business as usual
Cuban Ministry of Science and Technology (S&T) and UNESCO
are organizing a regional conference on Science, Technology
and Innovation for Sustainable Development from 1 to 3 December
in Havana. The organizers are deliberately departing from
a business-as-usual approach. Rather than aiming for the
adoption of a set of recommendations the more usual
outcome of conferences of this kind they will be
putting on the table a series of projects for regional co-operation
that participants will be invited to criticize, improve
upon and possibly approve. These operational projects will
include such areas as disaster risk reduction, science education
and science popularization. UNESCO will then assist Member
States in identifying project funding. The rationale behind
this approach is that projects are an effective way of stimulating
intra-regional co-operation in areas of common concern.
UNESCO has long been a proponent of SouthSouth co-operation
throughout the developing world. In Latin America and the
Caribbean, its Regional Bureau for Science in Montevideo
(Uruguay) has been involved in regional projects for technical
co-operation for decades. UNESCO has also played a major
role in creating regional scientific networks; the two most
recent ones were launched in 1998: the network of research
and development (R&D) and science programmes in the
Caribbean (Cariscience) and the network of R&D for postgraduates
in science in Central America (Red-CienciA).
Financial and political instability in recent decades has
taken its toll on S&T in Latin America. Today, the region
represents 8.3% of the world population and 8.9% of world
GDP but just 3.2% of world expenditure on R&D and 2.6%
of scientific articles. Countries have come to realize that,
if their region is to take its rightful place on the international
scene, they are going to have to pull together. That will
entail strengthening intra-regional ties.
Latin America and the Caribbean is a highly diverse region.
Countries devote from as little as 0.1% to 1.0% of GDP to
R&D. Seven states account for 92% of scientific articles
published in mainstream journals: Brazil (40%), Argentina
and Mexico (a combined share of 20%) and, in equal parts,
Chile, Colombia, Cuba and Venezuela.
In the Caribbean, Cuba is a unique case. Contrary to its
neighbours, which still hesitate to embrace a science
culture, Cuba has invested heavily in biotechnologies
and is today reaping the dividends. In this issue, we take
a closer look at the research situation in both Cuba and
the countries of the Caribbean Common Market.
Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences