that statement becomes much more credible. Otherwise, they will say Is your only duty to say who has been tortured and who has not been tortured? What are you doing for the country? Every academy must address the problems of its country. That is the point I was trying to make.
Aluwihare – Incidentally, I suppose most people know that oral rehydration fluid, which is now the standard treatment all over the world, even in the richest countries, for patients with diarrhea who are not vomiting, started in Bangladesh.
Ali – Yes, it is a very simple thing for prevention of diarrhea.
Peter Agre, U.S. National Academy of Sciences – Since we are mentioning oral rehydration, I would just like to mention that Thomas Butler was the principal in the study that contributed to the development of the oral rehydration fluid. Tom Butler does good work.
Wiesel – In some ways, I think the U.S. National Academy of Sciences is a model because it has the National Research Council, which is actually set up to address national problems. They get requests from government agencies, like the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and others, to investigate, for example, the arsenic in water or the environmental impacts of global warming. The science community works very effectively and produces 220 volumes a year on different issues. This is a major effort by the scientists who volunteer their time and make these sorts of contributions. It is impressive. For some reason, there aren’t too many other academies in the world that operate this way. Other academies could think about recommending to their government that they draw on all the knowledge housed in universities and research institutes. That is why it is also very important to have an academy that is active— not a retirement home for old scientists, but young, active, investigative academics who then could serve in various capacities.
Bajracharya – We are all very clear about what science can contribute to the benefit of society. There is little controversy about that. I am interested in this topic of peace and security through science. My country (Nepal) used to be a very peaceful one, until a few years ago. Most of our tourists, if you had asked them what they found most beautiful in our country, would have said the peaceful atmosphere. Women could walk freely in the middle of the night without any problems. In the last 10 years, things have totally changed to a situation of conflict. We have lost nearly 11,000 people, and, except in the main cities like Kathmandu, there is little security and peace in the county. Of course, every country is concerned about peace and security, but I tried to stimulate my colleagues to propose what we, as scientists, could contribute to peace and security in the country. I must admit that we couldn’t find solutions, or we were not wise enough to address these problems.
So this topic is very relevant to a country like mine, and since there are so many distinguished colleagues here, I would like to deliberate on how we as scientists can contribute to the kind of situation that I just now described in my country.
Wiesel – Peace and security are sometimes obtained at a cost. When [a political] system collapses, you get these kinds of problems, which scientists are not particularly well prepared to deal with. An example of how scientists can use their expertise to help the government is to help them to understand violence, the brain mechanisms of violence, and how to prevent violence. What are the circumstances that lead people to terrorism and other violent acts?
Comment – Peace can be achieved in very, very different ways. If the basic needs of people are satisfied and the unemployment rate is not very high, then the influence of outsiders is much less. Satisfying basic needs is, in itself, a deterrent to violence. In the many places in the world where people take to violence, it is because of money, because of drug addiction, and because of social problems. If governments and scientific societies do not address themselves to these problems, they multiply.
You have to address the problems first. The unemployment rate has to be cut down drastically. We have problems with the World Bank and other international agencies. They give prescriptions. My African colleagues are not here. Africa is very resource-rich, but they don’t have sufficient scientific capability. If they had the technical know-how and were able to add value to the basic resources, Africa would go sky-high. This is where the contribution of scientists comes in, and this is where we have to interact globally because we can’t exclude the impoverished poor and then expect a global social order that will be good. That is unimaginable.
Wiesel – If you look, for example, at the biotechnology industry in the United States, it is now a $200 or $300 billion industry, which makes for a lot of work for a lot of people. In that sense, science has provided the possibility of social peace through employment. The same is true in many countries of the world. That is why some of us push to see that, in the developing countries, there is strong support from the government for education, both at the primary and secondary school levels and in universities. It is only by building an infrastructure of educated people that you can develop the kind of modern industries necessary for the future.
So I believe this is a good topic. We scientists have to make sure that we assist our colleagues in other countries in training their students and providing for industries in developed countries to move because they need local talent in order to build an industry. So this title is justified: the work for science and for peace go hand-in-hand. I helped organize a meeting in Trieste a year and a half ago on science and education in the developing world; if you are interested, there is a report that came out recently on it.
We need to make concerted efforts to see how many students are trained, how many universities have the Ph.D.s in the various countries, etc. Funders all over the world need good information about the development of science education in various countries.
Michiatsu Kaino, Science Council of Japan – I think the scientist is also the educator, especially so the common people understand that science is sometimes the cause of war. And the relation
between society and science is very important. Scientists have some responsibility to societies. They have to talk to people in general about what is the mission of science. Sometimes people misunderstand, cannot understand the meaning of science. Science sometimes causes some great disasters, such as weapons of mass destruction. Our concern now is to try to talk to people, because so many young students don’t like to participate in science. It is essential to educate them to know what the mission of science is and that it is connected to the realization of peace. Peace does not mean simply the absence of war. Peace has to be connected to the solution of poverty problems.
Comment – I cannot accept the affirmation that science causes wars.
Comment – This year is the 50th anniversary of the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima. When the bomb was dropped, science produced a scare. It is also true that a country that suffered heavily from atomic radiation has made wonderful advances in using that same radiation for health.
Wiesel – The Second World War was not caused by the production of the atomic bomb.
Comment – It was a different reason. It is not true that science is the root of things. It depends on how we use science.
Comment – On the subject of violence in New York, a study came out recently showing that the strongest correlates of juvenile violence in the streets are things like single parents, discord in the home, lack of education of the parents, and so on, all of which are things that could be ameliorated by better education.
Wiesel – We are all in favor of education. The question here is that this is a Network of academies working on human rights. Of course—if you read the blue book [Universal Declaration of Human Rights]—you know that part of human rights is to receive an education. If you specifically address the question that was raised here and that you want to have answered about what role can science play in promoting peace, it seems as if the answer would be by having scientists within their communities educating their young people.
The fact is that, in many countries in the developed world—as our Japanese colleagues mentioned, and the same is true in most European countries and in the United States—it is very difficult to get students interested in science. This problem seems to be general, and, even here in London, the Department of Chemistry is closing. These developments in science are in part because we, as scientists, are not exciting young talent to enter the sciences.
We have lived our lives as scientists and are excited about it, but still, we don’t have our young scientists go out to our high schools to give talks. One of the great contributions of Bruce Alberts in the United States, as President of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, was that he pushed very much for science education in high schools, using his podium as academy president for that purpose. All of you should keep in mind that one of your responsibilities in your academies is not only to keep your colleagues happy, but also to go out and see that students are
being educated by the best scientists in the country. They should stimulate the young, which is another road to peace.
