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GHANA LAUNCHES NATIONAL BIOETHICS COMMITTEE WITH UNESCO’s ASSISTANCE

The developments in the Sciences, Information Technology, Culture and Agriculture, in recent times, have called for the need to manage data and information on issues in Bioethics.

UNESCO, in the light of the above, enjoined its Member States during the 33rd General Conference in 2005, to set up National Bioethics Committees to discuss, inform and offer useful suggestions to opinion leaders, the general public and other practitioners in the area of Bioethics.

In response to the General Conference decision, the Ghana National Commission for UNESCO brought together people from selected institutions, civil society and research institutions to form the core membership of the Ghana National Bioethics Committee (GNBC).

UNESCO instituted the “Assisted Bioethics Committees” (ABC) project in its effort to assist developing Member States to develop guidelines for their respective Committees, which would be in tune with existing ones.

This project targeted 12 developing countries (six Anglophone and six Francophone Countries), including Ghana.

Mr. Henk ten Have, Director of Ethics of Science and Technology of UNESCO, led a panel of experts who visited Ghana to hold discussions with the core Bioethics Committee in Accra on 22nd – 23rd March, 2007.

At the end of the meeting Ghana was advised, among others, to:

  • Develop Statutes that would guide the Committee
  • Develop an MOU together with UNESCO to commit herself in fully participating in the Assisting Bioethics Committees (ABC) Project
  • Prepare for a training programme for members of the Committee.

The first activity in the ABC project was held in January 2009 after the National Bioethics Committee has been inaugurated. The activity was in the form of a Workshop on developing working methods for the Committee.

The objectives of the Workshop were to:

  • Clarify the role and mission of the Committee
  • Develop clear working methods
  • Draft rules of record management
  • Develop policy for public procedures
  • Develop policy for
  • information
  • Develop policies for networking

A panel of experts from UNESCO, led by Prof. Henk ten Have, Director of Ethics of Science and Technology of UNESCO visited Ghana to hold discussions with the core members of the Bioethics Committee in Accra between 22nd and 23rd March, 2007.

At the end of the meeting, Ghana was advised to take action regarding the following:

 

  • Develop Statutes that would guide the Committee
  • Develop an MOU together with UNESCO to commit herself to fully participating in the ABC Project and
  • Prepare for a training programme for members of the Committee

The formal launch of the National Bioethics Committee took place at the Coconut Grove Hotel Accra, on 29th January, 2009 under the chairmanship of Prof. Alfred A. Oteng-Yeboah.

The event also coincided with the signing of a memorandum of understanding to enable Ghana to fully participate in the ABC project of UNESCO.

In his introductory statement, the Chairman outlined the purpose of the gathering being the induction of Committee members and the opening of the 3 day training session.

He commended the National Commission for UNESCO for working hard to make Ghana the first Anglophone country to launch the bioethics committee alongside Togo, the first in the Francophone countries.

In her welcome statement, the Secretary-General of the Ghana National Commission for UNESCO, Mrs. Charity Amamoo expressed her joy for the coming into fruition efforts the Commission, UNESCO and other stakeholders had made towards ensuring that Ghana establishes a Bioethics Committee.

She gave a background of the preliminary work the Committee in Ghana had gone through and thanked UNESCO for her continuous assistance to the Africa Region.

The leader of the delegation, Prof. Henk ten Have threw more light on the memorandum of understanding, stating that, it provided several opportunities to offer assistance in many forms to Ghana.

He congratulated Ghana for working assiduously at establishing her Bioethics Committee.

In a speech read on his behalf by the Ag. Human Resource Director of the Ministry of Education, Hon. Ato Essuman, the Chief Director and Vice Chairman of the Ghana National Commission for UNESCO admonished

the Committee to be aware that human beings are an integral part of life and hence Ghanaians deserve to benefit from the same ethical standards in medicine and life science research as in the advanced countries.

He congratulated UNESCO for reinforcing its activities in the Africa region as part of its programme for bio-ethics and the ethics of science and technology for 2006 through to 2010 and for providing the technical support to assist us set up our national Bio-ethics committee, as well as providing the needed capacity - building in terms of training, for the members.

The Chief Director and vice Chairman of the Commission and the Secretary – General appended their signatures on the MOU on behalf of Ghana while Prof. Henk ten Have signed for UNESCO.

The exercise was witnessed by Prof. Oteng -Yeboah, Chairman of the Bioethics Committee.

In his closing remarks, the Chairman thanked the Chief-Director’s representative, and the team of experts for coming to Ghana to share and guide the Committee on how to execute its duties.

The formal launch of the National Bioethics Committee and the signing of the MOU with UNESCO paved the way for Ghana to fully benefit from the ABC Project.

This training was the first activity of the ABC project for the first Anglophone country benefiting from the ABC Project.

With the development of the Statutes to Guide the National Bioethics Committee, the training in Working Methods aimed at helping the Committee to develop its working methods and procedures, which will imply further specifications and applications of its mandate as formulated in its terms of reference in the Statutes.

The development of the Working Methods also aimed at the following:

  • Fine – tuning the Statutes already developed of other Committees
  • Clarifying  the role and mission of the Committee
  • Drafting  rules of procedures
  • Developing  policy for record management
  • Developing policy for public information
  • Developing policies for networking

The UNESCO team of experts who visited Ghana to train members of the Committee were as follows:

  • Prof. Henk ten Have, Director, Division of Ethics of Science and Technology, UNESCO (Leader)
  • Dr. Hans van Delden, University Medical Center, Utrecht, The Netherlands
  • Dr. Dafna Feinholz, National Committee of Ethics, Mexico
  • Dr. Christophe Dikenou, acting regional adviser, UNESCO Dakar
  • Mr. John Nkinyangi, UNESCO Nairobi

 

By: Apollonius Osei-Akoto Asare
National Commission for UNESCO

 

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