Press Release 01/2016

Global Summit of National Ethics Committees in Berlin

The German Ethics Council hosted the 11th Global Summit of National Ethics/Bioethics Committees on 17 and 18 March 2016. Joachim Gauck, the Federal President of Germany, gave the opening address.

Around 200 representatives from National Ethics/Bioethics Committees of nearly 100 countries as well as members of international organizations such as WHO, UNESCO, CIOMS and governmental representatives attended the Summit which had the theme "Global Health – Global Ethics – Global Justice".

Federal President Joachim Gauck emphasized in his opening address the importance "to intensify the international debate as to how ethical consolidation can keep pace with globalization". He stressed that "it comes down to chances and risks of modern research that increasingly ask for international answers – also because science and research are more and more connected internationally".

Christiane Woopen, Chairperson of the German Ethics Council and President of the 11th Global Summit, argued in her welcoming address that firstly, "National Ethics Committees provide a space for independent moral deliberation, for a debate guided by moral values and the strength of moral arguments" as well as for other social issues. Secondly, "National Ethics Committees allow for moral pluralism under the umbrella of universal ethical claims". Accordingly, the Global Summit could arguably contribute to make this world a better place.

WHO Assistant Director-General Marie-Paule Kieny also appreciated the interdisciplinary exchange that the Global Summit offers, as "the pressing issues of our times from epidemics to pollution, from climate change to the scientific possibilities of emerging technologies all require ethical reflexion and demand ethically grounded responses from all of us".

Thomas Rachel, Parliamentary State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, underlined in his speech that "it is increasingly rarely possible to find national solutions to what are global challenges". He said that the Federal Ministry of Education and Research intends to contribute actively to global answers with its research funding and to bring the best scientific minds worldwide together by international cooperation. He also pointed out that the Federal Republic of Germany can look back "on a very solid and long tradition of bioethical debate" which the German Ethics Council "has made more transparent and advanced".

On the agenda of the Summit were new technologies (Big Data and Genome Editing); epidemics and global solidarity; ethical pluralism; biopolitics and biolaw; as well as the improvement of societal awareness in bioethical questions. Deliberations were based on discussion papers that had been prepared in advance by experts in the relevant fields.

The Global Summit is the only international meeting of National Ethics and Bioethics Committees for dialogue and exchange on questions of bioethics and life sciences. The aim of the Global Summit is to depict issues of global dimension, to provide a platform for the exchange of views and to enable the discussion about questions of public health and research activities on international and regional level.

The Global Summit 2016 was jointly organized by the German Ethics Council and WHO in close collaboration with UNESCO. The organization of the Summit was supported by a Steering Committee composed of representatives of National Ethics Councils of the six WHO regions. The 11th Global Summit was financially supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

The host of the 12th Global Summit 2018 will be Senegal.

The opening ceremony as well as all plenary sessions were transmitted via web-stream. The videos as well as the expert papers are available here.