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Address delivered during FORUM III

by M. Midhath Hilmy
Deputy Minister,
Ministry of Communication, Science and Technology

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The Maldivian Government thanks UNESCO and ICSU for convening this Conference and their masterful organization. We thank our hosts, the Hungarian Government and her people for their gracious hospitality and thoughtfulness. The Draft declaration on science and the use of scientific knowledge and the companion Framework for action are, indeed, insightful and thought-provoking instruments to guide national and international efforts in science production and usage. I congratulate the authors for their careful analysis of issues in international science and their laudable strategic agenda.
Many of us present at this conference are from the small island states of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Many of these countries, like the Maldives, are developing countries. You have recognized in the declaration and in the agenda, the problems of developing countries. But the case of small developing countries are far worse.
We believe that the science-related issues of small states are unique and worthy of special note at this conference. While constrained by the developing status of the country, the small states are further restricted by the lack of economies of scale, high unit costs for research and development, difficulties for specialization of scientists, limited markets for commercialization, and few in-country opportunities for education and innovation. Just to mention a few. We have to be creative and ingenious in finding solutions that are inclusive and equitable for small states as well.

Mr Chairman,
science has enabled globalization. Unfortunately, globalization has meant the globalization of problems, especially those of the environment. Small states, by their own geography are most affected. Global warming and the looming sea-level rise are issues of life and death for the small states. Just one-foot rise in mean sea-level will inundate about 50% of my country, for our mean land height above sea-level is merely three feet. Therefore, the survival of the small states in the 21st century will depend on thoughtful science and action ... science and action, not only on our shores, but elsewhere including the developed world. The industries of small states are small, few and friendly, but we are not insulated from the pollution and greenhouse gases of the rest of the world. The problems posed by the environment to the small states today will be the problems of the larger states tomorrow.

Mr Chairman,
The discussion at this important Conference has highlighted the pivotal role of communication technology. It is of unprecedented consequence. It has given rise to the global village. The future implications are fantastic.
However, we must not forget that this same technology has the potential to divide and deepen the already existing inequalities among the peoples of the world. At a global level, those who have access to technology are the minority. For many small developing countries, access to science and technology will remain expensive and inaccessible. Affordability and access to information technology must not be allowed to become another cause for exclusion of the disadvantaged, and give rise to a new technological underclass.

Mr Chairman,
The demarcation between public rights and private assets are becoming fuzzy. We have heard about patenting genetic research outcomes and law suits about anti-competitive practices of software companies. As the world becomes increasingly knowledge-driven, such issues will increase. If new ways of sharing are not institutionalized, for our small states, the enjoyment of science and its outcomes will remain a distant dream.
Mr Chairman,
UNESCO has an admirable history of developing mechanisms for exchange of ideas and expertise. We are confident that UNESCO will keenly value and represent the concerns of small and large states alike to ensure that science serves all humanity.

Thank you.


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