South Africa: President Calls On Forum to Use Science to Improve People’s Lives, Fight Inequality

President Cyril Ramaphosa shone a spotlight on how science can play a role in improving people’s lives and addressing the challenges facing the world including disease, climate change and food insecurity.

The President was delivering his keynote address on Tuesday at the opening session of the World Science Forum (WSF) in Cape Town.

“We need to ensure that this forum will not only be a platform for vibrant discussion but will also lead to concrete actions harnessing science as an instrument for social justice.”

He called on the forum to not only be a platform for vibrant discussion but also lead to concrete actions harnessing science as an instrument for social justice.

“The theme for the forum – Science for Social Justice – should guide our deliberations. This theme expresses our conviction that inequality within and between countries is neither just nor sustainable.

“This event will inspire concerted global action for science to challenge and address inequality, injustice, poverty, environmental destruction and marginalization.”

By hosting this event, the President said South Africa is demonstrating its strong commitment to international cooperation in science.

“Science progresses when nations work together,” he told the guests.

He said he hoped that the first WSF to take place in Africa will contribute to advancing the continent’s agenda for science, affirming the crucial contributions Africa has to make in enriching global science.

“We have all the ingredients required for success.”

The President challenged researchers to consider the role science should play in protecting and enhancing human dignity and in fighting poverty, unemployment and inequality.

“For example, the inequality in access to vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic was a gross violation of human rights and contributed to further loss of life.

“The global scientific community demonstrated the value of cooperation in responding with unprecedented urgency to produce COVID-19 vaccines.”

Meanwhile, he called on the scientists to look at Just Climate Transition, minimizing the social and economic impact, and securing the livelihoods of those most vulnerable to climate change.

“Innovation and green technologies must be at the forefront of our response to this challenge and must enable developing economies to exploit new growth opportunities,” he said.

“This is part of the motivation for South Africa’s significant investment in developing a hydrogen economy, which will be presented at this forum.”

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He asked how the forum could ensure that contribution of African science is recognized as a global resource that is part of the global responses to global challenges.

“It is fitting that the World Science Forum coincides with a special ceremony to celebrate the start of construction of the global Square Kilometer Array (SKA) radio telescope hosted in South Africa,” he said, adding that the SKA is one example of African- Led science excellence on the global stage.

He also questioned how science could reinforce multilateralism and global solidarity, which is under threat in the face of rising geopolitical tension and making science more reflective of society the world desires.

The President thanked the WSF partners for entrusting South Africa with this responsibility.

He also congratulated Minister Blade Nzimande and Professor Tamás Freund on the Steering Committee’s success in compiling a relevant and thought-provoking programme.

“What matters is not the fact that we have participated in the World Science Forum here in Cape Town, but rather what we will do as a consequence to improve the lives of others, making our world a more just one.”

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