Comment – I think you have raised a very important point. Yves Quéré at The French Academy of Sciences, through a program called La Main à la Pâte, has encouraged its academicians to go to schools and talk to schoolchildren, who are very encouraged by the experience. These people are saying in very simple terms what science can do. Science enrollment has been decreasing very rapidly, in favor of things like computer science and the M.B.A.—people are rushing to where the money is. That is a great danger for society. Academicians have the responsibility of inspiring the younger generation to the pursuit of science.
Torture, Psychiatric Abuse, and Health Professionals Discussion Leader: Tito Ureta
Corillon – I’m asking Gregg Bloche to join us up here so we can have an even more informative discussion of the role of medical doctors and collusion in torture. Gregg is not only a legal expert, but he is also a medical expert.
Tito Ureta, Chilean Academy of Sciences – I didn’t receive the message to be present at this session, acting as discussion leader, so I have to improvise. Doing that, I’m going to recall that in 1973, in my country of Chile, there was a coup d’etat which brought in a regime with an incredible record of abuse. I was in my laboratory doing experiments during that time. But, slowly, there came the realization that at least 20,000 – 40,000 people were tortured and 5,000 died as a result of that treatment. Also, we began to know that medical doctors were involved in the torture and deaths. Being myself a professor at the faculty of medicine, I began to do some investigations of my own to try to know who was in charge because they were most probably former students of mine, though I taught biochemistry, not torture. (Yes, biochemistry is a torture, I know.) [Laughter] I learned the names of a few who were involved in the torture of prisoners, and they were students in the second year of medicine. At that time, I was thinking What is in the minds of people who have received an education in medicine, have sworn the Hippocratic oath, and are participating in an activity in which a human being is being tortured? I was able to speak to only one of them. I asked him what he was doing with these people in charge of torture to get information. His answer was terrible: “I was there to protect the people who were being tortured. Otherwise, the interrogators could have been much worse than they were.” His perspective was that it was good to have doctors there to be sure the torture was mild.
That was during the regime, so I couldn’t talk much more to him. This made me understand that people find answers to ethical problems in those situations. They were doctors hired by the Army, and they would do whatever they must do.
I found that terrible, and it told me something about human nature. What one can do is, again, what was proposed a few minutes ago. Teach people in the ethics realm to behave as human beings. However, I noticed that the curricula of medical schools are so full that the possibility of having a year on bioethics is almost impossible. They are not teaching ethics. They are not teaching ethical values. They are dealing with the religions of their patients and that is it.
I don’t know if we can make a formal recommendation, but I think the only answer is to push ethical knowledge or ethics in the curriculum somehow. I don’t know how to do it.
Wiesel – Would it be possible, just by giving a few examples, to put the issue in a context? It is very difficult to get ethics courses because most students don’t like them. But, if you can illustrate very dramatically what has or can happen, then maybe they would realize what it is all about.
Corillon – Could you also talk about what the Medical College of Chile did in response? That is important because it has possible application to what is going on in the United States right now.
Urita – That is very important. The Medical College of Chile was, for many years, in charge of the ethical violations of doctors. If a doctor was doing something unethical, the medical college could oust him from the role of medical professional. However, the military regime, soon after taking power, decided that the ethical violations of several professions were not to be in the hands of these colleges. In former times, it was mandatory to belong to the college to practice. That was also eliminated by the Army. If a doctor was identified as being involved in torture, the medical college couldn’t do anything about it, although they did try to get the lists of who was involved and to make the names known after 1990. However, that didn’t have any value in my view. Those doctors who were involved in torture went to other countries and, as far as I can tell, nothing happened to them.
Bloche – Thank you; a few thoughts. First of all, in the sorry history of national medical associations’ responses to physician involvement in torture, the Chilean College of Medicine is a shining exception because of the way in which a number of its leaders stood up at a time of great personal risk and acted. I can’t think of another example of a national medical association marshalling that kind of courage.
Back in late 1985, I spent several weeks in Uruguay at a time when physicians were systematically involved in a regime of torture. This was just a few months after the Uruguayan military regime gave up power, so it was a great time to try to figure out what had happened. Everybody wanted to say “I didn’t do it, it was the other guy who did it.” I talked to some Uruguayan military intelligence folks who took great pride in the systematic role of physicians in the rough interrogation that they admitted was torture. They pointed to the Argentines and their 10,000 or more who disappeared. In Uruguay there had been only about 200 who disappeared. They took great pride in having only 200 people die in detention and pointed to the physicians setting limits. The Uruguayan military intelligence would say that the Argentine military were barbarians; but we were humane, we were civilized—200 compared with 10,000 and in large part because we had doctors.
What did the doctors tell me? Well, lots of things. But the point you made resonated. I remember a lot of them saying exactly that—that they were there to make the process more humane. They were echoing what the Uruguayan military intelligence people were telling me. I guess you could say they had a point—200 compared with 10,000. But what they were doing was legitimating the whole perverse and grotesque enterprise.
The other story I would hear was that they were acting just as technicians. There was one doctor, I remember quoting him—I did a piece for the Journal of the American Medical Association based on this. It was the first thing I ever wrote in an academic publication. There
is a Dr. Carlos Rivera, who talked about the exams he did to determine whether someone would be deemed fit for torture, but he didn’t ask what was going to happen. He was a doctor, that wasn’t his business. The idea was of the doctor as a technician—he was not personally responsible for the torture if he provided exams that might have led others to make the determinations. There was a diffusion of responsibility. He didn’t perceive himself as a participant in torture. Others saw themselves as being more humane. The key point was that none of them thought of themselves as helping to administer torture. They were either humane counterweights in their own imagination, or they weren’t participants at all because they were doing their normal clinical routine. They were making clinical evaluations or maybe even treatment before or after a torture session. Their evaluations or their treatments were different.
The same argument is made by American forensic psychiatrists with respect to evaluations of competence for execution. The same argument is made by American prison psychiatrists with respect to what the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and more recently the Supreme Court, just upheld—the medication of people to make them competent for execution. I’m medicating this person to alleviate his or her psychotic symptoms. That is what I do as a doctor. Well, yes, if the psychotic symptoms are alleviated, then the patient will be executed, but that is not my business. It is a perverse twist on the saying, the operation was a success but the patient died. There is a universality to what you were talking about. I didn’t think this would come home to roost in my country, the United States, but it has. It is not all to the degree or intensity of what happened in Uruguay and Chile, not nearly as systematic, but it has happened post-9/11, the same arguments and issues are being presented. The American Medical Association’s ethics section has, on its staff, a person who is supportive of the need to engage in torture on occasion—the Alan Dershowitz argument, basically—and supportive of the need for doctors to play a role on occasion.
