[CAIRO] In a bid to narrow the science and technology divide between Arab states and industrialised nations, Arab leaders have approved a ten-year plan for scientific research and development.
This plan was signed off at a two-day summit of the 22 member nations of the Arab League in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia this week (28-29 March).
It calls on Arab countries to spend 2.5 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP) on research and development over the next ten years.
At present, Arab nations only spend 0.15 per cent of their collective GDP on research and development — well below the global average of 1.4 per cent.
Arab states have also agreed that they should spend at least seven per cent of their GDP on education, including science and technology teaching programmes.
They plan to increase the peaceful use of nuclear energy by establishing national authorities to monitor the use of nuclear energy more transparently.
In the past year, several Arab states have expressed an interest in making more use of nuclear power (see Gulf plans joint nuclear technology programme).
The declaration stated "the right of all countries to possess peaceful nuclear energy according to international terms of reference, and their emerging inspection and control regime".
To make sure that the plan is implemented, and to take stock of progress made, the secretary general of the League of Arab States will present a progress report at the 2008 Arab summit, due to be held in Syria.
The Tunisia-based Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization and other regional scientific organisations will also monitor and assess the plan's implementation.
Arab leaders agreed to make education and scientific research a permanent item at all future Arab summits.