Enhancing the Right to Science and the Planetary Crisis: A roundtable on emerging trends and issues

This side event to the 2023 Social Forum, taking place on 2 and 3 November 2023 in Palais des Nations, aims to highlight how the right to science has the potential of improving the enjoyment of many other rights and providing essential building blocks and responses to key sustainability challenges of our times — including the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution. This event is organized by the University of Geneva, the Swiss Commission for UNESCO, UNESCO, and the Geneva Environment Network.

While science is indispensable for addressing current and future societal challenges, its role is more debated than ever in polarized, politicized and often partial terms. Scientists often find themselves under attack and their institutional foundations and spaces eroding.

About this Event

Are science concerns adequately identified and articulated in human rights processes and the triple planetary crisis? The right to science encompasses different complementary dimensions from access to scientific knowledge and the applications of scientific progress to protection against harm deriving from scientific and technological advancements and protection of the autonomy and freedom of scientific researchers. Clearly, enhancing the right to science through its different components has the potential of improving the enjoyment of many other rights and providing essential building blocks and responses to key sustainability challenges of our times — from climate change and biodiversity loss to global health crises and pandemics. The global COVID-19 pandemic, for example, revealed deep-running challenges in vaccine access but also in the application of intellectual property regimes exacerbating inequalities across and within countries.

In that sense, defending the right to science is also critical in accelerating progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are underpinned by scientific knowledge derived from the natural and social sciences. However, taking full advantage of this right will require a far more comprehensive approach to its application.

This side event presents research building on the momentum created by recent normative developments such as the UNESCO 2017 Recommendation on Science and Scientific Researchers. It also draws on an increasing interest in recent years including the outcomes of recent experts’ conversations such as the Geneva Human Rights Dialogue on the Right to Science. This roundtable offers a critical opportunity to reflect upon emerging trends and issues including the launch of a Special Issue on “Enhancing the Right to Science” and recent developments in relation to the triple planetary crisis.

Time and Place

2 November 2023 14:00 – 15:00

Venue: Palais des Nations, Geneva, Room XXII & Online


  • Yvonne DONDERS, Professor, University of Amsterdam
  • Alexandra XANTHAKI, UN Special Rapporteur in the field of Cultural Rights
  • Marcos ORELLANA, UN Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights
  • Stephan KUSTER, Head, Institutional Relations, Frontiers
  • Kostas TARARAS, Programme Specialist, UNESCO
  • Peter Bille LARSEN, Senior Lecturer, University of Geneva & Member of the Swiss Commission for UNESCO


This side event is open to participants of the 2023 Social Forum. This event will be streamed live on YouTube.