Torsten’s point about ethics is crucial. The medical students don’t like the ethics courses, and they are often pretty abstract. I love philosophers, but with the issue of concrete versus abstract, often they take on interesting but “boutiquey” issues, like stem cells. It is an important social issue, but not the sort of thing that the average doctor in a clinical situation is going to run into. A nitty gritty encounter with the ethics of role conflict is just not part of the bioethics educational experience. Bioethics theory is not designed to face these questions involving tension between obligations to the state and obligations to individuals. There is an unwritten curriculum in medical schools. What you really learn ethically is what the resident or the intern does at 3:00 a.m. faced with a crisis and fear and lack of sleep.
Wiesel – Was anyone in Chile or Uruguay arrested because they refused to participate in torture?
Urita – That is impossible to know.
Wiesel – In Turkey this happened. We have had cases, as I mentioned the other day. So, one would expect to have a few cases of doctors imprisoned and maybe tortured in turn because they refused to participate.
Corillon – In 1985, the president of the Medical College in Chile, Juan Luis Gonzalez, called us at the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and told us that a number of medical doctors in the
medical college had been expelled because they colluded with torturers. A number of doctors who had documented torture were sent by the military into internal exile on the southern tip of Chile.
We decided to take a mission there in 1985, (which included two Nobel laureates, Gerard Debreu and Baruch Blumberg), and we met with the medical college members. We had appealed to the Chilean ambassador, before going to Chile, to release the doctors and allow them to return to Santiago. While there, we interviewed some of the doctors who were examining the torture victims and documenting the torture. Before we left, all of the doctors who had been sent into exile were brought back on a train to meet us. We said, we will keep an eye on this because they will probably be sent back. They weren’t—but subsequently Juan Luis Gonzalez was arrested. The medical college immediately called us again, and we went back to appeal to the ambassador because we had already established a relationship. Dr. Gonzalez was released after a few days. It wasn’t anything that serious for him, but it was for a lot of other people.
In Turkey there are cases in which the medical doctors who are examining the torture victims and documenting the torture are themselves harassed, and sometimes arrested and ill-treated. We have just gotten one of these doctors a fellowship at Harvard, so that he can get out of the situation and have a break for a year.
Then there are the events occurring at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. There we have U.S. doctors who are alleged to not be reporting torture that they know has been going on, so we asked ourselves what we could do about it. We talked to Gregg, who went to Capitol Hill [the U.S. Congress], and it looks like the Institute of Medicine may now be invited to do a study related to this. That was how our human rights committee has dealt with the issue. We can’t deal with it directly, but we can encourage our institutions to take on a study.
Comment – It is known that a lot of the torture that was going on in Chile and Argentina was done after training by the Americans. Was part of the training to train the doctors?
Bloche – I spent considerable time trying to get a handle on this. There was all this talk about the “School of the Americas.” For those of you who know a certain old American TV show in the 1950s, Sergeant Joe Friday, I tried to be a Sergeant Joe Friday and ask: “just the facts, ma’am.” I tried to do that, and I had the sense that there were a lot of urban legends and a lot of Gabriel Garcia Marquez magical realism. Things were imagined in the absence of knowledge that it seemed impossible to get a handle on, which is not to say that these things for sure didn’t happen. The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. But I could not find evidence of medicalized torture during my several weeks interviewing these doctors who had been trained scientifically by Americans. I talked to a lot of doctors who had been involved, including some of those who were pretty ideologically committed to the regime. So, yes, there were all sorts of programs to help Latin American military officers to be trained by American military, but I could not find some secret torture school.
Wolfendale – What strikes me as psychologically interesting about all of this is that people keep on saying, I didn’t actually do anything. All I did was make cattle prods.
Comment – In ethics courses, it may be very abstract to tell people in elaborate Latin words that you should be a good boy or a good girl. What has to be done in the medical profession, or any profession, is to take the students while they are young, while presumably the community and the society functions under normal norms, and give them a terrible warning that, sometime down the line, in 15 or 20 years, you may be put in this position and you better start thinking now about what you’re going to do about it. If people have not thought about it and the society has already become brutalized, many of us would be easy prey.
Urita – That is a possibility, and it has to do with how we teach ethics. In most parts of the Chilean universities, what they try to do is a very broad ethics course, and the medical students and the science students get bored in the first lecture and then try to avoid going. So what I do in the ethics course I teach on the science faculty, is what I call an operational course on bioethics. That is, I deal with the biological standards involved in the problems of today and those that are going to be involved in the near future. I don’t touch Aristotelian ethics. I don’t touch Kant. I don’t know if that could work in the medical school. I tend to think that it could be a solution and, of course, in that case, you could use the examples you gave us. But that means reforming the curriculum of the medical school.
Bloche – My observations reflect the fact that I’m a now long lapsed psychiatrist—that is what I did my residency in. I agree with you on ethics. People want to think good things about themselves. Nobody thinks of themselves as a torturer. People come up with understandings of how they made the best of a bad situation. They will go through all sorts of ingenious gyrations in order to do this work of preserving their self-concept.
The second thought is about medical school. There is a nasty little problem about medical education that physicians don’t talk about. Maybe the scientists, that small subset of physicians who become scientists, who, in a sense, rebel against the clinical culture by going to the lab, may be least affected by this and perhaps more able to do something about it. What is deeply embedded in the culture of clinical medical education is an unspoken principle of obedience to authority.
One psychoanalyst writing about this and actually defending it called it super ego learning as opposed to ego learning. You learn by doing what people in authority do—following what they do, accepting their way under threat of what can happen to your career if, in the clinical crunch, you do things differently. Citing journal articles and arguing over the evidence plays less of a role at 3:00 a.m. during the third or fourth year of medical school or your internship, than complying with authority. You get good evaluations in your third year of medical school if you don’t rock the boat—if you go along and get along. If you are somebody who challenges a journal article when the attending physician wants to do something different, you take a huge risk of an evaluation that will kill your chance to get that tony residency. At the end, there are a bunch of folks selected out who are going to be somewhat more inclined to comply, whether it is with the dictates of managed care organizations or the dictates of the military, depending on what country they are in and what circumstances they are in.
Comment – Yesterday I asked a question, and I was not understood. The case of North America is completely different from the Latin American cases in one aspect, which is the communication
between the torturer and the victim. In this case, you need a translator. You don’t have the complete picture if you don’t understand the role of the translator. Who is the translator? You don’t use psychologists or psychiatrists to beat somebody. You use them to make a personal contact, a productive contact in terms of information. It is built on a human contact, on human psychological and cultural contact. Who did this? Are interpreters involved? Were there social scientists there? Were there simply local persons who were contracted for the job? Are there not cultural and social scientists involved in the process?
