WAAS Talks

Science as a Social Good
Webinar #2 on May 24, 2021
  Webinar series ►►

The accelerating pace of scientific development has generated a widening gap and mismatch between technological capabilities, fragmented public policies, ethical standards, social equity and our capacity for cultural adaptation. New organizational models for research, policy-making, regulation and implementation are needed to identify high potential scientific advances, coordinate research in all fields, and integrate science, ethical guidelines and social welfare. This panel examined challenges and discussed opportunities for promoting socially beneficial technologies, and aligning scientific development with public policies to enhance human security.


Gérard Escher | Anja Kaspersen | Georgios Theodoropoulos | Katen Patel | Donato Kiniger Passigli | Garry Jacobs 

Gérard Escher is currently senior advisor to the President of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale, Martin Vetterli. He has a diploma in Biology from the University of Geneva, and a PhD from the University of Lausanne. He joined the Department of Neurobiology at Stanford University as a postdoctoral fellow and research associate. After his return to Switzerland (University of Lausanne), he led a research group working on synapse formation. In 1999, he became scientific advisor to Secretary of State for Education and Research, Charles Kleiber. He became assistant director at the State Secretariat for Education and Research in January 2005, in charge of science policy and forecast. In 2008 he moved to the Ecole Polytechnique Federale in Lausanne, where he acted as senior advisor to President Patrick Aebischer.

Anja Kaspersen is the former director of the United Nations for Disarmament Affairs in Geneva and deputy secretary general of the Conference on Disarmament. Previously, she held the role as the head of strategic engagement and new technologies at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Prior to joining the ICRC she served as a senior director for geopolitics and international security and a member of the executive committee at the World Economic Forum. Kaspersen is a former Norwegian diplomat, businessperson and academic. A published author and public speaker, she is a strong believer in multilateralism and in the power of science and technology diplomacy to ensure responsible innovation and the ethical development and uses of intelligent systems. She is an alumni International Gender Champion, a senior fellow at Carnegie Council, a member of the IEEE Council on Extended Intelligence, a member of the IEEE Life Science Innovation and AI Industry Connection Group, and a member of the International Military Council on Climate and Security.

Professor Georgios Theodoropoulos is a Computer Scientist with a distinguished career in academia and industry in Europe and Asia.  He is currently a Chair Professor with the Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) in Shenzhen, China’s Silicon Valley and the centre of the Pearl River Delta Greater Bay Area global innovation hub. He is known for his research contributions in complex, intelligent and data-intensive computing systems, and his interdisciplinary initiatives to harness advances in Computer Science and digital technologies to address global societal challenges.

Katen Patel has been an investor and strategist over a 30-year career in industry, advisory, investment banking and investing at Greater Pacific Capital, Goldman Sachs and KPMG. He founded and leads the investment firm, Greater Pacific Capital, which invests for profit and impact. He was formerly the head of the Strategic Group at Goldman Sachs. He led the ‘Capital as a Force for Good’ initiative in support of the UN Secretary General’s roadmap for sustainable development and founded the ‘Force for Good’ (F4G) platform to continue that work.  He is the author of ‘The Master Strategist’ and has written and spoken extensively on the rise and fall of civilizations, and in particular on the intersection of geopolitics, security, economics, finance and social change.

Donato Kiniger Passigli is Vice President of the World Academy of Art and Science (WAAS) and is the WAAS Representative to the UN in Geneva. He currently serves as Senior Advisor for Peace and Security at the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). He is a journalist and a member of the Italian Press Federation. Donato is an expert in crisis resolution, development cooperation, public and labor affairs. Until recently, he coordinated the Fragile States and Disaster Response Group at the International Labour Organization (ILO). Donato specialized in promoting crisis response programs and initiatives in the wake of major humanitarian crises, addressing governance and employment deficits. 

Garry Jacobs is currently Chief Executive Officer of the World Academy of Art & Science. Besides this position he is the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of the World University Consortium; Vice President and Director of Social Science Research at The Mother’s Service Society, India; Distinguished Professor of Transdisciplinary Social Science at the Institute for Person-Centered Approach, Italy; Editor of Cadmus Journal focusing on economy, security and governance; founder of Mira International, a management consultant to businesses in Europe, North America and Asia on strategic growth and profitability, Member of CoR International and Chairman of the advisory council of Global Institute for Integral Management Studies, India.


Democratizing Global Governance
Webinar #1 on April 12, 2021
  Webinar series ►►

WAAS Fellow Andreas Bummel, Executive Director of Democracy Without Borders, presented three proposals which are now being advanced to the United Nations to help democratize the institutions of global governance: a UN World Citizens' Initiative, a UN Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA), and a UN Civil Society envoy/champion. These proposals are put forward by CIVICUS: World Alliance For Citizen Participation, Democracy International and Democracy Without Borders and backed by a consortium of NGOs including Greenpeace International, Open Society Foundations, The Nature Conservancy, Forus International, ActionAid, Avaaz, Together 2030 and some 30 other civil society groups and networks from across the world. UNPA has already been endorsed by over 200 civil society groups and more than 1,500 current and former members of parliament from more than 100 countries.


One of the objectives of the webinar was to consider possible roles WAAS can play in supporting the proposals. The webinar included a moderated discussion by a small panel of WAAS Fellows followed by an open Q&A with other participants.  


  • Introduction: Garry Jacobs, WAAS President
  • Moderator:  Donato Kiniger-Passigli, WAAS Vice President
  • Presentation: Andreas Bummel, Executive Director and Chairman of the Board of the Committee for a Democratic United Nations (KDUN)
  • Panelists:
    • David Chikvaidze, Chef de Cabinet of the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva
    • Maria Espinosa, President of the 73rd UN General Assembly
    • Jonathan Granoff, President of Global Security Institute


The UN Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) proposal separately has already been endorsed by over 200 civil society groups and more than 1,500 current and former members of parliament from more than 100 countries. It has been developed since the early 1990s with the European Parliament being one of the early pioneers. It was included in the final declaration of the NGO Millennium Forum in 2000 and also in the UN75 Peoples' Declaration organized by the UN2020 campaign in May last year. The latter document was a result of an extensive consultation with experts and partners which confirmed the proposal's relevance at this time. A recent study of Democracy Without Borders looks into possible ways of implementation.

The UN World Citizens' Initiative (UNWCI) proposal was originally outlined in 2018 and presented and discussed at the International Civil Society Week in Belgrade hosted by CIVICUS, and at the Global Forum for Modern Direct Democracy which allowed participants to provide feedback and helped us develop this further. We commissioned a study that explains possible ways of implementation. Based on this, a separate campaign has already been endorsed by 230 civil society groups. It was also included in the UN75 People's Declaration and Plan for Global Action developed by the Coalition for the UN We Need.

In 2017 and 2019, for instance, we have organized informal consultations in New York with selected groups of around 12 member states, the first dealing with a UNPA and the second with both, a UNPA and a UNWCI. These consultations represented first steps in ongoing advocacy vis-a-vis member states. They were hosted, at the time, by the Canadian UN mission as well as the Swiss and Malaysian missions.

The proposal for the UN Civil Society envoy/champion although highlighted prominently last year as an outcome of 75 year celebrations of the UN Charter is based on a long standing civil society demand to have more consistent participation of civil society in UN processes and across UN agencies and offices. This proposal was selected last year, after rigorous review of dozens of options, by the Together First campaign, an international network of experts on global governance matters, as one that should be pursued further. They have published a study about this, too.

Federico Mayor, President of Foundation for a Culture of Peace prepared the draft of the "Universal Declaration of Democracy" which was presented at the "World Forum for Democracy", held in Strasbourg in October 2012. Democracy is the solution writes Dr. Mayor, influencing political and intellectual personalities and institutions dedicated to the study and analysis of democracy. ​

A brief statement on the proposals as endorsed by the consortium of NGOs

We the Peoples – for inclusive global governance

The biggest challenges facing humanity such as pandemics, the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, violent conflict, forced displacement, discrimination and inequality are global and cross-cutting in nature. With each passing day, they become more pressing. International collaboration and global governance need to improve significantly and become more accountable to those affected most: the world’s citizens.

On the occasion of the UN’s 75th anniversary, heads of state and government committed to making global governance more inclusive. The UN Secretary-General promised to promote a new model based on full, inclusive and equal participation in global institutions. We agree. It is time to give people a stronger voice in global affairs and at the UN. 

We call on the UN and member states to implement three specific institutional changes to strengthen the inclusive and democratic character of the UN:
(1) The creation of the instrument of a World Citizens’ Initiative which enables people to put forward proposals on key issues of global concern for discussion and further action at the highest political level. Any proposal that reaches a certain threshold of popular support should be put onto the agenda of the UN General Assembly or Security Council.
(2) The creation of a UN Parliamentary Assembly which allows for the inclusion of elected representatives in the agenda-setting and decision-making of the UN. The assembly will act as a representative body and watchdog connecting the people with the UN and reflecting a broad diversity of global viewpoints.
(3) Setting up the office of a UN Civil Society Envoy to enable greater participation, spur inclusive convenings and drive the UN’s outreach to the public and civil society organisations. This envoy should champion the implementation of a broader strategy for opening up the UN to people’s participation and civil society voices.

These new tools will help the UN and member states to tackle global challenges more effectively. They will enhance the legitimacy of global governance and facilitate its transformational potential.

Tangible changes in the UN’s functioning are urgently needed to realize the promise of the Preamble of the UN Charter which begins with the words, “We the Peoples of the United Nations”.