25 April 2012 | EN
South-South cooperation is stumbling, a meeting heard.
[ISLAMABAD] Lack of cooperation, internal and regional political crises and low science budgets are among roadblocks to collaboration among developing countries, an international meeting heard.
The Islamabad-based Commission on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in the South (COMSATS) held its second commission meeting this month (16-17 April), after 15 years, to discuss challenges to scientific cooperation among its 21 members spread over Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The meeting also discussed ways to improve its finances. In the past 16 years, COMSATS could gather only US$ 616,208 from its member-countries, against the US$ 9,680,000 pledged, its executive director Imtinan Elahi Qureshi told SciDev.Net.
Sherry Ayittey, Ghana's minister for environment, science and technology, proposed approaching international donor aid agencies, including the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, as well as the corporate sector.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani proposed setting up a US$ 10 million endowment fund, with contributions from both COMSATS countries and international donors. He pledged US$ one million from Pakistan for the fund.
Chairperson of COMSATS coordinating council, Eduardo Posada Florez, said that member-countries devoted, on average, about 0.5 per cent of their national budgets to science, compared to 2.5 per cent by developed countries
The scientific and technical capacity gap arose from "the depressing situation of poor budgetary allocations," Florez said. This situation was worsened by wastage of natural resources, economic stagnation and social instability in some countries, he added.
Athar Osama, chief executive officer of the UK-based Technomics International Limited and expert on science, technology and innovation policies in developing countries, observed that COMSATS was set up as an inter-governmental organisation in 1994, but had better success in building a federal university and an institute for information technology.
COMSATS' original objective was not to build a university, and hence it has "deviated from its original purpose," he told SciDev.Net.
"South-South cooperation is alive and flourishing," Osama said. "It is just not happening within multilateral institutions like COMSATS anymore."
Osama said the fact that COMSATS was holding its second commission meeting after 15 years signifies the question that it now faces regarding its relevance to the South today. "This is COMSATS' moment of truth."
Qureshi, however, said that COMSATS was "proactive on both national and international fronts, as far as our goals are concerned."
Link to Resolution of COMSATS Second Commission meeting 2012
See Letter to the editor: COMSATS is boosting South-South research cooperation
See Letter to the editor: In defence of COMSATS
Irfan ( Pakistan )
2 May 2012
Having personally witnessed the proceedings of the recently concluded two-day Commission Meeting of COMSATS, I observed that COMSATS, as an organization of the countries of the South, earned a great deal of appreciation from its members for the S&T led initiatives made during the last 17 years. Capacity building events, institutional building initiatives, exchange programmes are just to mention a few means put to use in this regard. The elaborate report on COMSATS' activities presented by the Executive Director COMSATS covering its undertakings since inception clearly establishes that the organization has achieved more than its financial position allowed. Run pre-dominantly on contributions made on voluntary basis, the functionality of the organization is itself an indication of strong South-South cooperation. If it weren't for the organization's commitment towards its mandate of South-South cooperation, I see no reason why the Country Statements read out by the heads of country-delegations would reflect the trust and confidence member countries repose in the organization; its Network of S&T Centres of Excellence being appreciated as the most important mechanism for such cooperation. Moreover, the financial commitments made during the meeting and the Resolution unanimously adopted at the end are not only reflective of the same faith and confidence, but also of how well COMSATS is fulfilling its international obligations.
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