Science, Technology and Innovation in Iraq

Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) are now universally recognized as the drivers of national economic development and key contributors to poverty reduction, disease prevention and environmental conservation. Once among the strongest in the region in STI, Iraq has suffered substantial setbacks in its intellectual infrastructure following years of isolation, diminishing resources and infrastructure damage. A large number of Iraqi scientists and engineers are believed to have left the country. Most of the country´s higher education and research institutions are not fully operational. Technology across most economic sectors, including the oil sector, is outdated. While the updating of technology has been a national priority, the transfer of scientific knowledge and technology has been hampered, negatively impacting the quality of life in almost every sphere, and limiting the country from harnessing the fruits of its scientific discoveries.

The Government will need to respond with a comprehensive assessment of the science and technology sector, backed up with policies, programmes, institutions and partnerships which foster economic opportunities. The need for strengthening capacity in science for sustainable development and harnessing innovation can only be addressed within a comprehensive framework of science and technology.

The role of UNESCO in STI policy is threefold: it is a think tank on policy development; a guide for national policy reforms; and a catalyst for regional and international cooperation. UNESCO has a long tradition of assisting countries in science policy reviews, which dates back to the early 1960s. As national authorities have become increasingly aware of the importance of elaborating national policies and strategies in the area of science and technology as a prerequisite for effective development policies, many countries have sought, and are still seeking, UNESCO’s support in formulating national STI policies.

In 2005, UNESCO commissioned a preliminary assessment of science and technology in Iraq as a driver for economic development. It concluded that a more robust science and technology sector is vital for reviving the national economy in the aftermath of the recent conflict.

This project is employing methodologies used successfully by UNESCO in other countries to guide the Government of Iraq in formulating a Master Plan for Science, Technology and Innovation (MP-STI) that responds to the country’s needs and takes into consideration stakeholder’s views.

This project aims at building the capacity of Iraqi policymakers to develop a medium-term, needs-and-results-based Master Plan for Science Technology and Innovation (MP-STI) for the period 2011-2015. The MP-STI should thus have a significant impact on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) development across the business, government and public sectors. Specifically, this project recognizes the importance of STI as the drivers of national economic development and key development indicators, such as poverty, health and the environment. Fostering access to information and knowledge, a global priority of UNESCO, will be the cornerstone of this project as it seeks to initiate ownership of the national STI policy formulation across the country.

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