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Promoting a new culture of public debate on new technologies

In a resolution adopted today on the basis of a report by Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC), the Assembly called on member States to “develop a new culture of public dialogue” on advances in science and technology, so that progress in these fields respect fundamental values and human dignity.

“Scientific and technological foresight should no longer remain the exclusive remit of researchers and industry; public authorities have to involve citizens more widely in decision-making on these issues, and policy options should be subject to public debate and scrutiny,” they said.

In addition, the deep global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our societies has opened up a wide spectrum of issues, requiring participatory policy and decision-making processes, they added.

The PACE Standing Committee, meeting by videoconference, stressed that there was a wide range of methods for organising these debates, which may be tailored to the country specificities and historical contexts, and meet different levels of institutional and financial capacity.

Member States can make use of existing tools, such as “the Guide to Public Debate on Human Rights and Biomedicine" drafted by the Council of Europe Bioethics Committee and the toolkit developed by the EU project "Engage2020”, the adopted text underlines.

According to PACE, parliaments have a key role to play in this process and should make wider use of public debate in parliamentary decision-making processes.

Finally, the Assembly recommended that the Committee of Ministers “promote the Guide to Public Debate on Human Rights and Biomedicine in the member States” and, in co-operation with the EU, assist national authorities to implement its principles.