United Nations
Commission on Sustainable Development

Background Paper

Commission on Sustainable Development     Background Paper No. 11
Sixth Session
20 April - 1 May 1998

Non-Governmental Steering Committee

1.   The aim of science and technology is two-fold:

     (a)   to examine the contribution of science and technology to the national objectives set
by Government with civil society;

     (b)   to ensure that science and technology inputs are taken into account in those
developmental planning processes which search for means to implement the national objectives.

2.   Development should not be synonymous with economic growth.  It ought to be concerned
with reduction of poverty, inequality, unemployment and underemployment, greater natural
sovereignty and self reliance, and rational use of the environment leading to enhanced quality of
life for all people.  We have to consider development options against changing global northern
consumption patterns.

3.   In this environment, it seems logical to devote limited available scientific and technical
resources largely to improving the local capacity to evaluate and bargain effectively for foreign
technology.  Associated research funding should be concentrated on applied studies in important
areas which will yield net national benefits.  Using such an approach, developing countries can
ensure selection and importation of technology which maximizes the net social, economic and
environmental benefits to the existing cultures of the country.  Thus development should be on
our terms.

4.   Much technology is carelessly imported into most of our countries and clearly has negative
impacts on foreign exchange, physical environment, skill creation, employment and social
equality.  One of the reasons for this is that we have no local consultancies which specialize in
technology transfer.  Therefore, we are dependant upon outside consultancies who do not
necessarily understand our development goals and who are biased towards techniques available in
their own countries.

5.   Technologies imported from industrialized countries are largely transferred to our
countries through contractual arrangements like direct investment in wholly-owned subsidiaries,
licence agreements through imbalanced joint ventures or with local entrepreneurs and various
turn-key projects.  Although current subsidies are far from complete, it is suspected that effective
returns on investment made by reputable foreign companies are many times declared profits due
to excessive royalties, gross overpricing of tied intermediate imports, and transfer pricing by
vertically integrated multi-national companies.

6.   We need policies through which we can improve our bargaining capabilities through the
development of technology assessment capacity, local engineering consultancies, closer control
over legality of restrictive agreements and increased freedom to adapt imported technology to
local requirements.

7.   A Science and Technology Policy Analysis Assessment Unit would consist of part-time
businessmen devoting direct and continuous attention on a part-time basis to science and
technology affairs.  An alternative approach is to create a small science and technology policy
analysis unit which, in this area, would be the functional equivalent of a National Planning and
Statistics Office.  The principle functions of this group would be: 

     (a)   to save Cabinet's time by identifying issues,
     (b)   to clarify them,
     (c)   to canvas advice from diverse sources in Government and civil society,
     (d)   to formulate and raise issues in terms suitable for Cabinet consideration and decision,
     (e)   to monitor the implementation of whatever decisions are taken,
     (f)   to observe the operation of national science and technology establishment to detect
the need for change and formulate advice about appropriate responses.
One suitable title for the group would be Office of Science and Technology (OST).

8.   There are many obstacles to the better utilization of knowledge:

     (a)   The minute number of qualified scientists and engineers in our countries.  The bulk of
qualified scientists and engineers in developing countries are not locals and they are probably
ill-equipped  by background to judge local problems and priorities from a national development

     (b)   Lack of a comprehensive technical extension service to disseminate technologies
which have been locally acknowledged as appropriate. 

     (c)   Lack of up-to-date information of internationally available techniques which are
appropriate to our needs.

9.   In principle, development of technological hardware is relatively straight forward, given funds
and skills.  Locally acceptable transfer of technology is much more difficult because it involves
many cultural, psychological and personal adjustments by recipients.

10.  Well meaning technical advisers have often been frustrated in their plans for technological
change by what they saw as 'halfhearted' cooperation by local people.  However, the adverse
effects inhibiting development are to be found in the technical adviser rather than the local people
who are most often demonstrating, in their polite manner, that the imposed development does not
fit in with their local cultural standards.

11.  It is important to first stress that the collection and delivery of scientific and technological
information requires selection to suit local needs.  In particular, information must be adapted to
the scale and requirements of local cultures if it is ever to be effectively utilized.  The nature of
traditional cultural and their isolation makes an early childhood introduction to technical skills rare
and thus throws an additional burden on current educational and communication networks when
the introduction of industry is contemplated.  Therefore, the elimination of barriers to better
utilization of knowledge must take account of the following three phases: 

     (a)   A preparatory period for the people who are to be recipients of technology during
which their expressed needs and views are collected and an assessment made of possible impacts
of the technology sharing and transfer period of preparation of the specialists who are to facilitate
the transfer of technology so that they are sensitively attuned to the way of life of the recipient

     (b)   A period of follow-up and training of local people with manual in all relevant skills so
that the practical project does not languish after its initiation and so that the same skills might be
transmitted by locals to their fellow citizens.

