Press Release



Document Proposes New Initiatives

To Strengthen National Scientific Capabilities Worldwide

Presiding over the launching of an InterAcademy Council report entitled “Inventing a Better Future:  A Strategy for Building Worldwide Capacities in Science and Technology” this afternoon, Secretary-General Kofi Annan stressed the need to mobilize the best scientific minds and put their expert knowledge and advice at the service of the world’s peoples, in particular, in implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.

The Secretary-General further said that the eight commitments contained in those Goals -– ranging from halving poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education by the target date of 2015 –- represented a set of simple but powerful objectives that every man and woman in the street could easily understand and support.  Reaching those goals required tapping into human creativity, resourcefulness and innovation to the fullest extent possible.  That was where science and technology came in.

A brainchild of the InterAcademy Council, which was established in May 2000 by a number of national science academies from around the world, the document proposes new initiatives to strengthen national scientific capabilities worldwide, and to foster opportunities for cooperation among the world’s scientific and technological communities.

The Secretary-General expressed hope that the Council and the wider world scientific community would build further on that foundation, in partnership with the United Nations and its agencies, other international and regional organizations, and the world’s governments.  “That is how the potential of science and technology could be realized in the struggle to improve the human condition”, he said in conclusion.

The document was introduced by its co-authors and other members of the study panel that produced the report, all of them renowned scientists of international stature:  Jacob Palis, Professor, Instituto Nacional de Matemática Pura e Aplicada (IMPA), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Ismail Serageldin, Director, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Alexandria, Egypt; Mamphela Ramphele, Managing Director at the World Bank and member of the InterAcademy Council study panel.  Council co-chair Bruce Alberts formally presented the report to the Secretary-General.

During the presentation, it was pointed out that the document addresses the urgent need to promote worldwide science capacity against the backdrop of rapid globalization and technological development.  It contains five clusters of recommendations in the areas of science, technology and society; expansion of human resources; creation of world-class research institutions; engagement of public of private sectors; and targeted funding of research and training efforts.

The authors stressed that business-as-usual would leave an ever-growing gap between “have” and “have-not” nations, as industrialized countries continued to master the tools of science and invention, vastly outspend the developing nations in research and even capture some of their most precious human resources for their own use.  Stronger science and technology capacity in developing nations was not a luxury, but an absolute necessity.  That required the involvement of all pertinent actors, and one of the speakers proposed holding an international conference of donors to help increasing such capacity in developing countries.  South-South cooperation was also of great value.  Also emphasized in the presentation were the essential role of the universities and the importance of creating a culture that valued science.  High-quality education and training were essential for all nations.

Part of the presentation was a question-and-answer session, which was moderated by Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  Among the issues addressed in the discussion were the problems of Internet access, collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the need to overcome the perception that science was a luxury.

During that discussion, a question was raised about the leadership role of the United Nations in solving development problems, in particular, in Africa.  In that connection, the Secretary-General said that Africa was the only continent that had not been touched by the green revolution.  He also referred to the fact that the second InterAcademy Council report would address ways to increase food productivity on that continent.

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