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The foreign ministers of 131 developing nations have backed plans to transform a network of science ministries, academies and research councils into a new body to promote science-based development.

The Consortium on Science, Technology and Innovation for the South (COSTIS) will replace the existing Third World Network of Scientific Organizations (TWNSO).

The decision was made last week (22 September) in New York City, United States, at the annual meeting of foreign ministers of the 131 member states of the so-called Group of 77 (G-77).

The move is intended to put science and technology closer to the heart of economic-development policy.

"COSTIS will provide member states of the G-77 with direct access to the developing world's best scientific minds," said Dumisani Kumalo, this year's chair of the G-77.

The TWNSO's secretary-general and executive director of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, Mohamed Hassan, said: "The consortium will provide a unique platform for governmental agencies responsible for funding research and development to interact with leaders in academia and industry."

COSTIS will focus on organising South-South forums on developing appropriate and affordable technologies in sectors such as energy and water.

It also plans to support the creation of scientific 'centres of excellence' and promote scientific cooperation between the G-77 member states through information-sharing, exchange programmes and joint research projects.

COSTIS will seek funding from governments in the North and South, as well as international donors and foundations. It is set to be fully operational by January 2007.

Athar Osama, founder and coordinator of the Pakistan Research Support Network, says that resolving in advance issues such as what COSTIS will do and how, and where centres of excellence will be created, will "be critical to COSTIS' ability to deliver what is being expected of it".

"We must clearly watch this institution as it takes shape," he told SciDev.Net.

Science and technology consultant John Daly says he wants to see the G-77, "put their money where their mouth is. Renaming TWNSO as COSTIS is not a substitute for real, effective committment of resources."

In a related development, the so-called G3 (Brazil, India and South Africa) have agreed to cooperate in research into renewable energy and biofuels, information technologies, climate change and agriculture, and help each other to strengthen their scientific capacity.

The plans were agreed on 13 September at the first G3 Heads of State and Government Summit, held in Brasilia, Brazil.

Mohamed Hassan is a trustee of SciDev.Net.

G-77 Strategic plan 2006-2009  [1762KB]