UN S&T Cluster in support of the African Union Consolidated Plan of Action for Science and Technology

Context/Background

Since 1999, regional consultative meetings have been held to improve the coherence of the activities of the various UN agencies working in the five regions of the world. This reform agenda echoes the wishes of many UN Member States desirous to revitalize the role of the specialized agencies, in order to maximize efforts and to avoid duplication. These consultative meetings come in response to regional development efforts in Africa in particular, in the context of the UN Secretary-General’s reform agenda and as urged by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

For Africa, six thematic cluster areas were established to serve as an operational framework to support the African Union. These clusters involve various UN agencies and concern the priority areas for the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

The Science and Technology (S&T) Cluster was established at the Fifth Regional Consultation in May 2003. It designated UNESCO as the Convener and the UN Commission for Africa (UNECA) as the Vice-Convener.

The inaugural meeting of the S&T Cluster took place in July 2004 during the Sixth Regional Consultation. The meeting adopted an initial programme of activities for active cooperation which included collaboration with the African Union (AU) within the framework of the forthcoming AU summit on the theme of science and technology in 2007. In addition to UNESCO and UNECA, agencies cited as being important for membership of the cluster included WIPO, UNIDO, UNCTAD, FAO, UNEP, World Bank, ILO and WHO. Since 2004, the cluster has been working informally, notably supporting and monitoring the process of the development of Africa’s S&T Consolidated Plan of Action approved by Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) in January 2007, as well as the review, update and restructuring of S&T systems and policies in Africa. It has also been supporting the Inter-agency Network on Biotechnology.

However, the cluster still needs to coordinate more closely, working as a functioning team to strengthen its role as a significant partner of the AU in S&T. In order to coordinate UN S&T input into the AU Summit, improve functioning and maximize efforts, a meeting of the UN S&T Cluster in support of the AU was convened by UNESCO in Paris on 9 June 2006. Other relevant partners were invited to this meeting.

The cluster engages in a mix of two sets of activities:

    • focus on the African Union Science and Technology Initiative aimed at the explicit application of S&T for industrialization and economic growth;
    • mainstreaming S&T in other AU initiatives by defining issues which require S&T research, analysis and capacity-building.

The cluster worked closely with the African Union Plan of Action in science and technology and in the preparation for, and organization of, the First African Ministerial Conference on Science and Technology in Johannesburg in November 2003.

In October 2007, UNESCO’s General Conference approved the launch of an African Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Initiative.

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