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Chemical Sciences in Development

Current Activities: Promoting the Chemical Sciences for Development

IOCD was established in 1981 under the auspices of UNESCO, as the first international non-governmental organization (NGO) devoted to enhancing the role of the chemical sciences in development work and involving chemists in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) — enabling them to contribute to key areas of science and technology for development. Today, IOCD remains the only international NGO with this focus and continues its mission through a variety of channels.
During the last two centuries, the chemical sciences have contributed enormously both to broad improvements in human wellbeing (including enhancements in life expectancy, health and quality of life) and to wealth creation for individuals and nations. Landmark examples include the roles of chemistry and related sciences in:
  • Innovations in the generation, storage and use of energy
  • Creation of new materials
  • Advances in agriculture, food and nutrition
  • Better health
  • Economic growth
For more details see the section on The chemical sciences
As well as its active work in the focal areas of its two strategic priority areas, IOCD utilises meetings, publications and media opportunities to promote the role of the chemical sciences in development. Some examples are highlighted here.
Celebrating The International Year Of Chemistry In 2011
The United Nations designated 2011 as the International Year of Chemistry (IYC2011), providing opportunities for a worldwide celebration of the achievements of chemistry and its contributions to the well-being of humankind. An initiative of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry and UNESCO, the goals of IYC2011 were to increase the public appreciation of chemistry in meeting world needs, to encourage interest in chemistry among young people, and to generate enthusiasm for the creative future of chemistry. Learn more about IYC2011.
IOCD contributions to IYC2011 included:
Contributions by IOCD's President Jean-Marie Lehn
As a prominent chemist (Jean-Marie Lehn shared the 1987 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for development and use of molecules that recognize and interact with each other, a field now known as ‘supramolecular chemistry’), IOCD's President was very active in promoting the field of chemistry and celebrating its achievements in connection with IYC2011.


Participating in the official launch ceremony of IYC2011 on 27-28 January in Paris at the headquarters of UNESCO, Professor Lehn gave the Introductory Lecture and framed the importance of the year in his talk, entitled “From Matter to Life: Chemistry!”. He observed that “The essence of chemistry is not just to discover but to create novel expressions of complex matters. The book of chemistry is not just to be read, it is to be written.” Read more about this event here, here and here.

IOCD President Jean-Marie Lehn pictured during the official launch of the 2011 International Year of Chemistry at UNESCO, Paris on 27 January 2011.

More on the official inauguration of IYC2011 and remarks by Jean-Marie Lehn on “Protecting our planet: the role of chemistry in creating a sustainable future” can be found here.

Professor Lehn also participated in a number of other meetings associated with IYC2011. These included:

Interviews and comments:

  • In an interview with Nature, Professor Lehn spoke about the role of science in society and culture.
  • Professor Lehn's comment “Chemistry will undoubtedly remain the central science in the 21st century” was featured at the front of the IYC2011 Media Kit of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.


  • Writing on “Chemistry: The science and art of matter” in a special edition of the UNESCO Courier marking the start of IYC2011, IOCD's President Jean-Marie Lehn highlighted the pivotal role that chemistry has to play in relation to many aspects of human progress, including food and medicines, clothes and housing, energy and raw materials, transport and communications and much else.
  • A paper by Professor Lehn on “Configurational and Constitutional Information Storage: Multiple Dynamics in Systems Based on Pyridyl and Acyl Hydrazones” was featured by Chemistry: A European Journal as part of its marking of the beginning of IYC2011.
  • The book Concepts of Nanochemistry, co-authored by Ludovico Cademartiri, Geoffrey A. Ozin and Jean-Marie Lehn, was featured by the publishers Wiley as one of their Official International Year of Chemistry Publications.

