The first UNESCO World Conference on Science was held in 1999 in Hungary- Budapest. The World Science Forum (WSF) became a follow up of this initial gathering by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences since 2003. The WSF has played a prominent role in bringing leaders of the world of science and policy together on a biennial basis to discuss the roles, responsibilities and challenges of science. It also presents issues of common interest to the scientific community and the public.
In 2011, WSF partner organisations agreed that the Forum should alternate between Budapest, Hungary and another host country. For the first time the Forum was hosted by Brazil in 2013 and then by Jordan in 2017. In 2022, the WSF is for the first time hosted on the African Continent. As the host country, South Africa intends to make the event truly African, inspired by the values of Ubuntu, which promotes the social nature of humanity. The WSF in South Africa is inclusive, as the voices of those often ignored will be heard in debates responsive to the challenges of the developing countries. The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (Fund) brings the voices of children and youth as well as its implementing partners across South Africa and its thought leadership on youths and children in Africa and globally. Through its exhibition and messaging, the Fund upholds the fact that children and youth need to be given the voice and dignity that they deserve. The Fund will interact and share its work with scientists, policy-makers, industry, science communicators, funders and embassies among other members of society to build strategic partnerships on behalf of children and youth.
In these unprecedented times that are marked by global challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and persistent poverty the intersectionality and transdisciplinary science is expected to make a critical contribution to create a equal, fair and just world. Hosted in the country by the South African Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) the WSF theme of Science for Social Justice resonates with the vision of the Fund, which is about changing the way society treats its children and youth. The expectation is that the plenary, thematic sessions, the side event, the debates and the exhibitions at the WSF 2022 will critically interrogate the role of science in ensuring that resources, opportunities and privileges in society are accessible to all (including children and youth) and distributed in a fair manner.
The Fund expects that WSF 2022 openly discuss how the production and application of new knowledge challenges inequality, unemployment and poverty as it affects children and youth more than it does the adult population. The status of the WSF positions it to consider the role that science plays in advancing social justice. The values of social justice like transparency and inclusivity should also transform the nature of the scientific enterprise and the scientists themselves so that they are not laboratory and boardroom practitioners but are more responsive to the needs of society. The Fund works with implementing partners at grassroots level where there are innovations that have not been harvested for societal usage. Research integrity as well as ethics in collecting data from communities and later reporting to them is very critical to the work of the Fund. Local level knowledge and advocacy material that has been obtained from the grassroots should find itself in the science advice, science communication and science diplomacy spaces.
International cooperation is also crucial in the work of the Fund, which is a global child advocacy, and development organisation that would like to see the advancement of the cause of science for social justice and its response to societal challenges. The Fund advocates that children and youth issues should be national, African and global agendas for which science, technology and innovation take the centre stage. To that extent, the civil society organisation from the developing countries should take a greater interest in participating in global science.
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