Bloche – I think you make a good point, and I was amazed in Uruguay. Montevideo is such a small city, about 1.4 million people. I would lots of times hear stories about torture victims knowing their torturers from before the time of the military regime. Certainly, there was no language gap or cultural gap there. That is a big difference from Abu Ghraib, where the military intelligence people don’t even speak the same language. As Jonathan Marks mentioned yesterday, the United States had such a shortage of Arabic-speaking military personnel that they hired an outside firm to supply Arabic speakers. Since there are just not a lot of Americans who are learning Arabic on their own in secondary school, the average speakers available tended to be people who had emigrated from Arab countries. They tend to not be Iraqi but from other Arab countries—Egypt, or Palestine, or some other country. There are all sorts of cultural issues there. How is an Egyptian going to translate for an Iraqi, for example cultural issues that neither we—certainly not me—nor, I’m sure, those military intelligence folks are going to be tuned into? You raise important issues, and I think that to the extent the translation wall is a psychological wall, it just makes it easier to dehumanize the person who is being interviewed. It makes it easier for everybody in the community, including the doctors.
We did a piece for the New York Times several months ago (unrelated to the New England Journal piece in the packet for this conference) on a doctor who was unable to interview a psychotic patient. There were no translators around. They just figured the patient was psychotic, and, in the end, the doctor actually authorized use of a leash as a means of controlling this patient. This was amidst the medics (the minimally trained military personnel who provide first aid) joking about it. There is a culture of humor about the use of leashes. They referred to this particular individual by an expletive that I won’t refer to here. The language issue was huge in making this dehumanization possible.
Wolfendale – Two quick comments. I’m appalled that, in Britain, no ethics is taught to science students whatsoever. But there is an effort being made in medicine in Cambridge, along the lines that you suggested, to get it in the back door. When you talk about controlled trials with drugs or whatever, you can get in an ethical element that raises students’ consciousness and makes them aware of ethical issues.
The second thing I wanted to say is that, in physics, a number of groups are beginning to require students to take an oath when they graduate that they won’t use their knowledge to the detriment of humankind. I’m not wholly in the favor of oaths because I think it puts students in a very difficult situation. But a statement of intent might be very important in raising consciousness and helping students to be aware of ethical issues.
Comment – I’d like to make a comment that has to do with new kinds of torture, such as sleep deprivation and forced positions that have to be held for hours or days. I think there is a problem with the public, who do not have the imagination to realize what these methods will do and that they are just as painful as the old and blunt ones. I wonder if the same might actually be true relative to doctors and the people who are tortured. The doctors may not realize that they are not doing “torture lite,” they are just doing torture refined.
Bloche – That is relevant to the memos that we talked about and that Nigel Rodley talked about yesterday. There is an infamous memo by Judge Beebe that defines torture in a fashion that makes the practices that you’re speaking of fall south of the line and count as not torture. Then there is the culture that reinforces that. The people doing it don’t think of it as “torture lite,” they think of it as “not torture.” They think of it as humane treatment. Remember the quote from George Bush himself in that directive that Jonathan mentioned—“this is humane treatment.” And everybody recalls the memo from Colonel Pappas to Sanchez—I think of it as the “request permission to throw chairs, sir, memo,” and the references to something like humane treatment. We may throw chairs, but we will try to miss, and we will do this humanely. The people doing it don’t think of it as torture.
Barriers to the Universality of Science, Including Boycotts Discussion leaders: Yuan T. Lee and Michael Clegg
Yuan T. Lee, President, Academia Sinica, Taiwan – Good afternoon. I’m Y.T. Lee. He is Michael Clegg [Foreign Secretary, U.S. National Academy of Sciences]. Since he is speaking about the boycott, I will speak first.
When I was a student at Berkeley, when George Pimentel came to give us an afternoon seminar, he always said, if you guys don’t fall asleep, there is something wrong. You must not have been working very hard the previous night. So, it’s okay if you fall asleep.
We are talking about barriers to the universality of science. When we talk about the universality of science, very often scientists will say that the law of nature discovered by someone, somewhere, will be universally applicable anywhere. For example, the Photoelectric Effect, discovered by Einstein 100 years ago. But, unfortunately, universality of science really doesn’t mean that.
Six months ago the International Council for Science (ICSU) revised the wording on the Statute No. 5, the Universality of Science. Before we go into the barriers, I will read it very quickly:
The principle of the Universality of Science is fundamental to scientific progress. This principle embodies freedom of movement, association, expression, and communication for scientists as well as equitable access to data, information, and research materials. In pursuing its objectives in respect of the rights and responsibility of scientists, the International Council for Science (ICSU) actively upholds this principle, and, in so doing, opposes any discrimination on the basis of such factors as ethnic origin, religion, citizenship, language, political stance, gender, sex or age. ICSU shall not accept disruption of its own activities by statements or actions that intentionally or otherwise prevent application of this principle.
That is the revised wording given by ICSU six months ago, in November 2004.
Four months later, ICSU also made a statement called Universality of Science in a Changing World. In addition to the importance of the universality of science, it mentioned threats to universality because of the freedom of association and freedom of pursuit in science. When you read it, you will realize that it is really paying more attention to the practices of science itself and the right of scientists. Toward the end, the paper talks about “strengthening science for the benefit of society.”
If you look at the document prepared by ICSU a bit earlier, in July 2004, it talks about the rights and responsibilities of science in society. In section 2.1.1. it discusses equity access and challenges to universality, and many other issues are raised. Among the issues are the distribution of scientific resources and information. Then there are intellectual property rights and how they are influencing the sharing of knowledge and technology, as well as new security issues. The growth of research in the private sector raises questions about the ethics of
conducting and communicating science and industry, as well as rights and responsibilities and the protection of whistleblowers who call attention to inappropriate practices. It also mentions ethical concerns.
With all these developments in the last couple of months, ICSU wanted more attention to strengthening science for the benefit of society. I think that is a good thing. Universality is not just for the activities of scientists but scientists have to pay more attention to society. I now turn the podium over to Mike.
Clegg – This has been a wonderful meeting for me. I’ve taken away a number of things from it. It has been extremely stimulating, especially in many ways the last topic, which I found very disturbing, but also important to think about.
One of the things that it helped me reflect on is that we are hugely privileged to work in science, and society supports us to do basically what interests us. As long as we do it to a reasonable level, we have generous support and are able to pursue the things that fascinate us. Along the way, if we are fortunate, that may also make some contribution to society in return. We are very privileged, and that is probably nowhere more true than in the United States, where the scientific community is well supported and the profession of science is a very rewarding one, materially as well as psychologically and spiritually.
But along with that go responsibilities and obligations. That was one of the things that impressed me so much about the talks we heard during the symposium—pointing out that these privileges are not free ones and that we have to return to the society that supports us as much as we are capable of individually.
