Shortly before Christmas the science diplomacy year 2023 reached its peak with the First European Science Diplomacy Conference in Madrid, Spain, from December 18 to 19. Coordinated by the Spanish Presidency of the European Council in collaboration with the European Commission, this two-day event unfolded at the Fundación Ramón Areces in Madrid, offering a striking backdrop for discussions held both in the highly sought-after plenary sessions as well as in parallel sessions and side events. The EU Science Diplomacy Alliance held its Sixth General Assembly back-to-back with this paramount conference, being one of the two exclusive side events (invitation-only) that provided a space for key science diplomacy stakeholders to exchange views and plan for the future.
The gathering attracted the dynamic community dedicated to science diplomacy, not only from Europe but also beyond, fostering an environment of vital exchanges among the key stakeholders in European science diplomacy. The comprehensive program featured a high-level panel, parallel hybrid sessions, and four thematic sessions, providing ample space to evaluate a European Framework for Science Diplomacy. Speakers included representatives from the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the European Research Centre.
Many contributions from various perspectives emphasized the importance of adopting a more instrumental approach—one that views science as a tool to achieve broader diplomatic goals and also takes into account risks of international collaborations. The discourse advocated for a recognition of the potential of science diplomacy as a strategic instrument in achieving national and international goals for EU science diplomacy, while the importance was highlighted as well to decouple scientists from their institutional and national affiliations and guarantee freedom of research. This was discussed as a prerequisite to open up rooms of exchange for researchers in the spirit of science diplomacy apart from national interests. In essence, the discussions not only acknowledged the evolving nature of this field but also laid the groundwork for a recalibrated approach that aligns with the complex geopolitical landscape of the contemporary world.
The conference concluded with a set of 12 concrete suggestions for a European framework for science diplomacy, outlined on the conference website as the main outcomes of the discussions. You can find the conclusions here.
Please visit the S4D4C website for a more detailed event report and to learn about the “Journey from Madrid to Madrid”!