Freedom of Movement and Association
The Principle of Universality of Science entails the freedom of movement and of association. Accordingly, international scientific meetings arranged or sponsored by ICSU itself or its Membership must be free from discrimination against attendees. This implies rights and responsibilities on the part of both organisers of and participants in such international scientific meetings.
- Committee on Space Research (COSPAR)
- Future Earth
- Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR)
- Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR)
- Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR)
- Scientific Committee on Solar-Terrestrial Physics (SCOSTEP)
- Urban Health & Wellbeing
- World Climate Research Programme (WCRP)
In accordance with ICSU Statute 5, all ICSU Members that organise or sponsor international scientific meetings are expected to ensure that participation of scientists is free from discrimination of any kind. Boycotts against the participation of scientists because of their nationality, political or religious beliefs, or place of work are in breach of the ICSU Principle of Universality of Science.
The situation regarding international meetings hosted in the Middle East or North Africa, or with a focus on that region, requires special attention. There have been several instances where scientists and or organisations have boycotted or disrupted scientific meetings because of the participation of counterparts from other countries, such as Israel, or where scientists from these countries have been excluded from participation. This is in contradiction of the ICSU Principle of Universality of Science.
ICSU is unequivocally in favour of co-operation among scientists, irrespective of their nationality, political or religious beliefs, or of the country in which they currently work. Such co-operation is especially important among scientists and institutions in countries in the Middle East or North Africa that have many common challenges in relation to global sustainability research. Combining scientific strengths to tackle these challenges will benefit all of the people in those regions.
The Chair of CFRS addressed this issue in contributions to Nature in 2009 and 2007:
International meetings & visas
The International Council for Science is concerned that measures taken by some national authorities in an attempt to prevent illegal immigration, especially for economic reasons, are making the visa application process unpleasant, drawn out, obscure, expensive and unpredictable. This may interfere with international scientific meetings when bona fide scientists require visas. This has become a significant obstacle to actually holding such meetings.
The ICSU Committee on Freedom and Responsibility in the conduct of Science therefore developed an advisory document (PDF) to conference organisers, sponsors and participants to avoid difficulties and improve the chances of a positive resolution when problems do occur. On this basis, the importance of taking the following measures is emphasised.
For meeting organisers:
- Obtain assurances from relevant government authorities that they will facilitate visas for bona fide scientists when considering a country for a meeting
- Provide details of how and when to obtain visas in the initial information/invitation at least 6 months prior to the meeting
- Present lists of meeting participants who do require visas to the embassies of the country that hosts the meeting in the countries of residence of these participants as early as possible to facilitate the visa issuing process
- Inform prospective participants to immediately report any difficulties related to their visa applications to the organisers
- Report any difficulties relating to the issuing of visas without delay to the ICSU Member sponsoring the meeting
For meeting sponsors:
- Seek information from CFRS on the past record of the intended host country regarding visa delivery
- Intervene with the relevant authorities in the event of visa difficulties and inform CFRS at once
For meeting participants:
- Submit visa applications following the information and the timeframe provided by the meeting organisers. Scientist in a country of current residence, which is not that of their citizenship, or whose country of residence/citizenship is experiencing political difficulties with the country hosting the meeting, may need to apply up to 6 months prior to the meeting
- Take into account that traveling to a meeting destination involving passing through third countries may require transit visas, applications for which may require up to 6 months’ leeway, and consult the applicable regulations prior to making travel plans
- Report difficulties over visa applications at once to the meeting organisers to obtain assistance in due time
- Provide the visa issuing authorities with all required documents. As evidence that financial means suffice to cover both travel expenses and the stay in the country that hosts the meeting, copies of bank statements, flight tickets and booked accommodation are usually required. If the meeting organiser or the employer covers these costs, this should be documented appropriately. As evidence that they will return to your current country of residence after the meeting, students and PhD candidates should provide university enrolment documents and scientists employment contracts that are current.
In 2009, the ICSU President and President-elect published a letter on this subject in Nature: