Brain Drain to Brain Gain

UNESCO projects in Mali and Yugoslavia provide innovative approaches to the phenomenon of Brain Drain, the extensive emigration of skilled professionals. Both projects capitalize on the skills of nationals living abroad to promote international intellectual co-operation.

University of Mali TOKTEN project

The Transfer of Knowledge through Expatriate Nationals programme at the newly established University of Mali (TOKTEN TALMALI) filled the urgent need for qualified teaching and research personnel in a number of key areas by bringing Malian academics living abroad back to their home country on short term contracts.

Twelve missions by visiting expatriate professors to the University of Mali were held in the 2000-2001 academic year as part of this joint Government of Mali, UNESCO and UNDP project. The visiting professors, living in Africa, Europe and North America, represented specialists in a wide range of fields including engineering, international law, mathematics, marketing, tourism, computer science and economics. TOKTEN TALMALI facilitated co-operation between the visiting professors and their counterparts at the University of Mali, established in 1996, with a view to fostering continued dialogue and exchange of inter- university experiences.

Mali has a high level of migration, and widespread Diaspora working in key institutions abroad. The linguistic and cultural skills of the participants of the TOKTEN TALMALI programme greatly facilitated the smooth transfer of knowledge and skills.

The TOKTEN programme was initiated by the UNDP in 1977. This programme has proven to be a cost-effective and innovative modality for transferring knowledge to over 30 developing countries in a wide spectrum of fields. TOKTEN funds the services of expatriate national experts for well prepared short term assignments (usually one to three months) with selected host institutions in the government, academic and research institutions, private sector and ngos.

Interest in the innovative experience at the University of Mali was expressed by participants at the Seventh Session of the Regional Committee in charge of the application of the Regional Convention on the Recognition of Studies in the Africa Region organized by the UNESCO Regional Office for Education in Africa (Senegal, November 2001). This intergovernmental committee recommended that a case study of the the TOKTEN/TALMALI project at the University of Mali in the 2002-2003 biennium.

Project Brain Drain - Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

Brain Drain, the massive emigration of skilled professionals, is a priority addressed in the UNESCO Strategy for South East Europe. This Strategy responds to the massive emigration of young university graduates between the ages of 25 and 40 who make up a large proportion of the Diaspora from the South East European Area. Many of these professionals have continued their careers in institutions of higher learning abroad where they have gathered experience relevant to their countries of origin. Bringing these young professionals back for short or extended periods to the institutions that they have left is one of the key objectives of this Strategy.

This Strategy, launched in June 2001 reflects the commitment made by the Director-General of UNESCO at the Conference of Foreign Ministers of the Adriatic and Ionian countries (Ancona, May 2000) in which a new impetus was given to co-operation in all fields of UNESCO's competence with Member States from South East Europe. A high-level meeting with the participation of decision-makers at the ministerial level to co-ordinate UNESCO actions in this area is foreseen for March 2002.

The 'Alleviating Brain Drain in Bosnia, Croatia and Yugoslavia' Project, is one of fourteen pilot activities of this Strategy which highlights priority areas for UNESCO's co-operation and identifies flagship projects to be implemented in the 2002-2003 biennium.

The main idea behind the Brain Drain Project, organized by Education Forum, a Serbian non- governmental organization, is to treat brain drain as an opportunity for positive economic change and stabilization of South East Europe and a catalyst for Yugoslavia's successful integration into the European and global communities.

The two main objectives of the project are to establish strong professional ties between the young professional Diaspora from South Eastern Europe and their colleagues who have remained, and build on these contacts in order to strengthen links between institutions in the region and their counterparts abroad.

In the first phase of this project (August - December 2001), a bilingual English/Serbian Brain Drain website, with a publicly accessible web-based database of individuals and institutions in Yugoslavia and abroad was developed. During the first seven weeks following the launch of the brain drain website, some 240 people had registered on the site The members of the Brain Drain Database represented professionals living in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe (including Yugoslavia), North America and New Zealand. These people included professionals in the field of arts, business and finance, law, medicine, science and technology.

In its second phase, the project will set up services to enhance two way communication - Chat , Web Mail and Brain Forum - to promote exchange between individuals and co-operating institutions in order to identify activities such as joint research projects, visiting positions and post doctoral work.

This project will be extended to Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in its pilot phase, and if successful as a mechanism could be promoted at a larger scale in South East Europe and the Mediterranean.

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