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International Council for Science to Focus on Sustainability - 2002-09-27

An international science organization plans to expand into developing nations and focus on balancing economic development with the environment. The action comes in the wake of the recent Johannesburg sustainable development summit. The organization's general assembly is taking these measures at a meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The International Council for Science, known as ICSU, plans to pass several resolutions at the conclusion of its meeting in Rio de Janeiro Saturday, including one focusing the organization's energies on sustainability.

Incoming Council President Jane Lubchenco says her organization was asked by the United Nations to take a lead role in providing scientific input into the issue of balancing economic development with environmental preservation. Ms. Lubchenco told VOA the council plans to move forward in setting out a specific research agenda for achieving sustainability. "We've had the benefit at this meeting of having an entire half day session devoted to hearing much of the new information that has been gleaned over the last 10 years," she said, "and it's now time to transition from talk to action, from generalities to specifics. So the proposal that will come before the general assembly will be to establish a science plan, and a specific research agenda for science for sustainability."

The International Council for Science, founded in 1931, is a Paris-based non-governmental organization, whose 98 country members represent the national academies of sciences of each nation. The Council's membership also includes organizations such as the International Union of Biological Sciences and other disciplinary international unions.

At the Rio meeting, delegates also will decide to establish offices in four regions of the developing world: Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. The offices would act as clearinghouses for scientific information and also promote scientific capacity in those regions.

Incoming Council head Lubchenco said the impetus for the organization's new emphasis on sustainability is coming from what she called the disappointing results of the Johannesburg summit. "I personally think, and I think this is shared by many individuals as well, that the political outcomes from the World Summit on Sustainable Development were very disappointing," she said. "At the same time I know full well from having attending meetings like that, that much of what is actually accomplished may be below the surface in terms of the new commitments, the new partnerships, the new awareness that developed out of the conversations and it's that latter new awareness, new willingness to roll up our sleeves and get more engaged that is providing a lot of the energy for this particular general assembly of ICSU."

Members of the council include the science academies of industrial countries such as the United States, Canada, Germany, and Sweden. In the developing world, national members include Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Iran and Iraq.