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Arab leaders have agreed to collaborate more closely on research and increase their funding of science and technology.

The commitment was outlined in a declaration made yesterday (29 March) at a summit of the 22-member nations of the Arab League in Khartoum, Sudan.

The Khartoum declaration also calls on Arab nations to increase their research capacity, enact policies to promote quality in science, and encourage public-private research partnerships.

The proposals to boost science in the Arab world were put forward by Sudan, whose president Omar Hassan al-Bashir opened the summit with a call for members of the Arab League to put science at the heart of their strategic plans.

Al-Bashir said it was sad that a single US university can spend more on research than all Arab countries put together.

He suggested that the increasing revenues from oil production should be used to fund science and technology development.

Collectively, Arab nations spend 0.15 per cent of their gross domestic product on research and development — well below the global average of 1.4 per cent.

The Arab League's secretary general, Amru Musa, called for reform of the educational systems in Arab countries, and for the creation of an education and scientific organisation.

Salah Aziz, coordinator of engineering programmes at Florida A&M University and Florida State University in the United States, says the Arab world needs to set up more research centres and create national and regional research plans.

Aziz told SciDev.Net that partnerships between universities and industry would benefit both sides, by improving teaching standards and preparing graduates for careers in research and development.

Link to Khartoum declaration (in Arabic)