Contributions by IOCD's Executive Director Alain Krief and other IOCD scientists
  • IOCD was enroled by its Executive Director, the distinguished Belgian chemist Professor Alain Krief of Namur University, in the IYC2011 Network.
  • Professor Krief participated in the Closing Ceremony of IYC2011 1 December 2011, Brussels, Belgium
  • IOCD Senior Advisory Council member Berhanu Abegaz and Board member Stephen Matlin contributed a major review of “Chemistry for Development” in the book The Chemical Element: Chemistry's Contribution to Our Global Future, published by Wiley-VCH to mark IYC2011.
Highlighting the Role and Potential of the Chemical Sciences for Development
IOCD's work to promote the role of the chemical sciences in development includes:

Organization and sponsorship of meetings

  • IOCD's prestigious series of International Conferences on Plant Chemistry was organised by the Working Group on Plant Chemistry every 1-2 years. The 15 symposia held 1996-2015 provided an important mechanism for plant chemists to share the latest results, including on the practical uses of plant products in medicine and other fields.
  • In partnership with the Namur Research College (NARC), IOCD has mounted a prestigious series of international symposia, in which leading chemists including Nobel Laureates have presented the latest advances in research in the chemical sciences. To date there have been five of these Symposia.
  • IOCD was a co-sponsor of the 23rd International Symposium on Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis (23PBA), held in João Pessoa, Brazil, on 9-12 October 2011. IOCD Secretary Stephen Matlin gave a Keynote Lecture during 23PBA, on “Globalization and development: The critical role of pharmaceutical and biomedical analysis ”.

Participation in conferences

  • Federico Rosei was presented with the World Cultural Council's 2014 José Vasconcelos World Award of Education at a ceremony in Finland on 17 November 2014 which was attended by IOCD's Executive Director. Prof. Rosei heads IOCD's Working Group on Materials for Energy Conversion, Saving and Storage (MATECSS).
  • Stephen Matlin participated in the annual meeting of IUPAC's Committee on Chemistry Education in Toronto, Canada, where he provided an update on IOCD's activities; and he gave a presentation on IOCD's chemistry education work during the concurrent 23rd International Conference on Chemistry Education, 13-18 July 2014.
  • Kurt Hostettmann (Chair of the former IOCD Working Group on Plant Chemistry) was presented on 1 September 2014 with the Egon-Stahl-Award in Gold on the occasion of the annual congress of the Society for Medicinal Plant and Natural Product Research held in Guimaraes, Portugal. The Award is the highest distinction of the Society and acknowledged Prof. Hostettmann's outstanding scientific lifetime work as a research scientist who has been closely involved with pharmacognosy and phytochemistry.
  • IOCD Executive Director Alain Krief attended the annual meeting of IUPAC's Committee on Chemistry Education in Busan, South Korea with the support of The French Community, Belgium and presented on IOCD's activities; and he gave a talk on IOCD's chemistry education work project during the concurrent IUPAC 45th World Chemistry Congress, 9-14 August 2015.
  • Jean-Marie Lehn (Nobel Laureate; IOCD President) lectured at several universities in the Netherlands on 25-30 September 2015, and while in Nijmegen on 30 September was presented with the Netherlands Award for Supramolecular Chemistry in recognition of his lifetime contribution to the field of which he is considered the founding father.
  • Alain Krief participated in the launch of the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AAESA) at the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) on 10 September 2015 in Nairobi, Kenya. IOCD collaborated with partners in a project to produce copies of the Ishango Bone for display as a symbol of early science in Africa. H.E. Dr. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, President of the Republic of Mauritius, who is also a chemist, unveiled a replica of the Ishango Bone at the AAS headquarters during the AAESA launch.

    H.E. Dr. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, President
    of the Republic of Mauritius, unveiling
    the Ishango Bone at the presentation
    ceremony, with IOCD Executive
    Director Prof. Alain Krief
    Photo: African Academy of Sciences

  • The 2015 Gordon Research Conference on Chemistry Education Research & Practice: Chemistry Education as an Agent in Global Progress took place at Bates College, Lewiston ME, USA on 21-26 June 2015. Stephen Matlin participated and gave a lecture on The Contribution of the Chemical Sciences to Global Progress: Achievements, Prospects and Challenges.
  • Stephen Matlin participated in the annual meeting of IUPAC's Committee on Chemistry Education in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where he provided an update on IOCD's work in chemistry education; and he gave a presentation on IOCD's work on ‘one-world chemistry’ and the implications for chemistry education, during the concurrent 46th IUPAC World Chemistry Congress, 9-14 July 2017.
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