12.  All stakeholders likely to be affected by technological development must be included when
knowledge is to be disseminated, and any process for eliminating barriers to the transfer of
knowledge must have feedback and monitoring which gives positive proof that barriers have been

13.  In order to integrate science and technology into development we must:

     (a)   Determine what is desirable development by communicating with those most likely to
be affected by development.

     (b)   Communicate among all stakeholders, politicians, public servants and all civil society
likely to be affected by development.

14.  There are seven major steps in making a technology assessment:

STEP 1:  Define the assessment task.  Discuss relevant issues and any major problems.  Establish
scope of inquiry.  Develop project ground rules.

STEP 2:  Describe relevant technologies.  Describe major technology being assessed.  Describe
other technologies supporting the major technology.  Describe technologies competitive to the
major and supporting technologies.

STEP 3:  Develop State-of-Society Assumptions.  Identify and describe major non-technological
factors influencing the application of the relevant  technologies.

STEP 4:  Identify impact areas.  Ascertain those societal characteristics that will be most
influenced by the application of the assessed technology.

STEP 5:  Make preliminary impact analysis.  Trace and integrate the process by which the
assessed technology makes its societal influence felt.

STEP 6:  Identify possible action options.  Develop and analyze various programs for obtaining
maximum public advantage from the assessed technology.

STEP 7:  Complete impact analysis.  Analyze the degree to which each option would alter the
specific societal impacts of the assessed technology discussed in step 5.

15.  There are very few countries, if any, in the south that have institutionalized technology
assessment.  Yet the need for such institutionalization is indisputable as most southern countries'
Governments still lack mechanisms for even the partial assessments required to license technology

16.  It is recommended that the 'eco-developmental' principles of the Organization of African
Unity (OAU), South Pacific Commission (SPC), South Pacific Economic Cooperation (SPEC),
CARICOM, CARIFTA and other Organization of American States (OAS) be adopted, keeping in
mind the following general requirements: 

     (a)   Priority should be given to the basic real needs of the people, such as food, pure
water, shelter and employment.

     (b)   Development should aim for self-reliance rather than increasing dependence on
outside groups or countries.

     (c)   There must be a harmonious relationship between people and their environment that
respects the requirements of human cultures and the ecological systems upon which natural
productivity is based and that keeps open options for future generations.

17.  Institutional Arrangements Needed for the Application of Science and Technology.  The
adoption of appropriate science policies, which determine the type and composition of scientific
human resources and their supporting resources, will lead to an appropriate allocation of effort
between applied research aimed at satisfying agreed goals and scientific surveillance of more
expensive research conducted elsewhere.  'Technology policy' which is taken to mean that part of
the development policy relating to the planning, organization and conduct of technological
activities, is even more important at this time than 'science policy'.  A sensible technology policy
would be concerned with generating scientific and technological knowledge that could be applied
in well defined problem areas in production sectors - industry, agriculture, extractive  industry,
etc, and social welfare sectors - health, housing, education, environment protection, employment,
individual and mass consumption and so on.  It is possible to more accurately define the objectives
of technology policy in order to:

     (a)     forecast their probabilities of success;
     (b)     program their time schedules;
     (c)    define criteria with which to evaluate their results;
     (d)    attempt to take into account the 'uncertainty' which may come from scientific

18.  Students in tertiary education institutions should be taught the skills required to produce
and implement technological policies in the context of their scientific and technological studies. 
This can be done by establishing courses of science and technology policy studies in all the
universities.  There is a great need to investigate alternative methods of training a supporting
stratum of technicians who will buttress the efforts of our limited numbers of graduate engineers. 
Short intensive courses for the training of technicians would hasten the training of locals.  What is
lacking in basic educational achievements could be compensated for by the  imaginative use of
drill and practice techniques and/or computer aided instruction programs.  To prevent the 'brain
drain' to the north (richer societies), the countries to the south must establish their own reputable
institutions of higher learning and resources and projects in which they can utilize their skills.

19.  The five predominant areas for research are:

     (a)   Energy
     (b)   Communication and Transport
     (c)   Agriculture and Fisheries
     (d)   Physical Resource Management
     (e)   Technologies Appropriate to Rural Life

20.  Energy:  There are concerns about the increasing costs of energy imported into our
countries at a time when a local energy demand is rising.  They would seek to replace fossil fuels
with renewable energy resources and develop more efficient use of energy and its conservation. 
Isolated communities of less than 500 people, separated from others by vast land and sea
distances, create a demand for small renewable energy generations which are ideally not
dependant on fuel imports.  Larger communities can also displace a limited part of their fossil fuel
importations and phase them out by using renewable energy sources and using conservation

21.  The following are some examples of renewable energy mechanisms:

     (a)  major and mini hydroelectric generators;
     (b)  wind driven generators;
     (c)  solar energy converters using thermal or photoelectric effects applied to
desalination, cooling and heating needs;
     (d)  wave energy converters;
     (e)  producer and biomass systems;
     (f)  systems for conversion of energy from crops;
     (g)  geo and thermal energy converters;
     (h)  systems using artificially created photosynthesis;
     (i)  hydrogen fuel cells.

