ICTP 60th Anniversary Celebrations at UNESCO

Nearly 200 people from all UNESCO member states attended the information session on ICTP at UNESCO headquarters on 10 April
ICTP 60th Anniversary Celebrations at UNESCO
Photo © Cyril Bailleul

The celebrations of ICTP’s 60th anniversary this year include events across the world and intend to be an occasion to strengthen the Centre’s relationship with key partners.

As a category-I institute of UNESCO operating under a tripartite agreement with the Italian Government and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), ICTP plays a unique role in catalysing scientific collaboration globally.

This key aspect of ICTP’s unique mission was highlighted on 10 April 2024 at an information session hosted by UNESCO and promoted by the Permanent Representation of Italy to UNESCO through a resolution approved by UNESCO's Executive Board.

Some 200 people followed the celebrations from across the world, with about half of them attending in person. Among them were Ambassadors Jean Elizabeth Manes, Permanent Representative of the United States to UNESCO, Metka Ipavic, Permanent Representative of Slovenia, Thi Van Anh Nguyen, Permanent Representative of Vietnam, Xinyu Yang, Permanent Representative of the People's Republic of China to UNESCO, as well as Mario Roberto Maldonado, Permanent Representative of Guatemala.

In his welcome remarks, Ambassador of Italy to UNESCO Liborio Stellino underscored Italy’s support to ICTP: “With today's event, we intend to renew Italy's commitment to the future of the Centre and to invite all UNESCO Member States to strengthen their relationship with this important hub for the development of knowledge," he said.

Lidia Brito, Assistant Director General for Natural Sciences at UNESCO, celebrated ICTP’s efforts to promote scientific collaboration and excellence globally, notably in the developing world: “Facilitating numerous training programmes, networks, and affiliated centres across continents, ICTP has served as a catalyst for scientific advancement in developing countries and emerging economies,” she said.

Serge Haroche, UNESCO, Paris, 10 April 2024
Nobel Prize Laureate Serge Haroche, © Cyril Bailleul

One of the main highlights of the event was the inspiring lecture given by 2012 Physics Nobel Prize Laureate Serge Haroche. Touching upon some of the main discoveries that have punctuated the history of physics, Haroche gave many examples of how blue-sky research is at the heart of any technological applications, adding that “beyond its usefulness, basic knowledge is an essential pursuit of humankind, especially necessary to preserve the values of civilization in dark and dangerous times,” he said. He also highlighted the importance of ICTP’s mission: “The greatest wealth in all countries resides in the minds of their younger people. Through the training and education it provides and by providing a link between young scientists from all countries around the world, ICTP plays an essential role at a time of geopolitical tensions,” he concluded.

ICTP students and alumni give their testimonials
ICTP Director Atish Dabholkar, with ICTP students and alumnae (from left to right): Nana Geraldine Cabo Bizet (Cuba), Lucía Mariel Arana Peña (Guatemala), Maha Hsouna (Tunisia), Nana Ama Klutse Browne (Ghana). © Cyril Bailleul

ICTP Director Atish Dabholkar stated at the beginning of the event, “ICTP has a strong commitment to making science a truly global endeavor, overcoming barriers of gender, ethnicity, geography and economics.”  A series of impactful ICTP alumni testimonials supported Dabholkar's statement, attesting to the fact that ICTP's commitment is apparent daily at the Centre. Alumni sharing their impact stories included climatologist Nana Ama Klutse Browne, professor at the University of Ghana; Maha Hsouna of Tunisia, a PhD student in the ICTP/SISSA joint programme; Lucía Mariel Arana Peña of Guatemala, a medical physicist at Tartu University Hospital, Estonia; Nana Geraldine Cabo Bizet of Cuba, an ICTP associate and professor at the University of Guanajuato, Mexico; and Raji Mamade, a PhD student at MIT. All testified to the many different ways in which ICTP has had a profound impact on their lives and careers. As summarised by Hsouna: “We all came with dreams and ambitions, and ICTP, with its scientific, moral, and financial support, contributed to realizing them, and had a big impact on our present and future career.”

Panel discussion
Panel discussion on "The Impact of ICTP in Advancing Science and Research". From left to right: ICTP Director Atish Dabholkar and panelists: Marcia Barbosa (Brazil), Ali Hassanali (Tanzania), Moustapha Mouhamed Fall (Senegal). © Cyril Bailleul

The testimonials were followed by a panel discussion on "The Impact of ICTP in Advancing Science and Research" and moderated by Dabholkar. Panelists including Marcia Barbosa, director of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences and secretary for strategic policies and programs of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI); Ali Hassanali, ICTP researcher and representative of the East African Institute for Fundamental Research (ICTP-EAIFR); and Moustapha Mouhamed Fall, president of AIMS, Senegal; highlighted how from South America to Africa, the Centre plays an essential role in enabling global collaborations. "I have been going country to country, asking them to join Brazil in the move towards the second quantum transition. To my surprise, I have found many closed doors. ICTP's mission, history and identity provide it with the unique power to open those doors and foster collaboration between countries," Barbosa emphasized.

ICTP Director Dabholkar concluded the event by presenting his vision for the future of ICTP, in the forty years leading up to its centennial in 2064 and highlighting the many significant collaborations with several countries – notably South Africa, Indonesia, and Brazil - and with important private international partners, such as IBM, and national partners, such as CINECA and INFN, to make developing countries active participants in the revolutions already underway, such as those of Artificial Intelligence and quantum computing. “This is a prerequisite to overcoming the challenges we face. One only has to think of climate change to realize that these are truly global challenges and it is unimaginable to think that we can address them without an effort that transcends borders and differences between countries,” he concluded.

Photos of the event can be viewed on ICTP's Flickr account.

Watch the recording of the ceremony:

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