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Science and Technology Policies and Strategies
for the 21st Century
Beirut (Lebanon), 10–13 March 1999

STEMARN Expert Group Meeting - Workshop

Special Meeting on WCS
First Session
Second Session

Background  Back to top

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
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Within the framework of preparatory activities run by UNESCO’s 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.

First Session    Back to top

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 Conference’s 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.

Recommendations    Back to top

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.

Second Session    Back to top

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 hereafter.

Recommendations   Back to top

  • 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 modern technologies.
  • 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 documents.
  • 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.

Conclusions    Back to top

  • 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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