On February 20, 2012, UNESCO Chair Fellow Fr. Joseph Tham gave a presentation on the “Religious perspective on the Principle of Human Vulnerability of the UNESCO Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights” at the Hong Kong Baptist University. This event was co-organized by our UNESCO Chair and the Centre for Applied Ethics at the university. Prof. Ellen Zhang, researcher at the center who attended the recent Rome workshop, chaired the meeting.
Fr. Tham first gave a background of the workshop in light of the troublesome question of religious contribution to bioethics. He gave a general outline on the genesis of the UNESCO Declaration of Bioethics and Human Rights to the participants. A brief description of the 2011 Rome workshop was presented, with the presence of three professors of the Baptist University who presented papers at the workshop.
Some of the lights and challenges of the workshop were mentioned, such as: the novelty of the Principle of Human Vulnerability and Personal integrity in the UNESCO Declaration, the evolution of 2011 IBC report on human vulnerability, the lack of definition of the concept of Human Vulnerability, and the question of universality or consensus on these issues.
Finally, Fr. Tham reported on the findings of the religious perspectives of the Rome workshop, touching on the questions of the anthropological human condition of being vulnerable, and the ethical and legal response due to those who are vulnerable. While it can be said that the workshop sought to achieve a common ground on these issues, it turned out to be more meeting ground of different experts to encounter and know each other. In any event, it was a novel and ground breaking attempt.
Prof. Jonathan Chan and Prof. P. C. Lo ended the evening by giving some feedbacks and responses from a Confucian standpoint and their experience at the workshop in Rome.
It is still early in the planning stage, but the next workshop will probably take place in city of Hong Kong in June, 2013, with a focus on article 12 of the UNESCO Declaration which precisely touches on the uneasy relationship between universal rights and local customs.