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Members of the National Bioethics Committee of Jamaica (NBCJ) are benefiting from training to strengthen the body’s capacity to address the ethical and moral implications of medical and biological research.

It is the third such session under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s(UNESCO) Bioethics Programme.

Speaking at the opening ceremony for the two-day session at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston on Monday, May 20, Vice-Chairman of the Jamaica National Commission (JNC) for UNESCO, Dr. Donald Rhodd, said the training is crucial in continuing the process to increase the visibility of bioethics in Jamaica.

“It will also provide appropriate training for (committee) members to be able to keep us informed on various ethics-related matters,” he said, while calling on civil society to collaborate with the NBCJ in organising seminars on such issues.

“There is so much we need to embrace. There are so many hot topics (in relation to ethics) which need to be dealt with,” he noted.

Dr. Rhodd, who was representing Chairperson of JNC UNESCO, Minister of Youth and Culture, Hon. Lisa Hanna, said while he recognised the “important under the radar activities” the committee has undertaken, there is still much work to be done “if we are going to make a real impact and be true to the tenets, which are stated in our Constitution.”

UNESCO Programme Specialist (Bioethics) for Latin America and the Caribbean, Professor Susana Vidal, noted that Jamaica is the first English-speaking Caribbean country to establish a National Bioethics Committee under the UNESCO’s Assisting Bioethics Committee (ABC) initiative and one of only six countries around the world to do so.

The ABC project offers technical guidance and capacity-building to UNESCO member states interested in building national bioethics infrastructure.

Professor Vidal also lauded JNC UNESCO for its firm commitment to advancing the bioethics agenda, “not only regarding organisational matters, but also its contribution to all the steps needed to meet our common objective and to support the committee from the beginning.”

She noted that UNESCO will continue supporting the NBCJ by providing any technical support needed.

Established in 2006, the NBCJ, which comprises individuals from the health, religious, academia, social science and other sectors, provides a forum for discussion of bioethics issues. The committee was officially launched in 2009.

JNC UNESCO advises the Government on all relevant matters pertaining to UNESCO’s areas of competence in education, science, culture, and communication.

Contact: Alecia Smith-Edwards