CÔTE D'IVOIRE: Unesco bioethics chair installed

The official installation of Unesco's first francophone Africa chair of bioethics has taken place at the University of Bouaké, based in Abidjan.

Fraternité Matin of Abidjan said the chair, aimed at promoting studies on humankind, would be "based on the triad of research, degree-level education and popularisation, and develop and disseminate scientific production and the ethical guidelines promoted by Unesco".

The bioethics chair for English-speaking African countries is based at Egerton University in Kenya.

The general aim of the chair, according to Unesco, is to take up the ethical challenges of the millennium and, specifically, to:

* Adapt expertise and behaviour to new ethical demands raised by technological and scientific development and the growing assertion of human rights.
* Develop and promote skills in etchical and bioethical matters to guarantee the quality of public debate on conteporary ethical problems.
* Formalise scientific exchanges between experts (teachers and researchers) of West Africa and those from the North and South specialised in ethics and bioethics.
* Promote in Africa the principles and standards of bioethics.
* Spread information about Unesco's declarations concerning bioethics.

At the ceremony in July the university's president Lazare Poamé, who initiated studies in bioethics in the mid-1990s, described the installation of the chair as "one of the greatest intellectual events in the history of this university" which, thanks to Unesco, would count itself among the great seats of research and education in bioethics, reported

Fraternité Matin reported Professor Lou Mathieu Bamba, secretary-general of Côte d'Ivoire's national commission for Unesco, who said bioethics was not a luxury but a necessity for a country which needed to reconstruct itself and recover from the 'great crisis' - a reference to the recent civil war.

Dr Issa Malick Coulibaly, representing the country's presidency, said President Laurent Gbagbo was delighted Unesco's chair in bioethics had been installed in Côte d'Ivoire and in francophone Africa.

"This major event extends beyond the narrow limits of the University of Bouaké, all the more as it is dedicated to preserving individual liberties and human rights, which are essential for democracy and sustainable development," Fraternité Matin reported Coulibaly saying.

Minister for Higher Education and Research Cissé Ibrahim Bacongo said although the term 'bioethics' was new, ethics went back a very long way. More than 2,000 years ago doctors, philosophers, theologians and religious authorities had closely studied the ethical aspects of medical practice. Bioethics was just a new stage in this reflection, he said.

Education Minister Gilbert Bleu-Lainé said as the country was progressively emerging from crisis, rigorous adherence to ethics, which valued human dignity and respect for the integrity of individuals, sowed the seeds that constituted social cohesion, peace and preservation of the environment and resources.

The discipline could play a significant part in educational reform being prepared, and contribute to stability in schools and universities which were prey to strikes and other kinds of repeated violence, he said.