Science and Technology Policies
Group Meeting - Workshop
for the 21st Century
Beirut (Lebanon), 1013 March 1999
Special Meeting on WCS
The UNESCO Cairo Office, in cooperation
with ESCWA, held the afore-mentioned high-level expert group meeting in Beirut under the
patronage of Lebanese Prime Minister Dr Selim El-Hoss, represented by Mr Mohammed Youssef
Beydoun, Minister of Education, Sports and Youth and Minister of Culture Higher, Technical
and Vocational Education. The main objective of the expert group meeting was to catalyse
and harmonize efforts aimed at the formulation of science and technology (S&T)
policies and strategies at relevant levels and in sectors of primary concern.
Special Meeting on
World Conference on Science
13 March 1999
Within the framework of preparatory activities run by UNESCOs
Cairo Office for the UNESCO/ICSU World Conference on Science, the present special meeting
was arranged to take place immediately following the above-mentioned expert group meeting,
in order to give the experts participating in the S&T policy workshop the opportunity
to attend an associated meeting of the World Conference on Science.
In collaboration with the Arab League Educational, Cultural and
Scientific Organization (ALECSO), The UNESCO Cairo Office had commissioned two key experts
from the Arab region to prepare two studies that were presented during the first session
of the meeting on the World Conference on Science. The studies are:
- Research and Development in the Arab States: a New Commitment (by Subhi Qasem)
sponsored by ALECSO;
- Science and Research for Development in the Arab Region (by Nader Fergany) sponsored
by the UNESCO Cairo Office.
Dr El-Deek of the UNESCO Cairo Office chaired the entire meeting, which
he opened by delivering a presentation on the World Conference on Science (WCS). His
presentation covered the Conferences objectives, programme, expected output,
draft Declaration on Science and the Use of Scientific Knowledge and Science
Agenda Framework of Action.
Drs Qasem and Fergany were then invited to present a 30-minute talk on
their respective papers, after which the floor was opened to discussion for half an hour.
The numerous questions and remarks from participants centered on:
- the necessity for Arab governments to increase research and development (R&D)
funding at all levels in all sectors and for the private sector to do the same. Yet, since
a clearer government S&T policy is a prerequisite for attracting the private sector,
it was recommended that the Arab governments take the initiative to increase the present
level of their funding to the S&T sector.
- the importance of increasing cooperation between the Arab states (i.e. conducting joint
research, in particular, regional collaborative research programmes, and the sharing of
information). Each state in the region should develop and promote a national S&T
policy focusing on specific fields, which in turn will permit each state to concentrate
efforts and resources and move towards a well-defined goal.
Arab countries should recognize that S&T development is a necessary
condition for the peaceful development of the region. Recognizing this, integration and
cooperation between Arab states should be enhanced, barriers to the free flow of
information should be overcome, while joint ventures and new S&T policies should be
formulated. Such a policy should definitely include both national and regional activities
as a basis for further action at the international level.
The second session was devoted in its entirety to presenting and
discussing the contents of the Draft Declaration on Science and the Use of Scientific
Knowledge of the World Conference on Science. A presentation was delivered by Prof.
Mohammed Hamdan, former Jordanian Minister of Education and current Secretary-General of
Higher Committee for Science and Technology (HCST). Participants were subsequently invited
to share their thoughts and comments with the meeting. Their recommendations are listed
- It is advisable to also refer, in the Declaration, to The Universal Declaration
on the Human Genome and Human Rights, alongside the already existing reference to the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- Human cloning research constitutes one of the serious ethical and moral issues that
should be taken into consideration and respected by all nations and scientists, in order
to safeguard human dignity.
- Stress should also be placed on the free access of scientists working in developing
countries to scientific information. In this respect, all UN organizations are required to
play a key role in assisting developing countries in having access to information, through
- Efforts are needed by developing countries to facilitate access to scientific knowledge
in their own national languages.
- The WCS should stress the responsibility of industrialized countries for supporting
R&D in developing countries through sub-regional and regional networks.
- The WCS should stress access to education since about 18 million Arab children are
deprived of basic education.
- Reference was made to the lack of translation into four UNESCO languages of the WCS
- An inquiry was raised on two fronts regarding the overall merit and benefit of the WCS.
The first questioned the significant absence of the world's leading nation in science and
technology, the USA, while the second dealt with the current embargo on importing
sophisticated technological equipment currently placed on 74 countries (and how this would
deter their technological advancement, particularly computer-oriented advancement). Since
both of these factors stand to undermine the overall merit of the WCS, they must be
considered with care and consideration.
- UNESCO must release the Science Agenda Framework for Action, as soon as
possible, along with the already available draft Declaration, since without the
presence of both documents it would be difficult to pass a mature judgement on either.
- Both sessions of the Special Meeting were considered successful by all participants, who
engaged in lively discussion following each presentation.
- Participants expressed their appreciation of the organizational aspects of the meeting,
its smooth running on schedule, as well as the praiseworthy role of UNESCO in assisting
Arab scientists in the region (particularly the young).
- Moreover, participants made clear their enthusiastic anticipation of participating in
the upcoming WCS, the topics of which they considered to be both timely and interesting.
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