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World Science Day for Peace and Development in times of COVID 19

Proclaimed by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 2001, World Science Day for Peace and Development is celebrated on the 10th of November each year. It highlights the importance of Science in maintaining a sustainable and peaceful world that constantly strives for development. All member states agreed that science will be necessary to reach the set agendas of peace and sustainability by 2030. We need to understand more clearly the global landscape of science and we need better tools to monitor progress. This is the importance of the UNESCO World Science Report issued every five years to identify trends in science, technology and innovation across every region. Across the world we see increasing investments smart specialization and green technologies to improve energy efficiency to protect natural resources to enhance competitiveness. Science, technology and innovation hold key answers to the major problems that we face today.

At the time when the world is suffering from COVID-19 pandemic, the focus of the day is on "Science for and with Society in dealing with the global pandemic".UNESCO's response to COVID-19 from the science perspective is structured around three major pillars:

1. Promoting international scientific cooperation. 2. Ensuring access to water 3. supporting ecological reconstruction

During the COVID-19 pandemic, a collaborative relationship between scientists, policymakers, and scientific research including potential vaccines must be shared universally. It has been seen that COVID-19 response demands better use of science and technology.

Pandemics and epidemics of infectious disease provide an unusually, even uniquely clear and stark picture of how science and society interact. While the lack of effective treatments or a detailed understanding of epidemiology severely limited possible scientific interventions in the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918–1919, the AIDS pandemic of the late 1980s and 1990s raised many of the issues that have been prevalent also during the COVID-19 pandemic. There too we witnessed an intensive and high-profile effort to understand the origin of that viral disease and to find treatments—resulting in Nobel prizes but also intense and often rancorous disputes between experts. The emerging scientific understanding of HIV led to calls for behavioural change, and motivated public information campaigns that highlighted the importance of clarity and frankness in communications about risk. There was an explosion of pseudoscientific ideas and conspiracy theories surrounding the disease, some of it abetted by the media and by prominent public figures (and some of which still persists today). Some sectors of society were hit harder than others, and the global effects of the outbreak were extremely heterogeneous. In the longer term, AIDS proved to have severe economic consequences for some countries.

AIDS-related illness has killed almost 33 million people worldwide, but there is now good reason to hope that the number of people who will die from COVID-19 will be a fraction of that. The pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus has, however, been far more disruptive to societies and economies, since the virus is transmitted more readily through everyday contacts and so societies have had to be put into the suspended animation of lockdowns to prevent this. As a result, the COVID-19 pandemic has held an even more powerful lens to the ways in which science and society interact.

The virus arrived at a particular febrile time for international affairs. Tensions between China (where the virus originated) and the USA were particularly high, and several countries, including the USA, UK, Brazil, India and Hungary, were governed by populist politicians of a libertarian or authoritarian character, elected in part because of deep social discontent. The USA was facing a fractious election and the UK was poised to withdraw from the European Union. As historian Margaret MacMillan has said, the pandemic has ‘brought into sharp relief flaws that were already starting to emerge in our globalized world: growing social and economic inequalities, for example, or the dangerous fragility of international supply lines' [1, p. 42].

At the time of writing, the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over; indeed, the appearance of at least one new fast-spreading variant of the virus has intensified the dangers and led to an even more lethal second wave of spreading in many countries, while others are experiencing a third. The development and approval of vaccines in record time has transformed the global outlook, but has not and will not solve the crisis in itself. In some ways, vaccines have added new complexity, for example by exacerbating the problems of inequality between nations, posing difficult regulatory decisions (such as whether to vaccinate children), creating a new source of denialism and pseudoscience, and heightening the selective pressures for the emergence of more challenging variants. The future still looks uncertain, and any meaningful end to the pandemic remains a distant prospect.

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