Dubai Conference on Science and Technology Highlights Development Potential on ICT's and Biotechnology

Speakers call on Governments to allocate 2,5% of GNP
Tto Research & Development

Dubai, 28 October 2002 - Executive Secretariat of the Group of 77 - The High-level Conference on Science and Technology, held under the auspices of the Group of 77 in New York and the Paris Chapter chaired by the United Arab Emirates, continued its substantive session today with the inauguration of two scientific workshops on information and communication Technology (ICT's); and on Biotechnology.

Under the chairmanship of Professor Tarcisio Della Senta, President of the UNDL Foundation in Brazil, the workshop on ICT's considered a series of documents on this topic prepared by United Nations bodies and other agencies, including the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Economic and Social Commission of Western Asia (ESCWA), the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), and the World Bank.

Speakers addressed the issue of the increasing role of ICT's in daily life as well as the acceleration of the polarization between the North and the South. Although recognizing that ICTs are not a panacea for development problems, speakers stressed that the new scientific and technologies can support national development goals and be a booster for the development process. However, speakers agreed on the barriers and obstacles that hamper the optimal use of ICT's in the South, including the limited and high cost of the telecommunications infrastructure; the lack of human resource capacities in both basic and advanced skills, exacerbated by the brain drain; the insufficient Government funding for education, research and development; and the limited cooperation among Southern countries.

The scientific community called on the Governments of the Members States of the Group of 77 to undertake all the efforts in view of the early establishment of a Fund aimed at supporting innovative initiatives for the development of ICT infrastructure in the South, and encouraged them to allocate at least 2,5% of their Gross National Product (GNP) for research and development. International organizations, especially the United Nations system, should also support these initiatives.

The workshop on Biotechnology, chaired by Professor K.E. Mshigeni, Director of the Zero Emissions Research Initiative of the University of Namibia, considered the report submitted by UNCTAD and recognized the tremendous importance and potential that biotechnology offers for poverty eradication, human resources, technological, and industrial development of the South.

With the vast and rich genetic resources of the G-77 countries, it is imperative that the South invests resources into the development of biotechnology. To protect their biodiversity wealth, Governments must put in place legislation based upon the Bonn guidelines on access to bio-resources. They must also invest into basic and applied research to harness their biodiversity wealth using biotechnology, to create economic benefits. 'Traditional and indigenous knowledge must be documented and developed into economic gains and Governments must invest into the research and development infrastructure, providing the institutional framework to encourage good research and development to be carried out within their countries", the speakers said.

Many institutions within the G-77 countries enjoy a worldwide recognition in various aspects of biotechnology, including medical, agricultural, forestry, animal, fisheries, marine and environmental biotechnology. They now need to be identified and a registrar together with their scientists developed. Networking between South institutions should be encouraged, including transfer of technology. Funding institutions, such as the Islamic Development Bank and the regional development banks, should support the development of these institutions through the provision of funds for research, collaborative programs and networking. International institutions such as UNDP, UNESCO, FAO and other institutions should increase their support to biotechnology programs in the G-77 countries.

Nevertheless, while the G-77coutries recognize the potential of biotechnology, they also admit the potential dangers of some aspects of biotechnology, such as genetically modified organisms and other contentious areas of biotechnology. In this respect, Governments must also ratify the Cartagena Protocol on Bio-safety and institute laws on Bio-safety.

Tomorrow, 29 October, the Conference will address the topic of safe drinking water technology in a workshop chaired by Professor C.N.R. Rao from the Nehru Center for Advanced Scientific Research in India.

More than 60 high-level delegations and over 150 scientists and researchers from the developing countries are taking part in the Dubai on Science and Technology. The gathering is the first ever under the aegis of the Group of 77 and is expect to adopt a Charter on South-South cooperation in science and technology.


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