During Commission III discussions on Major Programme II (Natural Sciences), speakers emphasized that in the field of basic and engineering sciences the following deserved particular attention:
• capacity-building in science and technology
• UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (UNDESD),
• access of young girls and women to science
• promotion of international cooperation in basic and engineering sciences through the International Basic Sciences Program (IBSP)
• promotion and management of renewable sources of energy.
The majority of speakers called for greater emphasis on improving water-related disaster mitigation, including floods and droughts, as well as enhancing water management capacity at regional and national levels. Member States spoke of a worrying trend of falling student enrolment in science and engineering disciplines.
The Commission fully endorsed the creation of two centers: (1) the Regional Center for Biotechnology Training and Education in India; (2) the International Center for Biological Sciences in Venezuela. It also recommende granting of the status of a regional institute under the auspices of UNESCO (Category II) to the Instituto de Matematica Pura e Aplicada (IMPA) in Brazil. With regard to the centre in India, Member States noted that there was now a strong desire among nations to develop capacities in the utilization of biotechnology to address food insecurity; several delegates felt that the centres and the institute would help to promote South-South co-operation.
In response to general concerns about the strength of UNESCO’s commitment to capacity-building on the African continent, it was noted that the Second African Ministerial Conference on Science and Technology had decided (on 30 September) that NEPAD would establish a high-level working group involving the African Union, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and UNESCO to prepare a comprehensive program for establishing and funding centres of excellence on the African continent. The member nations also wanted to see the Regional Bureau for Science in Europe retain its existing geographical scope and primary function as a science office directed by a scientist.
Speakers underscored the responsibility falling to all five scientific programmes to provide the basic scientific information for understanding global change and incorporation into policy-making. With regard to the fifth scientific programme, many speakers commended UNESCO for the new IBSP. Stressing the importance of basic sciences for endogenous development and the need to revitalize both basic sciences and science education, Member States expressed satisfaction at the priority given to Africa in this programme.
The cross-sectoral nature of many UNESCO programmes (e.g. sustainable development, science education, climate change, natural disaster prevention and preparedness, etc.) was underlined, and a large number of delegations called for an increased level and scope of interdisciplinarity and intersectorality in the design and implementation of UNESCO’s programmes, as multidisciplinarity eventually constituted one of the Organization’s main comparative advantages.