One of the most important things we have to return is sharing the knowledge that we create. Humans are unique in that they can create knowledge and transmit it to successive generations. All other organisms lack that capability, or substantially lack it. There may be some very small level of transmitted knowledge in primate societies, but, by and large, they lack that capability. The thing that has made us so powerful, and so threatening to the well-being of the world as well, is this capability of creating knowledge, accumulating it, and then transmitting it to our children and to posterity. This makes it especially critical that we respect the free dissemination of scientific knowledge and be devoted to that goal. This leads me to the issue of boycotts.
My academy is strongly opposed to boycotts, and the Council, which is the governing board of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, met just about three weeks ago. It considered, once again, this question of a call for boycotts against, in this case, two Israeli universities. They issued a statement that I’ll read in part to you:
The Council of the National Academy of Sciences has always been opposed to academic boycotts and we continue to call on the members of the world scientific community to support freedom in the conduct of science and cooperative scientific exchange, as outlined in our August 2002 statement, … the critical importance of continuing international collaboration in science, the Council firmly believes that scientists provide a voice for rationality and moderation in political
affairs, and that they can and should work to build strong bridges of understanding between cultures.
I think that very well states the ethical framework that we try to operate under. It is disturbing and challenging to reflect on the complexities of my own culture and our role in the evil in the world.
I was thinking of the Chilean coup, which was, in part, facilitated by the government of the United States in the early 1970s, as well as other events before that. In 1954, our Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected government in Guatemala, and it has taken Guatemala 50 years to come back to some semblance of stability. We live in a very complicated world, and the scientific community can play a very special ethical role in that world. We try to do that to the extent that we are capable.
Another aspect of an open scientific community is the visa issue, which has been troubling for us in the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. We have tried to find various ways to facilitate the travel of scientists and students to the United States. We have not succeeded to the level we would like to, although we have had some successes, and we work hard to provide information to all people who seek to travel to the United States for scientific conferences or to study. But these are continuing challenges, and we are engaged in a battle for this balance between legitimate needs of national security—or what are seen as legitimate needs for national security—and the very important value of freedom of association. We haven’t gotten it right yet in our country, but we are trying to be a force to get it right and to get that balance where it ought to be, so that there is a more open opportunity for people to travel, to communicate, and to work together.
Ironically, getting the balance right is important both because it helps science, but it also harms the United States economically to have that balance wrong. It harms us economically. We depend hugely on foreign scientists. I once read that over 25 percent of the members of our National Academy of Sciences were not born in the United States. We have relied enormously on the talents of people from around the world, to achieve the successes and to enjoy the good life and the material well-being that we enjoy in our country.
That also reminds me once again that this is truly a global community that we are a part of. One of the fun things about having the job that I’ve had for the last three years is to work with and meet scientists from throughout the world and to realize that we really do belong to a very common culture, and that working together on a global basis we can be effective in a number of ways.
I want to close by saying that the work of this Network is extremely important, and I hope that you will do everything you can to continue to perpetuate that work into the future.
Wiesel – I was wondering if the phrase “universality” scares you a little bit. It seems unapproachable for a practical person.
Comment – Could you say something about the extent to which you think scientists can really influence government, and how best that is done?
Lee – I think it depends. As president of the academy in Taiwan, which falls under the office of the President, I can access the president [of the country] at any time. If I want to persuade him to do certain things, such as discuss an increase in funding, for example, I can do that. I am also chief scientist for the Prime Minister, so I do have a group of people [working with me] to advise the Prime Minister. In that sense, in Taiwan, scientists are very powerful
Clegg – I guess I would say our record is mixed, but we have much more influence by being organized effectively, by creating strong institutions of science, than we would have otherwise. Our academy has a fairly good history of influencing decisions at the point at which science intersects public policy. We don’t always succeed, but sometimes we do in the long term. We may do an in-depth study of a major issue that lies quiescent for a decade or more before, suddenly, the time is right, and it is picked up. In cases like the Alaska pipeline, economic forces and political interests are so powerful that they are determined not to hear the voice of science. One of the confusing things during our last presidential election was that, at one point during the election campaign, our president said that climate change was real because the National Academy of Sciences said so. That was a pretty remarkable admission for him.
There is recognition, particularly in the United States, that a substantial portion of our wealth and success traces directly to science and technology. For example, everybody expects to have better health care, which is rooted in science. In some sense, the science community has been vital to the success of the country. So they do listen—not always—but they tend to listen. For us to be effective, we have to create the institutions and organize them in ways that amplify their voice in public policy—and that has happened. It has evolved for us over 150 years; it wasn’t really done by design. Our academy was started, unlike almost all other academies, with a service mission, which was to advise government. It was created not only as an academy, but also as a think-tank. That role has amplified over the years and become more and more influential. I think the record is a pretty good one.
Clegg – [in response to inaudible comment] As I said, the record is mixed. We don’t have a perfect record. We don’t have absolute control. It is a pluralistic society in which we are only one voice among many. But we feel we have been successful enough, that it is a model worth studying. One of the big aims of the global science community, as reflected in the Inter-Academy Panel, is to try and help other academies acquire the tools and capabilities to be more effective in influencing the policies of their government that have a science and technology component. We think that is a worthy aim.
Wolfendale – Could you enlarge on what you mean by creating institutions? Do you mean ad hoc for each program?
Clegg – I don’t mean ad hoc. What I do mean are institutions—and I hope our academy is an example—that are strong and well embedded in the society, so that their voice not only is heard, but also provides support for the scientific community. There are two big themes that we focus on: one is what we call science for policy, and these kinds of issues that relate to global climate
change or medical errors or endangered species management. There is a huge array of them. The other is policy for science. What should our government and our society be doing to be sure it has a healthy scientific enterprise and how do we do that?
Wolfendale – I suppose in a sense the most important scientist in the world is the scientific adviser to your president, whether you like it or not. My question is Will he get the output of our Network? For example, that document that we agreed on this morning, short and sharp, is the sort of thing that would be useful for him to actually see from us, rather than through a biased and circuitous route.
Agre – I don’t have a good answer, but the sad truth is that the presidential science advisor is a fairly new institution. Jerome B. Wiesner was the first one, with President Kennedy in 1961. Science adviser to the president has been downgraded: the office is now three blocks away, and the group is staffed. He may get the mail, but I’m not sure he will be able to convey that to the higher office that makes decisions. So I think we are in a difficult time.
I’d like to ask Mike a question: Is the delay you describe frustrating? An outstanding committee deliberates and evaluates all the information on a scientific topic and the government doesn’t act on it for 10 years. Is there something that can be done?
