Legal Commission Approves Draft Declaration On Human Genome

December 18, 1996

Paris, 17 December - The legal commission of UNESCO's International Bioethics Committee (IBC) today approved a draft of the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights, which proclaims the set of some 100,000 genes that determine heredity to be a "common heritage of humanity."

Meeting at Headquarters yesterday and today for its eighth session , the 20-member legal commission was chaired by Hector Gros Espiell, Uruguayan Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, and IBC Chairman Noelle Lenoir, a member of the French Constitutional Council. It revised the draft declaration in view of observations and suggestions made about the text during the fourth session of the IBC held here last October.

The draft declaration, which has been discussed and revised for three years, proclaims that the principles it sets forth are based on "recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family," reflecting the Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Its seven chapters cover areas such as research in the human genome, rights of persons concerned, conditions for the exercise of scientific activity and the duty of states to show solidarity toward individuals, families and population groups particularly vulnerable to genetic diseases. It also commits states to fostering the international dissemination of scientific knowledge on the genome, as well as to cooperation on the subject between industrialized and developing countries.

The approved draft will next go to a committee of government experts which will meet next July. It will then be presented for adoption by Member States at the UNESCO General Conference next autumn. The declaration will be a UNESCO contribution to observances marking the 50th anniversary in 1998 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

For more informtion contact : Andrew Radolf, New York office of UNESCO, (212) 963-5974.


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