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COMSATS is boosting South-South research cooperation

With reference to your report about a recent Commission in Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in the South (COMSATS) meeting, published on 25 April 2012, I wish to register my disappointment with the way that the proceedings of the meeting were reported, and the unjustified comments that were made about COMSATS.

The enormous good-will and optimism about South-South cooperation observed in the meeting was sadly missing in the report.

Since its inception in 1994, COMSATS has consistently pursued its primary task of capacity building in socioeconomically relevant areas of science and technology, mainly through South-South cooperation.

A worldwide network of 17 reputed research and development (R&D) organisations is affiliated with COMSATS as its centres of excellence. The heads of these organisations are members of COMSATS' coordinating council, which has been holding regular annual meetings. The 15th meeting of the council will be held in May 2012, hosted by TUBITAK Marmara Research Centre, Turkey.

The council is a forum at which the leaders of R&D organisations report on the activities of their organisations, and receive input from their peers regarding their future programmes. This constitutes a unique and effective mechanism of South-South cooperation, being facilitated by COMSATS on a consistent and regular basis.

Moreover, during the last three years alone, COMSATS has organised or co-organized 40 capacity-building programmes in member countries. For example, an international workshop on Internet security, held in Syria, and a workshop on the repair and maintenance of sophisticated scientific equipment, both organised with the help of experts provided by COMSATS from within its member states, were highly appreciated by concerned ministries of these countries, and praised as good examples of South-South cooperation.

All activities of COMSATS are well-publicised through its website, which also contains copies of bi-monthly newsletters and annual reports.

Although COMSATS receives limited funding from member countries, the host country, Pakistan, bears the entire establishment expenditure of its secretariat in Islamabad. In return for this generosity, COMSATS has given Pakistan one of the finest universities in the country, which also acts as one of the centres of excellence, and hence contributes towards South-South cooperation.

Partnership with other international organisations, such as the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO), and generous support of the countries hosting these activities, compensate for any financial limitations.

In the second meeting of the commission held at the level of ministers or senior officials nominated by heads of states, the delegates renewed the member countries’ resolve and commitment to support the objectives of the commission as contained in its International Agreement of October 1994, and expressed their appreciation of the role of the commissions’ network of centres of excellence and the secretariat.

The following major decisions were taken at this meeting:

·         Ghana was elected by consensus to be the chair of COMSATS for the next three years;

·         an endowment fund of US$ 10 million was created to provide for the financial security of the organisation;

·         pledges of more than US$ 400,000 were made as contributions towards COMSATS programmes;

·         a resolution was adopted (available on website) in which a commitment was made to devise an effective framework for disbursement of adequate financial contribution to COMSATS on voluntary basis;

·         and the five-year strategy of COMSATS was endorsed, based on the launching of international thematic research groups, three of which are already in operation.

COMSATS highly appreciates the commitment of its member states towards the objectives of the commission. The financial (direct and in-kind) contributions, as well as intellectual contributions, made by member states are gratefully acknowledged by the COMSATS administration.