Clegg – That is not always the case. In some cases, there is pretty quick action, and in some cases, there is never any. What can we do? We have to move the public. It is the people to whom the government responds in one way or another, so that means we have to be able to communicate the values and importance of science, health, and engineering, to the communities in each of our countries, so that the public stands behind science as an investment that they value. If that is the case, then the politicians will be moved. We try to do that, although we have limited resources as a private organization. We don’t have a pipeline into the government’s tax revenues or anything, but we try to do that by reaching the press effectively. We are very careful about seeing that high-profile reports that address important, often controversial issues are presented to the press in a way that it can assimilate them and, in turn, present them to the public. We do make every effort to do that, although more could be done.
Comment – I have two questions. First, you have spoken of the natural sciences and engineering. What about the social sciences? Second, your reports—are they part of your mission, or are they your own initiative?
Clegg – They are both. Taking the second question first, a little more than 80 percent of the reports are issued in book format. They are quite detailed, and often either the Congress or an agency of government, or sometimes the executive branch will make a request for us to look at a specific question. Let me describe one that came up in an interesting way, because it had political overtones.
Shortly after the election in 2000, the new government decided to relax the standards for arsenic in drinking water. Arsenic in drinking water is a problem in many communities around the country and in many other countries as well. They decided this policy change on political grounds and didn’t even bother to consult with their newly appointed head of the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA), the former governor of New Jersey, Christine Todd Whitman. When they released these relaxed standards, it created a small political furor and also embarrassed the new director of the EPA. She came to us and requested a fast-track study on the medical and health evidence related to levels of arsenic in drinking water. What could we say? We did a study, looked at all the evidence that was available, were very careful to be sure that everything was evidence-based, not opinion based—the evidence has to be cited in the report in a way that shows how well founded the conclusions and recommendations are. The report found that the preexisting standards were, if anything, a little too lax, and certainly the new standards were much too lax. That caused a rolling back of the policy almost immediately. It is interesting that the study was commissioned by an agency of the federal government, the same government that relaxed the standards in the first place.
A certain number of studies we do with our own money. Over the years, the academy has managed to accumulate an endowment. It is not a huge endowment by the standards of major private universities in America. It is a very small endowment, but it is an endowment that we can use on our own to address issues that we think are so crucial that we can’t wait for the public or the government to come and ask us.
There are several examples every year of high-profile studies that are self-financed. One I can cite was done shortly after the 9/11 event. The academy took $1.3 million of its own money to do a very complicated study on homeland security issues in the United States, because it was quite clear that fast-track legislation was going forward to create a new department of government, and there was a huge amount that science could say about what the real threats were and how they might be intelligently managed. It was unlikely that, without our advice or the advice of some other science and technology organization, they were going to get it right. There were a lot of vulnerabilities the government had never even thought about—chemical plants, for example, and how to manage containers coming into the country. There was a huge range of issues that had to be thought through. That is why it cost $1.3 million to do the study. That study turned out to be very influential in the way in which the organization of this new agency of government was approached. We felt that it was a service to the country to ask that question, even though we had to pay for it.
Ali – Can I make a comment about this issue of increasing the public education of science and this universality of science issue? I think it is true that there are leaders of science who can act, as was said yesterday [audio problem] leaders of science who can act as head of the state, like … said in the case of Korea. Things change. The same thing happens … in India. You know the famous seven o’clock race … story how that was the beginning of Indian science and technology, immediately after the British…. So, the … man will definitely do what he says because he is a man of action. But, then he will cut out the technology … so, … bureaucrats … 10 percent of people should have brought from outside for the sake of political control … immediately knew where to begin that since we still have doubts about our capability to produce that quality … 10 percent of our people should give….
So, every state has to be of course convinced, but, more than that, I think if the public position of science [audio problem] that is the … science should be that now we are living in an information age … and I personally am always recommending that every nation have a
knowledge network like they have in Vancouver, in Alberta…. For example, in Bangladesh, child mortality rate has been drastically reduced. How? They showed on the media that if you give the six shots, then the child is immune from these diseases. Irrespective of the fact that the mother has a school education or not, everybody takes the children in the rural clinics, and the child mortality has decreased a lot. So, once in a while, how we are today and why we came to the state in which we are now, 150 years ago there was no electricity, 125 years ago there was no radio, and 30 years ago there was no…. So, how do we come here?
I think this development should be conveyed to the members of the public as to how much science can do for the betterment of life, so we are using these unfortunate … in all countries – all these challenges and information [audio problem] but they are using more for entertainment and other things, apart from increasing and promoting the cause of science. So, I think the importance of the media is a very important tool for increasing the public position of science.
Lee – I want to make two comments. We are facing enormous problems as we enter the 21st century. Some of the problems are scientific, and although current scientific knowledge or technology cannot solve them, if we keep on acquiring new scientific knowledge and developing new technologies, then we can solve many of the problems we are facing. That is part of the reason we keep on saying that science can do wonders.
If we look from a different angle, if I were to look at the development of human society and we follow the trajectories, then we will find that at the present time we have enormous problems. The problems come about because the earth used to be an infinity—without too many people, and human activity was quite limited. But, as we enter the 21st century, there are six billion people, and every human being is consuming about one ton of fossil fuel, an enormous consumption. Suddenly, we realize that the earth is finite. When I say “we” realize, some of us realize; especially those who lived in the United States and have come back to Southeast Asia and see the trajectory from infinity to finite earth as a cross-point that we are already exceeding. So, I would say that the way human society is developing, in the future we are going to face enormous difficulty, but somehow we are not awakened yet. If you see recent developments, with China becoming a military center, she will buy all of the natural recourses that she can buy, from copper … and all over the world, is not sustainable. Whether we talk about universality or not, within the next 10-20 years, we are going to face an energy crisis that will come about because of the debt between the supply and the demand for petroleum. When the energy crisis comes, the world will not be peaceful anymore. Very often we glorify what science can do, but when we look at the trajectory of human society, we have to worry.
In the universality of science, we talk about ethnic origin, religion, citizenship, language, political stance, and so forth. Unless the entire world operates as one community—last year at the APEC (Asian Pacific Economic Community) meeting in Chile, the slogan used was “One Community, Our Future”—unless we learn to work together and the science keeps on developing, then we will continue to see high-tech economic competition that is nation-based. There will be winners and losers. To my American scientist friends, (I used to be American), it is really important to take on the carbon dioxide problem and to become energy-sufficient with renewable energy. This is the challenge that I always give to my friends. In 1989 I served as a
secretary of energy advisory board member and came up with a national energy strategy and worked on the energy-sufficient program. The book is still there, although it has been delayed for so long.
