Caucausan Academies propose Regional Centre for Science and Technology

22 June 2001 Participants in a sub-regional workshop in Tbilisi (Georgia) have appealed to the Governments of the South Caucasus to facilitate the creation of a Regional Centre for Science and Technology.

In their view, such a Centre would facilitate scientific and technological advancement by improving information networking and providing a framework for re-training of specialists for national and regional projects.

The participants were gathered at a workshop on the theme of the Reform of the Academies of Sciences in the Countries of the South Caucasus, held from 4 to 7 May 2001 within the framework of UNESCO’s sub-regional programme ‘Caucasus’.

The reforms currently under way in each of the Academies are focusing on three broad areas: closer involvement of young specialists and women in scientific and technological research; a greater application of scientific discoveries to solving ecological and social problems; and more multidisciplinary analysis of the ethical implications of environmental and societal transformations.

Against the backdrop of a laborious transition to a market economy, the Academies of Science of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine analysed the current state of science in the sub-region and recommended moves to foster regional and international cooperation.

Participants lamented the deep socio-economic problems suffered by the states of the South Caucasus in the transition period and the insufficient levels of public spending on science which have led to both internal and external brain drain through an outflow of youth from science and emigration of skilled labour (external brain drain), and to a substantial decrease in scientific potential.

Echoing the World Conference on Science’s own conclusions, they recalled that scientific knowledge was an important prerequisite for sustained economic growth, national competitiveness and state security, not to mention its potential for improving social welfare.

Sustainable socio-economic development of the region would be dependent upon high educational standards, progress in fundamental and applied science, modern technologies, a highly skilled labour force, advanced technical, communication and information facilities, flexible interdisciplinary integration, and professional networking at national, sub-regional, regional and international levels.

The Academies warned of the risk of the rapidly increasing global technological divide reducing the role of the states of the South Caucasus to that of supplier of primary commodities and a cheap labour force to the global economy, and of the sub-region becoming home to ecologically hazardous industries.

They appealed to their leaders to foster dialogue between scientific circles and decision-makers, to support the creation of a legal basis for scientific development and intellectual property protection, to gradually increase public spending on science and technology, to foster interconnectedness between industry, research and higher education, and to facilitate the sub-region’s integration into the global scientific space by means of relevant custom and tax benefits.

International cooperation would need to be strategically applied, they concluded, to consolidate the national Academies of Sciences, which were the cornerstone of the organization of fundamental science in the South Caucasus and in Ukraine.

Closer co-operation between the South Caucuasan neighbours would be essential. Owing to their geographical, cultural and historical proximity, the three states of the South Caucasus were confronted with the same set of problems in the areas of environment, global warming, seismology, hydrology, energy resources, development of mountainous and coastal areas, societal disintegration, marginalization and ethnic conflicts.

In this connection, the ‘Caucasus’ programme was praised for its important contribution thus far to the sub-region’s development, much to the satisfaction of the meeting’s organizers, UNESCO’s Division for Science Policy and Analysis and the Georgian National Commission for UNESCO.

The Academies urged UNESCO to pursue its support for ‘Caucasus’ and invited the sub-region’s National Commissions to co-operate on the implementation of the programme’s science component.

For further information, contact m.bertero@unesco.org