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Capacity building in the developing world is essential to reduce the gap in scientific productivity between rich and poor countries, Erling Norrby, the Secretary General of Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, said yesterday (28 May) at the final preparatory meeting for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD).

"The spread of knowledge knows no borders, but one of the unacceptable global inequities is the difference between industrialised and developing countries in the capacity to assimilate, not to mention generate, new knowledge," he told delegates at the meeting, known as PrepCom 4, in Bali, Indonesia.

He said that it was the "sharing of ideas, hypotheses and verifiable facts that drives the stunning progress of scientific knowledge" and that interaction came naturally to scientists, making them "good partners in collaborative efforts".

"The interaction between scientists does not only occur within disciplines, but also between the disciplines," he said. "The knowledge landscape is continuously changing with the emergence of new disciplines and new multidisciplinary topics."

Norrby, who was speaking as a formal representative of ‘the Science and Technology Community’, also underlined the relevance of science to the wide variety of topics being discussed in the run-up to the WSSD, which will be held in Johannesburg in August.

"Science and technology is a unique stakeholder because of the pervasiveness of its products," he said. "There is almost no issue raised at these Prepcoms where science and technology need not be involved one way or the other."

Addressing the potential creation of a partnership between difference international scientific organisations involved in global issues a proposal endorsed, for example, at the outcome of a meeting last week in Mexico City (see Scientific bodies link up to study sustainability ) Norrby said that six points needed to be remembered
  1. the identification of partnerships had to be based on priority setting in a participatory manner that brought together the relevant stakeholders;
  2. The results of partnerships in areas considered to be a priority should be presented transparently and communicated widely;
  3. Most partnerships should focus on the local and regional levels, although their aggregated results would feed into a global framework;
  4. The basis for partnerships should be scientifically verifiable, based on existing and emerging knowledge, as well as a respect for empirically accumulated knowledge;
  5. A priority for progress was the proper selection of targets that could be monitored, and the inclusion of carefully chosen milestones;
  6. The aim of dynamic partnerships between equals is to foster responsible democratic processes based on pluralism and individual engagements.
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To listen to Norrby's speech, go to the IISD Linkages website.
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