Wiesel – At the same time that scientists are aware of the energy crisis, the investment made by the government in support, for example, in physics, has declined. The National Science Foundation (NSF), which is the main funding agency in the United States for fields outside biomedicine, had a decline in their budget last year. The center of work on fusion has moved away from the United States. Europe and Japan are now the strongest. Russia used to be, but, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, this has disappeared. This is where we have to hope that you, [Yuan T. Lee] with your expertise in chemistry, and Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, as a physicist, can make the difference.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget in the United States is $29 billion for biomedical research. NSF support for all other sciences is at about $5 billion. It is a tragedy for science that more resources are not allocated to basic science. Universality of science is a good thing, but one has to address these real problems more openly. So many reports are written and put on shelves, and nothing happens.
Armand Lucus, Royal Academy of Belgium – I come from one of those failing or about to fail countries. All nations are destined to fail. If there is only one thing in history that we can remember, it is that not only nations fail and states fail, but also empires fail if you wait long enough. Belgium has been going along since 1830, and it hasn’t failed completely yet, but it has had some difficulty. For the moment the United States is dominating the world economically and culturally and militarily, but that may not last for more than 50 more years. Since we are universal-oriented intellectuals, we should realize this and certainly not be arrogant with respect to the rest of the society.
You just mentioned a number—$25 billion for biomedical research for NIH in the United States. In Europe, research spending is not more than 2-3 percent of the gross national budget. Agriculture spends 25 percent of the budget. The military may spend 50 percent. Education is 50 percent. It is really nice to be conscious that we are doing a universal business, but, let’s face it, the public is not convinced of that. The public is not aware of the very important role that we think we play in society. In fact, it may even be the reverse. The public suspects us of being the source of all the problems. As Professor Lee mentioned, we are at the same time creating problems by developing technology, and the problems are now universal and fantastically difficult.
As it has been said several times here, the media are probably the best tool to attempt to use, as people having some credit, since we pertain to academies. In Belgium, the relationship between the academies and the media is severed more or less. Why? Because most of us are more than 65 years old, we have nothing to say anymore, and we don’t even advise the government. You are lucky in the United States that the academy is consulted sometimes. In my country, the academies are just a bunch of retired people.
Let’s be not too arrogant and try to improve our public image. Maybe then, because the public is the voters, our budget will be increased and we can exercise our responsibility better.
Wiesel – I think this is a good point. The reason the NIH budget is so large is not because of the administration, but because of Congress. They have pushed very hard, and they increase the president’s budget allocation for NIH every time. You are absolutely right: if you want change, you have to operate through your elected officials. They should speak for you and for the people. In the United States, many of the scientific societies send scientists to talk to the members of Congress and the staff working for them, to educate them about the importance of science. This is legwork that you need to do in your own countries if you are really going to influence policies in science.
Clegg – There may be some other things that ought to be said about this funding issue. In the United States, about 65 percent of research dollar is actually spent in the private sector. Only about 35 percent is spent in the public sector. If you look at the total fraction of domestic product that is spent on research, it is about 2.7 percent, and that includes both the public and private sectors. That places us somewhere down around 6th. Sweden spends about 3.7 percent of domestic product on research, so our level of investment is not necessarily as high as it could be, or as high a fraction of domestic product as it once was in the United States. It was higher back in the 1960s as a fraction of the gross domestic product than it is today. We’re doing okay, but we could do a lot better. We all agree that the pressing issues that the science community ought to be concerned about on a global level are how to accommodate another 3 billion people, how to deal with emergent diseases, and how to deal with global water resources. There is a long list of very pressing issues that we can see coming down the pike. They are all driven by demographics, so in the short term we know they are going to confront us as societies.
Casselton – We had a meeting at the House of Lords to which we invited experts on such diseases as HIV and malaria to present these issues to government. Unless we have the press on our side, the public is frightened, and the press can manipulate the public. In this country, we tried so hard to sell genetic modifications, but the press had already destroyed the case before it ever came up for public debate. By the time it came up for public debate, the people had lost interest. I think it is very important that we are in a position to present to governments and give informed opinion.
Wiesel – These are all obviously pressing issues, as is the failure of us as scientists to communicate. I think that what has happened with genetically modified foods in Europe is very interesting. It didn’t happen, for the most part, in Asia or the United States. That shows the kind of erratic behavior that can occur. We fail all the time because we don’t pay enough attention to informing the public.
Before moving on to the next topic I would like to thank our two discussion leaders. Also, we’ve already thanked Ruth Cooper here at the Royal Society, and I would also like to mention Jane Lyddon, from the British Academy, who has played a tremendous role in the organization of this meeting and showed uncommon kindness and generosity in making it possible not only for us to hold a reception at the British Academy but also agreeing to host an
Status and Future of the Israeli-Palestinian Science Organization (IPSO) Discussion leader: Harald Reuter
Harald Reuter, Council of the Swiss Scientific Academies – I can make this brief because I believe most of you, if not all of you, are aware that an organization, IPSO, the Israeli-Palestinian Science Organization, does now exist. The main players and the originators of IPSO are all here.
The first idea of IPSO, as far as I’m aware, actually came up at a UNESCO meeting in Paris in the fall of 2002, in which Menahem Yaari, Sari Nusseibeh, Torsten Wiesel, and, of course, Carol Corillon, came together and discussed the possibility of setting up a science organization between Israelis and Palestinians.
The next step was in the last meeting of our Network in Ascona, Switzerland. Menahem and Sari were invited to present the idea of this organization, and they did it very forcefully. There were, of course, discussions. There was even skepticism with respect to the question of political impact. I think they handled the situation very well. The outcome was that the Network, our Network here, supported the idea of IPSO unanimously. From then on, they went ahead. When I say “they,” I mean Menahem and Sari and two other people who were instrumental, Dan Bitan and Hasan Dweik. Dan Bitan is one of the directors of IPSO on the Israeli side, and Hasan Dweik is the director on the Palestinian side.
Right from the beginning, the idea of IPSO was that the business was handled equally on both sides. Of course, there needs to be very close cooperation. The cooperation started between Menahem and Sari, on the basis of friendship. This apparently carried over to Dan and Hasan, because the way they are now directing IPSO as an organization is really quite admirable.
After the meeting in Ascona, there were approximately 25 or 26 academies in our Network who endorsed IPSO strongly.
Endorsement is a very questionable thing, because it is very easy to write down a name and say yes, morally we support this wholeheartedly, but we don’t know what to do further on. The main impact of the ideas of IPSO needs more than moral endorsements.
What is the idea? I will read it as it was actually worded in the initial statement:
The Israeli-Palestinian Science Organization will rekindle, foster and fund scientific cooperation and scholarly endeavors between Israelis and Palestinians. This bi-national, non-profit and non- political organization, to be located in the city of Jerusalem, will support cooperation in high quality research, in science and learning between Israeli and Palestinian scientists and scholars, working together typically in institutions of higher learning.
