Group of 77 Inaugurates First Ever High-level Conference on Science and Technology

Ministers and scientists to define new vision for renewed South-South cooperation based on a New Humanitarian Order

Dubai - Group of 77 Executive Secretariat, 27 October 2002 -The first ever High-level Conference on Science and Technology inaugurated its four-day substantive session this morning at the Al-Bustan Rotana Hotel in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in presence of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al-Maktum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, Minister of Finance and Industry, and Chairman of Dubai Municipality.

Prior to the substantive debate, the Member States of the Group of 77 held an organization session to elect the President of the Conference. His Excellency Ambassador Hussein Ghubash, Chairman of the Paris Chapter of the Group of 77 and Permanent Delegate of the United Arab Emirates to UNESCO, was designated President of the Conference by acclamation.

In his inaugural address, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Al-Maktum welcomed the high number of participants in the Conference -Ministers, high officials and scientists - and stated that a comprehensive development goes hand in hand with an effective implementation of science and technology in development projects. The task ahead, he added, is to explore how science and technology could serve the progress of humankind. Sheikh Hamdan stressed the urgent need for the countries of the South to promote a genuine cooperation among them as a precondition for progress of all.

The President of the Conference and Chairman of the Paris Chapter of the Group of 77, His Excellency Ambassador Hussein Ghubash said that the future and the progress of the South rely heavily on scientific research and called for a better exploitation of the existing vast potential for cooperation among developing countries. Ambassador Ghubash warned against a growing threat of scientific and technological marginalization of the South, making the enjoyment of their benefits limited to some few. In this context, he stressed that the continuous exodus of scientific brainpower towards the rich countries of the North not only harms the countries of the South but also denies them the opportunity to develop a strong scientific sector. "The growing demand for these resources and the scale of the problem gives it all the appearances of a new form of colonial competition in which developing countries are being robbed of their scientists, inventors and development leaders", he added.

In his introductory remarks, the Chairman of the Group of 77 in New York, His Excellency Ambassador Milos Alcalay said that the Dubai Conference is tasked with formulating a common strategy and a new vision for strengthening South-South cooperation in science and technology. Referring to the Declaration of the South Summit, he stressed that more that than ever, rapid scientific and technological progress is a crucial condition for the establishment of economic growth and social welfare. "In this context, scientific and technological accomplishments should harmonize with the New Humanitarian Order, based on the principles of solidarity, international social justice and peace, that we are striving to build-up", he added.

In a reference to the situation in his own country, Venezuela, Ambassador Alcalay regretted that instability, encouraged by internal or external pressure, "diverts us from the real urgent priorities, reduces the opportunities to focus on much needed development issues, and deprives our countries from a valuable time to focus on science and technology". Ambassador Alcalay insisted that the outcome of the Conference should be action-oriented and practical and its recommendations should define clearly the ways and means of promoting science and technology among the members of the Group of 77. In this context, he reiterated the proposition of the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to establish an International Humanitarian Fund with the objective of promoting the different propositions oriented to materialize our decisions.

Other speakers also addressed the High-level Conference on Science and Technology this morning.

The President of the General Conference of UNESCO and Permanent Delegate of the Islamic Republic of Iran to this organization, His Excellency Ambassador Ahmad Jalali highlighted three opportunities that could help reduce the North-South knowledge gap: the fast and vast development of ICT's; the growth of science and technology in a number of middle tier countries, and their willingness to help others in the South to develop their capacities; and the enhances awareness among international organizations of the need to narrow the knowledge gap between the North and the South. Ambassador Jalali informed the Conference of UNESCO's recent decision to approve the creation of the Avicenna Prize, as proposed by his country.

The Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences of UNESCO, Mr. Walter Erdelen stressed the action of UNESCO in three crucial areas identified by the Conference, namely water, biotechnology and information and communication technologies.

More than 60 high-level delegations and over 150 scientists and researchers from the developing world take part in the Dubai Conference. The gathering is the first ever under the aegis of the Group of 77 and is expected to provide a political vision for a South-South Charter on a renewed cooperation in science and technology among developing countries. To make the proceedings as interactive as possible, a high-level Ministerial dialogue is scheduled as well as three workshops on the topics on the Conference's agenda: Information and communication technology; biotechnology; and safe drinking water.

The Convening of the Conference was decided by the Heads of State and Government of the Group of 77 at the South Summit, held in Havana in April 2000. It's being sponsored by the Group of 77 in New York, in close collaboration with Group's Paris Chapter, currently chaired by the United Arab Emirates, and the Municipality of Dubai.


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