22.  Energy can be conserved through:

     (a)  architectural designs which reduce dependance on air-conditioning and powered
     (b)  redesigned energy distribution systems which optimize conserved energy.

23.  There is a need conduct in-depth studies of the energy needs of rural communities
(lighting, cooking, transport,etc.), current energy use patterns, and available resources (biomass,
insulation, wind,etc.).

24.  Communication and Transport:   The four types of transport: shipping, air services, road
and rail, are becoming very costly.  Capital cost, fuel cost and maintenance costs are all extremely
high.  National telecommunications generally need to become more efficient and less costly. 
Research and development should be directed to lowering capital, operating and  maintenance
costs.  For example, it would be worthwhile to investigate the use of a local crop, coconut to
make alcohol which could replace up to 40% of petrol in auto engines, given sufficiently high
prices of refined petroleum products.  Alternatives to fossil fuels for ships and road vehicles
should be explored.  A good train system, where practicable, would greatly improve some of our
countries' transport and communications.

25.  Amphibian aircraft with an updated design would be useful.  This would prevent the
clearing of large tracts of land, often bearing virgin forests, coconut trees and agricultural land on
which the cash income of many people depends, for land airstrips.  It should be noted that small
dirigibles are being 'rediscovered'.  Telecommunications equipment should be redesigned for
longer life in the salty humid atmospheres found in many countries in the south.

26.  Agriculture and Fisheries:   Throughout many countries in the south, agriculture and/or
fisheries form the basis of local supplies, as well as supplying a large number of people with their
own sources of cash income.  Export earnings come largely from export of agriculturally derived
commodities.  Much of the internal commercial food demands could be met by many small-scale
farmers clustered around major market centers.  However, economic and social implications of
policy need to be reconciled and researched to eliminate potential contradictions between
departments of agriculture, marketing authorities and commodity boards.

27.  Concern with producing crops suited to industrial exploitation and export meant that food
production for internal market use was long neglected.  However, population increase and the
sectorial and spatial relocation of the population demand refocusing of attention on food supplies
and distribution. Two areas require attention:

     (a)  the functioning of intermediaries between producer and consumer in marketing
produce, and,

     (b)  the use of post-harvest technologies in ensuring a greater supply volume and
smaller seasonal variations in supply.

28.  Attention needs to be directed to both storage features and to processing of products
acceptable to consumers.  The food preferences of the consumers ought to be recognized.  If food
imports are to be reduced, local foods need to be marketed in a form acceptable to the consumer. 
These days, a premium is placed on readily available, storage and quickly prepared foods.

29.  More research is needed to determine:

     (a)  what are the existing food distribution systems operating within the towns and
linking towns to urban areas?

     (b)  what is the economic role of the indigenous and non-indigenous peoples in these

     (c)  what are the current Government policies towards indigenous involvement in the
distributive systems, and do Government policies and regulations restrict or encourage such

     (d)  what are the developmental implications of Government policies regarding the
increased participation of indigenous groups in the distributive systems?

30.  Basic research is also needed on all aspects of production and product-disposal. 
Specifically, attention needs to be directed to market participation by subsistence producers who
are the vast majority of farmers.  The trend towards support of large commercial estates as key
elements in production and of land development requires evaluation.  Agriculture is still regarded
as one of our major problem areas, despite the relatively great research efforts aimed at improving
agriculture.  Research problems include:

     (a)  the need for increased production for subsistence and export;
     (b)  the need for less expensive tools and implements;
     (c)  better techniques for conservation of soil;
     (e)  more efficient post-harvest storage of crops and catches of fish; especially cheap,
effective refrigeration and better links to markets;
     (f)  more appropriate fishing boats and fishing techniques;
     (h)  pest control - it is felt that biological control would have a long term superiority
over chemical control methods.

31.  Physical Resource Management:   The ecosystems of developing countries are little
understood.  Most Governments have developed Environmental Ministries to address such issues. 
However, steps still need to be taken to develop greater indigenous expertise.  Physical resources
fit into four categories: 

     (a)  mineral resources;
     (b)  solid and liquid waste management;
     (c)  land management;
     (d)  hydrological issues (water harvesting, etc.).

32.  Technologies Appropriate to Rural Life:   The majority of the population of developing
countries live in rural areas and approximately two billion people do not have access to energy. 
Centers of rural research should be coordinated for the dissemination and adoption of techniques
available elsewhere.  They can also serve as talent and technology banks.  The policies already
discussed in all the preceding paragraphs must also be applicable to the rural areas to slow down
urban drift, i.e. the services (water, sanitation, health, employment etc.) must be in the rural areas. 

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Date last posted: 8 December 1999 15:15:30
Comments and suggestions: DESA/DSD