I think that sets the borders of what IPSO is supposed to do and what they want to do. Two issues: scientific cooperation and learning.
How can this be done in such a troubled region? It can only be done from the bottom up. I’m a very strong believer, just like Torsten, in bottom-up approaches. It is a very lucky situation because there are two people, now four people, who are strongly in favor of this sort of cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians.
There have been two meetings of the International Scientific Council (ISC) of IPSO so far. The council is supposed to oversee IPSO’s progress in the short and the long run. The ISC, at the moment, consists of 13 people from various parts of the world, seven of whom are Nobel laureates. We have met so far twice, once in Washington a year ago, when the goal of IPSO was again discussed extensively and measures were being taken to constitute the organization. It is certainly a great achievement, mainly by Dan Bitan, that IPSO is now registered in Belgium as a legal organization. It is a lot easier to convince governments that this is something real and to try to raise money when it is written down legally. Such an endeavor requires not only moral support but also money.
What we did in Switzerland—and that is the second part of my report—is that three people set up an organization to support IPSO: Swiss Friends of IPSO. One is a lawyer and businessman, Dr. Rolf Bloche. He was also the chairman of the Jewish community in Switzerland. The other two are Peter Shindler, who was here earlier, who is a physicist, and myself. We set up statutes for our goal to support IPSO morally and financially. The moral support is very easy. We have to go to various people and tell them what a good organization it is. We tell them and they say yes, we wholeheartedly support this. The hard thing is to convince them to give money.
Since IPSO is an academic institution, we decided to ask the academic community whether they would be willing to support it. There was great enthusiasm among individuals to provide financial support for IPSO. We ask the faculties of the universities to spread the word by means of a leaflet in which the IPSO organization is explained, and people are invited to join the Swiss Friends of IPSO by contributing 200 Swiss francs a year. That is basic, because we need the support of the academic community.
From this point, we can go on to ask the government to provide money. This negotiation has just started. We had a negotiation with representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Internal Affairs. They are quite willing to help, although it is not quite clear yet in what way and at what level.
The third party that we address in Switzerland is, of course, industry, and we have started doing this. So far, it is still very much at the beginning. We have made some progress in this beginning year. We have accumulated some money and hopefully will continue to do that for the next few years. Money is essential to the support of 30 projects a year, which is the goal of IPSO. We will see how well we can succeed.
I can only encourage other academies in the Network to do similar things and try to raise money from their own environments in order to support this very important organization in a troubled area.
Corillon – The list of all 63 proposals received from Israelis and Palestinians who want to do joint scientific research studies are in your agenda books. So far, 25 academies have endorsed IPSO. Some have given money; for example, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences has given $20,000, the academy in the Netherlands has given $10,000 and the Academy of Athens has given $1,000. If your academy has not yet endorsed this organization, we ask that you consider doing so.
Wiesel – We must keep in mind that each grant is estimated to be about $75,000 per year, and they are for three years. To give a grant, we must be able to fund the entire duration. We are discussing an annual budget of around $2 to $3 million to run the program. There is a great sense of urgency here because those who apply for the grants want to be funded if they successfully pass review by the International Scientific Council.
Johannes Eckert, German Academy of Natural Sciences-Leopoldina, Germany – The human rights committee of the German academy of sciences has also considering establishing a small supporting committee but then we made some inquiries and discovered that the German Science Foundation is supporting research programs in Israel since 1995—about 27 projects. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research has special programs for cooperation between Israel, Palestine, and Jordan. [audio problem] We therefore came to the conclusion that it makes no sense to establish a small group of a few people but, rather, it is better to refer projects to the large science foundations in Germany. We would be happy as a human rights committee to help make the links and to lend our support.
Dan Bitan, Israel [Co-Director, IPSO] – In doing our fundraising for research proposals we have found that it is best if the various academies contact high level officials in their governments and we in Palestine and Israel also contact the embassies or local delegates to get their reaction and guidance. This approach could work in Norway because we’ve begun to work in this way, and in France it begins to work too, because a letter from the President of the French Academy went to President Chirac and he replied and referred it to the French Prime Minister. There was a contact with the Foreign Minister, and we worked with the French embassy in Tel Aviv. Sometimes we must mount a siege to get the funds that may be available in the different countries.
Reuter – For example, the Swiss Minister of Internal Affairs will go to Israel in September. He will be informed about IPSO and its goals. I’m sure, Menahem, that he will also be in contact with you at that time. It is at that level at which people could get together; at a relatively high or a very high level, and from there it could spread down. It is a useful approach, at least in our relatively small country.
Corillon – We are creating a Friends of IPSO organization in the United States. We have five members from the U.S. National Academies who are serving on the board; they are well connected and are helping also with fundraising, approaching both foundations and individuals.
Our academy’s council put up $20,000 for staff support and to have the first meeting of IPSO. It is allowing me to volunteer time through the academies to help IPSO when it needs assistance. They have now, through the Bronfman Philanthropies, hired Janet Lowenthal, who I seated in the back, and is now actively helping to raise funds in the United States for IPSO.
Wiesel – Thank you all for coming here, for spending two and a half days listening to the discussion, participating, and making very fine comments. I think the value of these meetings is that we can become friends and look each other in the eye and exchange our views. I am concerned that, because of financial problems, it is possible this could be our last meeting, but the Network will still survive. As the representative from Morocco left, he said he would welcome a letter from us on the possibility of having a meeting in Morocco. But we will need some kind of miracle for us to continue having these meetings.
Remember that the Network is primarily a Network, and Carol is sitting in the center of this web. We will continue to update you on cases. Please look at our website, both the public and private ones. At your own academy, you should talk to the persons who are in charge of the website to post information about the Network there. You will receive, through email, the report that we discussed, with some agony, this morning. I think there was general agreement on the final wording. And there is also the excellent report that Arjuna made as a record of this meeting.
Of course, these reports are very brief. To make a full report of this meeting, everything has been taped. Anyone who has organized a meeting knows the amount of effort and time and money that needs to be spent to transcribe tapes from meetings and put them into order.
Some have said it would be nice to have Sari Nusseibeh’s speech, which you all enjoyed very much and was one of the high points of this meeting. If there are other things that you would like to have, let us know and we can see if it is possible to get a tape of this event and then maybe make it available, in some form, to you.
I would like to conclude by thanking the person who has been instrumental, much more than anyone else, in making this meeting possible. You can’t imagine the amount of effort and work, the number of hours, weekends, and overtime that she has spent in making this all possible. We want to show Carol that all of her efforts have been worth it so we should all show our appreciation by standing up and giving her our applause.
Thank you, this 7th Biennial Meeting of the Network is now adjourned.