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Seminar on the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications, 2013
Room XXIV, Palais des Nations, Geneva, 3-4 October 2013

Background and mandate

Following the presentation of the report of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, focusing on the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on the cultural rights of everyone and respect for diversity at its twentieth session.1 The resolution requested OHCHR to convene a seminar to discuss the right of everyone to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications.

Focus and objectives

In accordance with the resolution, the broad objectives of the seminar are to:

  • provide further clarification of the normative content of the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications; and
  • clarify its relationship with other human rights and fundamental freedoms including, particularly, the right of everyone to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he or she is the author.

International standards

Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises the right “to share in scientific advancement and its benefits” as well as to the “protection of the moral and material interests resulting from scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author”. The right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications is also recognised in article 15(1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights affirms a number of principles applicable to ethical issues raised by medicine, life sciences and associated technologies.2 Perhaps the most relevant of these are found in article 15, which provides that “benefits arising from scientific research and its applications should be shared with society as a whole and within the international community, in particular with developing countries”. Benefits may take the form of special and sustainable assistance to, and acknowledgement of, the persons and groups that have taken part in the research, access to quality health care and access to scientific and technological knowledge.3  

Issues for discussion

In this context, the discussions will focus on the following, among other issues:

  • core content of the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress;
  • state obligations;
  • country practices in implementation;
  • scientific freedom;
  • interdependence between the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications and other human rights (the rights to food and health as well as the rights of persons with disabilities)
  • the relationship between the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications and  intellectual property rights;
  • access to information, technology and knowledge

Format

The seminar will take the form of a panel discussion over two-days, with discussion sessions following each set of panel presentations.
 
Organisation and participation

The seminar will be organised by OHCHR and held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva. It will be attended by the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, experts in the field from United Nations agencies and programmes, academic experts, civil society organizations and other stakeholders.

Output

As required under the resolution, OHCHR will produce a report on the seminar for submission to the twenty-sixth session of the Human Rights Council.

Background documents

  • Human Rights Council Resolution on the cultural rights of everyone and respect for diversity (A/HRC/20/L.18).
  • Report of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights on the right to benefit from scientific progress and its applications, 14 May 2012 (A/HRC/20/26)

Registration

Civil society and non-governmental organisations not in consultative status with ECOSOC and who wish to attend the seminar are requested to fill in the registration form and send it to Robert Vaughan at rvaughan@ohchr.org by 12 noon on 1 October 2013.

________

1 A/HRC/20/L.18. 

2 The Declaration was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO in October 2005.

3 Article 15(1) of the Declaration.