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UN Committee Endorses International Year of Light in 2015

PARIS, Oct. 26, 2012 — A resolution declaring 2015 as the International Year of Light was endorsed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and backed by 28 other nations, at the organization’s 190th session in Paris last week. Its adoption paves the way for approval by the full UN general assembly.

The International Year of Light (IYOL) — an initiative developed in 2009 by numerous international scientific societies and organizations led by the European and African Physical Societies — is being organized to communicate the importance of light and optical technologies in our lives, for our futures and for the development of society. It was unanimously approved in November 2011 by the executive council of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics at its 27th General Assembly in London. The UN General Assembly will make a final declaration late next year.

The proposal was introduced to UNESCO’s executive board by delegates from Ghana, Mexico, the Russian Federation and New Zealand on behalf of a global partnership of more than 40 scientific societies, institutions and academies. SPIE, the American Physical Society, the Institute of Physics and OSA all are members of the partnership.

"We are very pleased that UNESCO has supported the resolution for the International Year of Light," said OSA CEO Elizabeth Rogan, who serves on the International Year of Light’s advisory board. "Having the support of a prestigious body like UNESCO will help raise global awareness of the importance of optics and photonics. OSA looks forward to participating to increase public understanding of light-based technologies and advance our vibrant field with this program."

The program will consist of coordinated activities in science, education and development across four themes:
  • Science of Light: Addressing how studying the fundamental scientific properties of light impacts widely on all fields of science, technology and engineering.

  • Tools for the Future: Highlighting particular examples of light as an enabling technology in medicine, biophotonics, communications and energy, as well as exciting emerging applications in the study and preservation of cultural heritage.

  • Light for Development: Promoting light-based technology to improve the quality of life, such as alternative energy, agricultural applications, disease prevention and water purification.

  • Pioneers of Light: Recognizing and highlighting the human stories of the historical figures behind the science of light and their groundbreaking contributions.
In addition to the executive board, supporters of the resolution included the following co-signatories: Angola, Bangladesh, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Cuba, Djibouti, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Kenya, Indonesia, Italy, Malawi, Nigeria, Peru, the Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Thailand, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, the United States of America, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe. Other member states of UNESCO who declared support for the initiative were Hungary, Serbia and South Africa.

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